Erika McCoy is a courageous advocate for OCD recovery and faith concerns. We began to run in similar advocacy circles, and I had the privilege of meeting her this year in San Francisco at the annual #OCDCon. This article showcases one of vulnerability, courage, and recovery. Along with personal growth comes evaluation of what we believe–and why we believe it. Many people fear with change will come the loss of themselves–or their faith. Yet, quite the opposite can be true: maturity allows us to get clear on what really matters. Sometimes we discover that others–and ourselves–have gotten in the way of a fuller life. Check out Erika McCoy’s vulnerable piece about this journey alongside her OCD recovery. Without further ado, here it is:
The new buzz word that carries a lot of weight in our faith circles is deconstruction. During our time together, I hope to bring awareness to what Faith Deconstruction is, break down some of the nuances of the process, and give Biblical evidence of deconstruction. I also will speak about my experience with it… with a twist (which may or may not surprise some of you). Buckle up and let’s get ready to dive into the wild, not-so-scary, uncertain, and in many cases needed world of Faith Deconstruction.
What is it?
Often times, the gut reaction is fear when hearing that a loved one is deconstructing their faith. Deconstruction encompasses such a wide variety of events that believers go through, so let’s get into it.
According to Merriam Webster here are the following definitions:
: a philosophical or critical method which asserts that meanings, metaphysical constructs, and hierarchical oppositions (as between key terms in a philosophical or literary work) are always rendered unstable by their dependence on ultimately arbitrary signifiers
also : an instance of the use of this method
a deconstruction of the nature–culture opposition in Rousseau’s work
: the analytic examination of something (such as a theory) often in order to reveal its inadequacy
I know what you’re thinking. These definitions sound intimidating and harsh, but please keep in mind that deconstruction does not equal demolition, and I can speak to that in my experiences. It’s more about taking the time with your knowledge to dissect, discern and discover what we have been taught vs. what is true.
We are called by God to examine those who are teaching us and the things of this world in multiple books of the Bible. A few examples include:
- “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” – Acts 17:11 ESV
- “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” – Colossians 2:8 ESV
- “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1 ESV
- “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” -Romans 12;2 ESV
- “But test everything; hold fast what is good.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:21 ESV
As you can see from the above examples, this is just a handful of verses in the Bible that speak on one key process of deconstruction, analyzing and testing the things of this world. God calls us to do this regularly and with valor.
I went to a private Lutheran school starting in kindergarten. Let me refer to this place as my safe place for all things spiritual. Prior to that, my grandfather was a non-denominational pastor who would take me to many different types of churches. As I was growing up with my grandparents, I witnessed the very charismatic Evangelical side of Christianity: talking in tongues, deliverance rituals to save us from our sins, casting out evil spirits, etc. These practices were even done to me.
I was introduced to Hillsong, Praise the Lord Club, IHOP along with Jimmy and Tammy Bakker, and doomsday y2k prepping. All the while, my grandfather thought he was a prophet sent down from heaven to help lead the people out of darkness; a man who was “going to live to be 150 years old.”
I’ve had so many people use God and the Bible against me for having Scrupulosity, a subtype of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a mental illness I was born with that revolves around ego-dystonic intrusive thoughts about God and morality followed by compulsions to relieve the anxiety. I have been told by Christians and faith leaders from this side of Christianity that my mental illness was Satan planting seeds of doubt in my mind, that I had demons taking over my life. They claimed I needed to pray and have the demons cast out of me. My relationship with God was so damaged, “I’m surely going to hell,” I thought. These life-long intrusive thoughts eventually led to a suicide attempt in 2015.
After getting out of the hospital and on a better track with my mental health, I was left wondering if was I really born just to be damned to Hell no matter what I believe in my heart and soul? I remembered the consistency that is the Lutheran faith:
- Sola Gratia– Grace Alone
- Sola Fide– Faith Alone
- Solus Christus– Christ alone
- Sola Scriptura– Scripture Alone
- Soli Deo Gloria– To the Glory of God Alone
Thus, started my process of deconstructing my faith. Given my history of religious abuse and spiritual trauma, along with Scrupulosity, I had to take the time to figure out what was true. My head was spinning but there was a Divine intervention underway. It took 16 years of being away from all outside sources and gentle encouragement from my uncle to really sort out, or deconstruct, what had happened, what was actually in the Bible, and to process what my experiences with church, mental health, and my view of God is. During that time, I had a lot of uncomfortable questions but I never stopped searching His word or believing that Christ is King.
In the Bible, Jesus talks about tearing down (deconstructing) systems that are not glorifying God but are instead merely glorifying certain individuals of the church and their visions. In John 2 he instructed the Sadducees to tear down their temple. In John 3 Jesus tells Nicodemus to unlearn what made him a spiritual leader. In John 4 Jesus instructs the woman at the well to leave her preoccupation with the well and follow Him.
My Outcome of Deconstruction and How to Support Those Who are Deconstructing
I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if I didn’t point out that one major frightening part of deconstruction is that a person can lose all faith. This is something to keep in mind and why many are so worried when they hear of this process. However, what if I told you that there is a great possibility that one who deconstructs can come out of it with a very strong, Biblically sound foundation in Christ?
That was certainly my experience. I know without a doubt in my mind the only reason I am still here is because of our Lord and Savior. That’s saying a lot coming from someone with the “doubting disease.” I also know now that I had to go through all of it to understand that the only way through this life is through grace, faith, Christ, and Scripture alone. Gloria in Excelsis Deo.
If you hear the news of deconstruction, I’d like you to remember a few things:
- The Bible says in Roman 8:9, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” -ESV
Once you have received the Spirit you are His no matter how many dark, long, twisted paths and valleys one goes through.
- Offer your guidance and help if asked to those going through this with all the fruits of the spirit. Be open, honest, and kind. We have not walked in their shoes and have no idea what brought them to this point. Let the Bible, Jesus, grace, and mercy be your guide.
- Finally, have patience and prayer for all things with any person going through deconstruction.
I hope I shed some light on deconstruction. I know it’s a loaded word and people’s feelings are valid on either side of the aisle of this. Either way, I have full faith in Christ that His will will be done regardless. My personal hope is that we can all come together to further unite all of His people despite our fallen world. No matter what people are going through, we can show up and for each other in God-driven unimaginable ways. When we look back there would be no doubt that God’s hand was at work through us.
Uncertain and loved,
Interested in hearing more from Erika?
- How ERP helped me grow a steadfast faithful walk with Christ
- Hope for Anxiety and OCD podcast episode
- Instagram: @scrupulocd_kc
- Facebook: erika.mckenzie.391
- Tik tok: scrupulocd_kc