Dear Melissa Corrigan,
I enjoyed reading your essay. First, thank you for your service. I have two sons who served, one still serving, retiring this year. Something south of 3% of Americans are involved and have true appreciation for the Military.
Back to your essay, and thanks for being a person who likes conversation - a rare commodity these days. I have written nearly 400 essays, probably 350 about God, Jesus, and the Bible, trying to correct misunderstandings which sometimes are decades and centuries old. I have found there are a lot of language barriers. For example, Greek and Hebrew words sometimes don't translate easily into one English word but need a phrasing instead. Even though there was similar intent of the KJV Bible's English translation during the 1600's, its manner of speaking is not the common vernacular of today... but I digress...
I have found that people understand "faith" to be synonymous with "religion." "Faith" needs to be understood more as a verb than as a noun - as in "faithfulness." Religion is static, impersonal, and legalistic. Faith is impactful, personal, and amiable.
What Jesus' life and teaching is supposed to do is to move individuals' purposes and actions to align with God's purposes and actions. Maybe you have read articles on the topic "Relationship not Religion." Not endorsing in the blind anyone's essays, but my point is making the distinct difference between a set of rules and meat and potatoes living.
To one of your points, The Good News Translation has this warning said by Jesus, in Matthew 7:24, "Then I will say to them, 'I never knew you. Get away from me, you wicked people!'" and this, from the apostle Paul in the New King James Version, 2 Thessalonians 2:3, "Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first..." This latter might relate to your experience and point regarding Churchy hypocrisy.
When I left my parents Presbyterian Church, it was mostly from adolescent rebellion, but I find most Denominational Churches as being dead and useless to our living and to the Biblical idea of Jesus' discipleship.