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I’m Starting to Think That “Deconstruction” Means Buying New Clothes to Wear

connect jesus dots

I follow a few “deconstruction” Facebook groups. I rarely comment, but I try to take a few minutes each day to read the new posts and comments. In doing so, I have noticed a disturbing trend: when someone says they are deconstructing and having doubts about the existence of the Christian God, members are often quick to tell such people that they can still hang on to God; that deconstruction doesn’t need to lead to a loss of belief in God. Often, deconstruction that leads to atheism or agnosticism is viewed as failure; the desired outcome always leads to some form of God belief.

I have concluded that many people see deconstruction as changing one’s clothes, taking off Evangelicalism, and putting on cooler, snazzier, more colorful God clothing. This leads, then, to group members asking questions such as “I am looking for a new IFB church to attend. Suggestion?” Or asking about finding a “better,” more “accepting” Evangelical church in this or that community. What we have here are people who, deep down, desperately want to hang on to their past beliefs, discarding anything they don’t like or offends them. Such people often look for LGBTQ-friendly Evangelical churches, genuinely believing such congregations exist. Surely there are Evangelical churches that unconditionally love gay people as they are, right?

Recently, a Christian lesbian posted a question asking for recommendations for local churches that are “accepting” of LGBTQ people. Evangelicals quickly jumped into action, smelling blood in the water, and suggested that their churches “love” gay folks to death. It was left to me to rain on the parade. I told the lesbian woman that there was only one “open and affirming” church in Defiance County: St. John United Church of Christ, pastored by my friend Jim Brehler. There are a couple of mainline churches that are friendly and accepting of LGBTQ people, but are not open and affirming. Only St. John’s publicly loves and accepts LGBTQ people as they are; embracing them as family. Local Evangelicals talk a good game, but their goal is conversion, turning LGBTQ people into heterosexuals, or, at the very least, demanding they live celibate lives.

Let me be clear, there’s no such thing as a “good” Evangelical or Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. Why? Such churches believe all of us are broken (sinners) and need fixing (salvation); that people who reject the Evangelical gospel will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire being tortured for their unbelief and sin (or be annihilated or tortured for a while before being granted entrance into the eternal Kingdom of God). Such beliefs cause untold psychological harm. Perhaps, it is holding on to these beliefs that lead people to tell others going through the deconstruction process not to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water — never considering that there might not be a baby at all. Fear of judgment and Hell keeps people from following the deconstruction path to its logical conclusion: atheism, agnosticism, and humanism. Many well-meaning people simply cannot envision life without the Christian God.

I encourage people to follow the path wherever it leads. Any move away from Evangelicalism is a good one. If someone pulls up short on their journey and finds a comfortable resting place still believing in God, who am I to object? All I am suggesting is that people follow the deconstruction process to its logical conclusion: that the central claim of Christianity cannot be rationally sustained. If you can still hang on to God after that, so be it.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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4 Comments

  1. Avatar
    BJW

    Well, it’s not worth hanging onto the Christian god, or any god of any conservative/fundamentalist belief system. And it give me unpleasant chills to think that an LGBTQ Christian would think any evangelical/fundamentalist church would accept her 100%. But then again, I don’t understand how politically liberal people end up staying in the Catholic church.

  2. Avatar
    M

    BJW–I think you understand why I am, in some way, even more disturbed by churches with signs that proclaim, “All are welcome” or words to that effect. They’ll let LGBTQ and other “sinners” in the door, but won’t truly accept us. They remind me of those venues Bruce described in an earlier post that “accomodate” people in wheelchairs or are disabled in other ways but shunt them off to a dark corner by the rest room.

  3. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    There are some evangelicals who think they are accepting of all, but their very doctrine of salvation is by nature exclusive. You have to accept that you are a sinner, lost without Jesus, and state that you accept “in your heart” that Hesus died, was buried, and resurrected as punishment for your sins. If you don’t, it’s eternity in fiery torture for you. Some evangelicals squirm when pressed about the fate of those who never had the opportunity to learn what a Jesus is – will they eternally fry too? Why do they squirm, because the answer is yes and they know that’s unjust?

    I get deconstructing from evangelicalism and resting in liberal progressive Christianity for awhile. It is familiar and safe, there’s a community, and the focus is often on being a better person through service to others. There’s value in that.

    But some of us continue to question other basic tenets of Christianity. And once we see how the claims aren’t backed by evidence, we can’t unsee or unknow that.

  4. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    If you want to have a church community, UCC and UU tend to have open, welcoming, affirming congregations. Not simply open to LGBTQ folks, but open to anyone exploring what they believe. Church community is a really big deal for some people, and that’s fine. Actually, it probably contributes to good mental health, if the beliefs of the community are supportive of people, rather than judgmental.

    My mother hated the idea of church community, and so I didn’t grow up in one. We were Catholic, and so we made it to Mass every Sunday, but Mama was one of those Catholics that irritate the heck out of priests by going down to the altar rail for communion, and then rather than returning to their seat, just leave. She endured the sermon (which she really didn’t listen to), took the wafer, why stay any longer? She’d done the minimum necessary to keep God from being annoyed with her. In my entire childhood, I can’t remember but three occasions when we attended some social group function connected with the church.

    I attended Evangelical churches in my 20s and UU services in my 30s, but I can’t connect with a church community. I simply never learned how. At 62, I haven’t even wanted to try in a very long time.

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Bruce Gerencser