Christians have nothing to fear from deconstruction, says George Luke. And the rapper Lecrae’s wrestling with US evangelicalism and race prove it

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“I went on a journey and found out that Jesus is worth it,” the rapper Lecrae declares in the latest episode of his podcast series, ‘The Deep End’. “But some of the infrastructures that people have built around Jesus should be burned to the ground.”

Say what? He’s calling for infrastructures to be destroyed? That sounds scarily like that ‘deconstruction’ thing that has so many conservative Christians up in arms nowadays.

Well, that’s because it is. The 53-minute video is Lecrae detailing his deconstruction journey, which began back in 2016.

There’s nothing particularly new about Lecrae discussing the love-hate relationship he’s had with conservative evangelicalism. He touched on it in an episode of Premier’s ‘Unbelievable’ podcast last year, while paying tribute to the late Tim Keller. It was also the subject of his 2020 book, I am Restored: How I Lost My Religion But Found My Faith. But there’s something about his frankness and delivery this time round that makes what he says stand out even more.

I’ve watched Lecrae’s video three times and found myself agreeing with him more each time.

The only place I’d part company with him is where he implies that for some millennials, deconstruction is trying to see how much you can get away with. To me, that seems like a projection based on stuff he admits he did in the early days of his deconstruction, when he used it as an excuse to smoke weed and get drunk. I don’t believe that most of the people who deconstruct (regardless of demographic) are looking to see what they can get away with. Many have simply taken a long, hard look at institutional Christianity and found it wanting. I’d go so far as to say that deconstruction is biblical. What were the much-lauded Bereans in Acts 17 doing, if not engaging in some form of deconstruction? Likewise, what was Paul exhorting the Thessalonian Church to do when he told them to “test everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)?

Problematic definitions aside, I can identify with Lecrae’s journey (minus the weed smoking bit) because I went on a similar one 40 years ago. And in some ways, I’m still on it.

Like Lecrae, my sore point with evangelicalism was over racism; in my case, it was Apartheid in South Africa. It was the 80s; the Special AKA mobilised pop fans with their song ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ and the First Family of Gospel, the Winans, brought that rallying cry to the Black Church with ‘Let My People Go’. But the response from many of the big American Evangelical voices I was tuned into then was either silence or mumblings about Mandela being a communist and/or a terrorist. There were issues we were supposed to care about, but racial justice wasn’t one of them – an attitude summed up by something one anti-abortion campaigner once said to me: “Now, George, you might think racism is bad. But at least you were born.” I kid you not!

Lecrae might be the most prominent Christian rapper in recent years to ask uncomfortable questions about his faith, but he certainly isn’t the first.

In 1991, I attended my second Greenbelt and one of the big attractions was the rap group PID (Preachers in Disguise). They spoke candidly about the racism they’d encountered in church circles back home in the USA. A few years after that Greenbelt appearance, one member ditched Christianity in favour of the Nation of Islam. Fast-forward 20 years, and I was now a volunteer on Greenbelt’s music team, booking acts for the festival. One artist I booked was the rapper Jahaziel. He later went through a period of questioning and is now no longer a Christian.

Deconstruction’s not a bad thing as long as you’re not getting rid of Jesus

Then in January 2022, Brady Goodwin (aka Phanatik) stunned Christian rap fans with the announcement that he was no longer a Christian, citing concerns similar to those that had effectively got Lecrae cancelled by white evangelicals. Phanatik was a member of the Philadelphia-based Cross Movement, a rap group noted for their scholarly approach to scripture and doctrine. Commenting on Phanatik’s announcement, Lecrae tweeted: “Once upon a time, I thought I was done with Christianity. But the reality was I was just done with the institutional, corporatized, gentrified, politicized, culturally exclusive version of it.”

Lecrae encourages his viewers to read widely and dig deeper, rather than depend on social media soundbites for their information. He proves that deconstruction need not end in unbelief. Instead, it can deepen faith, and lead to a richer understanding of Christian truth. 

“Deconstruction’s not a bad thing as long as you’re not getting rid of Jesus,” he concludes.

The sad thing is that rather than listen to the very valid points Lecrae and other deconstructors make, conservatives have resorted to the old tactic of turning ‘deconstruction’ (like ‘wokeness’ before it) into something to be despised. Sad because as long as that entrenchment continues, they’ll just see more deconstructions happening - especially as America embarks on an election year in which Trump might well make a comeback. Christians need to stop being so scared of the D-word.