Discover more from The Way I See It by Marcia Ramirez
Letting go of the past
Rebuilding my faith
I’m writing today’s post from a very large plane, somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, on my way to Japan. I’ll be performing over there for the next two weeks as part of Christopher Cross’ band. This is my eighth trip to Japan and I always look forward to it. The people there are so sweet and make our time there very enjoyable. If you want to follow along, I’ll be trying to document most of it on my socials… mostly in my stories, but some in my feeds. You can find me on Instagram here — and on Facebook here.
Now on to the good stuff… :-)
If you know me, you are probably aware that my faith journey has been deeply entrenched in what some would call “deconstruction” for the last few years. I really have never loved that word but I get the reference, because people in the throws of deconstruction are literally breaking down everything they have been taught to believe, examining each building block that they have built their faith on and making sure it still holds firm, still holds true. Some people think of it like your faith being a house and you take a bulldozer to it, flattening it all to the ground, starting to rebuild from scratch. That’s not how I’ve experienced deconstruction though. For me, it’s more like examining each component of the house, making sure it’s still healthy and holding up well. Sometimes you have to replace the foundation because it’s shifted underneath. Sometimes the dry wall has cracked and needs to be fixed. Maybe the roof is leaking and needs new shingles. You get the picture. There is absolutely nothing wrong with examining every bit of the house and looking for problems. Then, when you find the problems, you address them to make the house stronger and better.
I think anyone who has been in the middle of deconstruction will tell you two things:
1) They didn’t choose it. 2) It’s no fun.
When I say they didn’t “choose” it, I mean it wasn’t something they just decided to do for the heck of it. It’s not like any of us woke up one day and thought, “Hey, I think I’ll deconstruct my entire theology and belief system. This should be a fun!” Nope. That’s not how it happens.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, the deconstruction started many years ago, and it wasn’t one thing that brought me here. It was a combination of several things, including but not limited to:
Seeing Christian leaders that I respected be exposed as nothing like they presented themselves to be. (If they couldn’t “walk the talk” how could the rest of us be expected to do so?)
Seeing sexual abuse victims get mistreated and maligned by the church.
Seeing spiritual abuse being used to manipulate those in the congregations.
Not getting answers to my valid theological questions.
Seeing people I love get excluded from the church because of their marital status or sexual identities. (Myself getting excluded from one church because I was divorced)
Actually studying the Bible (not just reading it, but studying it.)
The rise of Christian Nationalism
Although my deconstruction started about 20 years ago, it wasn’t until I broke away from organized religion entirely (about 10 years ago), that I truly started the hard, hard work of diving into deep Bible study and figuring out where my faith in God was landing, if it was still there at all. My heart was truly broken over it for awhile. I wish I had this beautiful blessing that I found recently, written by Kate Bowler:
A Blessing for When Faith Breaks Your Heart
—- by Kate Bowler
Blessed are you standing among the ruins of a faith
that once felt so sturdy,
now turned to dust under your feet.
The certainty you once had, gone.
The community you loved, dissipated.
The hope you held dear, hard to find.
Instead, what’s taken up residence
is the very stuff that seems counter
to what you imagined:
Disappointment. Doubt. Disillusionment. Despair.
In this new landscape, may you practice the courage to find the others
who make space for your questions without easy answers,
who celebrate doubt when it makes room for more faith,
who search high and low for a defiant hope born amidst despair.
Bless you, dear one. You who don’t give up wrestling.
who have eyes to see something new being rebuilt on top of what was.
Blessed are you who walk away wounded, yes. But changed.
Isn’t that beautiful?? I think my favorite line is “who search high and low for a defiant hope born amidst despair.” I felt that one deeply. My soul truly felt despair on many days where my faith was concerned.
There were days where I wanted to go back so badly. I didn’t want to know what I knew now.
I wanted to reverse time and be back in my comfortable circle of friends who all were confident that what they believed was all accurate truth and together we were safe. Safe within the walls of our community. But as badly as I wished it were so, it was too late. There was no going back. I couldn’t unsee what I had seen.
