Deconstruction is having a moment.

There are podcasts and books galore about the process of deconstructing (usually damaging or negative) religious belief. Take one step back from deconstruction and you have the phenomenon of doubt in modern Christian writing. At some point in the last ten years, doubt began to be the prerequisite for an “authentic” Christian life.

Charles Taylor wrote about this in his 2007 book, A Secular Age. In this seminal work, Taylor argues that authenticity is the hallmark of the secular age, which is why doubt is in. Authentic doubt or disbelief is better than inauthentic faith or belief, at least in the secular age.

Deconstruction is the fruit of this seed of doubt. For Taylor, the secular age has not eliminated belief but it has made belief itself unbelievable. This explains why deconstruction is so popular.

Our zeitgeist is marked by deep cynicism and the question, “You don’t really believe that, do you?”

Our superheroes are now dark and gritty. Our politicians are no longer paragons of virtue and civic responsibility (or they aren’t pretending to be). In my own life, I am suspicious of anyone who is too nice or just a bit too earnest.

Which brings me back to deconstruction.

The goal of deconstruction is to eliminate things that are false or inauthentic — to drill down to the root, the true.

The problem with the rise of deconstruction, at least in the mainline denominations in which I live and move, is that there is nothing to deconstruct. As a millennial, I am part of a generation that came of age in the early days of deconstruction. The Episcopal Church of my youth was a haven for people who grew up in conservative or fundamentalist denominations. It was a place where you could believe and use your rationality. I’ve heard many Episcopalians say that you “don’t have to check your brain at the door” in our church. (We’ll set aside the elitism and fetishization of rationality for another time.)

Christian formation became teaching stories that may or may not be true, doctrines that may or may not be important, a creed that may or may not be authoritative.

Fast forward to today and we have a generation of Episcopalians (and others in mainline denominations) that may or may not believe what may or may not be called “orthodox Christianity.”

Deconstructionism has served as the nail in the coffin of a dying church.

My first reaction to deconstructionism was to jump right in. I was attracted to the rationality and academic-mindedness of the practice. It seemed like something smart people did, and God knows I want to be seen as smart.

What I quickly realized was that I had nothing to deconstruct. I had no damaging religious beliefs. This was, in part, because my religious beliefs growing up were seldom deep enough to do damage (or to be transformative).

What I have found in my work with youth and young adults in the Episcopal Church today is that we have failed at the first stage, construction. We too often jump right to deconstruction before we even build the foundation of Christian belief.

We have become so wary of proclaiming a damaging religion that we end up proclaiming no religion at all. Instead, we proclaim the new social movement to join up with or the cause celebre on which to take a stand. We declare that Jesus wants to cosign our political positions and make us good citizens.

We reject the demands of the Christian faith without having ever given in to them. We deconstruct the Christian life without ever having lived it.

Charles Baudelaire wrote that “the loveliest trick of the Devil is to persuade you that he does not exist.” The loveliest trick of the Devil might actually be to convince an entire society that belief itself is unbelievable and that deconstruction is the path of freedom.

But you cannot deconstruct an unconstructed faith, just like you can’t give away something you haven’t got.

The work of the church is not deconstruction. The work of the church is not even formation alone. The work of the church is the proclamation of the Gospel, over and over again.

There is some necessary deconstruction, sure, and the Christian life can be full of doubt. This is why we gather each week to hear the Good News again, because the truth is that the work of deconstruction will be done for us in this life. There will be an endless supply of heartbreaks and tragedies and life situations that make the Gospel hard to believe. Not to mention the endless evidence produced by our own unique failings, screw-ups, and manifold sins.

The Christian life is about fighting the good fight and persevering to believe the Gospel. It is about repenting, then repenting again. It is about being born again, again.

Martin Luther wrote in his Introduction to Galatians, “Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know [the Gospel] well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.”

The myth of deconstruction is that life is static and that once you find the truth everything is settled. The problem is that the Truth is a person who was and is and is to come, especially when your life has been deconstructed.

Derek Webb, who is in the midst of his own deconstruction, wrote about this from the perspective of Jesus in the song, “Closer Than You Think”:

What do you think you know about me,
Something you read or overheard?
Why your fists up, you wanna fight me?
You haven’t even heard a single word
From my mouth, yet you doubt what I’m saying now:
That we’re closer than you think.

Jesus is okay with our deconstruction just like he is okay with all of our self-important efforts at sanctification. That doesn’t stop him from reaching out and drawing us home. With the father who petitions Jesus in Mark’s Gospel, we cry out from the place of our deconstruction, “I believe; help my unbelief!”