I don’t need to tell you there’s a trend of Christians—especially famous ones—loudly leaving the Christian faith and exiting stage left through what appears to be a curtain of liberation and pink-painted atheism. Or agnosticism. Or most likely, “I don’t like labels, I just want to love people and delight in the divine wherever I meet her…”
This isn’t necessarily new, but with the recent announcements by Hillsong leader Marty Sampson, writer Joshua Harris, Paul Maxwell, and the Gungors, and it seems like the very Christian religion is on the line. If you step back, however, and look at these events in light of 2,000 years of Christian history, it seems awfully trivial.
After all, a handful of people leaving the faith against the billions of Christians worldwide shouldn’t really be earth-shattering, so why can it feel so scary when someone public renounces their faith? Some, like the Gungors, leave angrily and try to tear people away with them, inviting them to a freer existence; one that supposedly makes more sense and is scientific and ‘real.’
The irony, which very few people are pointing out, is that while it may be easy to deconstruct evangelicalism, or Christianity as a whole, none of these people are deconstructing the ‘faith’ to which they are fleeing.
You may highlight the crusades as a massive blight on the history of Christianity all while ignoring all the violence done by atheists (or other religions) and the hopeless existential dread which necessarily follows atheism.
You may point out that science undoes the millennia of religious ignorance, but what, then, does science offer you? Does it provide a moral system of ethics, or the chance at purpose? The same could be said of amorphous, undefinable New Age spirituality, which can be formed however the practicer wishes. It’s the Build-a-God Workshop. And often, these gods look a lot like you.
It is, dare I say, sexy to deconstruct your Christian faith right now, but to what are you running? Why have you not done the same work to deconstruct that structure of belief to ensure that it will hold up? If you have searched the depths of the Christian faith and found her lacking, have you done the same homework to ensure that your new system won’t let you down in the same way?
I know many, many people who have been wounded in deep ways by their church or some Christian organization. This is not the heart of Christianity, yet it is often blamed for peoples’ departures. These wounds are legitimate and not to be overlooked. The Church, however, needs to be doing her part to reach out and help heal these wounds.
When someone leaves their Christian faith, though, even on these grounds, the question must be asked: To what are they running? Does it offer purpose and morals? Is there a genuine connection to the Transcendent, or are they just making up their own rules and calling it god?
One avenue I have seen doing great work on this ‘deconstruction of secularism’ is Mark Sayers via his books and podcast. You may also look at How (Not) To Be Secular by James K.A. Smith. These pieces all look at what factors have brought us to this moment where we see Christians flocking away from their faith because they have deconstructed it (or at least, their experience of it), without doing much work in sensing out where they are going instead.
Christians and non-Christians alike need to become more aware of the secular culture in which we live; becoming experts in deconstructing atheism the same way many have named themselves experts in dissecting Christianity. We are leaving the age of Christianity being the dominant cultural force and moving into a post-Christian world in which we will once again exist on the outskirts. Much of the hatred of the Church has come from its abuse of power and legalistic dogma. Once it is a minority position however, it can once again shine as the beacon of hope, purpose, and healing it is meant to be.