The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic Podcast episode. To listen to the episode, click here.
Today is episode 90: Reconstructing Faith, Part Two
Hi friends. Our series on faith reconstruction begins with a short review on deconstruction, though if you’re looking for a deeper dive on that topic, I would recommend heading back to episode 22: Deconstructing Catholic. After today’s short review, we’ll move on to some reconstruction basics: the who, what, where, when, why, and how of rebuilding faith.
First, a review. If you were born and raised Catholic and you’ve never heard the words ‘faith deconstruction’ before, well, that’s really no surprise. Many of us learned while growing up that questioning what we had been taught about our faith was strictly off-limits, and those who did question were derided as ‘lukewarm’ or ‘cafeteria catholics’ or were described by some other harsh language and as kids, we internalized those messages. As a result, grown Catholics who question the framework of faith they were given when they were children tend just to leave and leave quietly. And this is a shame, because an adult experience of faith should come as a result of our own discernment, our own study, our own experience and encounter with God who loves us. We can’t live out someone else’s faith with our one precious life, or at least we shouldn’t do that. An adult Christian or an adult of any faith should come to their beliefs through wrestling and discernment and that’s what faith deconstruction is all about: holding beliefs or teachings up to the light and prayerfully discerning for ourselves through study and the help of the Holy Spirit what is true.
And Jesus himself did this. He scrutinized the teachings and culture of the religious leaders of the day over and over again, and this is a big reason why those leaders were no fans of Jesus or his message. How many times in the Scriptures do we hear Jesus say, “You have heard it said (about some teaching of theirs) but I say…(something different altogether)” or how many times do we see him breaking the cultural religious norms of his time, like when he treated women not as property but as equals, or when he broke the Sabbath laws by picking grain to eat or healing sick people, or when he touched lepers or ate with sinners. How many times do we hear Jesus denounce religious leaders, calling them out for the way they twisted the laws to serve themselves but heaped heavy burdens on the people? How about when he overturned the tables of the moneychangers at the temple? Jesus regularly looked at both the teachings and the execution of the religion in which he was raised with a critical eye. He brought new light to what his Father intended from the beginning, and when it came to implementation about how to put this faith into practice, Jesus frequently proposed a new way. You could say that’s a big reason why he came here in the first place.
A time of deconstruction is a healthy and formative period for an adult of any faith, but it can feel lonely at times, scary and frustrating. There may come a time, after a season of prayer and wondering and study, that it can feel like maybe it’s time to start putting some pieces back together in a way that makes sense for us. The outcome and timeline of reconstruction will look different for each one of us, and there’s unfortunately no such thing as ‘arriving’ when it comes to faith this side of heaven, but let’s take a look today at some general guidelines that might help.
First, why reconstruct? Well, this question might better be rephrased, “Why faith at all?” Hopefully, we choose to follow a faith path with our one precious life not because someone told us to, or because it’s something we’re used to doing, or it’s something we’re afraid not to do, but because we believe it’s true. In the case of Christianity, the decision to build and live by a set of faith practices should be centered around Jesus, his life and teachings, and our own experience and encounter with the Holy Spirit that Jesus sent to help us. This is in part why our own contemplation practice is so important to living out an adult faith because in contemplation, we are guided to truth directly by God.
The ‘when’ of faith reconstruction is a more complicated question, and the answer, again, is likely different for each one of us. Putting the pieces of a faith practice back together in a new form can happen while in the midst of deconstructing, or it may happen more intentionally as that season draws to a close. Individual beliefs or faith habits might bubble up to scrutiny at different times as we go and that’s okay. A discerning lens is something we should bring with us as we continue to grow in faith.
The ‘who’, ‘what’, and ‘how’ questions of reconstruction should flow naturally from our deconstruction process. I’m speaking here from my own experience as a Catholic Christian, but I routinely measure voices of authority, teachings or practices in terms of their fruit as described in the Letter to the Galatians, you know: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It can become easier with time and study to readily recognize the teachers that more authentically represent Jesus and what he actually said and taught. In my experience, I’ve found that one trusted teacher or author frequently leads me to the next, and along the way I’ve built a little gaggle of mentors along with community in unlikely ways and places and I’ll link to some of those voices in the show notes for you.
