Deconstruct to Reconstruct
Being a part of InterVarsity when I was a student was where I learned how to properly study the Bible for the first time – reading the text in community and not a book about the Bible or listening to someone’s interpretation of the Bible or simply trying to understand the Bible by reading it myself. This was also when I started to see inconsistencies between how I saw Jesus interact with people, namely the oppressed and outcasts in that society, and the way that I saw my church interact with its members and those outside of the church.
I gained a reputation at my church for being an angry, loud, and opinionated person for trying to encourage our church to reach out to our lower-income neighbours or to become more concerned with prominent issues that were being talked about in the news, such as houselessness, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and racism in North America.
A common refrain you hear everywhere in Christian spaces is that young people are leaving the church and one of the reasons that people will say this is happening is because of deconstruction. Deconstruction has become this big scary ambiguous word that is associated with a lack of faith or hope instead of what I think it actually is, people asking questions about the faith they grew up with and rejecting aspects of Christian culture that are linked with abuse (spiritual, racial, sexual, etc.), inconsistencies with scripture’s depiction of Jesus or narrow or limited understandings of what it means to follow Jesus.
Christians who look down on deconstruction discredit the many ways that young people are trying to see how the practices of Christianity can be consistent with the character of Jesus.
Deconstruction is the same process many of the early followers of Jesus went through when they were trying to figure out whether Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus was excellent at deconstruction, in fact, the entire sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7) is one massive deconstruction of Jewish law. Jesus breaks down the common understanding of the law for His listeners and tells them that their understanding is not only limited, but insufficient.
Jesus upended everyone’s ideas of what they thought the Kingdom was like, who the Messiah is and what that Messiah came to do and reoriented their lives to a newer understanding of how God interacts with His world. He reconstructed the law to be about the heart rather than strict legalism. As Jesus said about himself: “do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill it.” (Matthew 5:17, NRSVA)
In my own deconstruction, Intervarsity was a community who loved me and went through my questions with me, not because they knew the answers, but because they were willing to sit with me in the tension of figuring out if Christ had any merit in light of these inconsistencies.
I had mentors and friends within InterVarsity who guided me through the thick of my questions and never told me what the ‘right’ answer was but allowed me to discover what it could be.
Students need people who are willing to go through their questions with them. By deciding to volunteer or even join staff with InterVarsity (even if it’s just part time), you are helping students healthily deconstruct in order to reconstruct their faith into something that can be good. Saying yes to mentoring young people, being invested in their lives and reconstructing their faith towards Jesus is a yes to humility in recognizing where the previous generations of Christian leaders may have got it wrong and hurt people. Will you help us raise up a generation of kind, healed and whole believers who reflect the love of Christ?
Campus Minister – University of Ottawa