To say that the words “exvangelical” and “deconstruction” are buzzwords is an understatement.
In recent years, a wave of people who were raised as evangelicals are leaving the movement, and in many cases, the Christian faith. What has resulted from these departures is the formation of exvangelical and deconstruction communities.
And just like any other community, the deconstruction community isn’t a monolith. They hold a diversity of values and beliefs, and they come from a variety of different experiences and inherited faith traditions. So it’s difficult to lump them all into one category.
Nevertheless, as a broader movement, there are a few things that Christians can generally understand about them. The problem is that we often see them as a threat to our children and our churches, and so not many of us are willing to understand them on their own terms. We would rather build straw man arguments against them.
But we really should be more invested in learning about the details and nuances of their worldviews. They were once a part of our movement, so their perspective should inform the vision that we cast for it moving forward.
Here are 3 things that Christians should know about the exvangelical deconstruction community.
1. No, people don’t deconstruct just because they want to have sex with whomever they want.
A common sentiment among non-deconstructing Christian leaders is that deconstruction is most often (if not always) motivated by a desire to embrace and engage with sexual values that are outside what’s outlined in scripture.
But I would be careful about responding to people’s crisis of faith by immediately accusing them of being a sexual deviant. After all, you don’t really need to deconstruct your faith in order to embrace abhorrent sexual activity. From Jim Bakker to Andy Savage, Bill Hybels, and Ravi Zacharias, sexual impropriety isn’t exactly a stranger to the evangelical movement.
This isn’t to say that people who deconstruct don’t often shift away from a biblical vision for sex, because they do. It’s only natural. When you deconstruct away from a Christian worldview, your view of sex is bound to change along with many other of your standards for morality. But that often comes after a person has deconstructed their church experience, rather than before.
And, yes, there are certainly many people who have deconstructed as a result of their trouble to reconcile their faith with their identification with the LGBTQ community. But having heard some of their stories, I can say that it isn’t a flippant decision. It’s often the result of a crisis of identity they experience alongside compassionless statements of judgement made by the very people who had been charged with caring for their souls.
So to assume that someone is beginning to deconstruct their faith simply because they have an idle fascination with illicit sex is incredibly dismissive. We need to stop making such an assumption.To assume that someone is beginning to deconstruct their faith simply because they have an idle fascination with illicit sex is incredibly dismissive. Click To Tweet
2. No, people don’t deconstruct because they didn’t believe hard enough.
It is often said that doubt is the chief virtue among those who are deconstructing. And the implicit assumption is that such doubt is the enemy of faith. But to quote Anne Lamott, “The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.” In other words, doubt isn’t the enemy of faith. Fundamentalism is.
Furthermore, many of those who deconstruct continue to be people of faith. It’s just that their faith is in a different form of Christianity. Deconstructing away from evangelicalism isn’t tantamount to rejecting Jesus. Although, many do deconstruct out of Christianity altogether.
But more than doubting, those who deconstruct their faith are most often seeking to realign their beliefs with the values that they were raised with in evangelical churches. Namely, the values of love, compassion, and altruism for the least of these. The values that are often absent in the evangelical culture wars that are too often fueled by far-right and alt-right politics.
For many, they don’t deconstruct because they didn’t believe hard enough. They actually took Jesus’ law of love to heart. They based their life and worldview on it. And so when they see the leaders who bear Jesus’ name, both locally and nationally, leading in such a way that is incongruent with that law of love, it’s jarring. For some, it’s so disorienting that it causes them to question the movement entirely.More than doubting, those who deconstruct their faith are most often seeking to realign their beliefs with the values that they were raised with in evangelical churches. Click To Tweet
3. Yes, the deconstruction community has much to teach us about the flaws of the modern Evangelical movement.
As the exvangelical deconstruction movement has reached an inflection point, I’ve seen a number of megachurch pastors and other Christian leaders call people to resist the urge to deconstruct their faith. In so doing, they harshly disparage the deconstruction community for their postmodernism, their apparent lack of education regarding defensible Christian doctrines, or their unwillingness to remain within the movement despite deep personal hurts.
In all of this, Christian leaders are prone to see the deconstructing community as an opposing force that is seeking their destruction. But that’s most often not the case. Many deconstructed Christians are simply trying to make sense of their faith and upbringing.
That journey often takes them to places of belief that I wish they would not go–for example, denying the divine inspiration of scripture or even the bodily resurrection of Jesus. But instead of blaming them for that, maybe it’s time for evangelicalism to look itself in the mirror and ask what it is about our movement that is pushing droves of people to the brink of apostasy.
The pat answer is “the enemy.” But maybe it’s time we realize that sometimes we’re our own worst enemy.
Unless we’re willing to meaningfully grapple with the presence (and oftentimes celebration) of nationalism, anti-woke opposition to civil rights advancements, misogyny, consumerism, the villainization of refugees and immigrants, and rampant sexual abuse in our midst, the deconstruction movement will only continue to grow. And we will have ourselves to blame.Maybe it's time we realize that sometimes we're our own worst enemy. Click To Tweet
This is a defining moment.
I have no reason to doubt that the Church of Jesus Christ will continue to exist and thrive in future generations. But it would be arrogant to say that there’s no danger of it dwindling to the point of irrelevance in America.
Some things have to change.
The good news is this (and I mean this sincerely): by the power of the Holy Spirit and armed with biblical truth embodied by the love of Jesus, we don’t have to continue on our current trajectory. But we have to be willing to re-evaluate the way we’re carrying ourselves.
It’s my belief that we are living at a hinge point in history that future generations will look back on as a defining moment. The only question is what this moment will be defined by. Will it be defined by revival and reformation, or by fundamentalism and a departure from biblical Christianity?
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