Home Voices The Exchange Gospel Renewal in an Age of Deconstruction

Gospel Renewal in an Age of Deconstruction


Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series leading up the Super Bowl and the He Gets Us ads showing at the Super Bowl. You can find Super Bowl related outreach resources at our ChurchLeaders partner, Outreach. See https://hegetsus.outreach.com/.

Something Just … Resonates

For $1,111 an hour, Carissa Schumacher can help you connect with Jesus. 

It may seem like a lot, but the fee purchases entry into Carissa’s Los Angeles studio, where you’ll find a gospel-style choir warming up the eclectic ensemble of enthusiastic enquirers—including a few megastars like Jennifer Aniston and Uma Thurman, both regulars at Sister Schumacher’s. 

When the singing ends, a hushed silence falls over the room, a keen sense of anticipation filling the air. Carissa enters dramatically, taking her seat before the crowd, where she sits quietly and stares out toward the crowd, who leans in with anticipation. She sits there in silence just long enough to make you uncomfortable.

And then, at long last, Carissa begins to channel Jesus. At least, that’s what she says is happening. Carissa’s Jesus prefers to go by “Yeshua”—which is not too strange, given that that was what his mom probably called him in Palestine 2000 years ago. More curiously, however, is that her Jesus speaks with a British accent. (Evidently he understands that Americans grant you an automatic 15-IQ-point bonus if you wield the Queen’s English.) Even to some of her followers, it all feels a bit strange. But yet, they keep coming. One explained, “The Yeshua-channeling thing is way out there, and for some people, it’s going to be insane, but…everything she’s communicated to me just resonates.”  

Resonates. In our age, that might be the most important word in evaluating spiritual experience. Resonates. But is that enough?

Most of us intuitively know we need more than spirituality that resonates; we need truth, because things that aren’t real will eventually fail us. 

Think of it as like trying to live on one of Jennifer’s or Uma’s studio sets. At a glance, the scenes they depict look so real—picture-perfect buildings, office spaces, living rooms, and greenery. The problem is that none of it is real. For a while, you can play-act like it is, but if you actually tried to live on a set, eventually you’d get pretty frustrated. 

For something to sustain you for the long haul—throughout life and eternity—there has to be a reality behind the resonance.

Why Deconstruction Makes Sense…and Then Doesn’t

What strikes me about Carissa’s story is not that people pay exorbitant amounts for a religious experience. That’s been around forever. What strikes me is where all of this is happening: in uber-secularized California, home of Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Stanford University, and U-Cal Berkeley. 

You see, for more than a century, especially in the United States, atheists have talked about the inevitable demise of religion. Science would make religion irrelevant; the question was not when religion would die, but simply when.

It’s just that someone forgot to tell the Millennials and Gen Z’ers. A recent Washington Post article notes that as knowledge of science has grown, religious fervor has grown right along with it. The spiritual side of existence still resonates with us, even in our “secular” age. 

What is not growing, however, is confidence in institutionalized religion. And so, growing side by side with our increasing thirst to engage with the spiritual is a movement called “deconstruction.”

The basic idea behind deconstruction is that religious claims are often thinly-disguised power grabs—leaders leverage religious institutions to maintain power. And sadly, there is plenty of evidence to support this theory: organized religion has been used to justify and perpetuate bigotry, slavery, systemic racism, misogyny, genocide, and many other societal evils. Given that history, deconstruction is not an altogether bad movement. 

Deconstruction, however, only gets us halfway home.

Deconstruction provides an excellent lens through which to identify error, deceit, and corruption. But on its own, it fails to provide a new way forward. Without a clear idea of what is true—not merely resonant, but literally true—alternative spiritualities will continue popping up all over the place.