Deconstruction Updates

In Faith & Cultureby Cindy BrandtLeave a Comment

Oh hey, it’s me. Remember, the girl who used to write about faith shift angsting but now is all about podcasting and conferences on parenting? It feels like the more public my work has become, the more private I’ve become with my personal life, which to be honest, has been refreshing and much needed. Every human being has the right to privacy, and after years of hustling to avoid obscurity as a writer, I was ready to retreat and keep the very deep parts of my soul to myself. It needed some loving from me and a few trusted others, not a wide audience.

But my career as a writer began right here. On a blog where I was as truthful as I possibly could about my faith. You all witnessed my fall from grace and break up with evangelicalism. It made for fantastic writing material because it was filled with struggle and drama and anxiety and overcoming and call-outs and pain and the glorious rising of my own true self. It’s the stuff of the movies, and in the most meta way, the act of telling the story of my faith shift has radically altered the story itself. 

My break up with evangelicalism is complete. It felt like a forever process with many loose ends to tie up. When you’ve spent your childhood and young adulthood in a circle that’s designed to be insular, breaking free feels like disentangling oneself from the stickiest of spider webs.

But finally, I feel like I’m in a space where I am free from any meaningful influence of evangelicalism, and it is absolutely the right space for me. I was suffocating from the toxicity of the system and breathing fresh air has been a profound gift. I can honor my body, my intuition, my soul, my relationships, my choices, my life. I teach parents to raise your children with autonomy because I know what it’s like to not be able to exercise it and the difficult path to reclaim it.

I worry a bit about losing some quality writing prompts, haha. I had a pattern of getting horrifically triggered by evangelicals, by proximity to my friend group or my own attachment and loyalty to the system. Then I’d sit down at the keyboard, full of rage and fire, letting my passions drive my creativity, both venting and hopefully doing some prophetic work providing clarity to how toxic religion harms.

Now that I’ve drawn my boundaries firmly, that writing model is no longer sustainable. Can one write from a place of peace and prosperity? I sure hope so.

Does this mean my deconstruction is over? People who are a few laps behind me on the deconstruction journey want to know whether there is an end to the madness. Is there an end to the suffering? Can there be constructive paths forward? What happens to the threads after we unravel, does it weave itself back into something more beautiful, or lay limply on the floor as loose, strewn strings? 

I’ve thought a lot about the metaphors we use to talk about the process of deconstructing, and the imperfect nature of them all. As a writer, I ironically think words are very useless a lot of the time—human constructs that are meaningful only as the unwieldy beasts we are as human beings project our unwieldy definitions on them.

Specific to my faith shift, I have long wrestled with whether my deconstruction is an evolution into a new me, or a stripping off all the bits covering up the real me on the inside.

I was listening to the Les Mis soundtrack in my car yesterday because why not and always. The first time I had the privilege of watching the classic musical was the summer of my junior year in high school. I was a bright-eyed evangelical teen, full of fire and fervor for the Lord. In the next semester, I would apply and make the decision to go to Wheaton College, far away from home, far away from any expectations of a Taiwanese girl raised in an irreligious family. It didn’t matter, I was going all out for Jesus. 

And yet, I remember how the deep and complex themes in the story of Les Mis, about humanity, suffering, justice, love, and redemption resonated with me. The evangelical system I was in gave me a very thin formula of the human experience, and something in the story of Les Mis called out to me, a richness I had yet to discover. I remember identifying with Javert, the prison guard who would rather die than dismantle the rigidity of his moral binaries, which was accurate cuz I was judgmental AF. I couldn’t yet see that it may be problematic I reflected the villain of the story, but I was starting to become troubled by it.

It dawned on me. I’ve been telling people the last decade of my life in my 30s was my Great Deconstruction Decade, but had I actually been deconstructing since my junior year in high school?

Pete Enns casually made a facebook comment that I’ve gone back to again and again in the last month and a half since he posted it. Here it is get ready it’s really really good:

I mean, wow. So Pete’s telling me, that like Thanos, I am inevitable. My entire life has been of that inevitable surfacing truth, popping up my junior year to poke at me, and again a little shove in college, and a pretty hefty kick in seminary, and then a series of relentless jab, right hook, punch in the Great Deconstruction Decade until it almost knocked me out.

Okay, I may have gone overboard with the boxing imagery here, what I’m saying is for me, the process of the deep truth surfacing was tumultuous but it may look differently for you. It’s already looking differently for me. I am not so easily triggered anymore, I’ve gotten used to coexisting with some deep truths on the surface.

What I want to tell you is that I’m doing really well within my newly formed boundaries. I’m healing beautifully from my religious trauma. I feel like I’m in a very different head space than the confusing fog of my faith shift.

But one can never have too much deconstruction, not as long as there is truth to surface. Not as long as there are broken versions obstructing it.

Let’s get to work.