I never wanted to know what I know about deconstruction of faith. I was satisfied with teaching people how to pray. But when two of my three adult “children” decided to deconstruct their faith, I did what any mother would do; I set out to learn everything I could! I sure wish I’d known then what I know now! I trust this article will begin to equip you to love (well), the people you love who might be in the midst of deconstruction.
What is Deconstruction of Faith?
Mark Hackett wrote this definition of deconstruction in his article “Christians need a healthier approach to deconstruction.”
“Faith deconstruction is the systematic pulling apart of one’s belief system for examination.”
“For Christians, that can mean a wide array of questions ranging from the theological to the practical. It can mean questioning the supposed inerrancy of the Bible, the culture and traditions of their church, the practical application — or misapplication — of the Gospel, and much more. Faith deconstruction can begin at many different points for many different reasons.
If this just sounds like a fun intellectual exercise, it definitely is not. Deconstruction is confronting hard questions and grievous experiences that a believer has suppressed for years, forcing them to finally deal with the doubts and concerns that have always been there, lurking in the shadows.”
When Hackett said that about deconstruction being a grievous experience, I got the picture in my mind of two different ways you can approach an old house. (I love old houses!)
The first way is to enlist a demolition crew, and tear out everything in it. If you do this, you don’t worry about trying to save any part of the house. The second way is to take the house apart carefully piece by piece. You do this if you want to preserve the parts of the house that have stood the test of time. As the pieces are taken apart, they are placed in meticulous order so that you can examine them, reevaluate them, and then determine whether or not to put them back.
The Process of Deconstruction of Faith
Deconstruction is doing that.
Some people start out deconstructing, and then they realize they can’t find anything worth saving, so they simply trash it all and complete the task with demolition, landing themselves in what we might call–deconversion. (Something I’m still studying.)
Others start the deconstruction process and discover it’s going to take a very long time; nevertheless they stay at it—taking breaks here and there—and then continuing on.
Maybe they like old houses. Maybe they don’t.
Perhaps they lived in a home where both parents lived the Christian faith and taught them to love Jesus before they ever knew how to tie their own shoes. But, as adults, they have to make their faith their own.
In 2 Timothy 3:14 Paul encouraged Timothy to, “continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of” (NIV).
At some point Timothy had to become convinced of the faith he’d been taught. What if the process of deconstruction is simply the journey of “becoming convinced of” the faith they’ve been taught?
In my research, I’ve discovered that there are multitudes of things that might initiate deconstruction of faith in a person’s life, but here are the four biggies:
Church or personal hurt.
Somewhere along the way, the person deconstructing had experiences where their own faith took a hit. God let them down. Or, from their perspective as an adult, they have taken a different view of the church they grew up in and find disturbing things hidden in the wings.
There’s some pretty bad stuff in our religious closet, and this generation is cleaning out the closets!
Lifestyle and cultural norms.
They find it difficult to reconcile biblical teaching with the lifestyle they want to live or the cultural norms, especially as related to biblical sexual ethics.
This is a big one, and one I’d like to get a handle on before the next presidential election.
We could take a deep dive into every one of these reasons for deconstruction. And as Christ-followers who love the people who are challenging the church, we certainly need to examine how people outside our walls are interpreting our words and actions. We need to adjust our responses to them and ask the LORD to give us ways to be better communicators of the Gospel. But for now, let me give you four ways to respond to the people you know who are deconstructing their faith.
Four Ways to Respond to People Deconstructing Their Faith
Just in case you’re wondering, this isn’t the best time to witness to them.
It’s also not the best time to go toe-to-toe with them arguing apologetics. Most likely they know very well what you believe, and hearing you tell them over and over again will not contribute to their journey. It might cause your relationship with them to suffer, and that’s not what you want. (I learned this the hard way.)
Pray for them to experience wholeness and peace. Know that the God who holds you together when you’re going through a hard time, is the same God who knows best how to hold them together as well.
Be so filled with the Spirit that you bear fruit all over them. Remember that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Focus your emotional energy on clinging to God so that you can bear much fruit. Do this as opposed to clinging to them where you will find yourself anxious and worried.
Chesed (pronounced kheh’-sed)is the Hebrew word for steadfast. It refers to God’s devout loving-kindness, mercy, and faithfulness at the very core of His character and actions. God is steadfast. Therefore, His love is steadfast—unwavering, faithful, and kind. Be the same way in your relationship with the person you love who is deconstructing their faith.
Settle in for what might be a long journey.
Our natural reaction to the things that hurt us is to desperately look for the period at the end of the sentence. We want to know that it’s enough, that it’s done, that there’s purpose in it and God’s taken care of it. But, in a relationship with a loved one deconstructing their faith, it’s not necessarily done yet, and we don’t get to choose when it might stop. If you love someone who is deconstructing their faith, you’re going to have to live in a space that is often unpredictable, volatile, hurtful, and confusing.
As you continue in this journey, educate yourself and lean hard into Jesus. Thank Him for the connection you have with Him. Tether yourself to these promises He’s given you:
From the Old Testament:
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)
From the New Testament:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)
Deconstruction of faith might seem new to us, but God’s been dealing with this for ages, and He’s quite capable of leading us through it as we pray for, and trust Him with, those we love.
ABOUT LEIGHANN MCCOY
Leighann McCoy is an author, speaker, pastor’s wife, and ministry leader who lives in Franklin, TN and has encouraged women all over the world to embrace a faith that never fails. Listen to more of what Leighann learned about deconstruction on the Leighann McCoy podcast. Connect with Leighann on Instagram and Facebook.