In the unraveling tapestry of “church,” the phrase “deconstructing my faith” often signals a departure from tradition, a contortion of theological beliefs to align with contemporary ethics or prevailing social currents. Invariably, this journey culminates in the transformation of a once-spiritual leader into a resolute atheist. Though I harbor reservations about this trajectory and its approach to scriptural study, I empathize with the predicament faced by those who embark on it. Delving into scripture can unveil a stark dissonance between its teachings and the manifestation of the modern church.
Baptist by upbringing, specifically Southern Baptist, my adherence to many tenets of this faith coexists with revelations from personal study that left me aghast at the omissions and oversights in my spiritual education as a youth. Shedding the blinders to witness the church deviate from its foundational teachings can prompt profound questioning.
During a recent church service, as communion elements were handed to me upon entering the worship area – the familiar small cracker and juice in a pre-packaged, creatively wrapped individual serving – I was struck by an epiphany. This was not a sacred sacrament; it was a product. A commodity sourced from websites, packaged en masse, and distributed by volunteers. Communion, a relic from the foundational Jesus movement in the New Testament, alongside baptism and marriage, is intended to be a culturally elevated experience and religious practice. Yet, what rested in my hand was a meticulously packaged, sterile, and cold symbol stripped down to its most simplistic form. Deconstructed, not purposefully through scripture study and contemplation of intentions, but rather eroded by consumerism and capitalism until only the most versatile and profitable product remained.
Consider this perspective: When Jesus enjoined us to partake in the communal act of breaking bread and drinking wine, perhaps there was a purpose in the act of baking bread and preparing the wine. These humble elements might have been steeped in rich, community-building traditions. Outsourcing these elements, it seems, may have resulted in a sacrilegious trade of something sacred and meaningful for a cosmetic replication. The soul of the sacrament may have been surgically removed, leaving us to engage in a mere theatrical performance of tradition.
This internal conflict persists within me. While I discern the disconnect, a sense of lethargy, discouragement, and bitterness restrains me from rectifying it. The prospect of initiating a “new” church appears daunting, perhaps symptomatic of a broader predicament. The church, it appears, was already subjected to deconstruction, and the prospect of reform may be slipping away.