I’m Progressive, And I’m Walking Away From “Deconstruction”

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I was a conservative Evangelical pastor of 20+ years.

Racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, Republican, hell-preaching, bible-weaponizing, hateful, and hurtful; that was me.

Until I came to a moment of suicide.

It all started with my collision with honesty. An honesty that wrecked me. Coming forth from within, it forced me to realize and admit that the conservative Evangelical faith simply doesn’t work. Not even close. Everything that I had devoted my life to revealed itself to be a scheme. I had memorized the Scriptures, prayed the right formulas, and performed all the to-do steps. Yet, faced with the Light of truth breaking free from within me, I was confronted with the reality that nothing in my life had become any better, only worse. My faith was a fraud. Fake, empty, and cruel. I had become a monster far removed from the example of Jesus. 

At the height of those moments of devastating inner clarity, I told my wife to find a better husband and my children a better father. I was a broken down man. Beat to the pulp of my very core. Death, seeming to be the only way out. It was a darkness beyond darkness. 

There was much that was uncertain back then, but I can certainly tell you this now, not a single “deconstruction” sage, book, or conference could have talked me off the ledge upon which I was standing. “Deconstruction” could never have rescued me, nor turned back my desire for the ending of me. It could never have given me a new beginning from what I thought was an inescapable tragedy. 

And so, I’m here; alive, changed, progressive, affirming, inclusive, and empowered. But not by “deconstruction,” but rather by something far greater.

Please hear me well. I deeply love all my “deconstruction” friends. I love all “deconstruction” people, and I desire no conflict with you. We are all taking a journey of faith. Furthermore, I’m not writing to condemn “deconstruction” or those whose lives have benefited from it. I’m just telling my story, the lessons I’m learning, and what I’m discerning.

In reality, I have never been an intentional part of the “deconstruction” movement, though perhaps many would say that my writing has played a significant role in their “deconstruction.” 

For that, I am truly honored and appreciative. 

Yet, though I have no desire whatsoever to disconnect with anybody, I find it necessary to “walk away from deconstruction” in the sense that my path is increasingly moving in a different direction from what I see “deconstruction” increasingly becoming. And, here’s why.


First, in truth, there’s no such thing as “deconstruction.”

This is what I’m learning and this is what I’m discerning.

This whole faith “deconstruction” thing, it really isn’t about deconstructing at all.

In fact, there is no such thing as “deconstruction.” White, conservative Evangelicalism has already deconstructed all of us. There’s nothing left to deconstruct.

Piece by piece, they’ve taken all that was already holy, pure, beautiful, and divinely created about you and I and smashed into pieces.

We were perfect from the beginning, affirmed by the Universe, innocent from eternity. There was nothing wrong with us, yet they whispered such accusations into our ears and we believed them. And not just believed them, we believed them all the way

We bit the apple. Sucked in by the tractor beams of the white, conservative Evangelical Death Star. With Jesus as the hood ornament of their world bulldozer, they plowed over all that is good and of God with lies, manipulation, shame, guilt, and fear.

Seduced by their evil wizardry, we became less than human. Haters, judgers, bullies, and fakes. Nothing like Jesus.

See, we don’t deconstruct, we are the deconstructed.

They told us that we’re depraved, an evil blemish at birth.

They told us that we’re lost sinners in need of the salvation of a fire-breathing God who would joyfully drop-kick us into hell if we don’t repent in all the conservative Evangelical ways.

They told us that we’re not good enough, incapable of spiritual discernment, and that we need their guidance, discipleship, steps, formulas, discipline, and accountability to draw closer to God and keep Him there, lest we err and block the gleam of God’s eyes and summon the withdrawal of His favor.

They told us that if you are a woman, you’re hopelessly inferior to men and incapable of the same leadership, discernment, value, and authority as they.

They told us to prequalify people for love, abandon our LGBTQ children, and believe that they have the one and only true faith—a faith that God exclusively approves and ordains to take control of all of society, at any cost.

They told us that the Bible is the perfect Word of God, church is our home, the world is the enemy, they know all the answers, and we should never think or believe without them.

They told us that Jesus is a warrior, God is a Republican, progressives are going to hell, and racism is best served with “thoughts and prayers.”

They substituted trust with fear, Grace with conditions, inclusion with exclusion, divine affirmation with divine wrath, equality with privilege, social justice with selfish selfishness, peace with violence, integrity with hypocrisy, the Gospel with self-righteousness, and Jesus with the devil.

