We live in a moment of deconstruction. People have lost faith in traditional institutions.
In regard to the last great empire of our times (the United States of America), I summarize the current state of the union in the following words:
The decline of the empire is embodied by its three great institutions:
- The government: institutionalizing injustice
- The corporation: purchasing power
- The church: perpetuating abuse
Jacques Derrida describes the questioning of old ideas, stories and institutions as deconstruction.
The 20th Century
The 20th century was an experiment in modernism. How do we apply what we know about technological innovation, industrial materials, manufacturing processes, methods of mass persuasion, economies of scale, and the economic necessity of perpetual growth to engineer and build our societies?
Unfortunately, the unintended consequence of our designs has been to create a dystopia for much of life on the planet, including human beings. Many people look back on the 20th century from a postmodern perspective, where we have given up the old stories of utopia and concluded that the future is not necessarily headed toward progress. The future is quite uncertain, and we seem to be running out of time to fix things.
At the heart of the belief system of American nationalist evangelicalism is a form of individualistic consumer capitalism. This form of economic power is an undemocratic corporate hierarchy that wields control over our societies and acts in self-preservation to perpetuate a system that threatens all forms of life on the earth.
That Old Time Religion
My return to faith in this time of crisis was part of a larger “deconstruction,” a term borrowed from Jacques Derrida that’s become popular of late in the Christian community, especially among liberals. When applied to Christianity, it’s — complicated. At its most basic, it’s a natural process of seeing the Bible and its teachings from a fresh perspective as one gets older or switches denominations. Likewise, throughout American history, deconstruction has also occurred as society and organized religion rejected political institutions, such as slavery and segregation, that white leadership had justified using Scripture. In those instances, deconstruction set off a foundational upheaval of belief, a recalibration of faith that I would argue tilts inevitably leftward — which is what’s taking place now among white evangelicals, former and current. And it’s happening around issues like racial and income equality, gay marriage, and immigration. Deconstruction is where the old canards fall away and the heart can be changed, and for many, it’s where God reveals Himself in the very people they were taught to condemn. It’s when Jesus stops looking like an action-figure culture warrior and more like the brown-skinned revolutionary who preached radical love.
A Liberal Evangelical's Search for God in a Divided Country
God first appeared to me in a photograph. I was six years old. A deacon in my family's Pentecostal church called me…
A Collective Panic Response
You’re seeing a collective panic response. This kind of all-in-on-Donald-Trump, this all-in-on-these-crazy-nominees, is because, these brains, if you survey them, would never try eating a grasshopper, for example, or could never eat steak if they see it under a green light. These are choices they are making. They are seeing changes in marriage, they are seeing changes in family structure, they are seeing rapid societal change, and their brains are panicking. In their communities, they talk about the change. They have a theological framework that says the change is dangerous and will bring forth the end of the world. That creates an incentive structure to justify actions that ten years ago would be unjustifiable.