Lately, I've taken to walking a quiet neighborhood near the office I work on my lunch break, listening to podcasts and getting lost in story. When I advertised I was accepting submissions, a fellow Tribe Writer introduced me to The Deconstructionists Podcast. I did my due diligence and first read their about page:
We are all given a set of beliefs in this life. We are given a culture, values, perspectives, biases, and blind spots. Challenge them. Seek new understandings.
Stop acting like you don't have doubts. Massive ones.
Stop acting like you're all set and you have it all figured out.
The Deconstructionists Podcast is a place to wrestle with belief and unbelief. It's a place to listen to conversations and perspectives that push you out of your comfort zone. It's a place to be authentic and honest.
John Williams & Adam Narloch
Because I am a supporter of seeking without necessarily finding an answer to land on, I was sucked in. As I seek God outside of Christianity, this podcast gave me faith there are Christians - more than just the few I know personally - who are willing to listen and understand the way I've been processing my own journey, without a hidden agenda of conversion.
There are many great episodes, but so far, their conversation with Jason Dunlap has been one of my favorites.
I reached out via their website and asked if they would be willing to share their own discovery process. In a few short hours, John responded with a resounding yes. I cannot help but sense the genuine nature of his soul and am grateful he took the time to share.
Responses by John Williamson
What do you believe, and why?
What I currently believe is that there is a Divine creator who is responsible for all of reality. I could go into a whole rant about science, multiverse theory, and subatomic particles to explain why I believe this to be true, but that would be incredibly boring. During my own personal journey of deconstruction, I never quite stripped things down to zero. I have always believed in some sort of creator. I can honestly say I struggle to describe the divine, or even its role in my life, but I've always felt there is something greater out there. Beyond the idea of a greater power is where things were a bit muddy for a while. For the sake of brevity, I will say I currently believe in a historical Jesus who served as mediator between God and man. He spent his life attempting to remind man that God is ultimate love, and to take care of the sick, the poor, the widows, the orphans, and the needy. He tried to remind us that love is the answer to the brokenness of this world.
Did Jesus perform miracles? Was there a bodily resurrection? I have no idea. Those things seem difficult for my logical brain to comprehend. We know that none of the disciples took up the mantle of "messiah" after Jesus died (which was common practice of other religious groups), and we know that the disciples went into hiding when Jesus was executed. Something occurred in the days following that not only brought the disciples out of hiding, but had them boldly proclaiming his message. All but one of these disciples were brutally executed for doing so. So when asked, I say that I believe Jesus lived, proclaimed a revolutionary message, and was executed for it. After that, I'm not sure what occurred; but whatever happened it was profound enough to convince terrified followers to boldly proclaim his message. Christianity then not only survived, but spread like wildfire. The rest of the details I'm still working out.
How did you discover your beliefs?
I discovered my beliefs through a combination of keeping some of the things I was raised to believe, studying incessantly, and surrounding myself with a community I trust. There are a lot of ELCA Lutheran beliefs that still really appeal to me. One of the things we talk about on our podcast is that everyone's journey is going to look a little different. Everyone has a different upbringing. Everyone has a different starting point. For me, I didn't need to get rid of nearly as much as some of my friends who were raised in more restrictive homes did. Regardless of upbringing, it's important to check the strength of your foundation. When the storm comes, and it will, is your foundation strong enough? Will your house remain standing? Or will you be left standing in a pile of rubble?
Deconstruction - in our way of using the term - is merely about examining your faith from the inside, deciding what should remain, what needs to be thrown out, and adding in new things. For me it was tossing out a few things, and holding on to some of the core beliefs.
How do you interact with your beliefs?
The way I tend to interact with my faith is through dialogue. I love intellectual stimulation! For some it's powerful worship or prayer, while for me those things were always like a great concert where eventually the buzz wears off. It has to be longer lasting or it's not as real for me. I want a deeper truth that can force its way into my life; into my way of interacting with the world. Too often - as Christians - we seem to want to sterilize our world, and create a safe fence or bubble around ourselves instead of engaging it. This is also the reason I despise so called "Christian music" or "Christian movies."
If I had to boil down the meaning of life, it would be to engage suffering in this broken world, and infect it with love; to bring the Kingdom of God to the here and now. So to answer that question, I interact with my beliefs the best I can by engaging the world around me in open and honest conversation. I attempt to love others as best I can instead of avoiding the brokenness of this world, with hope of escaping it when I die.
What do you do when you doubt your beliefs?
First, I tend to subscribe to a concentric circle view of faith, as Dr. Greg Boyd would say. I think you have to hold things with an open hand. The alternative is a "house of cards" type of faith, where if one card is removed the whole thing comes tumbling down. Personally I think this is the inevitable result when taking scripture literally. I think there are moments within scripture where the authors were conveying literal truths, but I also believe that when speaking about God - who transcends space and time - human language inevitably falls short. The only vehicle we are left with is metaphor. We say, "God is like," because human language cannot comprehend a being of infinite love.
So when I have moments of doubt I tend to fall back on my base structure of beliefs; things I feel comfortable saying I know to be true. I also refer to other, far wiser people than myself in moments of doubt. There are many people who have asked these very same questions who lived hundreds and thousands of years before us that we can always refer to.
Lastly, I lean on my community. Community looks different to everyone. For some, community can be a group of friends or family that they can walk through life with. For others, it's one friend or a spouse. The important thing is that, regardless if it's a group or one individual, you can be completely honest and open with them. Even if that person doesn't totally "get" your journey, it's crucial to have someone there to love you and support you through it. Personally, I can always talk to my wife, and my friend and podcast partner, to work through doubts I may be having. The three of us are rarely in the same place, but the important thing is they both support me through it.
Diving head-first into my journey has been exciting! Deconstruction shouldn't be scary when done right. As a wise friend, Dr. E Wray Bryant, once told us, "Everyone is designed to take their own journey, or someone will drag you along on theirs."
To read more My Discovery Process submissions, you can find them here.