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When I was 15, I attended a church camp in the summer. This was not your usual church. It was named The Center for Spiritual Living, which meant that they accepted almost anything that was positive for them in terms of religious belief. However, it was with a heavy lean towards Christianity, with a dash of various religious practices.

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Anyways, I was a part of the teen group there for obvious reasons. Though most teens there were at least somewhat spiritual, I think what was mostly on their minds was finding their next girlfriend or boyfriend. It was no different for me. I had my first kiss at 11 years old at that church camp with a stunning girl of Russian descent, and even had a make-believe marriage with her.

But going back on track, the church camp was a 5-day affair that had a dance, talent show, a sports tournament, hikes, salmon bake, and much more. Another big thing that was happening was the election for the teen leader for the church. For some odd reason, I thought I should enter the election. Maybe it was because some of my peers prompted me to do so, or that I believed I was a leader (I had a tarot card reading at the camp years before that pointed to me being a leader, so maybe that pushed me in that direction). I entered the election with little preparation and even littler thought about what the position meant. Maybe I wanted to prove to myself that I could win—sounds like something a younger twin brother would do.

So, when the election came around, there was this one candidate that annoyed me. I thought we were friends, but he would come to me with sweets and other things to try to bribe me out of the election. He was a rich kid who could afford all this stuff, while I was a middle-class kid who barely ever thought of buying something. I did not take the bribes and was aghast that he would do something corrupt for such a insignificant election.

When the election speeches rolled out, I spoke about Buddha being my idol and how I would lead the youth members with him in mind. In retrospect, it sounds highfalutin, but I guess it worked, because they elected me to lead the youth congregation. I was ecstatic, though I tried my best to hide it. In fact, a few days after I was elected, reality came crashing in my head, and I tried to come to grips with what had happened. I wanted to prove to myself that I could win, but now that I had won, I did not know if I could handle the responsibility. I think I liked being “in charge” but not the weight that goes with it.

But onto a more important point, can you imagine I got bribed during a church youth leader election? Not only was it for a church, but for such a minor position, that is difficult to grasp why someone would go through that trouble. This situation proved to me that within politics, even from its lowest denomination, corruption is present. In fact, a month after being the leader of the youth congregation, I quit due to being disgusted with the amount of money trying to be raised for “important” purposes, having a huge donation banner on the left side of the church hall. I became disillusioned with churches in general, and meditated instead, finding God within me.

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