Featured Reviews

Angela Herrington – Deconstructing Your Faith Without Losing Yourself [Review]

Deconstructing Your FaithAn Empathetic Guide

A Feature Review of

Deconstructing Your Faith Without Losing Yourself
Angela J. Herrington

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2024
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Reviewed by Gil Stafford

Nearly four decades ago, I began the long process of deconstructing my faith. My goal was to boil down everything I believe into one word. It was a lonely feeling and it would have been nice to have someone like Angela Herrington around to help. Her book, Deconstructing Your Faith without Losing Yourself is not an operation manual for walking away from toxic religion. It’s a toolkit in which she teaches us how to love ourselves on the way to embracing a spiritually of our own choosing. Personally, as a spiritual companion (what Herrington calls a coach) to many who have left the church, this is one of the few books I can recommend on this topic. 

When reviewing books, I have the bad habit of reading the last chapter first. The practice helps my mind relax (or not) when I can know where the author is taking me. In the final pages, Herrington’s personal story of the labyrinth had me in tears. She spoke the truth of the serpentine path of faith deconstruction. Fair warning, she leaves the door open to deconstruct not only the church, but God, the Bible, and the self. Fortunately, over the course of the book, Herrington takes on her familiar role as our coach, mentor, and guide through the wilderness of deconstruction. She doesn’t provide an easy step-by-step recipe. Instead, she supports our own work of asking open-ended questions while at the same time being tender with our soul. 

Deconstruction is a “spiritual awakening.” And while it might feel like we’re walking alone in the “wilderness,” our guide assures us that we are part of an “equitable community” who are also exploring their faith. To assure us, Herrington shares stories of those she has traveled with on their journey through this most difficult process.

Herrington is straightforward and at the same time, encouraging. “True deconstruction should be unpredictable because you are exploring and questioning without trying to control the outcome.” Of course there’s a downside to this process; deconstruction lasts a lifetime. I especially appreciated her warning against the temptation of reconstruction.

This book is honest about the pain suffered from abusive toxic religions. The trauma is real and requires professional attention. Spiritual coaches can be extremely helpful, particularly if their work is done alongside a therapist. One without the other might not be enough to heal the deep wounds inflicted by institutionalized religion.

In conjunction with that thought, Herrington confronts cis, white, straight, evangelical males with their inherent (conscious or otherwise) complicity with the historic toxic state of religion. It’s very easy to say, “well, I’m not prejudiced against”…fill in the blank. However, there is psychological evidence that strongly held bias against another group is epigenetic. Anyone that has served as a part of the leadership of such a faith tradition, needs not only a coach but a therapist to help them unpack generations of bad behavior. I can speak from my own experience. 

With the help of professional guides, I have finally chiseled my faith down to one word: love. And I practice that one word by loving God (who I call the Source), loving my neighbor as I love myself, and loving my enemies. Love has taken me to feed the hungry, clothe the homeless, visit the sick and those in prison, and to embrace the immigrants in our country, legal or otherwise. I’m sure that sounds familiar. But that’s just me. You’ll have to find your own word and your own spiritual practices. And Angela Herrington’s book is an excellent place to start.

Gil Stafford

Gil Stafford is an Episcopal priest and retired Canon Theologian. He is the former president of Grand Canyon University. And is the author of four books: Meditations on Blue Jesus; Walking with the Spiritual but not Religious; Wisdom Walking; and When Leadership and Spiritual Direction Meet.

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