How does one deconstruct — Your handy dandy deconstruction map
For those new here, I grew up in the trendy cult known as evangelicalism, and while leaving this power-hungry machine can be freeing, it can also be terrifying.
Who are you now? What is community? What is right? What is wrong? Where the hell am I going after I die?
With that in mind, I wanted to create a visual map/guide to help you as you consider/embark on/find yourself in the midst of your own deconstruction journey with multiple destinations and routes, so that you may find your own location amongst the stars.
Which brings me to the map — it’s rocket map. Here’s why:
Often, when talking about deconstruction or exvangelicalism, we can put a lot of emphasis on the prefix: de-, ex-. These phonemes are loaded with negative connotations. We’re not falling; we’re launching, moving into something new: a rocket.
Here’s your rocket map…
Phase 1: Boarding
- No one is right
An unfortunate inheritance from evangelicalism is a feverish panic to learn what is right, to research, to spend money, to exhaust all our resources, attempting to not only learn what is right but to be what is right. We find safety in it. We find comfort in it. But it’s a lie. No one is right. Within the Bible, there are 20,000+ passages arguing with each other. Within Christianity, there are thousands of denominations, further splintering because some church argues with the other. Outside of Christianity, there are thousands of beliefs that have existed since the beginning of time. Even within science, what we believe to be true changes every couple of years. (Want to make your head explode? Look up the behavior of light while observed and not observed.) If if you have to have the right answers, we’re all fucked. But if no one can have right right answers, it frees us to guess, to wonder. It allows us to let go and have open hands to explore and aim for the stars.
- The trouble we’re in isn’t something new
The idea of religion becoming political and hurting marginalized communities isn’t something new. In fact, religion used to be strictly attached to national identities, and in the name of truth, not only were people marginalized, but people were murdered (e.g. the Crusades, the Inquisitions, the IRA, Manifest Destiny, the Holocaust) and enslaved and brainwashed (e.g. Native American Schools, Imperialism, Conquistadors). If you’re trying to return to some ancient truth before the mess of Trump and evangelical nationalism, where would you return to? Our only choice is to move beyond.
- The fruit
To quote the words of Jesus, “You will know a tree by it’s fruit.” What good fruit have you gained through evangelicalism? Yes, you have some. Certainty. Community. Moral superiority. But at what cost? And and at the cost of whom? Don’t you think it’s time for liftoff? Or are you comfortable with the pain it inflicts? If not, it might be time to leave.
Phase 2: System’s Check
Now that you’ve dared to board your ship, we have to make sure you’re not gonna die in the atmosphere. So before we have you ride a chunk of metal and glass being propelled by a massive explosion, you need a few things to reach escape velocity (the amount of force needed to leave evangelicalism’s atmosphere)…
- Enough fuel — Do you have enough evidence to leave it behind?
- Less weight — Are you too bogged down by what it will cost you?
- A catalyst — What is your spark? For me, it was being gay. For others, Trump. For still others, BLM. What’s your catalyst? Do you have one?
- Houston — Who’s the support system that is cheering you on at your launch? While you don’t need this, as someone that launched into the stars alone, it’s terrifying. I had no idea where I was going or if I would crash. But I quickly found those that would not go radio silent the second I hit lift off.
Phase 3: Lift Off
When you first leave evangelicalism, there is fire and passion, excitement and fear. This is all normal and right and terrifying. The gravity of your decision begins to set in, the view of what once was tantalizes you from below, and through it all, you often think you’re going to throw up under the pressure. It’s okay. Deep breaths. It’s all part of the process.
But you have to remember this one thing: This is your mission and your mission alone. While Houston can help and your screaming parents will try to get on the intercom begging you to come home, you have to make these choices for yourself. No one else. And it can absolutely be terrifying and lonely at times, but the stars await!
Well… maybe the stars await. Let me explain…
Phase 4: The Kármán Line
At 330,000 feet above sea level, there’s this magical place called the Kármán Line. Up until this point, you are still in airspace controlled by the countries below, and you are still using aerodynamics to propel you into the heavens. But at 330,000 feet, you are free — no country owns this space and air resistance is no longer needed to create lift.
At this point, there’s a critical moment.
If your fuel is still burning with rage, you will launch beyond our atmosphere, no longer bound by air, and inertia will take over, throwing you out into the cosmos. Which you can totally do. But your trajectory will forever be in relation to where you’ve left: evangelicalism.
We all need to become exes to leave something. To leave your partner, you must become an ex-boyfriend, an ex-wife. There’s no way around it. And honestly, it’s important, just like saying no is important to a toddler.
In order for a child to gain a sense of individuality, they need to say no, even if it’s artificial, even if it’s annoying and miserable for everyone involved, especially the strangers at Trader Joes. This horrific phase of parenting is critical to the child because it allows them to start separating themselves from their parents. And, if we want the child to be a functional adult, they must learn to become their own person.
