What Does It Look Like to Deconstruct Your Faith?
There is an indescribable beauty inherent to the arts. With a stroke of a brush, faraway lands come near. A few keenly assembled literary words can stoke the imagination. But the art of music is unique. Its influence lies in its dual nature of sound and words. Melodies ensnare the mind while words erupt the heart. Makoto Fujimura captured the broad beauty of the arts by observing that “Art reveals the power of the intuitive, capturing the reality hiding beneath the culture.”
Recently, Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae exhibited Fujimura’s reflection through his intimate song, Deconstruction. In recent times, the term deconstruction refers to the modern phenomenon of critically examining one’s Christian faith beliefs or practices to determine their truthfulness and usefulness.
Through personal prose, Lecrae’s lyrical message mirrors the twofold nature of his art. He captures his personal journey through deconstruction while simultaneously and implicitly unearthing the similar struggles many modern believers are experiencing. Yet his poetic journey isn’t one to simply appreciate for its musicality. It holds some key lessons that all believers can be both vigilant of and learn from.
“I was so involved, never thought that I could fall, y’all
Right before the fall of 2015, I was all off
It involved killing Michael Brown, had me feeling down
Tweeted ‘bout it, Christians call me clown, I was losing ground
And Voddie was a hero of mine, met with him plenty times
This time, when he spoke, it cut me deeper than I realized.”
The starting point of deconstruction varies for many Christians. In Lecrae’s case, the 2014 killing of Michael Brown and the subsequent ire he experienced from fellow Christians was the catalyst. Brown, an 18-year-old African American male, was shot several times and killed by Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white police officer. For many African Americans, the historical relationship between the black community and police officers has been fraught with tension and trauma.
Furthermore, the pain Lecrae experienced from the incident was magnified by the outcry he received online. Many of his fans and followers (and leaders he looked up to like Voddie Baucham) sharply critiqued him as he voiced his displeasure in how unsympathetic many Christians were to the killing and the ensuing concerns of their black brothers and sisters.
Disillusionment is often the forerunner to deconstruction. The internet is replete with stories of Christians deconstructing due to their disappointment and disenchantment with something in the culture or in the church. Recently, the phrase “church hurt” has increased, with people giving testimonies detailing distressing experiences that either led them to question the faith or leave it altogether.
When the culture or the church has “wounded” us, we must hold fast to what is our ultimate anchor in the faith. Through the storms and unpredictability of life, Jesus is our sustainer. He is our hope. We recognize that the reason Jesus died on the cross was because we all are sinners, including fellow lay Christians and church leaders. That doesn’t excuse or dismiss the pain of the experience, but it helps to reorient our focus on who our faith is solely in.
Jesus was betrayed by His closest followers. He wasn’t welcome in His home (Luke 4:24). Fellow Jews tried to stone Him. Yet through all this and much more, Jesus remained steadfast in His mission to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). We will undoubtedly experience disappointment from those close to us. Still, in those moments, we’re challenged to remember that Jesus is the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Hold fast to Him, as He did for us.
“I started slipping in the darkness, I’m feeling heartless
Christians got me traumatized, I don’t know who God is
Drinking liquor for my therapy, and smoking Mary tree
Maybe I should get divorced, I don’t know why she married me
What’s the purpose? What’s the point?
Nothing matters, I’m just matter, I’m just atoms.”
Sin is a pervasive part of our lives; it affects every part of life. The Apostle Paul described the constant battle with sin that is relatable to contemporary Christians: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do“(Romans 7:15). Furthermore, it affects many aspects of our lives, including our faith in Christ.
In the lyrics above, Lecrae discusses how personal sin invaded his life during this deconstruction phase. As a result of the sorrows and disappointments with culture and the church, he sought an escape through alcohol and drug use. He clearly overindulged in it by referring to liquor as his “therapy.”
Please understand that engaging in personal sin is not a necessary part of the process of Christian deconstruction. But it’s important to recognize that it can and sometimes is. For Lecrae, it was a product of the initial issue. For others, it may be the spark.
Deconstruction in and of itself is virtuous if we’re seeking to reexamine or clarify some beliefs we hold that don’t align with the Bible and teachings of Christ. But sin inevitably distorts that effort. If a desire to sin is the catalyst for one’s deconstruction, or if it has become a part of the deconstruction process, it will only harm, not help. Sin creates a chasm in our relationship with Christ and others. In the case of Lecrae, we see that his sin led him to question other aspects of his life.
If you know someone who’s going through deconstruction and sin is related, it’s important to lovingly help them to understand why. If you’re a believer personally experiencing it, turn to Christ in prayer and repentance, knowing He is not there to condemn you but to save you.
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1–2).
“I learned the western world has twisted up the Scriptures, so when I re-enlisted
I learned the eastern context the way that Jesus meant it.”
Reading the Bible objectively is a misnomer. Everyone brings their cultural and personal experiences to bear on Scripture, knowingly or unknowingly. In Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, the authors, O’Brien and Richards, state, “The habits that we readers from the West (the United States, Canada, and Western Europe) bring to the Bible can blind us to interpretations that the original audience and readers in other cultures see quite naturally.”
These authors focus on the West because it’s where they reside. But the concept is universal. Scholars help readers understand the biblical world to best arrive at its original meaning, but a degree of subjectivity is inherent to Bible reading due to our biases.
Another aspect of modern deconstructionism within Christianity lies in understanding the text. Many have seriously questioned parts of the Bible or the whole Bible. In Lecrae’s journey, he sought to understand better the Eastern context in which Jesus lived to aid in appropriately applying the texts in a 20th-century context.
In Acts 17:11, Paul referred to the Berean Jews as having “noble character” because they “examined the Scriptures everyday to see if what (he) said was true.” Many Christians simply believe what is taught to them without learning themselves, then later in their faith journey, encounter trouble when faced with some of these beliefs. But Paul lauded those who not only intently listened to him but verified through personal study.
It is natural to second guess things we initially learned, but we must use those times of uncertainty to seek certainty in Christ. A quest to further fortify one’s faith is fruitful, but a quest to withdraw from the faith is foolish.
If there are significant textual concerns you have wrestling it, it’s okay. There is a plethora of resources to help guide you through biblical issues. Also, grappling with these issues with a community of believers is important, so you have a support system. But ultimately, know that God lauds your efforts to understand Him better, knowing that it will enrich your relationship with Him.
“Tears streaming as I weep, felt I heard the Lord speak
I’ve been running from You, but You never ran away from me
. . .
My peace has been cemented, my soul has been re-lifted
My deconstruction ended, reconstruction is beginning.”
Deconstruction assumes a previous construction. The goal of deconstruction within Christianity should be to faithfully reconstruct upon the firm foundation of Christ. Some aspects of the Bible and faith are intrinsically ambiguous and will take more study and prayer to ascertain, but Jesus is objectively clear.
In Luke 15, Jesus tells us a parable about a lost sheep and rhetorically asks His listeners if they had a hundred sheep and one wandered, wouldn’t they leave to ninety-nine to retrieve the one? This story has many takeaways, but one of its primary points is that God will not abandon you. He goes to great lengths to personally seek you.
This is most evident in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. He endured incomprehensible physical, emotional, and spiritual pain for your salvation. Lecrae wandered for a bit but never left God because he realized (as shown in the lyrics above) that God never left Him. Today, brothers and sisters, rest in the reality that no matter what you’re going through, God is there with you always. He loves you and longs to welcome you home.
For more on this topic, check out this episode of Everyday Theology ⤵️