Paul Swearengin, 56, who goes by Pastor Paul on TikTok, said he doesn’t consider himself necessarily a deconstructionist, but he’s been roped into the fold.
On the Wednesday after the presidential election in November 2020, Swearengin, a former evangelical pastor and lifelong Republican (his wife is a former Republican mayor of Fresno, California), made a video titled, “Why as a Christian I cannot vote for Donald Trump.”
“When I checked my TikTok account the next morning, I told my wife — I think something’s wrong,” Swearengin said. “I didn’t realize I had gone viral.”
Swearengin, who has a podcast called the Non-Partisan Evangelical, said his children had introduced him to TikTok, which he thought was mostly funny dance videos. But it ended up surprising him.
“I found this group of people who were struggling with the truth that their faith didn’t make sense anymore, but they still wanted to have faith,” said Swearengin, who left the pulpit on January 1, 2019.
“I was done with pastoring. And, honestly, done with Christian people altogether,” Swearengin said. But he felt a call to keep talking to the next generation, and that’s part of what’s drawn him to TikTok.
Swearengin’s account projects enlightened pastor energy. His earnest, direct videos discuss which of the Ten Commandments Christians must obey, whether there’s a hell, and what makes a truly Christian movie.
“Some deconstructionists are atheists who are like ‘screw it,’” he said, “and some find the story of Christ still draws their heart. They ask, ‘Can I be a deconstructing Christian and still a follower of Christ?’”
Swearengin’s simple message to the deconstruction community — or anyone who finds his videos — is emblazoned on his profile page: “God is not a Republican and God is not mad at you!”