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‘The Deconstructionists Playbook’ outlines ways forward for questioning Christians

Our Bible App launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this month to raise money to create a devotional book for not only deconstructing faith but also reconstructing and 'liberating' it.

“The Deconstructionists Playbook.” Courtesy image

(RNS) — Wilderness metaphors are often used for those deconstructing the Christian faith in which they were raised.

That can sound lonely and sad and scary, said Lyndsey Medford, a writer, speaker and church startup discipleship director.

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But, she said, “When you’ve been here a while, you realize it’s not nearly as empty as you were told. There are little campfires, and people are laughing, and people are singing, and there is space for your questions — and your grief belongs.”

“The Deconstructionists Playbook” is one of those campfires, Medford said in a video introduction to the anthology on Kickstarter.

Our Bible App launched the fundraising campaign earlier this month to support the creation of a devotional book for not only deconstructing faith but also reconstructing and “liberating” it.

As of Monday (Feb. 15), the crowdfunding campaign already had raised about $45,000 of its $50,000 goal. It runs through March 5.

The anthology, edited by Crystal Cheatham and Theresa Ta, will feature devotions from more than 60 different authors.

“You’re going on a journey, we know you’re going on a journey, and you have these 60 people who are there to help you kind of figure out where to go,” said Cheatham, founder and CEO of Our Bible App.

Crystal Cheatham. Photo courtesy of Our Bible

Crystal Cheatham. Photo courtesy of Our Bible

Those authors include theologians, pastors and other “questioning Christians” who have contributed to the Our Bible App, a progressive Christian app that aims to uplift “believers of all stripes” with devotions, podcasts and other resources. Among them are Medford, the Rev. Lenny Duncan, Kaitlin Curtice, Rozella Haydée White, Emily Joy Allison and Cindy Wang Brandt.

The diversity of authors and subjects covered — including sex, social justice, disability theology and capitalism — communicates to readers that they’re not alone in the questions they are asking and there is more than one way to practice their faith, Cheatham said.

“I think we need every single person to tell this story. Otherwise it feels like… we are misrepresenting what it means to deconstruct and reconstruct and liberate theology,” she said.

Our Bible App describes deconstruction as “a hot word amongst progressive Christians” that “embodies the personal task of ditching toxic theologies and doctrines for beliefs grounded in love, social justice, and liberation for all.”

But the anthology won’t stop there.

It also includes sections on reconstruction, “the careful act of putting back together a broken faith,” and liberation, an invitation “to take the fight from the pews to the protest,” according to the Kickstarter campaign.

The end result won’t look the same for every reader. The book isn’t meant to create a single systematic theology but to encourage readers to discern what belief and practice look like for themselves, the campaign said.

“The Deconstructionists Playbook” will also launch Bemba Press, an imprint dedicated to publishing the voices of “a marginalized many,” according to Our Bible App’s website.

“I feel like we are doing some amazing work to kind of piece together this fragmented community and elevate business and entrepreneurship in the progressive Christian space, which is very lacking, very frustrating,” Cheatham said.

Medford told Religion News Service she reads and writes to feel less alone.

Books like “The Deconstructionists Playbook” can help readers like her realize other Christians have been in the same space asking the same questions all along.

And journalist and author Deborah Jian Lee, another contributor to the anthology, said there’s something for everyone.

In hundreds of interviews for her book “Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism,” Lee said she noticed a theme: People raised in mainstream evangelical Christianity felt like they had to choose between their faith and parts of their identities.

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Social media and books like “The Deconstructionists Playbook” are creating a new space where that isn’t necessary, she said.

“You’re seeing this place where theologians and writers and thinkers are working toward a faith paradigm where you don’t have to make that choice, where it affirms all aspects of one’s personhood, and I think that’s what’s interesting about this,” she said.

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