Let’s presume we accept the idea that most religious traditions are trying to uphold something which is quite beautiful, inspiring and potentially truly transformative. Certainly as I pause and think of most major religions and most Christian denominations I can think of particular examples of people who are genuinely beacons of light. And the people I am thinking of would all say unequivocally that their practice of faith and prayer had been instrumental in making them the people that they are.
Let’s presume we also accept that most religious traditions have a shadow side. In most major religions and in most Christian traditions I can think of people who have been profoundly wounded by institutional religion. And likewise the people I am thinking of will all say unequivocally that it was the church that caused the problem.
And I know that this is why many end up choosing the ‘spiritual but not religious’ route.
But what if take seriously the possibility of a shadow side of the institution. What if those of us who have chosen to remain also choose to acknowledge the shadow. What if we open ourselves to the possibility of working with the shadow in the institution. In the same way that any committed relationship will require work with shadow material.
I guess part of the reason we haven’t so far, is that I have to be open to dealing with my own shadow material. If we use the analogy of committed relationship – the shadow material I really have to confront is my own. Maybe far to many of us who persist in institutional religion are there because it promises an escape from work we’d rather not do.
Ken Wilber talks about the ‘cleaning up’ aspect of spirituality – by this he means the psychological work of facing the shadow. I hope we can begin this work in our churches. So that the beauty which is there can once again be brought to the light.