World War II decimated much of Europe and left once-beautiful cities in smoldering rubble. Homes, breathtaking cathedrals, and bridges, along with nearly anything else one could imagine, were either damaged or destroyed by the evils of war. While war itself is a rather uncivilized act, one of the interesting moves we often see after war is the creation of a path to rebuild—a path to start fresh—once the bombs have stopped falling. Once the fires had died down, the West realized that for the world to be able to move forward, everyone needed to chip in and help rebuild areas that had been destroyed by violence.
This path forward after World War II was known as the Marshall Plan, and it began the process of rebuilding throughout Europe. While it was impossible to reproduce everything that had been destroyed, and, in many cases, rebuilding perhaps would not have been a good idea, the United States knew that it was in the best interest of everyone to move forward from a season of destruction into a season of new creation. Where the United States had just participated in bridge burning, it had come time to put the gas cans down and become the bridge builders, and so they did.
The Bible tells us that there is a time and a season for everything under heaven (Ecc. 3:1), and I suppose that means there’s even a time and place for burning some bridges—deconstructing or destroying things that have outlived their purpose, no longer function properly, or should never have been built in the first place—and a time to build bridges as well.
As a post-evangelical who, like countless others, has been in a slow process of untangling many of the beliefs of my youth, my faith has been in a long season of necessary deconstruction. Those who have left evangelicalism or fundamentalism—especially those of us with deep church trauma—tend to have a special affinity for deconstruction, and rightly so. We were saturated with endless expressions of fear-based theology that permeated not just through our faith, but deep down into our very understanding of ourselves. We were terrified of God, fearful of the future, and loathing of ourselves.
How could we not deconstruct the beliefs that negatively impacted so much of our lives? How could we not speak up and articulate this when we finally had the words to do so, in order to help others trapped in the same system?
I make no apologies for deconstructing my faith, nor will I ever regret leading so many others to do the same.
Deconstructing these elements of our old fear-based faith is certainly good and right if done properly, with the right heart, and with the right motivation. However, for those of us who are now on the other side of that, it is easy to settle into a life of being a bridge burner and only a bridge burner.
Let’s be honest: burning something down is a whole lot easier than building it. Sure, it feels really good in the moment, and some people are completely satisfied to look out at the vast horizon that once had a bridge spanning across it, but for others among us the satisfaction from that moment is fleeting…
So much so, that after a while we feel empty.
Sometimes, deconstruction without recreation accomplishes nothing. The United States knew this in the years following World War II, which is precisely why it enacted the Marshall Plan to help rebuild a new Europe. Jesus seems to notice this same principle as well, something we see in tandem with his statements that deconstruct elements of the faith. While it is true that we repeatedly see Jesus say, “You have heard it said,” indicating he is about to deconstruct elements of the Old Testament that either outlived their time or never should have made it into the law in the first place, we also see him follow those statements with the phrase, “But I tell you…” where Jesus immediately engages in reconstruction.
He burns some bridges down, yes, but he also reconstructs something to fill the gap, something life-giving and in line with the new thing God was doing in the world.
My new book Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith was born out of the emotional and spiritual crash I had after years of deconstructing my old faith—a season that was necessary, but left me feeling empty and longing for faith again.
Like the United States did after World War II, I woke up one morning and realized that I needed to put the gas cans down, and that it was time to build something far more beautiful and life-giving than the old structure that once filled that gap.
For a season of life all I wanted to do was to burn down the fear-based faith I grew up with, and I did that alongside so many others. In fact, I made a living out of passing out matches.
But now is a new season—a season where we put the gas cans down and get busy building something new, something bigger.
Now is the time for us to move beyond simply rejecting that which we were taught to fear—it’s time to step out, to walk forward, and to learn what it means to be unafraid.