5 Do’s and Don’ts of Deconstructing Your Faith

I know plenty of people who have walked away from the faith they grew up with.  You probably do too.

In fact, walking away from one’s childhood faith has almost become part of the American right of passage into maturity:  1. Go to church as a child, being dragged by your ear by mom or grandma or whomever, 2. Go to college and learn that all of that Bible stuff is really just a bunch of fairy tales, 3. Become enlightened, 4. Choose your new socially acceptable path, ranging from hedonism to relativism to pluralism to universalism to materialism / intellectual atheism.

I understand why people deconstruct their Christian faith upon leaving the nest at age 18 (or can finally verbalize the deconstruction they’ve already been harboring internally for several years as an adolescent), I really do.  While there are exceptions, a trend that I see is people who grew up in strict, legalistic churches and/or who saw hypocrisy from their church or parents and/or grew up in church environments where hard questions were given pat answers or weren’t allowed at all.

What started out as an inquisitive question of exploration, which went unanswered, gradually turned into a hardened fist of cynicism.

Plenty of people are deconstructing the faiths they grew up with, but without a guide to this deconstruction.  While I know “not all who wander are lost,” they also don’t know where they are or where they are going.  To be of assistance to those in the pre, post or present deconstruction phase of their faith, here are 5 do’s and don’ts of deconstructing your faith:

1. DO: Deconstruct to Reconstruct.  DON’T: Deconstruct to Annihilate.

You deconstruct something to figure out what is wrong with it, seeing what needs to be repaired or replaced so you can reconstruct it into something that works, or that works better.

Often when people deconstruct their faith, they fall into the proverbial “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” metaphor.  Because they were scarred by something associated with, let’s say the Bible, they then associate the Bible as being one and the same with that trauma.  In their deconstruction they obviously want to throw away the trauma, as they should, but when this is done lazily or haphazardly, a lot of meat is thrown away that deserved a much closer examination.

You can’t blame Jesus if your parents were jerks or your church was filled with jerks or if nobody was smart enough or courageous enough to answer your questions.  Jesus is still Jesus.  It would be a shame to throw him away just because the bathwater surrounding him was sour.

Please understand, I’m arguing you should throw away the sour bathwater.  But you need to dissect it away from Jesus himself and give him a chance to stand on his own two feet before you decide you’re finished with him.

2. DO: Look at the origins of a faith.  DON’T: Base everything you think about a faith based on your contemporary experience with it.

Origins matter.  Who was this religion’s founder?  Understand that founder is entirely different from followers who came generations later.  The founder is held accountable for what the founder did and taught and how he or she persuaded their original followers to follow them.  What was the appeal of originally going to that religion?  Was political power given?  Was sex given?  Was wealth given?  Was sacrifice required?  Were you persecuted?  Did you become rich or did you become poor?  Were people taught to kill or to love and forgive?  Who did the founder claim to be?  How did they live (morally? immorally?)?  How did they die?

To not examine a religion’s founder is to not want to be intelligent.  It’s to not want to know.

3. DO: Respect the differences and contradictions among different faiths. DON’T: Insult all faiths by saying they are all the same. 

It’s hip and trendy to say all religions are the same (pluralism).  But honestly it just doesn’t make sense.  It’s also insulting to all faiths.  It takes away the uniqueness of every faith.  It says blatant contradictions aren’t actually contradictions.  It says the things people are willing to die for don’t actually matter.  That the God they personally love is no different than some god that hasn’t even been invented yet.

It’s like telling me that I should love all women the way I love my wife, because they are all the same.

No they’re not.

It’s like saying all foods are the same.

No they’re not.

All cars are the same.

No they’re not.

All college degrees are the same.

No they’re not.

You get the picture.

It’s like giving every kid who plays a sport a participation medal and never keeping score.  You’re all the same!  You all did the same!

I would love to see a society that is mature enough where we can have intelligent conversations about the differences and contradictions that arise when comparing different faiths without someone crying “bigot” or “judgmental” or getting all in a huff.  The worst societal sin has become to be different from someone else and to have different views from someone else.

The way to kill the truth is to act like all truth is the same.

We have killed the ability to actually learn about one faith or another.

A pluralist or relativist will say, “No we are honoring all faiths, taking bits of each of them.”  No, I don’t honor my women by taken bits of each of them.  This isn’t how God works either!  If you have a faith that allows for that, like Hinduism and its 1 million gods, then that’s fine, you are a Hindu then.  But label yourself correctly and call yourself that and let others label themselves and explain how they are different than you.  Because they are.

4. DO: Be honest about your motives. DON’T: Hide behind a facade of what is simply most convenient for you.

Are you dismantling your faith because you just don’t want anyone telling you what to do?  Because you want to have sex with whoever you want?  Because you want to live however you want?  Because you want to party hard and not have to deal with the ramifications of what some God says to you?  Do you just not want anyone in authority over you?

If so, do you then realize that if you are the only authority in your life, you are the god of your life?

Is your reason for rejecting God, or for not putting your name under any specific religion, so that you can be god of your own life?

5. DO: Deal with questions that need to be answered.  DON’T: Act like no assumptions can be made about what the questions are that need to be answered.