Brian McLaren writes about the 4 stages of spirituality in his book, Faith After Doubt. Simplicity, Complexity, Perplexity and Harmony. I’ve noticed that people who are deconstructing seem to pass through stages as well. It’s almost like the stages of grief… I mean, it IS grief. At least, that seems to be one of the stages. My stages went something like this: Confusion, anger, grief, despair, more anger, regret, disillusionment, a little more anger, resolve… and finally, where I am today, release. Mainly I’m releasing the anger. I’m not saying it doesn’t flare up now and then, but overall, I’m choosing to move forward now and spend more time RE-constructing a faith more beautiful and healthy for me now, rather than focusing so much on false theology that I was taught and looking back on all the beliefs that failed me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying ALL my previous beliefs failed me. That’s not it at all. I can honestly say that the teachings of Jesus have held firm and true for me. It’s why I still call myself a Christian, because I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ as best I can.
I’m also not saying I won’t still do some deconstruction now and then. In my opinion, deconstruction is healthy to a point, and we should always keep our minds and hearts open to seeing problems in our faith foundations. Jesus was the original “deconstructionist”. He told his followers several times to change their thinking about how to love God and how to love each other. Many times he said, “you have heard it said _____, but now I say ______”, making them realize that the way they had been interpreting scripture and approaching spirituality wasn’t working anymore. So yes, I’ll always be open to deconstruction in my faith, but for now, I’m just simply stating that I’m ready to shift my focus forward and build a new spiritual life that works for me. One that includes others, not excludes. One that holds space for diversity. One that acknowledges the damages that my religion has done to others, while also acknowledging the LIFE it has given to many.
I recently saw a great Instagram post by Pete Enns about the difference between Christianity and Toxic Christianity. There truly is a difference. He points out that we don’t actually have to choose between staying in Toxic Christianity or leaving Christianity altogether. There is a third way. He breaks down these three points:
A. Nurturing iterations of Christianity exist.
B. Toxic, harmful, immoral (IMO) iterations of Christianity exist (and should be called out)
C. The reality of someone having experienced B does not cancel out the reality of A, which others have experienced.
You should check out the entire video. It’s really worth a watch.. as well as his follow-up to it the next day. You can see it here:
If you have been in the process of deconstruction, I’d love to hear how you entered into the RE-construction phase of your spiritual growth journey. I know it’s truly an individual path, but I think sharing what we each have found helpful is a great way forward! For me, reading books and listening to lectures by Richard Rohr, Brian McLaren, Pete Enns, Jared Byas, Sarah Bessey, Rachel Held Evans etc… has been helpful. Trying to embrace a non-dualistic view has also been a must for me. It has gotten me past being angry at my old belief system. Us vs them doesn’t work. And rebuilding a new “us vs them” system doesn’t work either. I have to strive to be non-judgmental, no matter where someone is in their spiritual walk, I try to be respectful. I am learning to let go of the need to change people’s minds.
Building a new faith community has been key for me as well. Having God-loving people around me to share ideas with and learn together has been life-giving! It’s also been helpful for me to visit several denominations of churches and learning how very differently they approach their spirituality, while still embracing Christianity. I’m beginning to see that I knew very little of Christianity as a whole religion… and yet, I thought I knew it ALL for years! LOL
I honestly believe that if we are doing the work of becoming more like Christ, our beliefs will change, grow and evolve. How could they not? As we learn more and more, it’s going to change us. God may not change, but we do… and it’s supposed to be that way! We mature physically, emotionally and spiritually our whole lives. Don’t let someone try and tell you that evolving spiritually is a bad thing, because I’m telling you… it’s not.
Grow towards God… and towards each other.
Tell me how you are growing. I’d love to know!
This week’s recommendations:
PODCAST: I love Rev. Benjamin Cremer’s thoughts on faith and life. His Facebook is full of great posts that will make you think! You can sign up for his newsletter here if you are interested. I highly recommend.
I just listened to a wonderful sermon of Rev. Cremer’s on the Cathedral of the Rockies podcast. The sermon is titled “Do No Harm”. It’s sooooo good.
“Imagine a world where ‘Do no harm’ is the first simple rule”. A very challenging sermon!
BOOK: The Jesuit Guide to (almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life by James Martin, SJ — My therapist actually recommended this book to me and it’s really, really good. Chapter Four alone is worth picking it up. Learning how to use The Examen to enhance my prayer life has been amazing!
TV: Not anything faith based here— but I started “The Bear” on Hulu. I reluctantly pushed through the first season. On my…. I’m glad I stuck with it. Only just finished Season one, but what a finale! I hear season two is even better. Anyone else watching??
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