They deconstructed us all like Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck, spiritually policing the life out of us.

Make no mistake, everything that white, conservative Evangelicalism touches is deconstructed into ashes.

For we are the deconstructed. 

We are the deconstructed.

I repeat, we are the deconstructed.

It’s not something we do or can do, it’s who we are. 

That’s why there is no “deconstruction,” there can only be “resurrection.” And the difference between the two is cosmos-quaking and life changing. 

It’s resurrection. 

It’s the moment, like Lazarus in the tomb, that we hear and respond to the call of Jesus screaming from within our soul to, “get the hell out of there!”  “You’re alive, you’re good, you’re whole, you’re holy, you’re secure, you’re saved!” “Always have been, always will be!”

It’s resurrection.

The moment that the Light within us breaks free and pushes away the stone, kicks over tables, and shakes the conservative Evangelical dust off our feet. 

It’s resurrection.

Yet, like Lazarus, there’s a holy and sacred process of being unwrapped from the conservative Evangelical burial clothes that long entombed us and covered from our eyes all that was and is good about God, ourselves, and the world around us. 

It’s resurrection, not deconstruction. 

One bandage, one shroud at a time. Unraveling the layers of brainwashing, condemnation, and hate that strangled us.

It’s resurrection, not deconstruction.

One lie, one half-truth, one fear at a time. Peeling away the twisted images we believed about God, ourselves, and all of humanity.

It’s resurrection, not deconstruction.

The revealing and reclaiming of our true self, the good that was already there and already enough. 

Scales being resurrected away. 

Learning to breathe anew, learning to believe anew.

Learning to love anew, learning to be loved anew.

Learning to know ourselves, love ourselves, and be ourselves anew.

It’s resurrection, not deconstruction.

We were always beautiful, always loved, always affirmed, always included, always secure, forever and forever.

It’s resurrection, not deconstruction.

For we once were the deconstructed.

But now, we are the resurrecting.

The difference is night and day, and that’s why I’m walking away.

Second, “deconstruction” is just another spiritual treadmill.

It’s hard to say, but I believe it to be true. 

Please hear me well, yet again. I deeply love all my “deconstruction” friends. I love all “deconstruction” people, and I desire no conflict with you. We are all taking a journey of faith. 

Yet, I can’t deny nor hide what I’m seeing. So much of “deconstruction” has largely become conservative Evangelicalism wrapped in shiny new “progressive” paper. It has all the Evangelical components. Do this, don’t do that. Study this, read that. Try this, try that. Attend this, pray for that. Quote this Scripture over here, use this commentary over there. Listen to this podcast here, go to this conference there. It’s all so Evangelicky. 

Much of “deconstruction” isn’t about working out a God-driven “resurrection” from within that reveals and reclaims who we are, who God truly is, and seeing the world anew. Instead, it’s about a human-driven effort to “reconstruct” ourselves, “reconstruct” our faith, and “reconstruct” God. What is Jesus rolling away Evangelical stones from around our soul, “deconstruction” has turned into a human effort to tumble down walls through “better” exegesis and “better“ creeds.

It’s just conservative, Evangelical, performance-driven, behavior-management, belief-conforming religion with progressive make-up plastered on.

Truly, I mean no disrespect and desire no harm, but the term “deconstruction” reduces a holy, sacred, miraculous, and Spirit-driven process into a journey of human effort, steps, and measurements. 

In fact, I have never had so many people reach out to me in tears when they began to see their journey away from conservative Evangelicalism as a sacred-centered “resurrection” and not just a human-centered “deconstruction.” For them the pressure was removed, the divine was revealed, the process was given room to breathe, and real, lasting change could emerge.

The difference is night and day, and that’s why I’m walking away.

 

Third, many progressive “deconstruction” voices have turned a holy, sacred, and miraculous process into a monetized program of profiting sages pimping their books, talks, conferences, and ministry empires.

It’s all so triggering. It’s like going backwards instead of moving forward. Not just going backwards, but even worse, it feels like a falling from Grace. 

I’ve even heard the idea of starting a “deconstruction” worship service. 

What’s next, a “deconstruction” Bible?

I’m reminded of Joshua’s “stones of remembrance” described in the Old Testament. It is said that God instructed that they be placed to remind the people of Israel entering into the Promised Land to never go back to the slavery of Egypt. God knew that some would actually not be satisfied with the Promised Land and would either want to return or try to have one foot in both worlds. 

