What is this “unraveling?” What does it mean? How long does it take? Does it hurt?
Well…. Hmmm…. Those questions are really good. And, really difficult to answer.
Umm. Wait — No. They aren’t difficult to answer. Actually, they’re easy to answer. The difficulty arises within you, the reader, and your ability to read with compassion, curiosity, and a certain amount of detachment. The reader might understand some parts. Recognize themselves. Nod with empathy.
And then the reader may come to a part that seems “off” to the eye, to the intellect. He or she may twist the head slightly and say, “Mmm… That’s not right… I disagree with you… You have that wrong… That’s not the way it happens…”
It is to those responses that I say, “This is my story, not yours.” What drives this blinking cursor to streak across the screen is the Being within me that has struggled to breathe fresh, clean air for ages. So, let’s crack open the first bar of the Being’s cage.
Unraveling, for me, is a process. A system of dismantling. What some call “deconstruction.” There is a powerful article written by Jon Bloom called “What Does ‘Deconstruction’ Even Mean?” in desiringGod.com (click here for the link). In this article, Bloom states that Deconstruction is a mash-up of a postmodern philosopher Jacques Derrida’s perspective of existence with the process of literary criticism and theology. This mash-up has morphed into a new method of awareness of Christian thought. It’s current target: Evangelical Christianity. Bloom asserts, using Derrida’s foundational construct, that: “Deconstruction is a critical dismantling of a person’s understanding of what it means to be an evangelical Christian, and in some cases a refusal to recognize as authorities those perceived as occupying privileged evangelical institutional positions who ‘supposedly speak for God.’”
Essentially, deconstruction means that what we were taught to believe, how we were discipled in our youth (at least for me it was during my youth), and how we engaged with the world in relationships — with others and with God — is challenged and dismantled. For each person, this deconstruction can begin at any point with any catalyst and takes as much time as it takes. It could take weeks, months, or even years. Each person is different, and the journey at close inspection looks quite different. However, zoomed out, the journey for all people who maneuver through this process follows very similar paths.
For me, deconstruction is terrifying and immensely isolating. Bloom reflects in the above-mentioned article: “But it’s helpful to keep in mind that a deconstructing Christian is often someone in significant pain.” What in the world? Why? Well, think of it much like Stockholm Syndrome. When a person is captured by another person and as a result of manipulation and abuse, the person develops intense affection for the captor. For the victim to become aware of this unhealthy system is much more difficult than an objective observer can understand. Even further, for the victim to wrap her mind around escaping or breaking free of the system means a dismantling of her own identity and value and hope. This is the terrifying part. The isolating part is that this is the Church I’m talking about. The Southern Baptist Church in Texas. The Church as captor. And who questions and speaks of the Church in possible disparaging ways? To do so, in the Evangelical world, would be to jeopardize salvation. It would be self-damnation. And honestly, who in her right mind would intentionally do that?!
So, I choke down my fears and keep my mouth shut. Ignore the niggling questions. Shake my head and wipe the tears. Lift my face, take a deep breath, politely smile, get control of my face and my body. Nothing to see here, people. Move along. I’m okay. I’m perfectly fine.
And, with the “right” relationship, I begin to build a cage, a hedge of protection. One in which I no longer see the captor anymore. Or, the captor takes on an unknowing partner. The first informs the second, and, for me, the cage fortifies itself.
There’s more, much more, that I have to say. This Being within the cage gathers strength. Years of captivity has made her clever. She is stronger than she knows. Her fingers fly over the keyboard, these keys of release.