“My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence?” -C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
When I was younger, I abhorred the idea of deconstruction, especially when it meant the deconstruction of what I believed was Christianity. Whenever someone would try to deconstruct my beliefs, I would object on the grounds that there are some things that are too sacred to be deconstructed- some things should be believed on “faith”. Contradictions were no matter because if you held them in “faith” long enough, they would not be a problem anymore. And it was partially true. When one commits themselves to one ideology so vigorously, they tend to homogenize into groups that believe like they do. Then contradictions are no longer a problem, just a “faith” issue. What I’ve come to discover since then is that this “faith” is no faith at all; it is just blindness.
After a Gungor concert, Michael Gungor once told my brother “If you can’t deconstruct it, then it’s an idol”. One of the largest fallacies I have had to overcome recovering from fundamentalism is the idea that my belief was somehow sacred unto divinity. That what I believed was synonymous with God, therefore to doubt or question those beliefs was to doubt or question God. I have no compelling argument to explain my shift away from believing this. There was just a day where I was struck by my profound smallness in the world. I thought about the limitations of my mind and my spirit, or whatever the non-material part of myself is, and I concluded that if I truly believe that God is as vast and amazing as I claim to believe they are, that I would not be able to comprehend it anyways. I later learn that many churches affirm this in their weekly liturgies, and that it goes under the name “the divine mystery”.
Lewis makes a wonderful connection here that goes even beyond the affirmation of God’s mystery. Lewis claims that the shattering, the deconstruction, the humiliation of our beliefs about God are intimately connected with God’s presence. There is an irony in this idea that compels me to believe that it is true. One of my favorite themes in the scriptures is this idea of the “upside-down” kingdom, where those who are high and lofty are brought down low, and the poor and forgotten are exalted and acknowledged (see the Beatitudes and the Blessings and Woes). Along these lines, it seems that God is most far from us when we are certain that we understand them, and conversely, the most clearly present when all those beliefs fall apart, or even are torn apart.
I’m not going to lie, Christianity was a lot easier when I was a fundamentalist. God was certainly on my side, and I understood Him and could tell anyone exactly what He wanted at any certain time. I was disciplined enough that I could fool most people into thinking I was good and right, and found ways to condemn those who didn’t. The world was full of black and white, and right and wrong. Now, it’s more complicated. Those who are good and beautiful pop up in the most unexpected places, and my ideas and beliefs are almost constantly in peril of being burned to the ground, and there is a lot more grey. But for the first time, there is also color. The Great Iconoclast brings us color.