Now that you’ve dismantled everything, how will you be forgiven?  Yes, I’m assuming you need to be forgiven.  Do you feel you need to be forgiven?  And does what you feel change reality?  In other words, if you feel you don’t need to be forgiven, does that actually change anything if in fact you do need to be forgiven?

To say “assumptions can’t be made like sin, or morality, etc.” is to make a major assumption: the assumption that no assumptions are allowed!  Instead of playing that philosophical black hole, just be real enough and grounded enough to answer the questions that are staring you in the face:

How did you get here?

Do you have a purpose?

Do you need to be forgiven?

How will you be forgiven?

Don’t assume that God is so weak and small that He couldn’t reveal to us who He is.  Don’t assume that He doesn’t love us enough to intentionally reveal to us who He is.

If your reconstruction of your deconstruction can’t answer those questions, please be humble enough, courageous enough and honest enough to go back to the drawing board.  Better yet, go back to the trash can and see if you can’t find the baby you threw out with your bathwater.

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7 responses to 5 Do’s and Don’ts of Deconstructing Your Faith

  1. Hey Noah, would add one more: DO deconstruct to get to the heart of what’s true and living; DON’T settle for less than the reality of the living God being present. It will not take you far to have a secondhand faith that you accept only because you grew up and are comfortable with it. It’s not enough to say that you believe the Bible is true. The evidence that the bible is true is that it’s living, that by the Spirit truth has power that sets you free. The evidence that faith is real is that it’s living, that you see Jesus, a revelation of Him to the eyes of your heart by the Spirit of God. The evidence that you are a Christian is that in fact the Spirit of God dwells within making you alive to God in Christ. The evidence that Christian fellowship is real is that the living God is present, so much so that when strangers visit, the Spirit reveals to them the secrets of their heart and they fall down admitting that God is really there. Don’t settle until knowing the reality of the presence of God in Christ by His Spirit.

    • These are great points Alan. God is a person to be experienced, not a set of beliefs to agree to.

      • Everything with/about God is living, everything. Just seems like so often we make Christianity, and even Jesus, a topic to be studied. But living persons are met and enjoyed not mainly discussed and studied. The invite of the gospel is to enter not just see.

  2. I find it incredibly ironic this site spends its time mascaraing as a loving place for people at a crossroads in their life, all the while asking leading questions to insert doubt for a person who is going through considerable emotional trauma. These 5-tips add up to little more than accusatory condemnation.

    “You know you will be God of you own life, right?” “Who will forgive you?”

    If these are your questions, then you don’t understand. I will try and explain the point below, but I feel the effort is like throwing pearls to swine.

    This is what I’ve found to be truth after deconstructing my faith. This has nothing to with God. Shocking right? It has everything to do with one’s self and how one fits into the world. Religious belief is like an unfurnished house and that says God will put furniture inside as long as you keep all the doors and windows open. The truth is, YOU HAVE TO FURNISH YOUR OWN HOUSE. You make the decisions in your life. There are a million things out of your control, but the decisions you have control over have nothing to do with God. Whether it’s going to bed at 10PM or midnight, watching Netflix or NBC, getting into a relationship or choosing many partners, working or quitting a job, having a kid or not, where to live, etc. These decisions have nothing to do with anything external, it’s 100% internal. We want the easy way out by praying and asking God to “please give me…” when it should be “how do I get…” The things out of your control like why the world spins, why is a day 24 hours, etc. really don’t matter.

    The funniest thing about my “spiritual transformation” is, I am essentially the same person I was before. Except I am 100% responsible for my decisions and the outcome of my decisions are totally on me. I’m responsible for my actions. That’s freedom! The truth will make you free. Religious texts have lots of wonderful wisdom, but so does Shakespeare. I’m not about to exalt Shakespeare as a prophet.

    • Hi Doug, in your analogy, I think an added element to consider is if God has given an option of how the furniture should be situated or not. He clearly has in the Bible, so then it’s up to us if we want to accept his design and follow it, or make our own design. Which is what I was getting at in my article. We can reject his design and pursue our own, which is what you’re doing, and yes that’s a choice you get to make. But in your 100% responsibility, you’re also 100% accountable before God is he truly does exist. So you have to determine if the risk you’re taking (gambling that he doesn’t exist) is worth what you are wagering / getting in return if you’re right. Shakespeare never made the kind of claims the Bible does about salvation, eternity, or God’s authority.

  3. Genevieve Inman May 8, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    Its really hard to believe the gospel after you experience “church”

    • You are right; unfortunately the church causes so many wounds. It definitely has to me as well! Two things I find helpful… one is the remember that if you want to learn about Christianity, look to Christ. He is the perfect example. Not matter what evils are done in his name, the revelation of who he is is not tarnished. He is the pure source we can always come back to. The other is that we are all a part of the church, we are all complicit in the “hypocrisy” of it, and how it hurts others. This is not to excuse the hypocrisy that happens, but it helps me remember the church is very imperfect, just as I am imperfect. And reminds me to praise God for the grace he shows me in my imperfection, and he continues to use me in spite of it, and praise him for the grace he shows the church, and he continues to use her in spite of her imperfection. I hope that helps!

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