Most churchgoers unfamiliar with the concept of ‘deconstruction’: Lifeway

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Most Protestant churchgoers in the United States are not very familiar with the term “deconstruction” as it applies to struggles with religious belief, according to a recent report by Lifeway Research.

A Lifeway survey found that only 36% of Protestant churchgoer respondents were either familiar or very familiar with “the concept of an individual deconstructing their faith in which they systematically dissect and often reject Christian beliefs they grew up with.”

By contrast, 32% of respondents were either “somewhat familiar” or “not that familiar” with deconstruction, while 28% had “not heard the term deconstruction before” and 3% were “not sure.”

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Also, among those who had heard of deconstruction, 37% reported that “they have seen attendees of their church who deconstructed their faith,” while 47% said they had not and 15% were not sure.

For its report, Lifeway used an online survey of 1,002 U.S. Protestant churchgoers conducted Sept. 19-29, 2022, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3% at a 95% confidence level.

Lifeway Research Executive Director Scott McConnell said in a statement released last week that he felt it was “not surprising the majority of churchgoers are not very familiar with the term ‘deconstruction,’ since it often describes a person’s private journey or one that’s shared within a limited social set.”

“The fluid nature of the term and its affinity among those on social media or podcasts distances it from many Christians,” McConnell stated. “The term can be used both to represent a total abolishing of one’s faith or to describe one’s personal questioning and working out their salvation to greater faith.”

The survey also found that pastors were more likely than their congregations to be at least somewhat familiar with the term "deconstruction," while Hispanics and African Americans were less likely than whites to have not heard the term before. Respondents aged 18-34 were the most likely to be “very familiar” with the term.

In recent years, multiple Christian public figures in the United States have announced that they were undergoing a “deconstruction” of their faith, sometimes leaving Christianity as a result.

In December 2021, Christian rapper Lecrae talked about going through a period of deconstruction but believed that the process actually strengthened his faith rather than destroy it.

“Deconstruction is not a bad thing if it leads to reconstruction. Sometimes you have to demolish a building that has mold and then build something else on that foundation,” he said at the time.

“We're not getting rid of the foundation. The foundation is Christ. But we're building on that foundation and tearing down some things that were unnecessary.”  

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