If I were seeking to find out about God, I'd look at Christianity first. I'd move slowly and take my time to think about what I was seeking and where I might find it.
I would begin with the Bible but not think I needed to read it from beginning to end. I'd look at the first pages of the first book in the Old Testament, Genesis, and read the first couple of chapters or so. In my notebook, I'd record questions and thoughts about this account of how God made the world. How has this idea of God creating influenced history, philosophy and current events. Why does this story have to be a literal one or do I feel somehow that it is literal and I just never considered this before now?
I'd go to the gospel of John. "Gospel" means "good news". John is in the New Testament, go to the back of the Bible. Look for John in the "Matthew, Mark, Luke" area. I'd begin reading it with a desire to see the story with as few filters as possible. Not an easy task for anyone who has grown up in a christian influenced culture or environment. What is John trying to say and why? Who does John say Jesus is? What does John tell me about Jesus?
I might, in my early days of looking for God, not go to a church unless I felt comfortable. I'd want to have some information about the church under my belt and not want to be thinking I'd master God by going to church. However, if I had a friend I trusted who I could see was practicing her or his faith, I might go to worship with the understanding I was searching not finding at this point.
I'd be wary of churches whose main interest in me was getting money. Or making me say that I was "saved" until they explained, in language which made sense to me, what "saved" meant. If they handed me little folded papers with pictures and the words, "4 spiritual laws", I'd run. If they told me I was going to hell until I believed, I would run. And, if they tried to make me be like them in the first few weeks, I'd run. Honest search has integrity. I wouldn't let anyone take that from me.
I'd like to be told that no one is a finished Christian but that all are practicing. I can't stand arrogance in any situation so finding it in the faith sphere angers me. Doctors practice, lawyers practice, Christians practice. I want the journey to count for something (it does in every other area of my life) not just the final destination.
And do not try to scare me with threats of hell. Good grief! I live in a terrifying world of terrorists, politicians who care nothing for me, drug companies who do not tell the truth but push their merchandise and public schools with gun problems. I don't need any more fear. I'm not reading the "Left Behind" series to get myself to God, either.
I'd be looking for a love that won't let me go that loves beyond any love I can even understand and a faith which I can immerse myself into my entire life. I don't want a faith I can master the way I mastered algebra or driving a car. When I'm 70, I want to be asking questions and pushing the envelope with God.
Help me think this along, folks, I've been on this road so long that I've almost forgotten my own beginnings. I talk with people about faith 'bout everyday and I'd like to do right by them.
The church hasn't hurt me by theologically abusing me or teaching me stuff that ruined my life. I'm grateful for this. The hurt I've experienced with church has been the ignorance of those who think I'm missing the most important appendage needed to serve God. Even this prejudice didn't turn me away from God. Church isn't the end-all, it's the way for us all to be together on this journey but it isn't a substitute for God. I love the Church even if some church people creep me out. But hey! I'm not looking for the church to be perfect. If you are looking for this, you are setting yourself up for great pain. Church is composed of people who are as flawed as anywhere else in society, sometimes worse. As the LH says, it's good for these flawed people to be in church because it "keeps them off the streets".