Deconstruction, as a term, has become really complicated to understand.
Rebecca and i talked about it in a recent podcast, and it’s one of those terms that is used differently by different people. But it boils down to this:
You recognize that some beliefs/customs/practices in your faith community are toxic, and so you try to sift through what is toxic and what is central to faith, and discard the toxic stuff.
Unfortunately, what often happens when you do this is that you recognize that some of what you know is toxic is also held as deep tenets of the faith by other people who profess Christianity. Or at least they talk as if you have to accept the entire package–including toxic beliefs about marriage or sex or other things–or else it means you’re leaving Jesus (Rebecca talked about the problems with this as a parenting style in Why I Didn’t Rebel).
When people are told the toxic parts can’t be disentangled from faith, then people deconstructing often do leave the faith.
I want people to see that you can deconstruct the harmful stuff and still keep Jesus, and the Apostle’s Creed, and the essentials.
What I’ve been encouraging all of you to do in the last few years, and especially since The Great Sex Rescue came out, is to deconstruct what you’ve been taught about marriage.
LIke Jesus said, “You have heard it said X, but I say to you, Y.” He said that again and again and again. And that’s what we’re doing with marriage and sex. “You have heard it said that women need to have sex whenever their husbands want it, but actually, biblically, sex is to be intimate, mutual, and pleasurable for both. Instead of seeing it as an obligation, let’s back up and make sure that we’re treating sex like something mutual and intimate and pleasurable for both.”
The Great Sex Rescue is a deconstruction book. Many of you may not like the term “deconstruction,” but if you’ve liked The Great Sex Rescue, then you’re already deconstructing! It doesn’t have to be a scary thing. It can be a healing thing (and that’s what it’s supposed to be).
When you deconstruct like that, it actually makes it more likely that people will hang on to Jesus.
There comes a point when you can’t ignore the ugly stuff anymore. And if we’re not allowed to separate the ugly stuff from our faith, then people will end up walking away entirely. We have to be able to question things.
With that preamble, a couple of things happened in the last few days that I wanted to comment on.
Josh Harris, the author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, published, but then retracted, a deconstruction course.
As some of you may know, he has actually left the faith and doesn’t call himself a Christian anymore. But he did publish a course for others who are deconstructing, offering that course for free to anyone who felt harmed by his books.
A huge outcry broke out on social media, asking why he felt that he needed to teach anyone anything, and he did end up retracting the course.
In the meantime, though, he had advertised it saying that it had materials from me. I didn’t even know about this until some people messaged me about it. Apparently he linked to my Instagram, where I had published quite a few “Fixed it For Yous” where I take a problematic quote from one of the marriage or sex books we looked at it, and then “fixed it”. He did not ask my permission first before he used my name in his marketing materials, and I did not help him with his course. So I did want to make that clear. He later admitted this in an Instagram post.
Amy Fritz of the Untangled Podcast posted an episode with me about Risking My Platform.
Josh Harris talked about deconstruction with me without my permission, but Amy Fritz did it right! She interviewed me on her podcast, and we talked about such different things from other podcasts I’ve been on that I wanted to draw your attention to it. Instead of it being primarily about The Great Sex Rescue, it was more about the journey of deciding to write The Great Sex Rescue, how this has impacted me as a speaker/author in evangelical spaces, and why I decided I couldn’t be silent anymore about the problems in this sphere. And then we talked a lot about my church journey and what I’m hoping for after COVID.
I really appreciated this conversation, and I thought many of you would, too, because you’ll hear some things I don’t think I’ve shared publicly before (or at least not all together like this!).
You may like the story of how I decided to initially run that very first Love & Respect post about sex, about the sermon at church the day before. Or about why I think I’m flying under the radar with a bunch of the powers that be in evangelicalism right now, and I haven’t become a huge target to teh big names. Or why it was easier for me to risk my platform–because it’s always been based online, directly to people, rather than through gatekeepers like conferences or big radio shows.
But most of all, you’ll hear my heart for finding a church where community is the main point, and where we can honestly talk about the things that are hurting us.
I really appreciated this conversation, and I hope you do, too!
And, again, I hope we can change our visceral reaction when we hear “deconstruction.”
For most people, it just means recognizing some of what you’ve been taught your whole life isn’t healthy, and it’s learning how to differentiate that from the essentials of the faith. Yes, some people can’t, and leave all together. But most find it a healing and necessary journey.
And many, many people are taking that journey, especially millennials and Generation Z. (Seriously, the survey results from our latest survey about beliefs when you’re teens vs. now are astounding when you look at the generations).
As a faith community, we need to be willing to sit with people when they deconstruct, or listen to their deconstruction stories, or we will end up pushing out millions of people from the church.
Plus it’s simply the right thing to do. A lot of what we’ve been teaching hasn’t been healthy–as we show in The Great Sex Rescue. We need some self-examination. And I believe that when we do that, we’ll find the person of Jesus is even more evident than He was before.
The Great Sex Rescue
Changing the conversation about sex & marriage in the evangelical church.
What if you're NOT the problem with your sex life?
What if the things that you've been taught have messed things up--and what if there's a way to escape these messages?
Welcome to the Great Sex Rescue.
What do you think? Can deconstruction ever be seen as a healthy term? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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