I probably wouldn’t have deconstructed my faith if it wasn’t for YouTube. On the other hand, I don’t know if I would still be a Christian today if it weren’t for podcasts.
Growing up as an only child and experiencing tremendous suffering, I dove into my faith early looking for answers, meaning, and anything that could help me make sense of what I was experiencing.
I would come home after the final school bell rang and instead of hanging out with friends or doing homework, I would spend hours in my room watching YouTube videos of pastors, teachers, scholars, and scientists talking about the things I was wrestling with in my faith (this explains why I was terrible at school). I wanted answers and I knew someone had to have them.
One night I stumbled upon one of the original deconversion stories on YouTube. It was a series of twelve videos that chronicled the systematic deconstruction of someone’s faith from Christianity to atheism. At the time, it was more than my brittle faith could stand. My house of faith collapsed and I began a long journey through deconstruction.
My deconstruction was spurred along by many podcasts including, as I’ve written before, The Liturgists. I watched countless hours of talks from Pete Rollins, Rob Bell, Richard Rohr, and many more. I all but dropped out of my youth group and replaced my pastors with podcasters. I stopped trusting those who knew me in real life—my struggles, my propensities, my sorrows—and only trusted those who delivered spiritual goods to me in the form of .mp3s and .wav files.
Soon, however, the exact opposite path also took place. I knew my faith couldn’t be built solely on the critique of what is wrong with Christianity, but had to be built on the good, the true, and the beautiful. For all that might be good in regards to mystery and mysticism, I needed a sure and firm foundation to anchor my soul. I needed a real, bodily resurrection. I slowly but surely changed my media diet to include less The Liturgists and more Bible Project, less Rob Bell and more John Mark Comer, less Richard Rohr and more NT Wright. I realized that there was much of the Christian tradition I missed because I jumped straight from the fundamentalist environment I was raised in to the progressive side that has no use for institutions and sacred texts. My eyes were being opened—through media—to a way of being Christian that I never knew was possible.
This new media diet of mine made me hungry for more. The church I was attending, progressive and therapeutic, had no resources available for those wanting to grow in their faith. I had to enroll in a theological training program at a different church that was an hour-long drive from my house in order to begin a theological journey that would change my life. Ultimately, my faith would be rebuilt stronger than before and I now find myself a member of a local church.
It was media that took me out of the church and media that sent me back to the church.
It was media that undermined my faith and media that helped rebuild my faith.
It is impossible to understate—for better and for worse—the role of digital content in my faith.
Devices of Deconstruction
All of this was before “deconstruction” was part of the mainstream conversation in the church that it is today. Much of it was before most people even had an iPhone. In many ways, my story was a precursor for much of the way that tech and faith interplay with each other today.
Now, I make digital content for Christians full-time. I am on the other side of the screen from where I was all those years ago, partly because I know full well the power of media for discipleship. Our media diets have the power to form our faith and deform our faith. And the algorithms that feed us our content diet aren’t neutral. They know exactly what questions we’re asking, what life stage we’re in, what fears we have, where we live, and who on the internet is speaking to those things.