It is interesting to me that I have much more "passionate" discussions about faith issues with my friends who, like I, were brought up in very observant Roman Catholic households, than I do with my non-Roman Catholic friends. I hear than Rabbis have lively discussions among themselves about the meanings of the messages in the Jewish sacred scriptures. I wonder if clergy of other religions do the same.
I know that there was much passion around the room in which I facilitated and participated in my first focus group for the Parliament of the World's Religions. I loved the interchanges; however, I feel like they were a bit threatening to some. It was interesting to me that the two people who spoke out with the most animated passion were women reared in Roman Catholicism. Could this be because we have felt so frustrated for so long than we have had no good forum for focusing on our own faiths, rather than that of our fathers?
The woman who came from a Jewish background sat back and listened carefully before sharing her opinions, as did the man who had been educated in the Jesuit Roman Catholic tradition. The one woman who was coming from a strongly Protestant Christian perspective (even though she had been reared by a non-practicing Roman Catholic mother and non-practicing Protestant father), had the most to share about what the many groups in which she feels a sense of community are doing to heal the earth. She was shocked that the group didn't seem to know about the efforts of self-defined Christians following their faith directives under the radar in many secular organizations, such as schools.
It was also interesting to me that the Jesuit trained male did not speak out at all until the group was joined by another male, the host. He was familiar with all but one of the other attendees, but didn't seem to feel comfortable to speak out as the only male. What was that about? He didn't say.
Something else that I saw, which did bother me, was that a side conversation formed between two women interested in what each other had to say, even though they were disregarding what others were saying. Perhaps in my next focus group, we will have what I've heard Native Americans used to keep respectful order in meeting, a Talking Stick, to pass around from one speaker to another. Would the men more freely speak then?
Next time, I will focus better on being simply a facilitator because I won't actively participate. This is, after all, a "listening" project.