I grew up in a non-Christian household, thank goodness. However, in my early school years (K-6), I was given the opportunity to go to private school. It happened to be Episcopal. Since no one on my mother's side of the family had a religious bone in their body, I can only assume I went there because it was a good school and no one thought it would do me any harm.
Every morning before class started the entire school would head to church for 45 minutes, with a Mass on Thursdays which included confession and communion, confirmations, etc. Then, off to classes and home at the end of the day. The church was beautiful -- stained glass windows and all of the bells and whistles one would expect to see. I don't ever remember us reading bible passages, although I am sure we must have. There were bibles in the pews.
Although my school mates would tease me, I could never bring myself to go to confession. Even at that early age I could not understand how if god knew all and saw all, why would I have to confess my sins? Really, how many sins can a 11-year-old have? I did not understand what sin was anyway, and I sure was not going to tell the Pastor who was also a teacher in the school that I lied or that I had a crush on a boy. God knew, why did he have to know too? After sixth grade I moved to public school, because it was less expensive. The only thing different was that I had received a better education so I was ahead of the rest of the 7-8th graders academically.
Occasionally I would be visiting relatives and would be dragged off to some church or another on Sundays -- Catholic, Baptist, Episcopal -- by people that otherwise never went to church or read bibles. Even before the age of 17 I always felt it was hypocritical to go to church on Easter or Christmas when all the rest of the year god was ignored.
I lived my life just the way I wanted. God was not in the picture; I never referred to god, never prayed, referred to nature's will rather than gods will, never really associated or spoke with folks that were bible-thumpers... There was no need to do so.
Fast forward to age 43.
I met a man who I fell in love with, and although he was not religious, he believed in god, read his bible daily, and searched for the truth. His bible was full of notes written in the margins and underlined in red. I still have it as it is the only piece of him I still have left. I wanted to know what he knew. He explained god to me so differently than anything I had ever heard and explained bible passages to me in a very clear way. I finally convinced him to take me to his church.
I was welcomed immediately, it took me a few months, but I finally found out that this was a Pentecostal based church. I loved hearing the messages the they taught, loved the excitement of the holy spirit touching everyone, and the fellowshipping with others. This was a small intimate church with no more than 20 people, it was 75 miles away, and I went twice a week for bible study and church for three years. I really got into studying the bible and letting the bible interpret it's own meaning. I was starting to believe in god. As time went on, I found out that we had sister churches in the area but due to disagreements in various doctrines, there was much separation between them all. This left me with an uneasy feeling. After all, if we are a church based on the biblical principals, then how could that happen? None the less I continued to go because I wanted to understand god and the great plan for mankind.
What I was taught the most was to "study to show yourself approved." The more I studied, the less I liked about everything and the more contradictions I could find. While our Pastor and another dear friend in the church were more than willing to answer every question I had, they were only able to answer them using bible verses and their own knowledge. I was always unsure and did not have the faith that those around me had answers (and I suspect that they knew that and never let on), but I understood what I read very well (or at least to their expectations). I tried hard to convert others to this message -- my family and friends -- only to be cut off from them. I was on my way to becoming a good Christian.
One day while studying/reading, I was discussing with my boyfriend my biblical education which my mentor in church was giving me. He was furious with me because I did not understand it the way he did, and he beat the crap out of me. I knew then that I would never be a good Christian (or a bad one, for that matter). Although the church members told it just was god answering my prayers, I know it was nature taking her course.
A few weeks later I told my mentor in church that because of all the "studying to show myself approved" I found that I no longer believed the bible was the true word of god. I have not heard from her or any members of the church since.
Damm, they almost got me hooked.
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