I grew up in Alabama, so it's no surprise that I grew up in church. I was saved, or baptized, at a young age. I grew up going to church camp, going on mission trips and participating in church activities, such as Thanksgiving lunches and Christmas plays.
As I grew up, I became interested in politics. I began watching public officials, most of whom claim they are Christians, build their platforms by turning down the rights of those in the LGBTQ community, helping the rich get richer, saying Christianity is the only correct religion and wanting to take away healthcare from those who cannot afford it.
The more I noticed these public officials saying things like this, the more I noticed that people who went to church agreed with them. This upset me.
What I was taught about Christianity was that God accepts everyone — no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, social status or economic status. He accepts all.
What I was hearing from churchgoers and those who claimed to be Christians was the exact opposite.
I faced an internal conflict, deciding whether or not I wanted to go to church anymore, much less be a Christian. I didn't want to be labeled as someone who does not accept people for who they are. That's not the person I am.
I didn't want people to think that, if they're in the LGBTQ community, I thought they were going to Hell. I didn't want people to think that, if someone was poor, I thought they did something in life to cause that. I didn't want those of other faiths to think their religion was not valid. I didn't want people who were physically or mentally sick to think I didn't want them to receive help.
So for the past few years, whenever someone asked me if I believed in God, I told them yes, but that I didn't believe in organized religion.
It may come as a shock to some Southerners when I say you don't have to actively be in a church to believe in God. My dad always taught me that you have to sometimes separate God from church. I never fully understood what that meant until I was in that situation.
According to pewforum.org, 66 percent of college graduates surveyed consider themselves Christians, and 25 percent said they do not have a religious affiliation.
I've seen people ask why young adults are straying away from Christianity, and in my opinion, it has to do with the lack of acceptance in the church.
I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state. I believe that in church, you can be taught to love someone no matter who they are and what their situation is. I believe that you can hold your own political morals.
What I don't believe in is using God's name to justify hate toward a certain group of people. And that, in my opinion, is what is giving Christianity a bad name.