In today’s special episode I chat with Pastor Moe Hafeez from Cornerstone Church located in West End Atlanta, about what it means to deconstruct and reconstruct the Christian faith in the midst of doubt.
All right, what’s going on you guys, this is UpNorth Kingdom. Once again, I’m glad you guys are here to join me for another episode. Today we’re going to talk about something that’s really, really important, which is the deconstruction and reconstruction of the faith. I know this is something that a lot of people are wrestling with, just the whole idea of doubting your faith. I know at times that I have doubted my faith, just throughout the years, even today, there’s things that I still have challenges with there’s things that I’m still wrestling with not so much of the existence of God and is God true. And is Jesus, a figure that actually existed but more in the sense of Hey, the things that I’m reading, can I trust all of it? Do I fully understand all of it. And I was having a conversation with a pastor of mine, Pastor Moe Hafeez from the West End church, Cornerstone, Cornerstone church here in Atlanta. And we were kind of just dicing it up a little bit about this specific topic and it came to mind and I figured hey, why not just do an episode on this and have Pastor Moe just come in speak and I think this will be good because it gives you guys a perspective from a pastor. You guys hear me rambling on and on long enough about you know about myself and my own perspective, as kind of a layman but I think from a pastoral perspective, this might be something that’s really helpful to you guys. So I pray that our it will be helpful to you guys. So without further ado, I want to introduce Pastor Moe Hafeez Cornerstone church here in West End Atlanta. What’s going on brother?
Moe Hafeez 4:19
Hey, what’s going on Terrence? Feeling brother.
I’m doing pretty good. I’m excited to be able to chop this topic up with you, man.
Moe Hafeez 4:28
Absolutely i mean, you know, brother, we’ve had a lot of conversations. And so man, this is just a encouraging conversation to have. Just because I think it impacts all Christians, not just some but many Christians have kind of been you know, this language deconstruction reconstruction, man, it’s been kind of floating in the air, particularly in the culture lately, especially Christian culture. Yeah. And I think it just needs to be talked about, man. I think it’d be helpful for you know, have a Passover perspective. Yeah, but also just you know, have two brothers just kind of like you, maybe dispell some rumors or thoughts if you know for those people who don’t even like know nothing about it, man. So I’m excited to be here, brother, I appreciate you. I’m a big fan. You know, I am a big fan. Ever since I met Terrence. You know, I listened to him like when he like he emailed me one time to just meet with me. And he had like this, like email that was interesting. So I had to like Google or something like that. Oh, no. And I started listening to his podcast, and I was encouraged by your work, Brother, you know? Amen.
Appreciate that, man. Thank you. Thank you, man. Yeah, all glory to God, I appreciate that. And, um, yeah, I mean, you you guys have a phenomenal church there at West End, it’s probably been my favorite church that I’ve, that I’ve attended. I’m not saying that the guys yeah. But I really like I love what, I love what you guys are doing. You and the other pastors there. I love the fact that it’s kind of this cultural, multicultural context, you know, kind of a melting pot its how it feels to me, you know, to me, yeah, um, so you get all these diverse types of opinions, from people from different walks in different contexts. And it’s made me feel, you know, right at home, in terms of, you know, a place where, theologically you guys are sound. And then it’s also met with my own cultural context. Right. And but with that cultural context, you know, in the environment that you guys are in, there’s a lot of, I would say, belief systems and things that you guys wrestle with that are probably really unique to your specific church because of the location that you’re at. Versus somewhere else, where maybe there’s not, you know, a lot of minorities that may attend your church, or you’re not in an area that might be a little more depressed in other areas. Yes, the things are different, right. And I think this issue of deconstruction and reconstruction is something that’s, you know, really important to just to kind of delve into and start dicing up, I think you, you’re probably seeing this, I would say from a different perspective than me when I think about this. I’m just kind of thinking about it on the surface, like, you know, atheism, right, are people leaving the faith and just doubting, but I think you’re seeing this from a different perspective, because you’re talking to people, you’re counseling people. And so that’s why I really want to get your input, and your take on this. And so when we talk about deconstructing one’s faith, like, what does that typically mean? So for those that are out there, they may not really understand what that means, especially in their cultural context. But from what you’re, what you’re seeing what is, what does it mean to deconstruct and reconstruct someone’s faith?
