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Lamenting and Learning from Rhett & Link’s Deconversion

Photo of Luke GrayLuke Gray | Bio

Luke Gray

Luke Gray was born and raised in the Philippines as a missionary kid. After studying writing at the University of Kansas, he settled in Asheville, North Carolina, where he lives with his wife and four children. A perpetual learner, Luke is constantly trying new things—remodeling a bathroom, growing a garden, or raising livestock. He runs a small automotive detailing business, which lets him listen to audiobooks while getting paid. His favorite part of life is experiencing God at work around him.

Over the last few days, I’ve become engrossed in the YouTubers Rhett and Link’s spiritual deconstruction narratives. While I can’t claim to have been a fan of their channel, Good Mythical Morning, I’ve been well aware who they are and seen random videos shared online for many years. However, because of their ties to Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru), their stories hit incredibly close to home.

Let me give a brief rundown of how I’m associated, even indebted, to Cru:

  • My father and father-in-law were both careening toward disaster before becoming Christians through Cru’s ministry at the University of Kansas.
  • My father was on staff with Cru for nearly a decade.
  • When my parents got married, my mom worked in the office of Bill Bright, the founder.
  • When I went to the University of Kansas, I lived with other guys who were involved with Cru.
  • After I graduated, I raised support and interned with Cru for a year.
  • Over the last eight years, I have supported a staff family in Cru.

My ties run extremely deep, so this entire story resonates more deeply with me than the Rock Chalk chant in Allen Fieldhouse.

My emotions regarding their stories have run the gauntlet: sadness, regret, discouragement, doubt, frustration, and anger. As I’ve struggled with their hours of explanation and quiet accusation, I’ve gone piecemeal through their journey and their objections.

I’ve matched questions with answers, wrestled with the logic of the situation, and wondered why. I’ve mourned for their families. I’ve listened over and over again. I’ve written thousands of words and pondered hour after hour after hour for over a week now.

For Christians, whenever a notable person leaves Christianity, it’s easy to reduce a complex narrative down to pill size so that we can swallow it.

We say things like, “That person was never really saved,” or to quote Rhett’s paraphrasing of a YouTube commenter, “It’s not that big a deal. They went to Los Angeles, and they lost their faith. It happens” (Rhett’s Spiritual Deconstruction, YouTube 1:07:56).

This is dangerous. It’s superficial and ultimately lacks substance. I want to avoid doing that. To use Rhett’s phrasing, “Don’t reduce me to a theological footnote” (R. S. D., 10:50). That’s a reasonable request, and I want to honor it.

Rather than making this story palatable, I want to examine what we can learn from it.

While we should pray for Rhett and Link, my hope is that we can learn from their experience and teach and train young Christians in a more effective fashion.

There is a notable challenge in doing this. Rhett’s and Link’s stories span decades, and they reduced those decades down to about five hours. Consequently, I don’t know the whole story; I only know a fraction of the story as they relayed it. Going into this endeavor, I want to acknowledge that I’m observing based on this limited perspective. In turn, I will be reducing their story and my response into a few thousand words, which is likewise a tall order.

Over the next five posts, I want to dive into many of the topics that are involved:

  1. Relationship with God
  2. Facts, faith, and feelings
  3. The danger of duplicitous faith
  4. The problem of sin
  5. Kingdom building, ours or God’s

Before I dig into those topics, though, I want to reflect on how stories like these affect Christians. They tend to strike deep and catch us off guard, but what I’ve realized this time is that such “anti-testimonies” (to use Rhett’s phraseology) shouldn’t surprise us, not if we’re paying attention to Jesus’ teaching.

Jesus alluded to the idea that some people would fall away with frequency:

Consider Jesus’ words in Luke 14:25-34, a passage aptly titled “The cost of being a disciple,” in which Jesus cautions against following him without considering the price. Note the way Jesus almost seemed to run off eager recruits by highlighting the idol they cherished most, whether home or wealth or family (Luke 9:57-62, Mark 10:17-27).

The parable of the sheep and goats likewise highlights that not all who profess Christ are known and saved by him (Matthew 25:31-46). Similarly, the parable of the sower highlights four types of soil in which the gospel is planted. In three types of soil, the gospel takes root and grows, but only in one soil does the plant endure unto the harvest (Matthew 13:1-23).

Yes, when someone heralds their departure from Christianity we should listen carefully. We should mourn. We should pray. We should evaluate how to share and teach and admonish better.

However, we should not be surprised. This isn’t new. This isn’t unforeseen or unexpected.

Jesus said,

“Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14).

To see more from Luke, visit his website