The last few years have been a rough stretch for the evangelical church. Plagued not only by a complex and intractable health crisis with COVID, the church has also faced an increasingly polarized cultural-political environment as well as numerous internal scandals involving abusive leadership.
Perhaps it is not surprising that this same period of time has seen a rise in so-called cases of deconversion—people who once claimed to be fairly run-of-the-mill evangelicals but then, for whatever reasons, decided this was not the life for them. And they walked away from the faith.
The high-profile cases of deconversion stories are well known: Rob Bell, Rhett and Link, Joshua Harris, etc. And for every high-profile case, there are countless ordinary folks who are also leaving Christianity behind. There is even a recent book devoted to this phenomenon: John Marriott, The Anatomy of Deconversion: Keys to a Lifelong Faith in a Culture Abandoning Christianity (Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 2021).
At the same time, something else has been happening in evangelical Christian circles—some believers are engaging in the task of deconstruction.
Now, understandably, that word also has its own negative connotations—largely due to the work of Jacques Derrida. For many, deconstruction is a dismantling of the Christian worldview so that core Christian beliefs are subverted and undermined.
In other words, some use deconstruction as a functional synonym for deconversion. To say “I deconverted” is the equivalent of saying, “I deconstructed my faith.” Thus, it’s a rejection of historic Christian beliefs.
But that is not always how the term “deconstruction” is being used by evangelicals today. [Read more…]