Moe Hafeez 7:36
So I think, man, one of the things I want to be fair about in this conversation, because I think it has a negative connotation, for the most part, but especially when we talk about it on a podcast like this, we’re automatically going to say, Hey, this is a negative thing. This is something that man the church has to address, man, and it does have to address it, but we don’t need to stigmatize it. One of the things I would say, there’s pretty much two big categories I will put people in, when we talk about like this deconstructing of faith. One, I think is, you know, like, okay, I’ll just use this one scenario, like one, I think people have really good intentions when they talk about deconstructing their faith. All right, so in other words, they’re saying that they’re gonna keep the essence of Christianity like, but they recognize that they’ve been kind of spoon fed, like a perversion of Christianity, maybe, maybe they, you know, somebody says, hey, I’ve come out of a health wealth Gospel Church, like they’ve been fed a lot of things that are false doctrine. But so but they, when they start to recognize it, they’re like, I got to deconstruct that man, I got to go back to the essence of what Christianity is. And so a lot of times, you know, that’s what people really mean that man, I’ve learned some bad things, because of bad exegesis, you know, I’m saying, so, I’ve learned really, really weird things that really, because there wasn’t any proper exegesis, and I want to go back to learning what it means to, you know, interpret scripture, or have proper exegesis of the text and proper application of the text. And so what you see is like, essentially the soteriology is intact, you know, salvation by grace alone, faith alone, all that intact, yet, I have to deconstruct all the other stuff that I learned, because I have to understand that there’s a lot of stuff that was messed up in it. That’s just on one hand, I think those people are, are great. Those people are walking with the Lord. I think those people could even be considered like, I guess Christians, then there’s this. On the other hand, I believe, like, there’s a dangerous level to this. I think there’s an extreme into this, where people start to believe you know, that theology that they’ve learned, was used for manipulative or oppressive ways. And then they don’t want anything to do with it. In other words, at the core of it, it’s broke, because the application of it has been expressed through oppression or through some type of manipulative way. And so they basically say I’m going to abandon everything. And so the analogy I like to use is like when you reset your phone Brother, you know, you gotta iOS like, you know, for Apple, you got the Android software, we reset it that that iOS or that OS is still there. Right? Yeah, that plan, that platform is still there. But what they’re saying is no, the OS itself has to be reconstructed. And I think that’s a bad premise, especially in the category to, like, those guys are saying, like I have, I can’t even mess with Android. I’m an Android user. But I love and I love Android, and I, I can’t mess with iOS, those things have been corrupted itself. And I think that is a bad place to be because you’re saying the foundations of Christianity have been corrupted, or Christianity itself is a corrupt institution, or religious or faith. And that right there, you start to deconstruct things that are actually good things or you start to unlearn good things. So I think the heart of deconstruction is unlearning reconstruction is relearning. So basically, I put those two categories out there, because I think there are some people who are Yeah, genuinely doubters. And they’re going to doubt things and they’re going to struggle through things. And yeah, I mean, things are going to hit them trauma situation is going to hit them. And it’s going to challenge them to rethink what they believe. And then there are those when they get hit with the trauma or the things that go on in their lives, they’re gonna abandon ship. And so that’s why I said, they’re the people in category one. I, you know, the faith is intact, the category two, there’s a lot of questions we might have for them in terms of what they believe, or if they ever believed in Jesus.,
No, that’s good. That’s good. And so here’s why I was saying earlier that, you know, from from my lens, it sounds a lot like people are just, it sounds like a nice way to abandon ship. And this is why I say this, because years ago, man. And this has always happened throughout the faith. But years ago, there was a lot of conversation about what is it mean to actually be saved? Right. And like I said, I know there’s this convo still kind of goes, you know, it’s still something exists today. But I just remember, personally, like at least probably 10 years ago, it was really a big thing is, you know, what does it really mean to be saved? Can you walk away from the faith? Right? And you know that the answer to that is, well, you weren’t really saved if you can walk away. Yeah. And now it sounds like this is and I could be wrong. But this sounds like it’s kind of an evolution of that concept to where it’s like, I am trying to deconstruct because it’s not really true. And then I’m trying to see if you know, I should adhere to it or not like it seems like a really soft way of stepping into apostasy.
