When Life Gives You Deconstruction: The Church vs. the Other

When Life Gives You Deconstruction: The Church vs. the Other
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*TW: Spiritual Abuse

This past weekend, I attended an online Sunday service, of sorts. It was put on by someone in the faith community whom I trust very much and it took place with a small group in his home. He’s familiar with the deconstructing process and has had to do quite a bit of deconstructing on his own. I’ve been able to follow his journey on social media, so I felt really safe observing.

The conversation was very open during this service. Anyone could chime in with thoughts or questions. It was very open and lovely. There was no “lesson” or agenda, really. They read from John 10 and then shared what it made them think of or how it made them feel. Part of the discussion led to a conversation around “otherness” and how the church has excluded certain groups of people from God’s love, even though Jesus says quite the opposite about how we come into Her love.

This reminded me of many instances where I was looked at as “other” within my church during my time there. One that really stuck out was when a group of friends and I got together and decided to start a little Bible study at someone’s house. These were not friends I currently went to church with but these were people I did a lot of my day-to-day life with. It was a nice way to spend time together while learning about God and Her nature.

At the time, I was considered a part of “informal” leadership at my church because I was on the worship team. Something to note, I could never be considered a formal leader within that church because I am a woman. Apparently women are not allowed to lead men. I was only made aware of this “small” detail because the conversation came up amongst a small group of us at some church event. I was honestly shocked, and super pissed, because I had never been told this explicitly before and thought my church was rather progressive (ha!).

While at church one morning, I had mentioned this really great group of people I was gathering with once a week to worship with and study God’s word with. To my surprise, my worship leader warned me about small group gatherings outside the umbrella of a church with an established theology. He said that I could get into “trouble” of sorts because without a church overseeing what was being taught, we could be at risk for false teachings. In the church, “false teachings” are a great scare tactic to keep people from trusting their own discernment and keep the church in control. It was the mose bizarre thing I had every heard. The original church started in the homes of fellow believers; small communities of people who opened their homes to one another in love.

Something I’ve learned about the church over the years is that it is afraid of free-thinkers and those who do not follow the formula. Something I’ve learned about God’s nature is that She does not perscribe to nor require a formula for Her love.

Needless to say, I never brought up the home group at church again. I thought the concern and warning were hot garbage. Also, I hate being told what to do. Fuck off with that. No one ever mentioned it to me again, and I certainly wasn’t brought into any intervention with church leadership. But, if you’re familiar with my story, then you know that my time would come soon enough.

When Life Gives You Deconstruction: Music

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I’ve been sitting on this for a while because I’ve been doing my own processing and healing. While in the middle of writing this blog, there were several public outcries from the evangelical community denouncing the process of deconstruction. Trusted leaders, pastors, and musicians have called deconstruction evil, witchcraft, and ungodly. I’m in a place where I can often ignore or shrug off these ridiculous claims, but sometimes it hits a nerve.

I am a lover of music. I love all different kinds of music. Not only do I love music, I am also a musician. Music is very powerful and can evoke powerful emotions. It can convey what is not being said and bring people to a special place.

While in the church, worship time was my favorite. I was often on stage, singing with the worship team. This appealed to me for several reasons. For one, I love to sing. I love to take a song and make it a little bit mine. Secondly, I love being on stage. As scary as it can be, I like having eyes on me. I like performing. I like being heard. I really feel at home on the stage. When people would come up to me after church and compliment me on my voice, it filled my cup.

In the church, however, you are reminded quite regularly that you are there to serve and it isn’t about you or whatever need of yours it is fulfilling. While I believe servant leadership is a beautiful thing, the struggle between joy and sense of duty that came with leading worship eventually led to guilt and shame around enjoying what you were doing. It was made to feel selfish. I felt this and I saw it all around me. It made me sad that people couldn’t just enjoy the high of performing without being pulled down by the guilt of being self-indulgent in your talent and hobby. This was seen as holy.

There are many exvangelicals who will talk about the manipulation tactics used during worship services – evoking strong emotions by song choice, “spontaneous” worship time, talking over a musical intro/outro, long build ups in songs, dimmed lights or concert lighting. These are all things that happen during worship. These are not points I feel too strongly about, personally, but I believe that anyone who feels they were misled or manipulated by these tactics have valid opinions. Not everyone carries the same opinions or experiences from the church and I would never dismiss the harm done by the use of these tactics.

I’m also an avid listener of music. It’s rare that you walk into my home without some kind of music playing – especially if I’m alone. I admire talented musicians and lyricists. I sing loudly to the music I love. I dance around my house while cooking or cleaning.

