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the Empathy List #78: In Recovery
We're the Deconstructing Evangelicals, Part 3
This is part 3 in a series about religious deconstruction and reconstruction. If you find it compelling, would you share it with a friend?
Hello friend, Liz here.
Remember that story I told you a few weeks ago about how I deconstructed my evangelical Christian faith because of family and church dysfunction?
Usually that’s where the classic deconstruction story stops. Deconstruction stories seem cover only the inciting incidents of a faith collapse.
But when we talk about deconstruction we’re talking about trauma. Trauma is a level of pain that does not dissipate when you stop attending the troublesome church or even when you end the toxic relationships.
Trauma follows us around.
Yet I can’t help wondering, what happens to deconstructors after the big implosion? And how do we find our way out of the wreckage?
As I’ve said before, those deconstructing are a diverse bunch, so I can only offer my own experience here.
For me, reconstructing my faith has looked like staying Christian… yet with a new openness toward changing my mind. I recognize my gaps in knowledge and experience, and I’m open to new interpretations of the ancient texts that undergird my religion, both theoretically and practically.
That means that the boundary lines which once seemed to separate me from Catholics and other Christian denominations, from this century or from deep in the past, have now blurred. I’m now interdenominational in belief and practice; in fact, I’m seeking out voices on the very outskirts. I realize how much more I have to learn about Jesus and his way.
In particular, praxis—as in, how you live what you preach—has become my essential lens through which I measure the teachings of other followers of Christ. Do their words match their life? No? Then plug your ears and keep on walking.
Also, therapy has helped me reckon with the throbbing wounds, teaching me to reintegrate all the disparate parts of my life and self. (Not a surprise if you’ve been following me for long. Big fan of therapy over here!)
Is this too abstract? Let’s get practical.
Reconstruction for me has looked like:
>Hearing the stories of other deconstructing Christians and those whose Christian voices who have been sidelined by the majority, such as: Dante Stewart, Sara Billups, Sarah Southern, KJ Ramsey and Ryan Ramsey, D.L. Mayfield and Krispin Mayfield, Shane Claiborne, Jenai Auman, the new evangelicals, the Holy Post podcast, Kate Bowler, Lisa Sharon Harper, J.S. Park… and many more faithful followers of Christ;
>Attending and serving at a small Anglican church— which still has problems—but is a place where multiple leaders with different viewpoints preach and lead and where differences of opinion are welcome (you can read more about where I’ve come with church involvement here);
>Learning how to integrate my faith into the rest of my life, which for me includes an embrace of therapy, psychiatric medicine, ethical eating and spending, church-going (more on that in a bit), vulnerable and boundaried IRL relationships, respectful parenting, having our kids attend a diverse public school, and voting for wide-reaching social reforms both nationally and locally;
>Experimenting with new ways to connect with God, beyond the personal quiet time (if you’re looking for ideas, I’ve documented many of those practices here…);
>And last, sharing my own story of deconstruction with church leaders who have proven that they can be trusted. This part has been the very last aspect of my journey and has enabled me to reengage meaningfully at church; without it, I’d be skipping services, which I did for nearly a year throughout 2018 and 2019. But the experience of sharing my story and having it received with kindness and empathy created safety for my family, which has created space to normalize both our good and bad churchy experiences.
The best way to sum all that up? Reconstruction for me has been a S L O W.
Real, holistic and integrated healing resists the instantaneous.
Demolition is always quicker than putting the house back together (which I know from experience). Yet the people of God have always been rebuilding people.
Let’s not settle for a short cut. ;-)
Thanks for reading. Warmly, Liz Charlotte Grant
By the way… I WANT TO HEAR YOUR STORIES!
I’ll be sharing other deconstruction/reconstruction stories in the next few issues, so I’d be grateful to hear from you! (REPLY to this email, or get in touch via my DMs or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
#1 A whole generation of kids are falling behind in school—including my second- and third-grader. Here’s how we can help them catch up.
New York Times | Read
#2 A meditative online exhibition that pairs the Bible with fine art and commentary.
Consider the metaphor of the Christian church as the physical body of Christ, as in 1 Corinthians 12:15: “If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.”
the Visual Commentary | Read
#3 Kroger Grocery store employees in Colorado are on strike.
“We’re not making a living wage. We have people living out of their cars and struggling to pay bills… This company does not get it. We can’t survive on what they’re paying out here and the competition is paying more.”
The Guardian | Read
#4 A writer imagines her death and what comes after.
“The plane begins to jerk. It gets worse. I grip the armrests, chew my lips, take stock of my life, fears, anxieties. I try to believe in a supreme being, a higher power, whatever. I pray hard. My prayer is futile. We are going down.”
Reading this short essay is like taking a cold shower after a long workout. ;-)
Creative Nonfiction | Read
#5 In the wake of MLK day, let’s remember the words Dr. King actually preached, not the just ones we want to hear.
“White people regularly dilute the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to be more palatable. …[In fact] King’s dismay and exasperation at self-satisfied white Christians holds up a mirror that is still painfully relevant today.”
Religion News Service | Read
Just for fun…
A list of what not to say to your ICU nurse, such as this gem:
“‘When you’re done intubating me, can I get some garlic rolls?’
Your nurse is a trained professional who’s there to keep your diseased lungs working, not a waitress at Olive Garden.”
The Onion | Read