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"I just realized I couldn't be part of organized religion..."

When I was in high school, around 16-17 years old, my group of friends and I who had already been in youth groups together started attending a Christian mega-church at the suggestion of a girl I now know to be absolutely nutty. They had a worship band with crazy light shows, huge auditorium-style seating, the works. They also had fun social events and a theatre group, which I really enjoyed. It was a good time until we started attending the church's "highly encouraged" youth groups and they began encouraging people to "absorb the holy spirit" and speak in tongues, which I was never able to buy into or wrap my head around.

One night at youth group, we began to share details about our families and personal lives. I shared with the group (which was small, maybe 10 other girls, four of which were some of my closest friends), the hardships my family went through when my older brother was diagnosed with and treated for bone cancer a few years before. He was in remission at the time, but it was still a sore subject as it had seriously messed with my head seeing my brother in so much pain. I've had a long history of depression and medication as well. I shared this with the encouragement (and pressure) of the group leader and the genuine, loving support of my friends. As talking about it often does help, I figured it couldn't hurt. The room was quiet for a second after I finished speaking, and the youth group leader finally placed a hand on my shoulder and said, "What a shame you and your family weren't members of the church back then. We could have laid hands on him and prayed for his recovery to be quicker through God."

I was in absolute shock. Like, completely dumbfounded. Then she closed her eyes for a second and said, "The Lord wants you to know he hurts for you that you think you need medication to be better. He is your medicine." I would've walked out and left right then, but my friends and I drove together. I never went back to any church again, though a few friends did and it did cause some tension in our friend group. I just realized I couldn't be a part of organized religion, especially one that allowed this kind of toxicity, especially from adults who work with teens.

A few months later, I spoke with one of my guy friends who had been going to church with us as well and had recently stopped going. I asked him what happened and he had a similar story. Poor guy has Type I Diabetes and they pressured him to come up in front of the entire church during a Sunday service, put a "healing blanket" over his stomach, and started speaking in tongues/praying over his pancreas. They told him he should be cured within a few days. Of course, he wasn't. He was so ashamed and embarrassed, but when I told him what happened to me, I think we both felt a lot better about our decisions to leave.

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