Just like a toddler, you need to learn to become your own person.
For most if not all of your life, Focus on the Family magazines and passionate pastors have told you what you should be afraid of. They’ve told you what movies not to watch, what words not to say, what thoughts not to think. And at the same time, you were told you can’t trust yourself. “Your heart is deceitful.” So you surrendered control. You said yes. Always.
Now… it’s time to say no. And it’ll be clunky, and it’ll be inauthentic, and people will get frustrated. But it’s important. Without saying no, without becoming your own person, without becoming an exvangelical, you will never become anything else.
You must first react to what you know in order to find what you don’t know. This is escape velocity.
But. Once you’ve reached the Kármán Line, it’s important to pause.
Once you’ve escaped the gravity of it all, once you no longer identify as what you were, if you keep on going, your whole identity will always be wrapped up in reacting, reacting to Christianity, reacting to evangelicalism. While you’re no longer aligning with evangelicals, they will ultimately still control you, except instead of turning right when they say turn right, we turn left, whether we want to or not.
Reacting. Not acting.
Unless there’s a pause, you will drift into space, alone, forever being an ex and never becoming something more.
We all know those people who have yet to move on from their failed relationship. At first, the rage is important. We all need to hate the person they left regardless of if it was amicable. Fuck that guy! He’s the worst! It helps the person move on.
But at some point, it’s not cute. At some point, it’s time to move on. And at some point, you’re gonna stop getting invited to parties because people are tired of hearing about what Greg did this time.
Once the Kármán Line is reached, you need to pause and decide what you want to do.
Stretched out before you is the literal cosmos. Stars all around. Earth down below. The moon in the distance. Planets orbiting beyond. Space: the final frontier.
It is here, beyond country borders and above the gravitational pull that you must ask, where do you want to go. Not where do you not want to go. We’ve done that. We knew what we didn’t want. Now’s the time to decide what you actually want. And it may take some exploring. That’s the point of going into space. But you have to start somewhere.
Here are some options:
You made it to space. You touched the stars. But, at the end of the day, you miss the community, you miss the gravity of purpose, you miss the certainty beneath your feet. So you aim the ship down, returning to earth, this time maybe a different country, but ultimately returning to evangelicalism with a new perspective. This is not defeat. If this is what you choose, and it serves you, great. This is your journey. My hope is that with getting distance, you can hopefully give more compassion to those who are different than you. Treat them with decency. Treat them with kindness. Because if your beliefs don’t bring about love, it’s worthless anyway. And it’s only a matter of time before you burn your world up.
Listen, you’re still close to earth. In fact, your orbit is still dictated by it. But there’s distance. Safe distance. This could mean attending a different denomination. Maybe Episcopalians. They offer some traditions that you like and are close enough to Christianity, but they don’t hate the gays, and that makes you feel safe and at home, and it serves you. Or maybe the Quakers. You like that they’re called friends and they’ve been at the forefront of most social justice issues. Regardless, a belief system that’s in the same Christian orbit offers some sense of gravity beneath your feet, though not as strong as before.
We are social creatures, and while space is exciting, we want to grow things; we want to make a home; we want to dig down deep and grow something. So you turn to something that has existed for some time. You turn to paganism because it has a rich heritage that was conquered by Christianity a long time ago. But you ripped off the flag some astronaut placed, and you begin uncovering the mystery under the dust, finding a new home with a new people who have always been here, teaching you their ancient ways.
Your not sure of where to go, but the stars and the possibilities excite you. As we’ve said, space is the final frontier. What might we find if we just keep going? Could we end up alone in the vacuum of space, too different from anyone else? Maybe. Or, maybe you can build a larger space ship, and all you earth expats can find community with each other. You don’t have certainty, but you don’t need it. Gravity never suited you anyway. That’s great! Just know that none of us are meant to do this life alone. So link up with other spaceships and maybe check out a planet here or there so you don’t get too weird. But then again, do whatever floats your ship. Again, this is your journey.
The beauty of leaving evangelicalism is that there is no right answer. This is your journey. And truly leaving evangelicalism means giving up the need to be right. To believe we’ve found the right answers is to resurrect the frame of evangelicalism, and that frame is always damaging, regardless of the answers we find. In fact, I find it enlightening that Jesus very rarely gave answers; instead, he offered more questions.
None of us are right. Not about everything. We’re all just guessing. As best we can. What matters is if our guesses serve us. If they make us better. If they produces life. If they don’t, it might be time to get back on the ship, for this is not fertile ground.
Regardless, all lights are go.
Cover image provided by SpaceX via Unsplash. Images in article created by Brandon Flanery.
One response to “How does one deconstruct — Your handy dandy deconstruction map”
This was a stunning read. Thank you for your honesty. I admire your cleverly constructed analogy of deconstructing faith with launching into space.