I have been deconstructing for about ten years and am just now questioning how I understand salvation. And quiet frankly it pisses me off!
I started analyzing salvation a few months ago, when it was introduced in my Christology class. Via my own deconstruction I had already accepted I don’t agree with the old Evangelical narrative that all I have to do is ask Jesus into my heart and I can go to Heaven.
For me it is a lot more simple, and far deeper then some prayer I said when I was seven. My encounter with so called “unbelievers” who dedicated their life to God with more faith then most “believers” I had met, threw that idea straight into the gutter. My God demands my whole self, not a magic prayer. God is not tempted by incantations, God is moved through loving action toward ourselves and others. This is what Jesus taught.
And this is what I have clung to throughout my deconstruction, “I love Jesus, Jesus loves me, and I will love others as best I can.” I didn’t have time to digest it further.
Because the reality is that salvation for women in conservative theology is not really about their relationship with God. It is about submission and obedience to male authority. And I had to deconstruct that before addressing other beliefs.
It is a luxury to begin deconstruction thinking about ideas like heaven and hell, eschatology, and soteriology. I wish I could have begun thinking about those important topics, but as a woman I was never encouraged to consider those ideas in the first place.
A submissive woman’s job is to dress modestly, save my virginity, and marry a good christian man who has studied those ideas FOR her. I concluded whatever he thought would be what I thought.
Women who were brought up to to understand their relationship to God like this often first spend years deconstructing complementation theology before they can begin to understand salvation.
Before deconstruction I questioned if salvation was even for women.
If the maleness of Jesus and the knowledge of men was so primary for our understanding of God and salvation, how could women be included?
These questions were brushed aside as inconsequential. I recall replies such as “It’s just really complicated,” or “you would have to first understand a lot of Trinitarian theology, and that’s confusing.” What these comments seemed to really mean is, “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it, the men know what they are doing.”
And while everything inside me knew they were wrong, that if I could come up with these questions then I could understand the answers, I accepted their dismissive responses, because I also believed they knew better.
In order to begin the journey toward questioning salvation I had to see myself as more then what their patriarchy limited me too.
Personally, and I know I’m not alone, this means I had to take a good look at how my body was objectified by the very men who discounted my questions. And understand how these “authorities” used the Bible to justify seeing me as a sexual object designed for their pleasure, means while ignoring my spiritual curiosity.
I had to take a lot of time to accept my body as a gift from God that I own and can dress how I choose, use how I choose, move how I choose, and love how I choose. And that ownership of my body is God glorifying. That God created me with a mind to question those authorities and challenge to their position.
I had to embrace that my questions were not a product of sin, but the result of the Holy Spirit pushing me to think more critically. And having a woman’s body didn’t make me less logical or unreasonable then the men around me. It meant that God gave me a brain as well as a woman’s body, and both are holy!
This story may also resonate with men who grew up thinking their sexuality was dangerous for women. This is also a lie and deconstruction for many ex-evangelicals no matter gender or sex centers around sexuality.
For those of you just starting to dive into some of these big ideas here are some theologians you may want to read Consider Jesus by Elizabeth Johnson and if you are beginning to examine sexuality and femininity/masculinity check out Sacred Sexuality edited by Kelly Brown Douglas