Deconstruction and Its Virtues
“Help Me to Feel Again” begins with what sounds like the thought process of someone who has begun deconstructing their faith. “Spiritual Deconstruction” is when a person “pulls apart” their faith, questioning what they have experienced or have been taught about the core practices and beliefs of Christianity. A person might begin deconstructing their faith for any combination of intellectual, emotional, or moral reasons. Often, beginning the process of deconstruction results in walking away from Christianity.
Because the result of deconstruction is often that people walk away from Christianity, many Christians consider it to be a completely bad thing. But deconstruction does not just happen because someone wants to shed their faith. Deconstruction is often born out of a desire to find answers to questions a person does not feel have been properly addressed by the faith of their youth. It is a longing for their beliefs to actually make sense of the world they are experiencing. Sometimes, deconstruction is an attempt to find peace and truth when a person feels like the faith they grew up with offers neither. “Help Me to Feel Again” opens with these lyrics:
All these feelings coming up
And I’m all alone
Have I ran too far?
I didn’t know the road to peace would be this hard
A person deconstructing their beliefs is, by definition, questioning the core tenets of their faith. In one sense, they might be taking their faith more seriously than they ever have before. Instead of accepting Christianity because they are “supposed to” or because everyone around them believes the same things, a person deconstructing their faith in many cases wants to believe for themselves that the God of the Bible exists and Jesus is Savior and Lord. One theologian puts it this way: “Any truth that does not connect with personal experience is likely to remain opaque to the single individual, no matter how clear it may be to all others.” 1 Sometimes, individuals become unable to profess certain truths if their own experiences cannot make sense of those purported truths. If we have not personally connected with central truths, they are “not likely to bear up through crisis.”2 For example, believing that God is Love is good and simple, until your own life experience screams otherwise—perhaps through the loss of a loved one, a chronic painful illness, or a natural disaster. These are the sorts of crises where truths that do not “connect with personal experience” are not likely “to bear up.” In such cases, deconstruction can be an earnest attempt to seek God. However, deconstruction cannot be the last step or end result. On its own, deconstruction is only destructive. However, if deconstruction is used as a way to tear down inadequate or inaccurate views of God in order to then reconstruct a stronger and more accurate knowing of God, then the process of deconstruction can be helpful and even necessary.
Akers hits a hopeful strain by suggesting that deconstruction can be a road back to something better rather than an end in itself. He sings,
Maybe with our feelings
Let’s not play pretend
Deconstruction and the Body
Despite the fact that deconstruction can beneficially lead to reconstruction, the circumstances that lead to deconstruction are painful and often confusing. Akers acknowledges this reality by expressing the way in which the dissonance of deconstruction manifests in a person’s emotions and body. In the first verse, he sings:
Maybe I should be listening
Cause if our bodies keep the score
It feels like its winning
Akers suggests that one of the ways in which a person can progress through the messy and difficult process of deconstruction is by listening to their body. Integrating your faith and your emotions (and the physical sensations associated with those emotions) may be a way of strengthening faith at a level deeper than mere rational assent. He repeats the refrain “help me to feel again,” not because he can feel nothing at all, but because he desires to be able to experience deep concord between his thoughts and his emotions, to be able to rest peacefully in the truth of Christianity. Throughout the song, “help me to feel again” is a call to engage faith not just rationally but also emotionally. As the song nears its end, Akers suggests that unraveling (deconstruction) is a key to healing.
Emotions and Faith
In the bridge of “Help Me to Feel Again,” Akers repeats,
Just let it unravel
Engaging our emotions in our faith is not contrary to holding a reasonable, rational faith. Rather, it is imperative. The Body Keeps the Score, written by a neuroscientist with decades of clinical and research experiences, states that “emotion is not opposed to reason; our emotions assign value to experiences and thus are the foundation of reason” 6. Emotions and rationality work together to form a faith that is both meaningful and reasonable. There is no stronger faith than a faith that is fully emotionally and rationally integrated.
Akers ends “Help Me to Feel Again” by reiterating his encouragement to persevere through deconstruction and the difficulty of dealing with (instead of repressing) emotions:
Maybe with our feelings
Let’s try feelings them
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