Which elements of a faith practice you bring forward – your prayer routines, teachings, habits of faith, service and how you implement them will flow from a season of discernment and questioning. As we grow, we’ll naturally find a wholeness and resonance in some activities and maybe leave some others behind for a season. Continued discernment, study and contemplation will help us navigate shifts in our walk with God as we go.
Okay, so now we’ve covered the why, when, what, how, and who of faith reconstruction but you might notice that I’ve left the most challenging for last: where.
For those of us who were born and raised Catholic, belonging to a parish has been deeply ingrained into not only our faith practice but our identity, and a season of deconstruction can make us feel adrift as we separate from or struggle with a faith community that we may have been a part of for years, maybe decades. And that is so hard, I know. Deciding to try again, whether in a place with which you’re familiar or a new community, a different denomination, a virtual faith community, even a small Bible study or faith-based book club – taking a step like this can feel scary and like crossing a real line between deconstruction and reconstruction without any certainty about how it will all end up. The ‘where’ of a faith practice is the most outward sign of a process that really is very much internal. When we choose to show up somewhere, to extend ourselves to a faith family on any level, it is a very big deal, especially for those of us who have dealt with deep issues of church hurt.
There are no easy answers here, but I would say that if you are considering a try at a faith community or spiritual home, I’d love to give you some words that Fr. Frank McFarland used to say in his televised rosaries on Boston Catholic Television many years ago. Fr. Frank would say that any feeling we have that we should pray or would like to pray or that it’s time to pray is always God inviting us first. God who lives within us is always steering us toward a means of relationship with him. He’s a good shepherd, after all, and we can trust his leading us in love. So, if we feel a curiosity or an inkling about a ‘where’ when it comes to the practice of our faith, we can hold the hand of God who loves us, take one step, and just see where it takes us.
One thing’s for sure: however we walk out this life of faith, friend, we are never ever walking alone.
Well thanks so much for listening today. Next week’s episode will wrap up this short series as I talk a bit about my own deconstruction and reconstruction journey, which weirdly parallels my months-long struggle with a hip injury to return to running. So, listen in for that one. Until then, if you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com. Thanks so much for rating, reviewing, subscribing and most importantly, sharing this podcast with a friend. That really makes a difference in growing our community, so thanks. If you’d like to support this podcast financially, there’s a way for you to do that in the show notes, along with lots of resources related to today’s episode, so do check all of that out, but before we go, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
God, you tell us in Ecclesiastes that there is a season for everything. Whether we are in a season of deconstruction or reconstruction or some whole other season when it comes to the practice of our faith, help us to remember that there is no place we can go that is apart from you. In the coming apart and the coming together, you are always with us, helping us to discern and build a faith that is whole and healthy. Thank you that you are, as your daughter Hagar called you, the God who sees. Thank you that we are never ever alone, no matter where our faith journey takes us.
In the name of Jesus we pray, amen.
Well thanks so much for listening today, friend, and I’ll see you next time.
This week continues a series which explores the rebuilding of faith practices following or during a season of deconstruction. I hope the resources below will give you a good foundation to enter into this topic well.
If you’d like to connect with me, find me on Instagram or on my blog. If you’d like to help support this podcast financially, there’s now a way to do just that, and thank you – visit me on my page at buymeacoffee.com! Thanks as always for sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, as this helps our community to grow!
1. As promised, some trusted public voices for me in my deconstruction/reconstruction process:
St. Cecilia Boston is a trusted spiritual home for me and this week’s homily by Fr. Ron Coyne gives a good frame on how to grow in faith with continued study and discernment. (Also, stick around for the amazing communion meditation song that starts around the one hour mark.)
Recorded rosaries with Fr. Frank McFarland at Boston Catholic Television