(Un)Certain: A Collective Memoir of Deconstructing Faith
Faith deconstruction – the intentional examination of one’s religious faith and beliefs, leading to a profound change in, or even loss of, that faith – has received increasing attention in the past few years, with the emergence of podcasts and online fora dedicated to discussing it, and pushback from those who see Christians who deconstruct as backslidden or ‘never really saved’. So who are the people who deconstruct their faith, what causes them to do so and where does the journey take them?
(Un)Certain is a collective memoir built on the stories and reflections of 140 interviewees and nearly 400 survey respondents from all over the world, including the author’s own story. These are ordinary people who reached the end of their (predominantly) evangelical road and had the courage to keep walking. It is woven around themes and shared experiences which came up time and again, and reveals a picture of deeply committed believers (including clergy) who reached a breaking point with the certainties and doctrines they spent years or even decades professing.
Some tell stories of abuse, while others describe a slow unravelling in the face of exclusionary, politicised or harsh theologies. Far from simply walking away, their deconstruction stories reveal the breadth and nuance of a carefully considered expansion of faith.
I’m really encouraged by and grateful for the response to the survey and to the request for interviewees. Hundreds of people took the time to fill in a pretty in-depth questionnaire, and 140 were courageous enough to spend an hour or more talking to me – a stranger – about some pretty personal stuff. I have molded the responses into a book which weaves our voices together.
The book is published by SCM Press, and can be ordered here. A huge thank you to everyone who has been involved so far.
“Deconstructing any belief system can be a lonely road, but especially so when that belief system is intimately tied up in a faith community. So what a gift (Un)Certain is to anyone on this journey. While sharing her own journey with us, Olivia also gives voice to dozens of people from around the globe, all of whom know what’s at stake when you ask tough questions about the faith you inherited. I only wish Olivia had written this 10 years ago when I was starting out on this journey.”
Tim Nash, Host, Nomad Podcast
“The deconstruction of faith is central to contemporary understandings of Christianity. Olivia Jackson has gathered together a wide range of voices that speak to this powerful examination of faith and Christian living around the world. The stories she has gathered are both startling and, sadly, unsurprising, speaking of abuse, manipulation, trauma, and loss. Throughout the book, the sadness of what has been lost through this deconstruction is palpable. But there is also a joy in discovering a new way of living faith, a new way of following Jesus that might carry us forward. Theologians, church leaders, and those in their own processes of working out what kind of faith they can flourish with must read this book.”
Dr Karen O’Donnell, Westcott House, Cambridge, author of The Dark Womb
“If you’re uncertain about your faith, (Un)Certain will help you know that you aren’t alone. When you meet your fellow seekers in these pages, you’ll know you’re in good company. If you’re a faith leader, this book will help you understand why people are leaving. especially the younger generations you say you care about. It will help you avoid the common mistake of blaming messengers, and it will help you become less certain about the way you’re doing things being the only right way. If you’re a parent whose kids have left your faith, this book will help you understand them and maybe even learn something from them. Highly recommended!”
Brian McLaren, author of Do I Stay Christian?