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Deconstruction




Deconstruction first became a philosophical idea in the late 1960’s by Jacques Derrida. Defining it is difficult as Derrida gave no clear definition himself but was only clear in what it was not. He did not see it as a method, or doctrine, or anything else, simply that it was “only what happened when it happened.” He is also clear that this idea of deconstruction was not for tearing down systems, it was something to be used to broaden a view, to make sure all angles are addressed and that there is room for new ideas.

 

A few weeks ago, I mentioned implicit bias, and deconstruction can be a useful tool to combat that and other cognitive biases. Since it’s difficult to notice their effect on your behavior and thoughts due to how ingrained it is, something like deconstruction can help shed light on those thoughts as it encourages you to get to the root of everything. Find the why’s for each thought.

 

We’ve all heard the phrase “That’s just the way it’s always been,” and I personally find it to be the least compelling phrase. Any time this is used I have begun simply asking “Why?” There has to be a time when it wasn’t that way. Why did it start, why does it continue, and more importantly, why should it continue? Simply because it has always been does not mean it has to continue to be. And it’s not just something I say to other people. If I find myself thinking that phrase, I ask myself why as well. I look for a reason beyond “it’s always been that way”, and if I find reasons, good! If I don’t, then I rethink why that thing is necessary.

 

Recently, there has been a movement of Christians deconstructing their faith. There are a variety of books and articles on the topic, and in their book, “The Deconstructionist’s Playbook”, Crystal Cheatham and Theresa Ta say, “Deconstruction is a liberating process of surveying all the elements of one’s faith in order to decide what to keep, which to reimagine, and which to completely throw away.”

 

And this is all far from a new idea, despite the term being rather new itself. Martin Luther’s division from the Catholic church certainly stemmed from him deconstructing the ideals of the church of his time. The many denominations of the church all speak to their own deconstruction of the faith and how they chose to rebuild it. Not to mention the revolutionary ideals of Jesus in his own time.

 

Jesus came to reform the church of his own time. The Pharisees would often challenge Jesus on the law that he would 'break', only for Jesus to show their perception of the law need to be changed. When Jesus healed on that Sabbath, they said that no work should be done on the Sabbath – but should people be left to suffer, just because it’s the Sabbath? Women were meant to be stay in a separate area to worship, should not be touched, sometimes shouldn’t be spoken to, but Jesus challenged all of these. He invited the bent woman forward in the temple, into the ‘men’s’ section, embraced women, spoke to the woman at the well despite the social taboo against her.

 

The point of deconstruction is not to tear something apart and then build something new. It’s to truly take the time to examine everything to see how it’s holding up. Look at it from a new perspective, see if there are new insights that can be offered due to the passage of time. By 'breaking' these laws and taboos Jesus called into question their validity. Was this truly the spirit of the religious law, or had everything been bogged down in human sin so long it all became ‘just the way it’s always been’.

 

There are ideologies that have developed in the church that have hurt people, LGBTQ+ folks chief among them, but there are many more besides. There are people shunned for having children with disabilities, divorcees, even just having a tattoo is enough to garner scorn from some Christian folk. When a religion is meant to be about love, first and foremost, it is very important to look at those things that cause harm and question their purpose.

 

What if we approach things the way Jesus taught us, to look past how we perceive the ‘law’ and look to the spirit of it. What is its purpose? Does it speak to the love and acceptance that Jesus shows? Take a look at all things, find the root of them, and decide if they truly speak to you, then see what new things you’ve learned with the open mind of approaching all things with love.



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