I want to be upfront that what I’m about to say does not reflect our current church home – we are very grateful for the fact that they never bring politics to the pulpit, they seek to love neighbors in every way possible, and how they have handled the pandemic wisely and by following expert advice.
I also feel the need to add a disclaimer to what I’m about to say: if this doesn’t describe you, then you’re not included in these statements. Obviously not all American Christians are doing these things, but enough are that there is cause for concern. Please don’t dismiss my observations and experiences just because this isn’t how you see things – that’s part of the problem in our country and in the AEC in general. Please read this with an open heart and mind and ask “is this me?”
I wrote in part one about my political reevaluation journey. My reevaluation journey started with politics (and is still ongoing) but inevitably led to faith because the two have become linked (which is part of the overall problem).
I didn’t want to take this journey. I didn’t ask for this – I was comfortable, I knew the evangelical world and culture so well and have devoted my entire life thus far to serving within it. It was home, it was safe. And then 2020 showed that I was likely wrong about it all. I suddenly no longer felt safe – it just took me some time to put words to why I felt this way.
When the American Evangelical Church (AEC) backed Trump in 2015-2016, I was surprised for many reasons, but I didn’t see it for what it was. As my friend April said it, “I watched the presidential election campaign with humor, not knowing that it was going to be the beginning of a complete shift in the political landscape.” I approached his presidency with the same attitude I do all presidencies: an open mind and a hope for success, because his success is our collective success. We should never root for a president to fail.
When the pandemic first started, I was hopeful that we could all put aside differences and work together – because, indeed, that’s the only way to stop a pandemic. And, at first, this seemed possible. However, it didn’t last long. Instead, the Republicans (and therefore the AEC) decided to make it a “battle to be fought” and conspiracy theories abounded (despite the fact that it’s a global pandemic, we had to make it all about us and how “someone is out to get us”).
By this time, I was already finding myself unsure of what I believed politically and found myself in the middle – a place I have found to be so peaceful, openminded, and stimulating.
By deciding that I was nonpartisan at this point, I was more willing to “listen to understand” (something I have blogged about many times now) what both sides were saying instead of shutting out their ideas just because of the origin. This opened my eyes to what the Republican party was saying and doing, and it enabled me to set aside life-long biases against the Democratic party and actually learn/listen to the Democratic party’s motivations, goals, ambitions. Guess what I learned? Most of what I had been taught was WRONG. This doesn’t mean that I agree with all of their policy goals, but learning about what they are trying to accomplish made me realize that WE ALL WANT THE SAME BASIC THINGS. Democrats aren’t evil. They aren’t trafficking children to drink their blood (antisemitic trope right there). I know many incredible Democrats in real life and they have helped shape my perspective over the past few years. Being a Democrat is not a bad word. Neither is being liberal. I promise.
While none of this was planned out, I can see now that all of this perfectly positioned me to see things more clearly than ever before, especially as I watched the Republican party move closer to Authoritarianism. By stepping back, by reevaluating everything, it has enabled me to better discern what is fact and what is fiction. And there’s a whole lot of fiction happening right now on the far-right.
I don’t say any of this lightly, or with any happiness – remember that these used to be my people, and now I barely recognize the GOP. I feel betrayed in many respects.
As 2020 progressed and I watched how many in the AEC continued to embrace Trump, how they responded to COVID, how they were quick to dismiss racism and sexual abuse allegations, how they embraced Christian Nationalism at an alarming rate, how they manufactured outrage at every opportunity and made everything a “battle” to be fought, and how many sought “religious exemptions” for masks and vaccines, I was left speechless.
None of this is the Jesus I know.
I watched in disbelief as Christians “worshipped” to “America the Beautiful” at a Christian concert last fall, standing with hands raised and singing louder – and more passionately – than they did to the other songs.
I’ve watched as Christians have been anything but loving to their neighbors during a global pandemic, making claims about liberty to which Jesus would probably give a eye-roll. How wearing a mask is “oppression” and “abuse.” Elevating personal liberty above all, even when it could endanger their neighbor.
I’ve watched Christians downplay current events that don’t fit their narrative/personal desires for freedom (i.e. “only sick kids are dying from COVID” which is untrue and such an ableist thing to say. It’s also highly insensitive to those who have lost children – like us – whether they had preexisting conditions or not. January 6th is another great example of downplaying something significant because it’s what they wanted to see happen).