Sadly, I fear this is already happening. Much of “deconstruction” has taken on the empire-building, franchising, profiteering, legalism, churchiness, and religiosity of Egypt and brought them into the progressive Promised Land of “resurrection.”

The telling of “resurrection” stories has been polluted with ”deconstruction” to-do steps.

Listening to the mind of Christ within has been polluted with intellectualism, “new” biblical scholarship, “woke” exegesis, and the wisdom of wise “deconstruction” sages. 

The self-revelation of “resurrection” has been polluted with the self-improvement of “deconstruction.” 

Jesus’ statement, “You have heard it said, but I say unto you” has been polluted into a “deconstruction” call to somehow read the Bible in front of you better, instead of a call to read the mind of Christ within you better. 

One reveals the real you through “resurrection” and the other tries to change you, through you, through your “deconstruction.”

For me, the difference is night and day, and that’s why I’m walking away.

 

Fourth, it’s easy for Evangelicals to dismiss and condemn “deconstruction.”

Why? Because it’s filled with human effort. And human effort always and eventually breaks down.

It’s so easily criticized, and perhaps, rightly so. Why? Because it all boils down to their opinion versus ours. Their interpretation versus ours. Their understanding versus ours. Their beliefs versus ours. Their mind, versus ours. Their scholarship versus ours.. 

Yet, how much more difficult is it to discount, disarm, and disqualify a person’s “resurrection?”

How much more difficult is it to discount, disarm, and disqualify a community’s “resurrection?”

A resurrection that begins and ends through and with the power of God alone.

A resurrection that is ”worked out,” and not “worked on.”

A resurrection that flows like a river welling up from within, not franchised like a business.

A resurrection that is an experience, not an exegesis. 

It’s far more difficult, I would say.

Because the difference is night and day, and that’s why I’m walking away.

But not without leaving some suggestions for the “deconstruction” movement, if you would allow me…

1) Consider not calling it “deconstruction.” 

2) No more steps, only stories. Tell your story, and let that be enough. 

3) Refrain from enabling “deconstruction” consumerism, conformity, and gated community.  

4) Take the needle out of your veins of becoming or being a “deconstruction” sage and building a ministry empire.

5) Be a team player. Value all voices, not just your own.

 

Grace is brave. Be brave.


 

 

21 Comments

  1. Phil Singer (PhD, OCP, and All Around Good-Guy)

    I always welcome the appearance of a new post from you in my inbox, because I know I’m going to learn something. It may leave me troubled, but it is going to be worthwhile and meaningful.

    So, when I started to read this post, my immediate response, was ‘WTF Is Deconstruction???’

    Fortunately, GIMF, and I soon found out to what you are reacting (I never split an infinitive unless I have to). After which, your post made sense.

    However, I think that others will share my initial response, and I suggest you edit your post to add a footnote saying something like “for those of you fortunate enough to have not be caught up in the Deconstruction Movement, here is a link (or two) which explains it”. I could suggest a couple, but you know better than I which one(s) would be useful

    • ckratzer

      Thanks Phil, that’s a great suggestion. So grateful for your readership!

    • Kenny

      I wrote my admiration and praise of this post earlier. Very important, very well stated. Thank you Chris!

      • ckratzer

        Thank you, Phil!

      • ckratzer

        Thank you, Kenny!

  2. Graham Wills

    WOW. That’s quite something Chris. A very brave bio-article. I look forward to reading your book. Prayers and blessings. Graham. B

    • ckratzer

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read it and share an encouraging comment!

  3. SteveN

    Fifty years ago, I deconstructed my Christianity. I didn’t call it that, but it was. Being Baptist, I already had a thin religion — no creed, no saints, neither consubstantiation nor transsubstantiation, no limbo, no purgatory, no Lent or Advent. Just “priesthood of the believers” and “work out your salvation.”.

    For me, that meant further simplification. I kept drilling down. The words and example of Jesus? Keep. The axehead floated and the sun literally stopped in the sky? Not important. Assuming they’re true? So what? Assuming they’re allegorical? Nothing important is lost.

    • ckratzer

      Thanks Steve for reading and sharing a bit of your journey.

  4. Catherine

    I read about Christian “deconstructionism” and still do not understand it. It seems to me at first a bunch of jumbled nonsense, but in reality appears to be a fairly contemptible ploy to retain the necessary “Christian” (which is in reality Pauline, which at any strict reading is not Christian at all but ancient Jewish) structure of patriarchy above all. Ice it with dedicated and utterly vicious hatefulness toward others who are not (in our culture) white, ignorant and violent males, most all of whom are unlettered and hate those who are. Deconstructionism is the new boss, same as the old boss.