Moe Hafeez 12:43
Yeah. I would agree with that, man. I think I think it’s evolution. I think this look, nothing’s new under the sun. We both realize that . So this is this is something that’s been happening for a long time. You know, when we talk about the nature of this day and age and what’s going on in this day and age, particularly, while we see in droves, African Americans become more and more atheistic, in particular communities, you know, that I live in, and I’m from that, that’s my people, you know, saying I’m black. And so what you start to see is, Hey, man, this faith that I once was, you know, grandma’s faith, though, I grew up in the church, man, like, Yo, this isn’t, this isn’t good, because it’s not addressing the issues, or the suffering or the oppression that I’ve faced in my life. And so it doesn’t address that. So you guys go, you know, or women or they chuck, deuces and they go to Hebrew Israelites, they go to the Shrine of Black Madonna, they go into being Hotep. You know, whatever it is, you know, whatever. The thing that scratches that itch, in some sense. Yes. I’m saying I’m gonna I’m out. I’m chucking deuces. Christianity doesn’t address my trauma or my issues, or my heart issues. You know, I’m saying so. Yeah. And I think that it is it is a very, I mean, it’s been, it’s been happening for years and nation, Islam. You know, this, this is all been happening for years.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So so you touched on something real key there. And that’s the whole aspect of like, the cultural context. Right. Especially for us as African Americans or blacks. Um, there’s something something key there. And that’s, that’s the whole idea of, well, this, this belief system isn’t touching on specific issues, that I’m facing. And so one of the things that, that always perturbs me is that it doesn’t seem like people move away from a specific belief system, because of the belief system itself. But more of the application of the belief system. Yeah, right. Right. And so I to me, and I want to get your opinion on this. But I wonder if, because of the social injustice type issues that we’ve been dealing with over the last few years. You know, at least the things that have really just, you know, become very transparent and in the light. Um, I’m wondering if that’s acting as kind of a, a catalyst for this, you know, deconstruction reconstruction movement, meaning that, because what we were hearing before was, you know, Christianity is a white man’s religion. Right. And and I feel like all of this kind of goes together where it’s like, well, it feels like it’s not something for me, because it doesn’t speak to my issues. It seems like it’s a white man’s religion. So therefore, it must be false. Right, not because of the faith itself. Right, but because of the application of the faith. And do you think that a lot of the social issues that we’re dealing with is acting as you know, kind of a catalyst for this, this way of thinking about the faith and the need to deconstruct it?
Moe Hafeez 15:55
Yeah, yeah, that’s it. That’s a great question, brother, and you use the word perturbed? I’m so glad that I get hung up on this podcast language. End of the day, man, I think I think what you’re saying is true, man, we gotta look at the history of this country. And, and it really our reality is, is that again, like I said, nothing’s new under the sun. We’ve got brothers who’ve been leaving in droves, because, you know, we look at Malcolm X, you read the book, whether you’ve seen the movie, you see the that he started off saying, you know, especially in a Christian household, I mean, Christianity was the dominant faith among African Americans, by far. I mean, yeah, but when you look at it, you know, the disparities, and you start to look at the effects that, you know, racism have had on this country, and also particularly on African Americans, you know, and so when, in this day and age, when you still see a cry for, hey, justice, or social justice, and I want to make sure we were clear on this, man, there’s so so this whole conversation about social justice, I think, is being seen a completely wrong way. And I’m not trying to hijack the conversation in this, but I do have to say this, it’s man, brother. Because I think when we look at social justice, all we’re saying is, hey, some type of Marxist agenda or type of, you know, anarchy agenda from people. And that’s not what it’s really looking at. If you look at a definition, or socialist agenda, that we look at the definition of social justice, we’re talking about equality, equality of rights, not equality, meaning the same that everybody gets the same thing. It’s really about helping the marginalized in our society, get their portion, or help them get that portion. It because you know, we want to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And we want everybody to have that right to those things. And so what social justice is not saying is that everybody’s got to drive a Tesla. So you better roll that Nissan Maxima that Nissan Maxima till the wheels fall off. But it is saying you should have access to those things. And so here’s the thing, I always, I always look at Acts 6, particularly in the church, as the way of that might be looked at it was in the church. But in Acts 6, we see what? We see them there was there were some issues going on somebody you know that widows were being neglected from the distribution. And so because of that, there had to be something done equality needed to be had happen, then it didn’t say that the widows were going to get more or less that notice that that that texted is not even dealing with how much they got, but the fact that they had access to something. And so I think that’s the part of it, I think, was African Americans in this