Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Monday, September 18, 2023

The Agony of Moving Through Personal Deconstruction

The Agony of Moving Through
Personal Deconstruction

R.E. Slater

I have a number of articles on deconstruction on this website having once entered a spiritually dark period in my own life. It was a personal space in which I did not wish to go when called by the Spirit into an unformed space filled with personal agony and disillusionment.

When entering into this unsettling space it immediately filled up with a definitive solitude which became a seemingly endless wilderness of striking aloneness. I remember it lasted a little over eleven months and felt distinctly uninhabited by the God I knew of everywhere presence. But here, the heavens were brass and answers were not to be found. I was in an existential space of personal abandonment and aloneness. More curious was the emotional fact thst I found I had no interest in ever leaving this space.

As the days and weeks came and went I began writing of my despair and struggling with the failings of my Christian faith as I looked out across the once familiar religious landscapes now seeing the shadowed ruins lying across the empty hills where crosses once stood and lives once lived and loved with a vibrancy of faith fresh and new as the fallen rain.

Paradoxically, through these early days and weeks of darkness and despair, of abandonment and steely heavens, the Spirit came to abide without leaving to comfort by broken heart. My ruins hung in my soul like Jesus' Cross on Golgatha's hill, or like Jeremiah's famed pit of despair. Here I sat in a wilderness I did not wish to leave. And when multiple opportunities came to grant a way out, I did not leave. Nor would I leave unless my Father God came to me with the direction and answers I yearned. Otherwise, I remained in spiritual limbo quite disinterested in my ashes having none come and sit with me to disturb, disrupt, or mock. Those malicious gigures would come later. For now, I was alone seeking my God.

I had said in my heart I would only leave my disillusionment with my faith when God was done with me so that I could know from God where-and-how to proceed. Otherwise, I would stubbornly remain, praying, thinking, reading, writing.... I needed direction and needed to allow the fellowship of God's Spirit time to work in my heart a new way of faith or none at all. I refused all other misdirections. I needed clairity and discernment. What came was most curious of all... not answers but the manigold blessings of uncertainty and doubt to sit with me as my newest companions around tge ashes of my faith.

Here, with my companions I began to learn the value of asking questions I was never taught to ask of the Chtistian dogma I was taught to accept. My dialogue with my shattered faith began to resurrect. As it rose I began to see the work I was commissiined to do on behalf of those I once sheparded. Now this commissiin left the Sunday School rooms for those who came like mysrlelf broken of faith bearing spiritual grief and disillusionment.

Because my experience of solitude and brokenness was so extreme, I would never recommend this kind of deconstructive experience to anyone. It was extremely hard in every way... and spiritually dangerous because of the many misleading paths leading out of it. Paths offering forms of help and answers which I rejected. The path ahead of me didn't offer answers but required me to ask harder questions of my faith. The path I chose was uncertainty and doubt and when completed would save me from leaving my faith.

At the last, my Spirit world was re-forming and I knew exactly what I was being called to do when falling headlong into a pit of darkness. The Spirit's vision was requiring me to deconstruct my past faith and thereby reconstruct it again in a totally radical way. It took many years of breakage and rebuilding as it couldn't be done in a moment. I was to reform and remake my emergent faith into a contemporarily progressive faith. But to do this required removing its very foundations on which it stood. In those moments, my ministry turned from the caretaking of traditional Christians to the caretaking of shattered faith communities. More specifically, to the ministry of the older Nones-and-Dones and to the younger audiences under 35 years of age. My focus was to center on the Spirit of life and a renewal of faith practices in loving speech and action by creating a "Theology of Love" rather than theologies of separation and hate.

To this vision I also was guided by the Lord to build a new theological foundation built upon a better, more expansive philosophic foundation than those the church has been clinging to over tge past 2000 years. Such a foundation was forcing bad Christian theology, beliefs, rituals, practices, worship experiences, and missional policies and practices. Again, this was not a task I wanted from God, but it was God's burden which became my own. I knew it would be hard, unwanted, and rejected by my former faith. And frankly, I was too old and worn out from years of bible study and ministry, work, and family to start over again. I did not want this Spirit burden but accepted this mantle to walk the desert lands of faith composed of seared hard hearts, indifference, ignorance, mockery, rejection, and unrepentant souls.

It also would limit my activity in promoting the much-needed earth policies of green (habitat) and blue (water) organizations to political groups who were activrly ignoring these subjects of vital currency to their messages of economic reform and betterment. After earning a Master Ecologist Certification from MSU's extension program the need to address-and-instate better ecological and clean water policies (known as "green infrastructural practices") became my other unpaid, fulltime job. Thsnkfully, after retirement, the Lord gave me 15 years in participatory environmental politics and at the same time 12 years in developing a post-evangelical process theology built upon Whitehead's earlier ((Hegelian) process philosophy.