    The nauseatingly accommodationist Episcopalian “Archbishop” Rowan Williams, who could not perceive how the murder of women, musicians, and writers in the name of “Allah” was not completely acceptable in a civilized culture, let alone to a self-declared “Christian” — is more suitable as an example of “deconstructionist” than any other.

    • ckratzer

      Catherine, thanks for reading and sharing your reflections and insight!

  5. Kenny

    Damn, well stated my friend. You are correct, the most important, best of you.

    • ckratzer

      Thanks for the generous comment!

  6. Lynnete Orten

    I’m so glad you wrote this. For months my inner voice has been saying “look at the resurrection”and stop trying to undo your thinking; allow yourself to be resurrected. My impression is that fear is the crusader leading the awful diatribe we hear today. I love the scripture that says perfect love casts out fear, and who other than Jesus exemplifies this perfection?Let him wash our feet. Let us wash each others feet. Then our walk with God will be joyous.

    • ckratzer

      Lynnete,so grateful for your kind comments and positive experience the article!

  7. Deidre

    Inspirational. Keep up the courageous grace. Your words provide much comfort

  8. Jack Heppner

    Personally, it was necessary for me to go through a period of deconstruction to clean out the debris of very bad theology with which I grew up and was deeply wounded by. From my perspective, deconstruction was never the end game. But it was a necessary step to begin re-constructing a faith perspective that worked for me and spoke to the deepest longings of my soul. Perhaps Richard Rohr’s terminology is better than the term “deconstruction.” He notes that it is a natural pathway for a maturing believer to move from Order to Disorder to Reorder. For me deconstruction, if we have to use that term happened in the Disorder phase of my journey, but it has morphed into a place characterized by Reorder. I find myself in a wonderfully spacious place but doubt I would ever have gotten here had I not passed through the disorder phase – which did include a significant amount of deconstruction.

  9. Tony Cutty

    This is profound on so many levels; quite possibly your best piece yet. Thank you!

    • ckratzer

      Tony, you don’t know how much life your comment has given to me. The timing is miraculous.

  10. Dan Held

    Since the term “deconstruction” as used today originated with postmodern philosopher, Jacques Derrida, referencing our finding of multiple means within a written text, I’m inclined to see all postfundamentalists as being in deconstruction. It’s the very meaning of exploring faith outside the fundy box. Perhaps, Chris, you are hereby deconstructing deconstructionism. In any case, I like Ben Corey’s notion of deconstructing what we know longer believe about God before we can create space for our new faith (eg old fear of God must leave before our love of God can emerge).

  11. Kurt Reimer

    About 2-3 sentences into your very interesting essay I was forced to divert and seek an answer to the question: “WTF is deconstruction and (of course, there’s always an ‘-ism’ to be appended to such things) deconstructionism?”. I found what I think is a good, brief explanation about the history, evolution and current state of the concept at:

    https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-does-deconstruction-even-mean

    After reading that article and yours, it seems to me that by “deconstruction” the conservative evangelical community means something fairly close to the exact opposite of what the larger ethical/philosophical community means by the same term.

    For the Evangelical Community it seems like “deconstruction” is a way to reject everything that might challenge or contradict a very narrow and rigid melding of certain aspects of Christianity with Ethno-Nationalism and Capitalism (which they call ‘Evangelical Christianity’).

    For the larger faith/philosophical community “deconstruction” of Christianity is a way of recognizing the influences of things like Nationalism, Racism, Capitalism and other cultural values on Christianity.

    I do not know and I would not go so far as to claim that this “co-opt and largely stand-on-it’s head” process is endemic to modern Christianity, but I cannot help but notice that what it’s done to “Deconstruction” is similar to what Christianity has made of “Apologetics”. Now in this case, I think that before Christianity got ahold of it “apologetic” was only an adjective, but as such it had a meaning of being self-effacing and in discoursive contexts apologizing for the introduction of ideas that were perhaps upsetting or disturbing to orthodoxy. But the self-proclaimed “Christian Apologetics” are probably the least apologetic bunch of people I’ve ever come across! Christian Apologetics as I’ve encountered it seems to mean a militant defense of Orthodox Christianity, as the particular Apologetic perceives it, by any and all available means.

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