I've been meaning to enter into this discussion for the past two months, but the pressure of work and other commitments has prevented me from doing so. Letting go, becoming free of old clichés, striving to be a deeper more realistic person who makes conscious choices to be so - I suppose that is what this discussion is all about.
Like Linda, I am a product of Catholic education - from kindergarten through college and university. Unlike Linda, my experience was generally positive - albeit with some painful instances of intolerance and, for lack of a better term, bigotry. Those experiences of intolerance and bigotry scarred me deeply, but they also challenged me to be more authentic in the way I tried to live my life as a Catholic believer.
A wise teacher, many years ago, used to tell us who were studying theology with him - that you have to draw a line between what is authentic religious experience and the expectations of the institutional church. But the rub is that if an individual seeks for authentic religious experience - something based upon more than simply following the rules and regulations of the institution - you have to come to terms with the institution for the simple reason that authentic religious experience is never merely a personal experience. It is an experience of God, the Prime Mover, the First Cause (or whatever words you may want to use) that is based upon the experience of other believers who have witnessed by their lives and personal authenticity, that God lives in our midst. In other words, a religious experience that is merely personal has no meaning beyond the individual who has the experience. A religious experience that is shared with others is something that is, in a philosophical sense, observable and verifiable by the experience of others. In the western world this sense of community - of common wisdom - is something that we have lost. The reasons we have lost this sense of community and common wisdom is due to a lot of causes - and chief among them, it seems to me, are the very institutions that tell us they are preserving a particular religious tradition.
Solveig's reflections struck a chord in me. Her comments on devotional practices reflects, for me, precisely what I am speaking about. Our understanding of sexuality - whether male or female - is based upon the centuries of baggage that our cultures and religious traditions have carried with them. One hundred years ago, women could not even vote in elections in most of the "advanced" societies of the western world. As societies reflected upon their corporate experience of history - whether religious or civil - it finally dawned on the majority of people that this exclusion of half of the human race from the political process could not be justified by any appeal to either our civil or religious history. The events of history told people that maintaining the status quo was justified, but the deeper common experience of justice and the fundamental equality between men and women led societies to finally reject an ancient and dearly held principle that had to be set aside in order to be authentically just and equitable. This would not have happened without the experience of injustice - we know the good most of the time because we have experienced the bad.
That is "letting go" is far more radical and authentic than merely rejecting either our (western) philosophical or religious heritage. I suspect that our feelings toward the institutional church are shaped in much the same way. We know how the church can go bad - that is, have ill effects on the people it is meant serve. But that does not negate what it stands for ultimately. The institutional church is a human reality - and thus has the potential and the expectation that it will change. Being a human institution, it is characterized by the same flawed humanity that we see all too often in civil society. Being a human institution, the potential for change and redemption are possible to the extent that its adherents are honest and really seek what is just and true. Barring this honesty and thirst for justice - individuals can and must call the institution to task for its shortcomings.
I believe that is not only possible, I see it every day in the lives of those with whom I live and those I am honored to serve.
P.S. I don't know what I did - but this ended up going someplace else other than where I had intended to send it. Ah well, I guess I still have a lot to learn about THINQon!