Growing up, our family never went to church. By the time I was 16, I think I had MAYBE been to church on a Sunday half a dozen times. The only reason I went those times was because I made the mistake of staying over at a friends house on a Saturday night. So pretty much, I grew up without God, and I think that was downright instrumental in the way my faith would come to evolve. Because I had never been force-fed beliefs as a child, I was able to be completely objective when my crossroads with God came to a head.
That happened mid-July of 1997, at a Young Life camp in Canada called Malibu. In my high school, Young Life was more of a social experience than a religious one. All of my friends went to it every Monday night, and so did I. The group leaders (one being my wrestling coach) were an entertaining bunch, and every time we were together, it felt like a rock concert. It was the end of my junior year, and going to Malibu was just something everyone HAD to do. If our weekly meetings were a rock concert, Malibu was described as Woodstock.
I showed up, and was not let down. Though I’m not extremely well traveled, I have seen some amazing scenery on this earth in my lifetime. That being said, Malibu will always be the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. A four-hour ferry ride north of Vancouver B.C., Malibu was a log cabin paradise tucked inside in oceanside mountain range. Its architecture and expensive boardwalks teamed with its surreal aura made you feel like you were in Never Never Land. I was just waiting to see Tinkerbell tossing out pixie dust.
Not really coming there for God, I was shocked when the gospel hit me so hard. Knowing full well that this would be the biggest decision of my life, I took my time coming to it. But the message was undeniable, and the second to last day I gave my life over to Him. I came home on a high that could not be described. Still adhering to my "go big or go home" philosophy, I immersed myself in my newfound faith. I ate up knowledge and teachings with a ravenous hunger. I simply could not get enough.
That appetite carried over to my freshman year of college. My dorm just happened to have a solid Christian contingency, and I thrived in it. My weeks were riddled with youth groups and Bible studies. One thing that especially piqued my interest was the factual side of defending your faith, called apologetics. Being a scientific/mathematical mind, I never held a blind faith, and apologetics became my niche. I wanted to be able to argue religion with the best of them, and still remain adamant in my faith. I learned a lot, and to this day know exactly why I believe what I do. Life was great, but then I started to notice things.
Being a part of the wrestling team, I had many "non-Christian" friends that I spent time with. As the year wore on, I started to catch flack from people at church for not spending enough time with people of faith. I was appalled. I know the whole idea of "surrounding your self with a cloud of witnesses," to strengthen your faith, but I also recognized the Evangelical side of my faith. The whole idea of preaching to the choir simply did not appeal to me. I also found myself becoming disenfranchised with the church in general, because it seemed like every time I showed up, someone was trying to tell me where I stood with God. So after that, I sort of set out on my own for a while to to reassess my faith. I decided I needed to become more educated on religion in general to better understand what I truly wanted. Having done that, I came to a new outlook.
I have come to the conclusion that organized religion is not for me. Faith is. I have done enough research into the sects of the Christian religion to come to the realization that all "religions" are completely jaded. Some of the principles they have "derived" from the Bible were actually rooted in greed, politics, and overall self-preservation. People forget the history of the religions they have chosen, and how long ago they were some of the most corrupt businesses in history. If you get a chance, try looking up the real reason the Catholic Church made the priesthood celibate in the early days, and you will find it was nothing about spirituality but real estate and greed. Also maybe look into the Church’s silent consent of the slave trade, and platform of noninvolvement during the Holocaust. Pretty disturbing.
But history is not my main reason for abandoning organized religion as a whole. As I stated before, it was having my faith judged by members of the church. There was a saying I heard a long time ago that said "don’t point out the speck in my eye, when you have a plank in yours," basically saying who are you to judge me? It was really frustrating to have these hypocrites try to tell me where I stood in my faith, when they really had no idea where I was with Him. My relationship with God is mine, and mine alone. Only HE will judge me, no one else. I will continue on my path with Him, and be judged at the gates if need be and only then.
My faith is mine alone, and I’m content with what it has evolved into.