What Would Jesus Deconstruct?

BPG_Logos_IllustratorCSWe tend to think of the act of dEcOnStRuCtIoN to be primarily driven by negativity, opposition or violence.  Christians don’t mind so much when we dEcOnStRuCt the narratives and expose the real powers behind the government, politicians, or big business.  But, they get really nervous if such examination and questioning takes place with reference to the Church – particularly their “brand” of Church.  Caputo argues against this impulse.  He suggests that it is an act of love and Kingdom faithfulness to dEcOnStRuCt the Church.

First, let’s clarify what we mean when we use the word deconstruction.  Deconstruction is something that typically happens from within or automatically.  Truth is uncontainable, and all people, cultures, or artifacts contain a truth.  That truth is often suppressed or outright destroyed for reasons that vary greatly, depending upon the particular circumstances.  These people, cultures, or artifacts appear as stable, unquestioned, fixed and real conditions, hence they are referred to as “same.”  “Same” often contains this uncontainable truth, suppressed deeply, but when confronted with the presence of “other” or an “event” there is an “advent” of truth.”  This “advent” then forces the “same” to alter, reform or reorganize.  I suppose it could force the “same” to violence and destruction of the “other.”  That is the process of deconstruction; it is not a destructive force but a reformational force.

For example, the title of the book – and this post – comes from the very popular question conservative Evangelicals were asking in the 1990s through t-shirts and bracelets.  What Would Jesus Do?  BTW – these T-shirts and bracelets no doubt made a few people quit wealthy.  That cultural phenomenon represented the “same.”  A contingent culture that presented itself as universal, non-contingent or real. The repressed truth of the “same” was in the question itself.  The question came from a novel written by Charles Sheldon in 1896 titled In His Steps.

Sheldon was a forerunner of the social-gospel movement.  His novel featured a distasteful vagrant that walked into a church full of well quaffed, Victorian nobles, and during the Sunday worship service he simply, quietly spoke the truth of Jesus.  The truth about the kind of people Jesus went to, and the words he spoke about the poor and marginalized.  He asked this church, what would Jesus do?  Hence, the t-shirt and bracelet phenomenon in the 1990s from wealthy, suburban Evangelicals contained a suppressed truth.  A truth that Jesus would not market and profit from his his teaching in a way that reinforced the dominate culture.  This post is the “other” that causes the “advent of truth.”  It is no longer suppressed.  A choice is presented.  That. is. deconstruction.

So, what would Jesus deconstruct?  Caputo argues, the Church.  The Kingdom of God is what Jesus inaugurated in his first advent, and it is what he will bring to completion at his second advent.  The Kingdom of God is what all of his disciples anticipated, but surprisingly what they ended up with was the Church.  While the Church was no surprise, plan B for Father, Son and Spirit, it certainly was not the expectation of Jesus’ followers.  It was the “other” that brought about an “advent of truth” to the “same.”  It exposed a truth about the nature of the Kingdom and how it would come about, and the

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2 Responses to What Would Jesus Deconstruct?

  1. I read that book when I was working on a paper in grad school on the church and postmodernism, which turned into an exploration of the emerging church movement. I really liked that one and “Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?”.

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