To start off, I was always pushed to go to church. I would get bribed that if I went I'd get Dairy Queen, which was an offer I couldn't refuse. So, I'd go to the church I went to for ten years, a Pentecostal church. No, I didn't take on the lifestyle. I wore jeans after church and got to cut my hair whenever, haha. I would wear dresses to church though.
At first, church was fun. I got to go to Sunday School and do arts and crafts. In the summer, I went to VBS (Vacation Bible School). I loved singing for the church and I was even in the Christmas play. I had my church friends and it was just nice until I started growing up and seeing other things. The elderly women were gossiping and judging other women, like normal women. The Sunday school teacher told my oldest sister that wearing pants was a sin along with wearing the color black. There was a rumor that the preacher used the offering money to buy a limousine. With that limousine, he told everyone that whoever puts at least five dollars in the offering plate will have their name drawn to take a ride in his fancy new limo. The preacher also wouldn't preach at my great-grandmother's funeral, which was odd. We left that church.
We took a break from church.
My grandparents found a new church and we were excited and ready, but the church didn't feel right. Do you know what I mean? It felt off. Yes, I know the true meaning of Christianity is to worship the Lord and savior. But a church is a house of worship and should feel like another home. You should feel comfortable and free from the negativity of the outside world.
When I was 14, there was a new church being assembled. They didn't have a building and, honestly, I liked that. They used a local restaurant for Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. They used their own home on Sunday nights. Their motto was "Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness." Their main goal was to help the youth find God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. It was a nice church with nice people (or so I thought). I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the feelings I'd get from the sermons. I enjoyed the music. I enjoyed the people.
Until they got their own building.
The sermons changed. The preacher changed. The feelings changed. And, the people changed.
My mom was really sick with cancer and passed away. Her funeral cost was about $8,000. We didn't have the money, obviously. So, I wrote a message to the preacher's wife. I asked if they can help us by doing an offering. She said she didn't know because they needed the next offerings to go to a new air conditioner.
An air conditioner.
Over a family of seven who just lost a Christian woman.
A freaking AIR CONDITIONER.
I told her I understood, which I was angry and struggling with my faith because, first of all, why would God take my mom? And why would he have a church choose a machine over a struggling family?
I asked her if we could do a yard sale at their church to raise money.
The answer was no.
I was irritated and filled with rage and disappointment.
I kept going to the same church and watched as everything changed.
Until someone else's mother was sick with cancer.
Believe it or not, there was an offering for that boy's mother. The boy was popular among the teens, so his family got an offering.
I remember sitting in the pew, arms folded tight against my chest. Angry tears were filling my eyes.
I stopped going to that church.
The next church was with my boyfriend at the time. It was a family church with his uncle as the preacher and his family in the front row. It seemed like a nice church, but as I've witnessed, each church follows a pattern of greed. This time, it wasn't the preacher. It wasn't his family. It was a bitter woman who ran her mouth and had the rest of the church turn against the preacher and his family. It was crazy. I really liked the church, but the day came. There was a plan. The preacher, my boyfriend's uncle, had a speech about how he was just done with the nonsense and the drama. He used Bible versus to support his goodbye speech and let the church members know that they were a true disappointment to God. Because "thou shall not judge lest he be judged." We stood and left the church. Never came back. The facial expressions left on the church members' faces were priceless.
I went to several churches after that. Churches where the preacher would whine and cry and I just felt so uncomfortable. Churches that just spoke about the end. Churches that wanted money to go on free vacations. Churches where the members would get baptized over and over because they kept making mistakes. Even churches where they WANTED you to text.
I took a break from church.
I was tired of the judgment, the greedy, the sermons that only spoke of the end, the constant wanting. People needing prayers for just going to the grocery store.
The internet doesn't make how I feel any easier.
With social media, there is an overwhelming desire from others to throw religion down your throat. A lot of "You're going to Hell." A lot of judgment. Oh, and let's not forget the constant need for money to go on those free vacations when there are people who really need money to just survive.
Is God real? Why are all the churches I go to filled with so many flaws?
God took my mom when we all needed her most. He took her when she had six kids, two of those kids were only three years old.
God sent me through so many tribulations where I just wanted to die. Yes, I am in a better place in my life, but it's because I did it alone with help from loved ones. All the prayers I prayed were scientific. But the prayer that I prayed the most. Begged the most. Was never answered. You can tell me she's in a better place; that's the only reason why I want to believe. You can tell me he had a plan. You can tell me he did it for a reason. I heard it all before.
Church never helped my problems. Imperfect people judging and preaching at other imperfect people never made me feel free of sin and happy to be alive. It made me depressed and angry that no matter what we're doomed of something. Whether a life of struggle or a death of struggle.
So, let me ask you, what should I believe and why? Why do you believe what you believe?