Growing up, I never heard of the word “evangelical.” My Church of Christ heritage didn’t really identify as anything, but Protestant. While we respected different denominations, we have always been pretty self-focused, especially as most members of my church are related to a few large families.
College is the first time I heard the word evangelical, but I still had no clue what it really meant until graduate school. In grad school we were encouraged to market and make connections. Part of me doing that was becoming more involved in twitter and making more friends. I made friends in and began to get a handle on Christian twitter space. What I came to realize is that most of my Christian friends identified as either evangelical or ex-evangelical. Twitter was a safe place where they could connect and heal from toxic religious trauma. The majority were also women. Among these Christians are a smattering of conservative, “traditional” Christians as well. Over time I began to see the dark side of evangelisms and see why so many had left it behind. Some of the issues causing trauma were legalism from the belief in inerrancy, hatred towards LGBTQ, rape/sexual abuse and resulting cover-up, charismatic leaders who abused their power, unethical working hours for employees in the church, etc.
Many people left their churches and received very little inquiry from former church members/friends about where they went. Some pastors would try to get these people back but were unwilling to listen to the issues of abuse. These people, lost and hurt, have difficulty finding another church or even remaining in the faith. They are so worn down and hurt that any delving into Christianity just feels like diving into an open wound. Many begin deconstructing their faith.
Many Christians who haven’t experienced these things cry out against deconstruction. They say its destructive and unhealthy for the Faith. I would argue that the opposite is true. Deconstruction can be very healthy and in fact, it is unhealthy if we do not deconstruct. The model I think is most healthy is the continual motion of a process of construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction. When we’re born we form and are taught a construction of what the world is like. However, this is a simplified version. As we grow we’re able to understand and learn more about what the world is like. We discard or deconstruct ideas that are unhelpful and reconstruct ideas that lead us further into truth.
Deconstruction (like reconstruction) is only unhealthy when we stop and do not move into the next phase of our journey. Everyone is unique. Only God knows how far someone needs to deconstruct, how much time it will take, or when they’re ready to move onto the next phase of reconstruction. It would be more healing and helpful if instead of judging each other for where we’re at in our faith, Christians learn to support and love each other through our individual process. I will end with a short letter I wrote on twitter for those deconstructing:
Dear deconstructing Christian,
You haven’t backslidden in your faith journey. Your faith has grown so that it no longer fits the constricting boxes of the Christianity that you once knew. Having less firm footing of where you stand in your beliefs is scary, but it is much more Freeing. Some of you may even need to deconstruct your belief in a God. God can handle that. He will guide you to truth whether or not you believe in him. You may not believe there is truth to be found anymore, but when you’re ready, when you feel healed enough, it is there waiting to be discovered. Waiting for your soul to once more burn with a passion to discover more infinite love and wisdom. It is there dear brothers and sisters. Don’t ever give up. We’re on this journey together, even though it feels very lonely at times. Brighter days lie ahead. Our culture is changing and we’re at the forefront of it. I believe we’re beckoning in a time of expanded Love, grace, and truth. It will come with its own set up problems and old issues will resurface. History does repeat itself. But global consciousness does grow I truly believe that. I hope you do too, or at least will grow to see that as well. Take hope Brothers and Sisters, we’re children of God. We are not alone. We’re loved. And we’re enough.