country screaming out for social justice. And the thing that they hear is now like, hey, the Christianity doesn’t address that. It’s a social gospel, it’s not the real gospel. People are like, yo, hold on my, my application, like you just said, my application of, you know, when I see Jesus, you know, feeding the 5000. Or I see things like in Scripture that seems to be like Jesus caring about the marginalized, or the oppressed, or people in you know, in society, or even if I looked at the book of Acts, I see those things happening as well. They had all things in common like that you read things like that, and they ate at each other’s tables, like people who had nothing gave to those who had something. And so you see those things, and you read those things. And you know, you’d be looking at Philemon or something like that. You’re like, you’re not read those thing I feel like man that God cares about social justice. I feel like God cares about it. And when you hear the again, my the evangelical circles are predominantly on white or Anglo Saxon evangelical circles, say, I don’t care about that. I don’t like that. No, that’s social gospel. No, you’re preaching Marxism, this is critical race theory. This is all these other things. And again, I won’t get too deep into those things. But at the end of the day, I’m going to run towards something that speaks to the hurt. James Cone, I’ve read a lot of his work. And one of the things he had to deal with is the trauma and the hurt that he faced and he had an application in o ne of his books, I think it was the Cross And the Lynching Tree, he makes a statement, there needs to be a contextualized Gospel to reach the hearts of the African American people. Now, I’m not saying his application, that part of his application was cool with me. But the rest of the stuff is like, come on, bro. Yeah, what’s true is that our brothers and sisters, especially African American, and being lost to different black cults, Hebrew Israelites, like I said, all these other things, because we are not allowing the applications to be broader. And I think one of the things we have to realize is that, and I’m not saying again, I don’t believe in what’s like a cultural gnosticism. Again, there’s another word, see, all these big words keep getting thrown out. And that’s the problem. Yeah. What I am saying is this, what I am saying is this brother, I pastor a church have a lot of black women, particularly, and a lot of women in general. And then we have that single woman, you know, black women, in my church as well. And one of the hard things to do, and I have to admit, is that I don’t fully get it or I don’t fully understand, I don’t know how fully to minister to those people. I don’t know what it feels like to have a be voiceless as a black woman in our society. And so I have to come back and say, man, am I being compassionate and hearing their voice and understanding that I might not fully understand nor fully, you know, realize, like, what that looks like to be that person. But I do have to have a compassion and empathy for that person. And so I think what’s happening is we’re saying is that yeah, I think that there are people who are, you know, they already came into the church, very, very, very, very, like skeptical. And they came in, you know, kicking and dragging, you know, you get to them to, to church, and some people’s, like, I said that they have been spoon fed something, they got some Reformed theology, they became fans of certain big preachers, and they got, you know, they fell in love with it. And then when, when those people started to say something against or talk against those things, it was like, Whoa, you don’t love me? And so it was, if you don’t care about me, you don’t see. You know, when traumas unaddressed, and when it’s not handled biblically, and people don’t know what to do with it, they start to try to do things on their own. And in some form, or fashion, most of the time and isolation start to read things in dive deeper into those things. And they’ll, again, there’s a gamut of information, especially in the internet and everything, when you start to see like, Oh, no, no, this is what I want. This is salvation. For me, the salvation is meaning relief from my oppression, or meeting. So in other words, you start to say, like, I wanted to learn more about my own identity, and be uncomfortable in my identity as a black person. And so you start to get into African religion, you know, you get into all the other stuff. And so that stuff becomes very, very dangerous. Because you start to see is that people say, like, Nah, I want to be able to do ancestral worship now. Yeah. So that’s the thing that I feel like man, does social justice play a part, all that plays a part, I think social justice again, since the beginning of this country, justice or racism has, has really been one of the things that have kind of, in especially in the black community has been the hard thing, especially as a pastor in a community that’s full of Hebrew Israelites Shrines of Black Madonna, Hotep people, people who are all kinds of other black cultish activity. One of the hardest things is like when I’m ministering to those people, is to really have an answer that Christianity does dress it. And so I think the reality is, is that it’s a missiological I think that the church has to address it missiologically, and a lot of ways, you know, and so I do think that man, this is the hard part about our faith that they’re, you know, you know, I think in apologetics. It’s not all just Bible, but there’s this outside source that we have to look to that it speaks to, and informs why this is important. I think that sometimes we need to look at this. This this is in the same way. Yeah, brother. Yeah, I said a lot. And I hope I said something good.
