I decided to go to my friend's church because it was, according to her, a very simple and authentic church. And she was right. It was basically a shack with some lawn chairs in it. I loved it! I thought all of the decor of the episcopal churches I had been to was a waste of money and all that mattered was the word of God.
And this is where things started to go wrong. Somewhere between my quest for God when I was 12 and when I started attending this church I had developed a decent sense of right and wrong. I was a tree hugger. I was for animal rights, human rights, women's rights, you name it. So when people started telling me what to think and what to say I was taken aback. I don't recall the exact sermons but every time I was called a sinner I could feel something inside being turned off.
But I stuck with it. I went to some Christian rock concerts. This was something of a culture shock for me. I was into techno, industrial, some metal, and some punk when the mood was right. I knew the difference between listening to music that was debasing and music that had a forceful message. Dead Kennedys songs would make a fundamentalist's ears bleed but their songs spoke of oppression, politics, and cynicism in popular culture. So when I attended a youth group meeting that listened to pop music and decided if it was OK for young Christians like myself to listen to I was downright angry. I mean, really, is Wilson Phillips going to corrupt young Christian hearts? (yes, they really had a problem with Wilson Phillips)
The message I was getting was that people are stupid and can't think for themselves. If we don't guide their every move then they might stray from the path and do something that would send them to hell. Well, that's what the Catholic church did a long time ago. Granted, their methods of enforcement were a bit harsh (sarcasm) but the overarching idea was the same.
Well, people aren't stupid. I think they appear to be stupid because they have been raised in that very same environment that treats them that way. Rather than teach people to think for themselves we are raised thinking that we aren't quite good enough to accomplish that. But if that's the case then how did the people telling me what to listen to get so smart? It all goes back to Genesis, we all are able to decide right from wrong, our ancestors "ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil." It's in our genes. Whether you believe it was something we inherited from Adam and Eve or whether you think we evolved the framework for morals out of the need to survive, we all have the ability.
As you can see, I was quickly growing tired of the establishment bringing my Jesus high down. And the last straw came when I went to church one day and they were taking up a special collection to buy wooden pews. The lawn chairs weren't good enough for our asses to worship in and we weren't Amish so the thought of everyone pitching in and making them didn't occur to anyone (it only occurs to me now as I write this). It seems like a silly reason to stop going to church. Perhaps I was looking for an excuse. But I had my standards and I figured it wouldn't end with just pews. (talk about building a church from the ground up!)
My high was over. The buzz was gone. Reality was back. That was the last time I went to church of my own accord, roughly 18 years ago. But I didn't stop believing at that point. I decided that my faith simply didn't need a church, that my "relationship" with God would be strictly personal.