The Green Bay Packers might have lost the spotlight to the 49ers when San Francisco beat them on January 19 to advance to Super Bowl LIV. But it was not long before the spotlight made its way back to Green Bay’s quarterback Aaron Rodgers, regarding his comments upon losing his religion. In an episode on girlfriend Danica Patrick’s “Pretty Intense” podcast, Rodgers explained that, although he had been raised in a Christian home and had embraced Christianity in high school, he had since abandoned the faith.
The objections he mentioned aren’t new. For example, he has come to view religion as a “crutch,” and he finds it unthinkable that a loving God could send a large portion of His creation to hell.
“It’s been a fun path into a different type of spirituality which to me has been more meaningful,” he says, explaining the questions which drove him beyond Christianity during his college years.
This high-profile deconversion story can feed into various narratives.
For example, in the interview, Danica Patrick herself attempted to fit his experience into the common “spiritual, not religious” category. Other news outlets have fit his deconversion into the narrative of the apparently ongoing rift Rodgers has with his family.
How should Christians view his story?
For one thing, Christians can rightly use Rodgers’s story to illustrate the need for Christian apologetics and campus ministry. The transition to college can be difficult on a person’s faith, especially when someone is wrestling with tough questions but getting no good answers.
However, when handling stories such as these, we Christians ought to be reminded that, while we have good reason to offer suggestions (such as promoting campus ministry), we do not have good reason to assign blame.
It’s easy to want to assign blame. When we respond by finger pointing, we can deflect the spotlight away into areas which are more comfortable to think about. Let me explain. It’s not all that uncomfortable if I can read a deconversion story and respond, “Oh, well, perhaps it was too legalistic an upbringing.”
Or, if I can respond by saying, “Well, maybe if the church had done a better job teaching apologetics, the person never would have walked away.”
Or, if I respond with, “If the Christians in his life had welcomed tough questions, instead of shutting them down, he probably would have stayed a Christian.”
Is it possible that factors such as these could play a role in someone’s deconversion? Absolutely. But we usually don’t have enough information to make that call.
But there’s an even more important reason why we should resist responding to each deconversion story by pointing fingers at family, church, or youth group.
Here’s the main reason we shouldn’t respond to deconversion stories by resorting to blame: The assumption behind our finger pointing is that, if the person had only been exposed to the real thing (i.e., true Christianity, intellectually defensible faith, etc.), then the person would have responded differently.
In other words, the person never would have rejected Jesus if the person truly experienced the person of Jesus and knew what He really taught.
To that assumption, I offer this Bible verse as a single-sentence rebuttal:
“As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore” (John 6:66).
The “this” that the verse is talking about is a very uncomfortable sermon Jesus preached in John 6. Most stories are outlined based on a conflict and resolution. John 6, however, gives a resolution and ends with a conflict.
The resolution is that 5,000 hungry people are fed by Jesus. As you can imagine, the “feeding of the 5,000” meant thousands of instant fans. The conflict that follows is that Jesus preaches a sermon to the same crowd which is so uncomfortable that the crowd is transformed from thousands of fans into a confused remnant.
Jesus turns to the remaining twelve and asks with melancholy, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” (John 6:67).
The point is that there are going to be things that Jesus taught which simply cannot be made attractive for some people, no matter how much apologetics reasoning is given. For example, Aaron Rodgers cannot resonate with the biblical “binary” of saved and unsaved. He finds the idea of God’s wrath toward the unrepentant unthinkable.
You choose either to stake yourself to historic Christianity or slide into a vague spirituality crafted to suit your sensibilities.
Does he need to hear some solid Christian apologetics? Of course. But, even if he sits down with a Ravi Zacharias or a William Lane Craig and gets all his questions answered well, he will still find things about Jesus which don’t play at all well with his Western, progressive worldview.
You choose either to stake yourself to historic Christianity or to slide into a vague spirituality crafted to suit your sensibilities.
He will have to make a choice. And it’s the same choice we all have to make.