Deconstruction hit me in the face like a tonne of religiously-laden bricks. I had just finished 2 years of professional ministry, after 26 years of ‘church stuff’ since birth. Six months after the job, in the middle of the Same Sex Marriage debate, I noticed I was seriously questioning everything I’ve taken for granted, everything I’ve been taught, and everything I’ve taught others. I was filled with cynicism and grief towards the Church, the terrible things it’s done to people, and the countless bad examples many of its adherents are to its apparently ‘noble’ cause. I didn’t care if gay people married each other, but I was concerned with the vile debate that was raging and seeing the hurt that was being caused on both sides. It was then I realised I was suffering from severe burnout, and needed to come to terms with these thoughts and feelings.
If you’ve found yourself in this same boat, here are 4 ways I’ve found to be helpful on my deconstruction journey:
1. Connect, don’t isolate
Plug into an understanding group or community of people who have gone through and experienced deconstruction, faith crisis, and serious doubts. Find a friend, mentor, even a councillor who you can talk things out with.
It’s important that you find like-minded community that understand what you’re going through, can help out, offer advice, and even just be a sounding board for you to vent your frustrations. Community can heal!
For me, I’ve found the Facebook community of the BC Club (The Bad Christian Club) and Sydney Exvangelicals to be instrumental in my journey. It’s so refreshing to hear similar experiences, post ideas, discussions and frustrations that are heard and understood. It’s a very validating process.
Also, if it’s your thing, there are a tonne of Podcasts, audiobooks (and even real books) that cover these topics. I highly recommend The Bad Christian Podcast, the Liturgists, Mindshift, Jocko Podcast and the Jordan B. Peterson Podcast (these last two talk about setting personal goals, psychology, having purpose and meaning in your life – all things you need and you lose when you start deconstructing).
Emery’s new record ‘eve’ is about the band going through their own process of rethinking faith, deconstruction, and pushing back on traditions. It’s a really well put together album, and is a soothing listen as you take in the relatable lyrics.
I have also found Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke was helpful for me too.
2. Be careful, don’t get bogged down
Be careful of taking on others’ pain and falling into a cesspool of angst. Learn to sympathise but not absorb. Walk YOUR journey.
I am very guilty of this. The Deconstruction World is full of bitterness, resentment and frustration – all of which is completely genuine and ok, but if you’re not careful you can get bogged down pretty deep in it all, so it’s important to maintain a healthy perspective of your journey – where you are, where you’ve been and where you’re going – not everyone else around you.
This is where you need a balance of engaging with deconstruction material. I find that if I spend too much time listening to Bad Christian, I continue to be bitter and resentful of many aspects of Christianity. Which is fine to a degree, but sometimes you need to take a break.
3. Include your family and loved ones
Try not to exclude those who love you from this process. They’re just as worried and concerned about you, as you are about figuring all of this stuff out. Try to keep them updated from time to time, and have open conversations with them. It will help them feel close to you, as this can be quite a distancing and self-led process.
For those whose family aren’t religious, or whose family are, and aren’t approachable about your deconstruction journey, see point 1.
4. Engage in your own interests.
Take the time to watch shows, read books and listen to podcasts on the topics that you are genuinely interested in. It’s important to take some time off focussing on your deconstruction and the media which relate to that. Instead, free up your mind (and time) to engage in other things that you find enjoyable. For example, if I engage too much in the mediums which criticise the church, I become a lot more cynical. So, I find it helpful to take a break from those for a week or two and listen to Star Talk which feeds my curiosity and interest in science. It gives me a bit of a break from constantly deconstructing everything.
Deconstruction is a long road, with many twists and turns – so take your time, look after yourself and those around you, get plugged into an understanding community, engage and wrestle with your thoughts and feelings, and just know – wherever the pieces settle, that’s okay.