Fifteen years ago I couldn't have done this. I had no grand vision nor ability to remake a better form of Chridtisn faith. Nor any vision on which to build a vision for vibrant ecological societies and embracing communities. Yet God had other plans and directed me into a (1) post-faith resurrection of Christianity and towards a (2) reinforcing democratically balanced socio-ecological political organizations both of whom I needed to learn from. Along the way, I discovered their heart beat as my own; that we each beat together in re-visioning the presence of our future. That I was not alone but had joined communities of deconstructionists looking to rebuild betters ways of living and believing together. I also found a God I could preach again and a more proper ecological response commensurate with my new faith vision for community and world.

The Spirit had broken my heart in rejecting my older, out-of-date faith, and healed my soul out of this same spirit-darkness of personal deconstruction. Within this intense year-long arrangement between God and mysrlf I was being prepared to speak of a better God than the one my faith once believed. A God who had become an idol. An idol I was to break, like Moses did to Aaron's golden calf, and to reconstitute back to a living God for all peoples. Not just to the lost flocks of the church - but to the non-churched, religious and nonreligious, broken, dismayed, and spiritually lost. It all began with deconstructing my perceived beliefs, my arguable dogmas and fsith tenets, my misleading apologia, and my refusal to admit uncertainty and doubt as my Spirit guides.

For those interested in my ongoing ramblings and lessons learned check the topics list found on the right side of my website labeled "deconstruction". All topical discussions had once started with deconstruction as the Lord helped me to resurrect each topic towards more uplifting iterations of non-dogmatically reconstructed forms of themselves by the loving Spirit's illuminating breath forming a new, living gospel which is equally consistent in its message to the church and the world.

To this efffort I have layered each article on top of all previous articles as I build upon each thought and topic towards a fuller range of faith encompassing processually based Christian structure centered in Jesus and in love. I think of it as a theology - or compendium - of love which Christianity has lost sight of... which then broke me... and has motivated me to question all the bad, dead doctrines which have missed all the good, living doctrines formed from a loving resurrected Creator God.

R.E. Slater
August 29, 2023

*I attached the CT article below to share how those churches or church associations which have not deconstructed themselves but have placed the onus of repentance on the other rather than doing the hard work of introspection and repentance amongst themselves. The CT writer thinks of deconstruction by the unhelpfully incorrect name of "burnout" as a way of socio-religious avoidance. I would rather see his editorial efforts to the evangelical church focus on throwing off the chains of hate to follow Jesus in his atoning crucifixion and redemption to life eternal in practices of love. - re slater

* * * * * * *

The Most Dangerous Form of Deconstruction

by Russell Moore
February 9, 2022

What if some evangelicals are so burned out on church that they don’t even know it?

With all this talk of deconstruction these days, one problem is that very few people mean precisely the same thing when they use that word.

For some people, deconstructing means losing their faith altogether—becoming atheists, agnostics, or spiritual-but-not-religious nones. For others, deconstructing means still believing in Jesus but struggling with how religious institutions have failed.

And there are also many for whom deconstructing means maintaining an ongoing commitment to orthodox Christianity, as well as a robust commitment to the church—but without the cultural-political baggage associated with the label “evangelicalism.”

On one level, these divergent meanings may suggest that the term deconstruction doesn’t signify any one thing specifically—not without a great deal of qualification, that is. This is true, come to think of it, of the word evangelical these days as well.

But that doesn’t mean that deconstruction is a lesser phenomenon than we think. As a matter of fact, I think the case could be made that all of American evangelical Christianity is deconstructing—at least in some sense of the word.

It’s just that I believe there’s more than one way to deconstruct.

At one level, we can see deconstruction happening in terms of institutions. Someone asked me a few weeks ago what percentage of churches or ministries I thought were divided by the same political and cultural tumults ripping through almost every other facet of American life. I answered, “All of them. One hundred percent.”

I don’t mean that every church is in conflict; many aren’t. But even the churches and ministries that are not descending into warfare are aware of the conflict, and many are vigilant—wondering if one word said, or an event scheduled, might set it off.

Beyond that, at the level of individuals and leaders, we are perhaps not aware that the most dangerous forms of deconstruction are not the people we know who are doubting, scandalized, or traumatized by what they’ve seen in the church. There’s a different form of deconstruction that that could actually destroy us.

I always thought of “burnout” as a rather banal way of communicating exhaustion from overwork. “Make sure you take a vacation,” one might say. “You don’t want to burn out.”

In his new book, The End of Burnout, though, Jonathan Malesic argues that burnout is something else entirely. It is instead “the experience of being pulled between expectations and reality at work.” To illustrate his point, he uses the metaphor of walking on stilts.

Walking on stilts, he writes, is the experience of holding both one’s ideals and the reality of one’s job together. When the two stilts are aligned, one can keep them together and move forward. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it’s possible for one to walk. However, when the stilts are misaligned—that is, when the ideal and the reality are radically different—people find different ways to cope, which can lead to a kind of burnout.


