The beginnings of my faith deconstruction happened in my community college literature class in 1990, when I had to read the Bhagavad Gita and the Tao Te Ching. At that time, it wasn’t much more than a novelty, but it was the first time I ever considered that there are other people in the world who knew nothing about Christianity and were completely immersed in a different world view. The pristine environment of my mind which only had room for one way of seeing things was now making some room for other worlds.
Eventually, I became comfortable knowing that I likely did not have The Answer to the question of who we are and how we all came to be. At that point, it was natural to start up the (de)construction equipment and start clearing some space in my worldview. This is a journey that many people find themselves on.
I recently learned that more than 49 million users on TikTok have viewed the hashtag #deconstruction — which is jargon among evangelicals (and those who used to be) who are re-assessing the faith they grew up with. Twitter and Instagram also have their share of posts with this tag:
If you are reevaluating the religious beliefs you were raised with, know that you are not alone. Less than half of Americans are Church members now, dropping below the 50% mark for the first time ever. This is a good thing. The people leaving the church are doing the kind of assessment the church needs to be doing right now and it’s too late to say that people should stay to try changing things from within. While there are exceptions to this, most evangelical churches aren’t going to give an audience to someone even from within their congregation who wants to challenge their views on sexuality, race, abuse within the church, political involvement. The best you can usually get out of that is a patronizing pat on the top of the head and at worse you are told to repent and possibly ostracized.
I’m speaking generally here, of course. There are churches that welcome difficult conversations about needed changes to their views and practices. Unfortunately, that appears to be the exception, so a mass exodus may be just what is required to provide the loudest wake up call. But what happens to the church if this exodus continues?
While there are people like myself who have no plans to return to the church, the end result doesn’t have to be the dissolution of all churches. The most desirable result is a religious community that is able to provide love and care to the world without the constant fear of becoming “corrupted” by alternate viewpoints. This means an entirely new way of approaching the Bible, gradually lowering it from the pedestal that has allowed it to be used as a way to induce shame as a control mechanism while also a gate to keep certain people out of the church.
If you are assessing your beliefs and possibly leaving the church completely, what you are doing has the potential to open up new space for growth in your life, like clearing a field of debris to plant a garden. In doing so, you may unintentionally help to enable a long-term, vital shift in the way the modern church engages with our culture at large, but based on the history of the church, the odds are not good on that point. I doubt it’s merely a “shift” that the church needs, but a death and resurrection.