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An Open Letter to Preachers Trying to “Explain” Why So Many People Are Deconstructing


Dear Pastor _________,

I have listened to your sermons, read your blog posts, or perused your articles in Christianity Today or The Gospel Coalition about why so many Evangelical church members are “deconstructing.” I have carefully noted your excuses and justifications for why people are fleeing Evangelical churches in droves. I have snickered and rolled my eyes as you blame anyone and everyone except yourself and your church for the decline in attendance and income. It’s the culture, or Hollywood, or postmodernism, or LGBTQ rights, or socialism, or atheism, or countless other things you blame for why Evangelicalism is rotting on the vine. And if all of these “blames” ring hollow, you label those who deconstruct as “cultural” Christians; trotting out the No True Scotsman Fallacy. Those who deconstruct and ultimately leave Evangelicalism aren’t True Christians®. Never mind the fact that many of the people exiting stage left from Evangelical churches were committed followers of Jesus; people who faithfully attended church, supported the church financially, and lived according to the teachings of the Bible. Lots of former Evangelicals frequent this blog. Few of them were cultural or nominal believers. Instead, they served the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and might. Yet, one day, or over many days, months, and years, they took a careful, painful look at Christianity and its attendant beliefs and practices. They decided they were no longer believers in the Evangelical sense of the word. Many of them became atheists, agnostics, pagans, or nones — people indifferent towards organized religion.

Instead of talking to these disaffected Evangelicals, Pastor __________, you marginalized them, ignoring their honest, open questions and concerns. You labeled them as worldly, carnal, backslidden, or some other pejorative label. And finally, you asserted, without evidence, that those who deconstructed lacked spiritual maturity and Bible knowledge. In other words, they just didn’t know any better. (Who taught them all those years, Pastor? Aren’t you to blame for their lack of knowledge?) Had they known better, they would have remained in the church. After all, doesn’t the Bible say, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (I John 2:19) End of discussion, right?

If you really want to know why people are deconstructing (and deconverting), Pastor _________, let me suggest a few reasons that come to mind:

  • The politicization of the pulpit and the church. Evangelical churches have become the propaganda wing of the Republican Party.
  • Donald Trump. Eighty-two percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump — twice. Trump is morally repugnant, and an evil man, yet Evangelical pastors and churches promote him as God’s candidate — even going so far as to say that he is a Christian.
  • Evangelical churches largely ignore environmental concerns, especially global warming, and catastrophic species decline. Why worry about the environment — Jesus is coming soon!
  • Evangelical churches generally demonize LGBTQ people — especially transgender men and women.
  • Evangelical churches tend to promote complementarianism, encouraging treating women as “less than.” Misogyny is common.
  • Evangelical churches are anti-abortion (pro-life), while at the same time supporting capital punishment, killing immigrants, and war.
  • Evangelicals generally ignore what the Bible about caring for the least of these: the poor, marginalized, sick, hungry, widows, orphans, and people of color.
  • Pastors and churches over-emphasize certain “sins,” ignoring others. Sexual sins are given far more attention than other sins — especially icky homo sins.
  • Church scandals and sexual misconduct by pastors are legion, routinely ignored or swept under the rug.
  • Hypocrisy. People who deconstruct often say that they became weary of the “Do as I say, not as I do” hypocrisy by church leaders.

While none of these reasons prove that Christianity is false, they do show that there is a huge disconnect between what pastors and True Christians® say they believe and how they actually live their lives. This often leads, as it did for me, to a reexamination of sincerely held beliefs. One need only read the emails, blog comments, and social media messages I receive from Evangelicals to see that Evangelicalism is a barrel of rotting apples. Sure, there are a few edible apples in the barrel, but not many.

Pastor __________, if you want to really know why people in your church are deconstructing, may I kindly suggest that you stop making excuses and justifications and look in the mirror. You are to blame for the sheep jumping over the fence, never to be seen again. You value political power and social control over meeting people where they are. You choose to point fingers instead of actually asking doubters and questioners why they are deconstructing. And after they left the church, you made sure to call them out and lambast them from the pulpit — even if you, wink, wink, didn’t mention them by name. You made sure that the sheep still in the pen knew these black sheep were sinful or deficient in some way, even going so far as to say that they were never, ever Christians.

If you really want to talk about deconstruction, I am game. Send me an email or have me on your podcast. There’s no reason for you to continue in ignorance one day longer. Or maybe you are not ignorant. You know why people are deconstructing, but you have an earthly kingdom to preserve, so you lie or misattribute motivations. The cure for your dishonesty is to actually talk to — not at — people who are deconverting or who have gone through the deconstruction process.