Some weeks ago, my partner asked if I had heard the newest Skillet album. He knows that I really like Skillet’s music, so this is a totally normal question, but I wasn’t prepared for how triggering it would be. At the time, I was a bit hesitant to listen to anything remotely close to Christian music because so many of my beliefs have evolved recently. I’m still working through this. I want to be cognizant of the musicians I support because I don’t want to perpetuate the abuse I’ve experienced.

While writing this blog, a very problematic video came out where John Cooper, the lead singer of Skillet, declared a “war on deconstruction.” This isn’t entirely surprising, but still hurtful. As a fan, I realized that their music is no longer safe, uplifting, or encouraging for me. He is spreading a dangerous and unloving message at his concerts while his legions of fans cheer him on. The irony here is that he is fiercely defending an institution that does not fully accept him for who he is with all his rock ‘n roll and tattoos. The only reason he is welcomed by any part of the evangelical community is because of deconstruction. Deconstruction paved a way for him to be a successful musician on the edge of evangelicalism and secular popularity. Since then, I’ve done some research and realized that John Cooper has a history of spreading misinformation and dangerous ideologies. Disappointing, to say the least.

Navigating the obstacle course of the music I once loved can be an exhausting feat. There are still musicians who I adore and will sometimes listen to. For now, though, I stick with my alternative, rock, pop, new grass, and hip-hop of the secular variety. It’s more open, loving, and godly than I was taught to believe.

When Life Gives You Deconstruction: Some Thoughts on God, Music, and Hurt

When Life Gives You Deconstruction: Some Thoughts on God, Music, and Hurt

*TW: Spiritual Abuse

It’s 4am and I’ve been awake for a little over an hour. Maybe an hour and a half. While 5 hours of sleep isn’t historically enough for me, my brain is awake. My head is full of all the things but clear. Does that make sense? Probably not.

I’m not sure what woke me up this morning, but I was very quickly in deep thought around the deconstruction of my faith. I have many thoughts on it and lots of stories. Christians have said some really horrible things to me/around me while invoking the name of Christ. Looking back, I’m appalled. How is that okay? How is that justified? I don’t know. Humans can justify anything, I guess. It pains me to think about who I’ve alienated over the years because their faith, or absence of, didn’t align with mine. All for what? The sake of being right? There are some dear people in my life who I’ve been able to talk to regarding comments or ideologies from my past. What about those people who I didn’t know well and who felt that separation or exclusion in passing? I hate to think about it, honestly.

They say it’s all to save people. God doesn’t need us to save people. He wants us to love people. He wants us to love them for exactly who they are and exactly where they’re at. And we shouldn’t need God to do that – and many, many people don’t. What He truly desires is to know us and be known by us. Did I just write a worship song? Probably.

Oh, worship music. I used to love it so much. There’s plenty I didn’t like and definitely made fun of – I’m looking at you Matthew West. “Modest is Hottest”? What the fuck dude? Even as a supposed “parody”, it’s horribly unfunny. Anyway, I digress. There’s so much worship music that I truly loved, though. I’ll probably listen to it again at some point. It will have to be good, though. It has to be vetted to weed out the misogyny, guilt, and shame. Eh, maybe I won’t go back to it. That’s a lot of work. I could just spend that time on my own music. But, see, I’m a musician’s musician. I love other people’s work – their music, art, poetry, writing, etc. I guess that’s part of deconstructing. You tear it all down, examine it, and reconstruct it with what feels right and true to you.

My tie to God has always felt true. I’ve always felt drawn to something bigger – a Creator. Some being made of love and compassion. Someone who knew me, understood me, and stood by me. That part hasn’t changed. Surely His ways are mysterious because our universe is mysterious.

Something that really struck me when I left my church was their performative “love”. When I left, I remained friends with 2 people from the entire congregation. These are women who I can see at any given time and pick up right where we left off.

The two pastors who I looked up to so much and, then, who had that “intervention” with me? They never reached out a single time after I left. Not once. And neither did their wives. One of their wives was in the meeting where they confronted me and I bawled my eyes out. That was nearly 5 years ago. I worked closely with them every single week for nearly 7 years. I had been in their homes and eaten meals with their families. That part used to be very painful. It still is a bit.

Now, maybe they were embarrassed by their behavior or felt bad, but were too proud to reach out. Or maybe it was mostly bullshit. I really don’t know. Either way, it was wrong. I know that now. But, even now, when I let myself think about how much I let them into who I was and know some extremely personal parts of my life, I get angry and sad. I realize now how manipulative that was, but it still makes me angry at times.

If I really think about it, though, had they reached out or pretended like they cared, I may not have been able to see the church as clearly as I do today. Looking back, there were so many signs or things that never really sat right with me. It’s good to see the truth.

I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, but sometimes, when we take a second to look at the big picture, we realize that the hard experience, while painful, also healed other parts of our broken hearts. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but sometimes it is.