Delving into the ongoing debate over the deconstruction of the Christian faith tends to unveil some unpleasant arguments. Those individuals who’ve gone through deconstruction make it abundantly clear why they decided. It makes me grimace to hear Christians slander ex-Christians as people who “never had true faith, to begin with”.
When I was recently on YouTube, I came across this video by the Reformed Christian channel ReformedWiki2.0:
Right out the gate, the video refers to Christian Deconstruction as “Apostasy”. By their definition, ReformedWiki2.0 views those who’ve gone through deconstruction as “non” or even “anti-christians”.
I keep looking at the comment sections on these videos, and oh dear. The comments under this video are full of people saying things like (paraphrased), “you were never a true Christian,” and “their faith was rooted in emotions, not in facts”.
If I were somebody who walked away from my faith and came across these comments, I’d see unwitting support for why I left in the first place. Who would want to return to a faith group chock-full of holier-than-thou types?
I don’t understand this view of deconstruction: why, if these folk are so concerned, are they not trying to actually help those who’ve deconstructed?
After all, if they assume that those who’ve left the faith are automatically destined for Hell, where’s the appropriate desperation to save them?
May we not forget that this verse from the Book of Ezekiel sums up how God sees spiritual death:
“For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:32)
Another Biblical passage to keep in mind is Jesus’ Parable of the Lost Coin, which summarizes God’s determination to bring all the lost to union with Him:
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10)
With these verses in mind, no Christian should react with indifference or smug superiority when discussing those who’ve left the faith. We should listen to and encourage those who’ve left to trust in God, not waste time as God’s ambassadors in passing callous judgment out like candy.
After watching the above video by ReformedWiki2.0, I found a similar one by Daily Disciple:
The comments under this video are split between those Christians who frown at deconstruction and those who’ve gone through the process. Many of the comments called out this video for not delving into the true complexities of what deconstruction entails.
While I’m not particularly fond of how Isaac (the author of this channel) handles deconstruction, I appreciate him mentioning the harm of spiritual abuse. As he says, refusing to let people ask hard questions about faith can directly lead to its loss.
Next up, let’s look at a video testimony of somebody who suffered spiritual abuse and lost their faith.
Spiritual Abuse and Deconstruction
Content/Trigger Warning: Discussion of Childhood and Spiritual/Religious Abuse
This is a somber, powerful testimony from Elly, author of the Ex-Fundie Diaries YouTube channel:
I greatly appreciate Elly’s sheer vulnerability here, talking about all of what led to her deconstruction. I also want to point out that she in no way felt “gleeful” about her deconstruction; losing her faith was heartbreaking for her.
In particular, her discussing her bond with Jesus is especially poignant to me:
“…But Jesus was so loving, and so kind, and he was playful. Like, I would have these inside jokes with Him.
Anytime I was lonely, He was there. Anytime I was in so much pain, He would comfort me.
Going through all of the childhood abuse that I went through and dealing with the chaos of my family, Jesus is absolutely what got me through.
And so, getting to a point where I couldn’t feel Him anymore, and I just couldn’t believe in Him anymore, was so painful.”
–Elly, Ex-Fundie Diaries
The Damage of Fear in Faith
What Elly discusses right after this, how fear was used to control her and how she was taught to do to others likewise, is chilling:
“But there was so much fear.
Fear was used to control so much: to control me, to control people around me.
I was taught to use fear to control others.
I just decided somewhere along the way of my deconstruction that I was not going to force myself to believe in anything out of fear.
To this day, I still really love this Bible verse that says, ‘There is no fear in love’ (1 John 4:18).
I would just tell myself, ‘If God is love and there is no fear in love, then God wouldn’t want you to force yourself to believe something out of fear.”
Elly is absolutely right. When Christians try to coerce others into a faith built on fear (not “fear of God”, which means to take Him seriously), it isn’t genuine faith. And that’s solely the fault of those who use fear as their weapon, not the victims.
How can we Christians deride those who’ve lost their faith when somebody else forcibly made fear their foundation? Something I find bitterly ironic about this is that I’ve seen other Christians reference Jesus’ parables of foundations (Matthew 7:24-27) and seeds (Matthew 13:1-23).
These Christians falsely accuse those who’ve lost their faith as people who never tried building a firm foundation for their bond with God, like in these parables. How is it their fault that they were fed fearmongering and distorted interpretations of God? The burden of responsibility here surely rests on those Christians who misled them this way.
Disagreements on Deconstruction
For the topic of deconstruction, Alisa Childers, a well-known Christian apologist, partnered with the Cross Examined apologetics YouTube channel in this video:
I don’t understand why Cross Examined didn’t provide the link for the mentioned article in their video description. At any rate, I did a brief web search, and it turns out that Alisa was referencing this well-written article by my fellow Patheos author, Keith Giles.
It seems that while Alisa doesn’t fully agree with all of what Keith wrote in his post, she did agree with a few of his points. Namely, she agreed in her video that suffering and a bizarre obsession over the end times (especially the fearmongering involved in this obsession) can fuel loss of faith.
Answering the Question of Suffering
Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever asked questions about the nature of suffering. I wonder why?
At any rate, here’s a video I found on the topic by the Catholic YouTube channel Ascension Presents, featuring Fr. Mike Schmitz:
I love analogies for spiritual matters, and Fr. Mike is the same, it seems! For his video, he referenced the DC Injustice video game and comic series, which heavily addresses the nature of evil.
Fr. Mike argues that God empathically experiences our suffering firsthand and works to transform it into something more. God unites with us in our pain and never abandons us to anguish. This is a reference to Jesus’ Passion and death on the cross, which united us all with God.
This sounds like a dead ringer for Celine Dion’s song “Ashes”!
Christian Backlash Against Deconstruction
I wanted to find an atheist’s point of view on this matter, and I found this excellent video by Genetically Modified Skeptic:
The author of this channel included a clip of Dr. Frank Turek, another famous apologist, pulling the unfortunately common “You just want to sin” argument during one of his talks. In this clip, Dr. Turek says he told this to a person whose friend had recently converted to Buddhism. Dr. Turek argued that doing so meant that their friend wanted to avoid accountability.
Well, on the topic of avoiding accountability, it bears mentioning this nasty clip of Pastor John Lowe II “confessing to adultery” during a service:
Content/Trigger Warning: Discussion of Child Sexual Abuse/Spiritual Abuse
You want to talk about avoiding accountability? How about a pastor referring to him committing statutory r*pe with a 16-year-old girl as “adultery”?
It’s hypocritical for Christians to lambast atheists as “just wanting to sin” when we do a terrible job holding ourselves accountable for our sins.
There’s no point in Christians accusing others of losing integrity when we refuse to maintain integrity in our circles. It grosses me out that after the victim herself stepped onto the podium, you could hear other congregants saying, “We love you, pastor!”
When we refuse to hold our Christian leaders accountable for their wrongdoings, it sends an awful message to so many others.
Lack of Integrity=Fuel for Deconstruction
Our goal as Christians should always be, no matter what, to encourage all to trust in God. But how can we do this if we show a blatant lack of integrity and accountability for our sins?
Let’s be honest. Who would want to participate in a religion where the “outsider” is held accountable but never a member of the “inside”? It’s like Genetically Modified Skeptic said in his video; it’s too easy to focus on the “outside group” and ignore the wrongdoings of your fellows.
Those who’ve undergone or completed deconstruction likely did so partly because of spiritual abuse. To completely disavow them all as people who “just want to sin” is a horrid way to gaslight people who suffered at the hands of supposedly trustworthy leaders.
Besides, aren’t we Christians committing the sin of false witness by slandering them the way we have?
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