This is really good, man. This is really good. You know, one of the things that come to mind is just you like you like you were bringing up the different. I think the different reasons why people may fall into this place of trying to deconstruct and reconstruct your faith, but a lot of what you’re, what you’re communicating to me, and a lot of what I’ve seen is and I’m trying to figure out how to put this carefully. It seems like a lot of it is a chase. That is maybe how to I don’t want to word this because I know it’s not necessarily true in every sense. But I think a lot of it is driven by flesh.
Moe Hafeez 25:03
It is I think it is.
I really do because it so let me let me start here. I don’t know if you ever read Nabeel Qureshi’s book on seeking Allah Finding Jesus. And so in the Nabeel had, you know he was part of our aim Ravi Zacharias and that ministry, the late Ravi Zacharias kind of took him under his wing and everything. But point is, this book was amazing to me because Nabeel was a staunch I mean, he was raised, I mean, straight, he was a Muslim just in from his youth. But in his book, he talks about the crossroad that he ran into when he was looking for some sort of comfort. And he couldn’t find it in, in Islam, he couldn’t find it in the Quran. He couldn’t find anything in there that could comfort his tears. Amen. Because Allah doesn’t really speak to the human needs. He doesn’t speak to pain and suffering. And he could only find that in the Bible, he could only find that in what God has done for mankind, and what he did through Christ Jesus. And so it’s, it’s amazing. You know, like, what I’m hearing you say is that people say, this doesn’t speak to my need. This doesn’t speak to my brokenness. But then you see someone like Nabeel Qureshi because of the way he was able to apply the scriptures. Yeah, it spoke directly to him. And so this is why I look at this as an application type issue. Right? And then for those that are seeking identity, um, why would you? Like if identity is the issue, why would you look for God in other areas of identity? Right? Because to me, that feels like, it feels like you are, I don’t want to say, I’ll say this, but this is this is a lighter touch, it’s discriminatory. That’s how I perceive it. Like, I need to find a faith that aligns with God, that is only concerned with my ethnicity. Yeah, absolutely. And I think that puts God in a very small box. Right? On the onset, I’m like, if if I got to go to a specific belief system, and that belief system, the foundation of it is to speak only to a specific ethnicity. That’s a very tiny God.
Moe Hafeez 27:45
Brother, when you when you’re in pain, and when you’re in hurt, you know, the world closes in around you. Right, it becomes much smaller. Right?
