I meet a lot of people who are in the process of deconstructing faith and getting pushback about the questions they’re asking.
It’s totally normal that your friends, family, and even your local church get a little nervous when you start pushing boundaries, questioning traditions, and charging into grey areas. Friends and family tend to want us to stay safe, but falling in line with toxic religious culture isn’t safe and it definitely isn’t the freedom from oppression that Jesus spoke about over and over.
That’s why faith deconstruction is so important. It moves us away from idolizing the church and moves us toward a spiritual life that is true and healthy.
If we truly believe that God has all the answers and welcomes our questions, then asking messy questions that challenge the norm is an exercise in faith, not rebellion.
So what is deconstructing faithand what does deconstructing our faith look like?
Mirriam-Webster gives this definition:
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
What does all that mean?
What is deconstructing faith, and why does it freak people out???
Deconstructing faith is simply breaking down all the components that make up our faith. It’s taking a really deep look at what is truly from God and releasing ourselves from what isn’t from God. Basically, we are weeding out the falsehoods and creating more room for the Truth to flourish. It’s desperately needed by just about anyone who has grown up in or around the church.
Deconstruction helps us find God’s Truth, not the truth that humans twist up in our own biases and fears.
Contrary to what some patriarchal conservative groups say (ahem…The Gospel Coalition, I’m looking at you), deconstructing our faith is not the same a abandoning it for a life with no moral compass. It’s also not the same as making up some new idolatrous faith contrary to God’s Word and putting ourselves in the very center.
People who choose to deconstruct their faith typically work very hard not to lose it.
God, they love. They want to abandon the patriarchy and toxic religious culture that tries to twist Christianity into a religion that protects the power of the white, affluent, fundamentalist, mostly male majority at the cost of everyone else. (Just ask the indigenous people of the U.S. who faced genocide and cultural obliteration at the hands of the church.)
Those of us who have chosen to deconstruct know that it would have been much easier to put our heads down and pretend the church was fine as it is. It would also have been easier to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater and assume God does want the church to be patriarchal, nationalistic, and judgemental….
Anything would be easier than falling down the rabbit hole of deconstruction. This process requires one to examine every single belief about God. Because examining is only the first step.
Deconstruction also requires us to wrestle with our own biases, privilege, and flaws in very uncomfortable ways.
We have to take off our masks, rip open all the old wounds, and stand in front of the mirror naked before we can actually see God (and ourselves) without the trappings of toxic religious culture.
It’s not easy.
Actually, choosing a season of deconstructing faith can kick off an absolutely BRUTAL season. Deconstruction is not a cowardly move for those who don’t want to be sanctified by God’s Holy Fire. Questioning your faith is liberating.
It’s what happens when we give up the idolatry of worshipping toxic religions. When we exchange it for an intimate connection with the Holy Spirit that moves us in real-time.
So, what is deconstructing faith?
Deconstructing our faith is a radically courageous step toward connecting with the Truth.
So no, it’s not heretical, cowardly, or selfish to say “ENOUGH!” to patriarchy and toxic religious culture and head for the wilderness to find God.
It’s exactly what Jesus did.
So shut out the voice telling you not to deconstruct. Unfollow the “All Lives Matter” crew. Those who simultaneously post “Love your neighbor” memes and calls refugees at our borders “murders and rapists.” Read a few books by church outcasts who never stopped loving Jesus.
Start asking hard questions about things that are OK with most Christians but seem to contradict Jesus’ teachings.
(Spoiler-they usually contradict Jesus because they’re man-made constructs, not God’s design.)
I hope you will 100% reject the judgment of people who say those of us who choose to deconstruct our faith are lost.
Because we are not. We are more ‘found’ than our tightly bound pre-deconstruction self. If you are still wondering what is deconstructing faith, and what it means. At the end of the day it’s asking the hard messy questions that don’t have absolute answers.
And to be honest, wrestling through the weeds of our limiting beliefs about God is the holiest pilgrimage one can make.
Angela is a Faith Deconstruction Coach and host of The Deconstructing Faith Summit who helps people break free from toxic religious culture & empowers them to recover from #churchhurt. She has led online ministries for a decade, enjoys working with clients 1:1, in groups, and is a dynamic conference speaker. She’s a Lark’s Song Certified Life Coach who reaches thousands of people in 40+ countries each month on Facebook, IG, Twitter, Pinterest, and her blog.
She’s a firstborn, Enneagram 8, Gen Xer who loves to question everything. She holds a BA from Indiana Wesleyan and a Masters in Leadership from Wesley Seminary. Her graduate research project focused on leadership development and opportunities for Gen X women in the US church.
Angela and her unique online ministry are featured in Lyz Lenz’s 2019 book God Land: Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America. She has published articles in Hope for Women and HOPE is Now magazines. She has been featured in The New Republic, Publisher’s Today, and Religion News Service.
Her first book, Deconstructing Your Faith Without Losing Yourself, Will be published by Eerdmans in February 2023.
Angela is also a wife, mom to 5, and a proud resident of Marion, Indiana with her family when they’re not traveling the US in their RV.