Deconstruction. The word is currently used to explain an evangelical Protestant Christian who has chosen to stop performing Christianity and church-dom. A deconstructing believer in Christ has moved into questioning and researching their faith. Some believers are gaining a greater, deeper, wider perspective of Christ’s doctrine that is not rooted in American nationalism and Westernized institutions. Sadly, some Christian pastors have decried this practice stating it leads to an exit from Christianity entirely. Conversely, I and others have wandered into truth and liberation through our journeys.
How it started
My process of deconstruction shifted to high gear in 2015. However, I did not call it deconstruction. I did not know anything about that term until early 2021. In transparency, I agree with fellow writer and speaker Courtney Napier that it was more of an awakening. We both had eye-opening experiences that triggered something was not quite right with Christianity and church in America. For me, it was my detachment from an abusive marriage. In the throes of lectures about forgiveness, fighting for my marriage, and remaining faithful to my vows, I decided to tap out. The marriage was more important to pastors and counselors than my individual soul, which was numb. Numb and hopeless. And they did not care.
Nothing about how I was treated sounded like God. At the risk of further ostracizing myself, I chose me. In doing so, I heard keys unlocking doors. I saw lights flashing on. I felt righteousness swell from the inside out. With unclouded vision, the American church as a whole was not the church Christ spoke of. This monstrosity was manipulative and abusive and harmful, not unlike my ex-husband. The same messages preached at me to stay married were similar to why I should remain in church and reflect “Christian” values. The disregard for my holistic wellness and health did not matter, only representing what a “Christian” should say, think, and vote did.
The covid-19 shelter-in-place orders gave me a continued excuse to not attend church. I did not tune in virtually either. My soul could not bear to hear that voice any longer. My deconstruction/awakening led me to a womanist church. I was astonished when they had a segment of the service to allow for questions and discussion. It felt right and unreal to witness black women pastors having a dialogue with parishioners. They were not pretending to have an answer for every word. In fact, they said, “I do not know” or “I am not sure.” My eyes and mouth were stuck wide open.
How it continued
I ruminated on the stark differences between the womanist church and the evangelical American church. The obvious being the pastors were black women, with some being queer black women. Discovering this church took me down another road in my awakening: decolonization. The American church has covetous, murderous white patriarchal supremacy embedded in its deepest roots. While the American church has experienced culture shifting revivals, it has never had an upheaval and tearing down from its conquering, genocidal foundation. This Christianity has unleashed terror in America and the world from its beginning. It was not enough to deconstruct Christianity; I needed to decolonize from it. So, I went back to my training.
From 2011 to 2014, I attended a Bible college in the midwest. All I knew was God told me to go there. I did not have a clear understanding of why. In my studies, I took a required course, Church History. We read a text and discussed the beginning of the church from Christ’s ascension to modern-day. In Acts, the disciples of Christ were hiding because of persecution from Jews and Roman soldiers. This persecution continued under Roman rule for the next 200 years. Then, Trump… I mean, Constantine, “the First Christian Emperor”, took over the Roman empire and by 380 A.D. had declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire.
Before Constantine’s ascent to power, the Christian population reached into the millions despite persecution. Thus, Constantine showed himself friendly to them, although he was not yet a professed believer. After winning the battle for emperor, Constantine put an end to persecutions. Historians credited him as being a “wise politician … to ally himself with the movement which held the future of his empire.” The Christians were grateful for Constantine’s contributions and ignored his cruel and tyrannical character stating, “the reality of his Christianity was better than its quality”. How telling of his character that Constantine delayed his baptism until right before his death. He believed the doctrine that baptism washed away all sins.¤
How it started a long time ago
Under Constantine, the Christian church experienced what I call a “change of management.”
- Constantine started the trend of building large churches
- Endowments once given to the temple of the gods went to churches and their clergy
- Church ministers were privileged: set free from taxes and tried only in ecclesiastical courts
- Sunday was ordained the day of rest and worship
- Constantine abolished crucifixion and infanticide
- Constantine declared December 25 a formal celebration of Christ’s birthday (though prior Christians did not celebrate any day as Christ’s birthday). This was an attempt to downplay pagan holidays like Saturnalia, the Roman festival to the god of light and loyalty.∞
With Christianity being the state religion, it attracted people who desired power and influence. Needless to say, many were not making a decision to follow and live like Christ. It was not long until the church was a “political machine”, not a house of prayer. When you gather together under a theology seeded by a conquering, cruel, tyrannical colonizer, the fruit will continue to be conquering, cruel, tyrannical colonizers. Christ is not the head of the church we see today. What we see is that same political machine. A machine that needs to be powered down and purged.
How it’s going
For me, I have made decisions based on my awakening and decolonizing journey. One of those decisions has been to stop attending the mainstream, evangelical church. Another is to no longer celebrate Christmas. Being that I recently stopped these traditions, I do not have an elaborate description of what to do now or what to do next. I used to attend Al-Anon meetings and one of the sayings is “one day at a time.” That is where I am at. It just now hit me that this is the closest to embodying “walk by faith” that I have ever been. This process has caused me to exit the version and facade of Christianity I have known. Consequently, I am stepping into a liberation of which I am unfamiliar and I want more.
¤HURLBUT, Jesse L. The Story of the Christian Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970.
∞Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Why Is Christmas in December?.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Invalid Date. https://www.britannica.com/story/why-is-christmas-in-december.