Moe Hafeez 27:53
We have to realize that I mean, you know, that happens all the time. When I when, you know, when I’m in a you know, when I get my feelings hurt. I’m in my feelings. And that’s why the statement is, is true. Man, yeah, you can’t, you can’t see the broader picture. Yeah, you have to realize, man, and that’s, that’s that’s important, brother, that when people are traumatized, people are hurt it’s hard to see the broader picture. Now I’m not saying people do not see the broader picture. I think there’s, there’s, there’s God gives grace for people to see the big picture. Again, it’s not it’s not something that we do, but it’s something that the Spirit enables us to do is to see the broader picture. And I think the reality is, though, that when I’m injured, and when I’m hurt, I’m gonna have a very narrow view of what’s going to bring me comfort. I’m a very self centered view of what’s going to bring me identity or it’s going to, it’s going to again, and most of the time, it’s going to feed my flesh, as you said, and I think he said discriminatory, I think, is a great word. But I do think but let me ask a question. How many of us really, you know, think about other the marginalization of other cultures or our beliefs? You know, you know, a lot of times and again, I’m not saying that we should not care about, you know, things that are specific to a certain demographic or a culture. We think we can I think that, you know, we look at the Holocaust and Jews, we should care about that. We should care about their pain, their injury, the trauma that they face, when they see swastikas. You don’t saying I don’t know how a person feels who’s Jewish, who might have been, you know, a second generation survivor of the Holocaust Holocaust. And so I don’t know how they feel. But I know, you know, as an African American, you know, the things that continually are pervading our culture and typically in the Christian circle, is that you know, for me when I see a great and I see injustice has happened our community, and I see that the white evangelical circles do not speak to it or nor do they care or have an application to it, you know, outside of, hey, let’s just get more information or let’s, you know, pray about it or just just preach the gospel to it. That can be very upsetting. It can be very, it can be very, you know, narrowing. It can be very unhelpful. And I think a lot of times Yeah, there are a lot of people. I mean, I’ve had people as a pastor, come to me and say I don’t even want to watch any white TV shows? I mean, I’m like, Whoa, you don’t watch Friends. I don’t like friends myself, but yo, but let’s not give up on Chandler and Ross, you know, let’s not give up on those people. Um, you know, but at the end of the day, I think that that’s the that’s the hurt speaking. And I think that that’s the that’s the that’s the thing is a pastor. The challenge is, how do we love these people have empathy. For those people who are struggling here, were facing those down, but have them not not necessarily go down a route. You know, I’m saying help them navigate those feelings and emotions. And that’s why I think I might add my advocacy is that pastors become very good counselors, during these times. And they allow people to have doubts and go and say things that are very shocking, we don’t just hit it with a band aid of a man read this book, or read this theological book, or read this man. I just say, man, it’s sitting with people, it’s being with people to help them through those things. And I think that people that I’ve seen kind of, you know, combat those are, I say, I want let me not just combat them, but succumb to those things are people who are in isolation, people who are left to their own thoughts and their own, you know, devices of trying to manage or handle those things. And typically, there were friends who don’t know what to do, either. And I think that’s the biggest, you know, struggle that I have is some friends that just let you just go, amen. Brother, you know, I’m support you, I love you no matter what, and that’s true. But I’ve even told friends, man, if you go down this route, brother, I think it’s dangerous. You gotta warn them at some point. And so at some point, I don’t think people are warning people, like, you know, I know, people have said, Hey, I read James Cone, and I’m like, Okay, let’s talk about that. Let’s not, let’s not just talk about the good stuff you read, and how it’s affirming. But let’s talk about the dangerous stuff. Like, can we help them see the gospel in that and how it’s a perversion of the gospel? It is, Black Liberation theology isn’t the gospel. And so we have to really start to help people see those things, man, and we need good friends, who actually gonna push back, who know the gospel, who aren’t just as angry as you are, even if they are angry they’re grounded and rooted in God’s word. And so I think man learning like, first of all, the one of the biggest things I’ve learned for people who go down this route is that they don’t know even like when I said that they did their deconstruction and reconstruction of their faith. One of the part of reconstructing is that Do you know, proper exegesis yourself? You’ve been, you’ve been spoon fed, like your whole life, like your doctrine, your theology, you’ve learned things, but have you really sat down and studied scripture? And there’s another thing? Do you believe in the sufficiency and inerrancy of Scripture? You know, so do you believe in, you know, do you believe those things, because if you do, then it’s going to lead to solutions is not just to read people outside all the way all around, and in a lot of people’s interpretations of the text as I go, just because we lean on commentaries very heavily. And I have no problem with commentaries. But I think we sometimes just don’t read the text or have proper learn proper exegesis ourselves, and do some inductive Bible study, you know, some some basic tools to put in people’s tool belt. And I think as a pastor, that’s one of the most crucial things we can do is help people be self feeders. Not just preach from the pulpit, or the stage, whatever you want to call it, but actually teach people to be self feeders to learn not just to read the Bible devotionally but the study to show thyself approved. Be masters of the Bible…..