I’ve personally experienced Christians completely disregarding facts because they don’t match their opinion. Prime example: that Pence could have overturned the election. When I tried to show them what The Constitution actually says, I was told this was my “opinion” and they were entitled to theirs. Another example is the great misunderstanding about what Socialism and Communism are, but when you try to show how we are protected from those economic systems here (and how we actually do have some socialism in the United States already), they ignore you and argue. This complete disregard for facts, for expertise (especially in regards to the pandemic) has been frightening to me. There is no humility. No consideration of “what if I’m wrong?” Just because you heard it somewhere from some random person on YouTube doesn’t mean it’s true.
I’ve watched as the AEC continues to try to force their beliefs on others at any cost, even though legislating morality is not wise (why would we expect someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus to want to act like him? Do you like being told what to do? I’d assume the answer is no. So why should we force them to live in the way we think is right? Do you really think that’s going to encourage them to want to learn about Jesus?).
I’ve watched Christians elevating known abusers and giving them a platform to speak.
I’ve watched Christians not only seek to have books banned but also burning those books in public. These are the same people claiming that they are being “censored.” Ironic, isn’t it.
I’ve watched as Christians seek to ban things that they don’t even understand (CRT) and manufacture outrage to keep people on their side.
I’ve watched many Christians embrace antisemitic conspiracy theories (like QAnon) and watched them spiral into fear, a constant sense of embattlement, and an unwillingness to listen to the truth.
It’s bad enough that I’m seeing these things with wide eyes (as someone who has been a believer since childhood) – the rest of the world is watching, too. I have non-Christian friends who want nothing to do with Jesus because of everything they are seeing.
As my favorite Liberal once said to me, “I never want to be the reason someone doesn’t want to know Jesus” – a simple phrase that has challenged me over and over. A phrase that I don’t see the AEC living out.
This is not the Jesus I know.
And it has made me and many others step back and wonder what we do with all of this. If these people claim to follow the same Jesus we do, then whose perspective is right?
If you have resonated with anything I have said thus far, welcome to the deconstruction movement.
Are you surprised to learn that I’m deconstructing? I was, too. I didn’t have a name for what I had been feeling since March 2020 until last summer when I found a group called The New Evangelicals. As I listened to stories much like my own, I had to recognize that I, too, am deconstructing. This revelation was not a welcome one, but naming it has brought peace because I know how to proceed now.
There’s been a lot of (inaccurate) talk about what deconstruction is lately, and I want to be clear that for a vast majority of us it isn’t a crisis of faith: it’s a crisis of theology. I’m trying to reconcile the Jesus I know (and what I’ve been taught to believe) with how so many in the AEC are behaving in His name, and I just can’t do it.
As a result, it has forced me to step back and really reconsider the things I have been taught, one by one, deciding what is true, what is untrue, and what actually matters. That’s what deconstruction really is. It isn’t leaving the faith so that someone can sin. It isn’t done with selfish motives. It’s painful, uncomfortable, vulnerable. It’s not something that most of us chose and we don’t want to be going through this. At the same time, we recognize that this is important work and it truly matters. Yet, the AEC is quickly moving to dismiss this movement because they don’t understand it, and they don’t want to try. They see it as a threat, which I suppose it is because we are trying to see change happen. But, as someone actively deconstructing alongside tens of thousands of other believers, I can assure you that we aren’t a threat. We simply love Jesus and want to see the Church reflect Him.
At that same concert I referenced above, as I watched thousands of Christians essentially worshipping America, I asked God why any of this was happening, why I was deconstructing, what the point was. For the first time in a long time I felt Him say something: “I used you then, I will use you now.”
I approach all of this with dismay and yet with hope. Hope that the struggle of many like me will bring beautiful results. Hope that by me breaking the silence and being open about my journey others will be inspired to look at their own beliefs and the churches to which they belong. Hope that I don’t lose too many social media friends by being open about where I am on this journey (I already lost one by posting part one).
I’ve heard so many in the AEC claim that revival is coming, and I believe that, but not the way they think it’s coming (Christian Nationalism). I truly believe that revival is coming and that it will come through this deconstruction movement. I don’t know when, I don’t know how, but I believe with all my heart that the church is going to change in some much-needed ways. And as uncomfortable as it is, I’m here for it.
If you have any questions, I’m an open book. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m always ready and willing to find them, and I can point you to the resources which have helped me grow.