Seek and ye shall find, Pastor.

Saved by Reason,



  1. Avatar

    The duplicity of some Christian’s is amazing. It is always “they are not/were not true Christians”. They can’t look at themselves and see any problems because they have the right god in the right way.

    I recently visited a family member who talked about some people not being real Christians, unlike my family member. Then they went on to complain that the choice of Trump vs Biden is a choice of the lesser of two evils. Apparently Catholic (not real Christian) Biden is as evil Trump? At least Biden actually attends a church. If Trump set foot into a church he would probably turn to ash .

    As you said Bruce, the fundamentalist church is their own worst enemy and drive people out.

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    I would be more than happy to talk with people about my deconstruction. I can go through what caused me to leave evangelicalism and settle into progressive, liberal Christianity for awhile. I can also discuss my deconstruction and eventual deconversion from Christianity. These were separate events, both predating the Trump era. I can discuss deconstructing political beliefs, from being raised in budding Christian nationalism, to conservative politics, to libertarian economic and socially progressive politics, to more center left politics. I have been deconstructing in some form for nearly 40 years and can discuss many stops along the spectrum.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    Bruce and Sage—You have clearly and forcefully articulated the reasons why so many of us have left, not only our churches, but Christianity (however it’s defined) and faith itself.

    Though Christianity and religion in general might be in decline in the West—especially among the young—its most fervent adherents become more virulent in their hatred and violence. While I still believe they will implode their churches, much of Christianity and even religion writ large, I can only hope they don’t destroy democracy and anything else that makes á civilization civilized. That said, I still fear that I won’t survive another dose of Trump, largely because of the hatred and violence he foments and enables in Evangelical Christians and their allies (e.g. conservative Catholics and Orthodox Christians).

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    Ted M Gossard

    I’ve recently been exploring Bill Gothard and the scandal around that, what amounts as a “cult.” It has meaning in family, and I remember attending one of his seminars where he was in person in Chicago, decades back. So much of the problem with evangelicalism can be seen in significant part by taking a careful look at that.
    Again, thanks, Bruce for helpful thoughts. I am out and hopefully it’s cast out of me; I mean the evangelicalism which I was mostly uneasily a part of for decades.

    I was reading a review of this “God and Country” film. I reluctantly was considering attending it with my wife. But we’re already fully on board with what it’s getting at. I wonder if it will really make much of a difference, except to perhaps rally the faithful which is important by itself. I’ll gladly be not attending.

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      Yulya Sevelova

      These pastors will do everything but actually ask people just WHY they want to deconvert! And I’ve heard years ago, some people on Christian radio say that abuse in church is good, because that’s how Jesus pushes people out of the church that he doesn’t want. So, these pastors who are angry that people are leaving in large numbers, conveniently forget that many people are leaving Americanism, since that’s what is often preached in churches here. Which goes hand in hand with materialism and love of power over others. If they want converts to stay, then stop promoting abusive behavior and people, that’s what they really need to do!

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    MJ Lisbeth

    OC—In some ways, your story parallels mine. Deconstructing the Roman Catholicism in which I was raised (as well as a youthful fantasy of a more “authentic” experience of faith) led me to Evangelical Christianity. Deconstructing that led me to a “spiritual but not religious” phase which, as I deconstructed it, seemed as untenable as fealty to any church. Then came agnosticism, atheism and my current—and longstanding—agnostic atheism.

    I never seriously considered non-Christian religions. I learned about Judaism mainly because of my marriage and the communities in which I have lived, and some of it , I believe, has more basis in reality. And I think Buddhism offers some insight on how to live and doesn’t emphasize faith in a deity—or exclude others—in the same way as the Abrahamic religions. (Indeed, Zen masters say that one can be a Buddhist and Christian; not many Christian clerics say the same about any other religion.)

    As I moved away from religion and faith , my politics became more liberal and humanistic. For a time, when I was an Evangelical, I was a Libertarian. I must admit that some parts of it still appeal to me: the hardcore Libertarians (as opposed to Republicans whose definition of “liberty” is saying whatever they want without dealing with the repercussions, getting as many guns as they want whenever they want and corporations not paying taxes) oppose war and interventionism —and the death penalty.

    Just recently, I finally admitted to myself that would have been abhorrent to me: I am a socialist. I supported Elizabeth Warren in the last round of Presidential primaries. While I still find much to admire about her, and would vote for her if a better alternative weren’t available, I realize that she was about as far to the left as I could vote without admitting what I now know.

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    Or, Pastor _________, you could… you know… ASK the person why they deconverted. And then not argue with them and say you know better than they do why they did, but… you know… BELIEVE them.

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