Some, he argues, might cling to their ideals while the reality swings away from them. In his case, the metaphor has clear limits—because his point is that we place too high of expectations on our work and careers, expecting them to give us meaning and purpose in life, which they cannot deliver.

In the case of the church, however, we have not expected too much, but too little. The church is meant to shape our character, and if not to grant meaning to our life, then to at least to point us toward the meaning—through worship, mission, and teaching.

Yet some have seen behind the veil to a kind of Christianity that does not even aspire to holiness, love, gentleness, Christlikeness, renewal of mind, bearing of burdens—the kind of church found in the New Testament. These people are often led to the point of exhaustion at the incongruity of it all, perhaps questioning if they were lied to all along.

For some, Malesic contends, the stilt walking falters when they ignore the reality and hold on to their ideals anyway. This is the sort of coping mechanism we see in those who wave away the current crisis in the church by saying, “Well, think of all the good things happening” or “Most people aren’t like that” or “The church was never meant to be made up of perfect people.”

Those things are easy to believe, because there’s a sense in which they are all true. But often, in times like these, what they really mean is “Don’t talk about these matters in public; we can handle them on our own in private, but we don’t want to give Jesus a bad reputation.” The problem is, Jesus never asked his church to protect his reputation, especially by covering up when something wrong or dangerous is done in his name.

But what’s more is that, as Malesic points out in the workplace, the “If we don’t talk about it, it will go away” mentality cannot hold. If our moral ideals are strong but we reassure ourselves with a false version of reality, we will end up seeing through our own delusions—and others certainly will.

And when that happens, it results in a different kind of burnout—frustration. That is, we begin to despair that anything ever can or will eventually be done to fix things.

The most dangerous form of deconstruction, however, is what we see happening in the lives of people who would never see themselves deconstructing. Many of them seem to believe what they’ve always believed, and they still belong to or lead the same institutions they always have.

In fact, they are often the ones heatedly denouncing those who are deconstructing—or the ones still left wondering how and why so much awful fruit could emerge from systems and institutions they presumed to be godly, trusted, and “confessional.”

For some of these people, there’s an entirely different kind of deconstruction or type of burnout.

Malesic argues that this form of burnout happens when their ideals and reality are so divergent that—having to choose one of the stilts on which to cling—they abandon the ideals to settle for the reality as it is.

At first, they can find all sorts of reasons why their former ideals are too unrealistic, even if these reasons are completely incongruent with what they once stood for. People who expect the church to live up to what Jesus demanded of it are said to be “currying favor with elites” or “not realistic about how the world works” or “not seeing what’s at stake if we don’t circle the wagons around ‘the base.’”

In following this strategy, people begin to depersonalize those around them. This leads to cynicism. Once the institution is all that’s left—or “the movement” or “the cause” or the “theology” or, even worse, their own position and platform—they have ultimately torn down their individual character, which is needed to protect and build those institutions.

Even worse, they have deadened the personal conscience needed to hear the call to repent. One can be a hack easily enough in the marketplace or in the political arena. But playing to whatever “the base” wants or expects from the church of Jesus Christ year after year does something far worse—and not just to the institution or the lives of those harmed, but to the very souls of those who play the game.

Once they have whittled down their moral principles to only those that are useful in maintaining their own place of belonging—they have essentially deconstructed themselves.

As we watch evangelicalism in the United States deconstructing in various ways, I wonder if what we should do is not avoid burnout but rather seek the right kind. After all, God’s most miraculous work seems to come at the point of our greatest frustration, helplessness, and even despair.

The prophet Elijah was not crazy to believe that he had encountered a hopeless situation. In his time, the people of God were captive to idols, and to vicious, predatory, narcissistic leadership. But Elijah had to get to the point where he could hear God saying to him, What are you doing here, Elijah?

John the Baptist was not being unreasonable when he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Luke 7:20) And when the disciples on the road to Emmaus said to their traveling companion, the recently crucified Jesus, “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (24:21)—Jesus revealed to them that their hopes has been met in ways they couldn’t have imagined until that very moment.

The question is not whether we will deconstruct, but what we will deconstruct.

Will it be the wood, hay, and stubble that is destined to burn up and burn out? Or will it be our own souls? Sometimes the people we think are “deconstructing” are just grieving and asking God where he is at a moment like this. That has happened before.

By contrast, sometimes the people who appear most confident and certain—who are scanning the boundaries for heretics—are those who have given up belief in the new birth, in the renewal of the mind, and in the judgment seat of Christ. For them, all that’s left is an orthodoxy grounded not in a living Christ, but in a curated brand.

And that may be the saddest deconstruction of all.

*Russell Moore leads the Public Theology Project at Christianity Today.
This piece was adapted from Russell Moore’s newsletter.
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