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"We're not The Nones. We're The Dones."
Selections from the “Deconstruction Discourse”
Over the course of February, there was a lot of online discourse about “deconstruction.” This round of discussion was kicked off by The Gospel Coalition announcing that they were releasing a book on the topic, with the subtle-but-significant qualifier that it was deconstructing doubt in the church.
Ex/post-evangelicals took note of this reframing and called attention to it. Conversations about deconstruction were renewed on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok as self-described exvangelicals (and others with lived experience in white evangelicalism) pushed back on this attempt to draw attention away from the groundswell of people sharing their stories of leaving evangelicalism online over the past several years.
One powerful example is from Caitlin J. Stout - the whole thread is worth a read:
In the space of one tweet, Caitlin captures the precise problem with this framing of deconstruction we’re seeing from places like TGC. TGC ignores at best (and gaslights at worst) the fact that the most dedicated believers - the ones who were on fire for god in their youth group, the ones who decided to go to college to learn more about their faith and become faith leaders - are the ones who walked away.
Brad Onishi elaborates on this in a short episode of Straight White American Jesus, embedded below:
Onishi says: “Why is it that so many of us who were so dedicated, who were so devoted were the ones who left? I think there’s a couple of reasons, and two stand out to me: one is those of us who gave everything we had were those who wanted to understand every aspect of the culture and the theological system that we were devoting our lives to….when you start to investigate all that, when you start to delve into a worldview in that detail, if it doesn’t hold together, then eventually you’re gonna start to wonder why you’re devoting yourself to it so forcefully.”
I encourage you to listen to the whole episode - it’s a little over 15 minutes and well worth your time - but I want to call out his conclusion:
Those of us who left are the dones….we’re not the nones, we’re not the never weres, we’re the dones. We gave everything we had. We investigated every contour of the worldview. We went to every corner, every hidden secret space, every blind spot in the culture that we were a part of, and it all unraveled. It all fell apart. There was no inner coherency. So we said “I’m done. It hurts. It’s painful….but nonetheless, this is what I have to do.”
Deconstruction leads to many places, and often it doesn’t lead back to an institutional church or organized religion. I’ve been thinking a lot about how podcasts, social media, and other online communities have created new opportunities for spiritual and religious exploration beyond the control of “traditional” churches, and I think that white evangelical churches and organizations are particularly sensitive to their loss of hegemony.
I’ll continue to explore that here and in the podcasts.
I’ve published two episodes of Exvangelical recently. I spoke with Laura Polk about the insurrection, and she highlighted 3 key events in 1980 that set the stage for the next 40 years of political activity by the Christian Right.
I also spoke with the hosts of Magnified Pod, a show focused on Christian punk music:
I also appeared on Tori Douglass’ White Homework podcast, which is currently available to patrons so sign-up today: