I'm Deconstructing From My Religion. Now What?
Updated: Dec 13, 2022
When we deconstruct something, it means we take it apart, piece by piece. Deconstruction can be used to describe many things, but it is also a common term used to describe someone's current faith journey. Have you ever heard a friend, family member, or maybe even read an article about people deconstructing from their faith? It means they are slowly taking apart their religious beliefs, piece by piece, to analyze them and come to a better understanding of why they believe what they believe. While deconstructing, they might choose to keep some parts of their faith journey while discarding others that no longer align with what they think or believe anymore.
Deconstruction is a painful process, usually because it deals with coming face to face with one's religious trauma and spiritual abuse. While churches can be a great space for us to explore and grow, they can also be a place riddled with cult-like behaviors, abuse, and manipulation.
In this article, we're going to explore how to recognize if you might be deconstructing, how to give yourself grace through the process, and how to continue moving forward.
What Does Deconstruction Look Like?
Maybe you've been wondering for awhile if you've been deconstructing. Maybe you've been going through faith crisis after faith crisis, but you're not sure that you're deconstructing. Maybe you think that deconstruction means you're abandoning your faith altogether, and you don't want to abandon your faith altogether.
The beautiful thing about deconstruction is that is looks different for each person. Some people deconstruct to nothing. Others deconstruct religious doctrine but still believe in their higher power. Even others deconstruct church culture and decide they no longer want to participate in the Americanized version of Christianity, yet still believe. Some have a difficult time admitting they're deconstructing and won't use that word to describe their journey until they're a year or two in. There is no wrong or right way to deconstruct. It's simply a journey we go on.
But usually what sets us all on the path of deconstruction is questioning. We start to question if what we've been instilled to believe our entire lives is actually true. Maybe we even start to question why there's so much sexual abuse within religious institutions that gets covered up. Our questioning could even be about certain religious doctrine spoken at churches that's started to uncover some red flags in our minds. For many who are deconstructing, it goes against what we've been taught to do in American Christianity, which is to trust what the pastor says, trust what the elders say, and if you have an idea or thought that steps outside what those two groups have deemed "correct thinking", then you're wrong and your salvation could be at stake.
For those who have started on the road of deconstruction, it can feel lonely and isolating as they wrestle with the reality of their salvation hanging on the hinges; yet they press on. They know that when truth is sought after, freedom isn't far behind.
Grace, Grace, Endless Grace
As people who are removing the jenga blocks of our faith, analyzing them carefully and choosing which ones to discard and which ones to use again to recreate our tower, the voices of shame and fear can be loud. When you've been indoctrinated to believe that your salvation depends on specific beliefs, and those beliefs need to be just right, you're risking all you have when you start to question. Sometimes, the thought of turning back and going along with the status quo sounds easier, but now that you know what you do, going back isn't possible. The road is lonely. You've lost friends. Maybe you've lost your church community. Potentially even family members.
Giving yourself grace in this process is the most important component. The complexity of life needs the grace we have to give. As we move through our own deconstruction journey, we begin to realize that life isn't as black and white as we once thought it was, and through that realization, grace can almost flow out of us like water; not just towards ourselves, but also towards the people around us.
If you're on this journey, I want to encourage you to pause here for a moment.
Relax your body.
Unclench your jaw.
Release the tension from your shoulders.
Take a deep breath.
And repeat as many times as you need,
"There is enough grace for me today."
The road seems daunting, almost like it'll never end. You wonder if you'll find community again, or people who will understand what you're walking through. Maybe you're wrestling with certain aspects of your religion: some parts of it make sense to you, but others you don't understand. How do you move forward? What does moving forward look like?
Could moving forward look like being present in what you're experiencing, feeling, and living right now? Do you have to have a plan to move forward? Do you think there's enough grace for you to sit in what you're experiencing today?
I get it; this journey is exhausting and it's tempting to wonder when it'll be over. But the thing about journeys is that there's usually not an end destination. We just keep walking. We keep bringing people alongside us. We keep having holy experiences with people who believe differently from us. We keep grieving, laughing, rejoicing celebrating, mourning. We keep experiencing, loving, and holding space. We keep giving (and receiving) grace.
You're Not Alone
Even though it feels like you're alone, there are millions of people who are walking a similar journey as you. Although their journey doesn't look exactly like yours, these people understand the pain and heartache that comes along with deconstruction. There are many communities, podcasts, and books that are specifically for people who are deconstructing. If you're on this journey, here are a few resources you can check out to remind yourself that you're less alone than you realize.
If you're deconstructing but still believe in Jesus:
If you're deconstructing:
At Root Counseling, we view therapy as a safe space for you to explore your religious beliefs while you walk through your own deconstruction or spiritual journey without judgement or influence. If you're interested in setting up an appointment, you can visit our therapists here.