Religion in the Public Sphere in America: a Moderated Discussion

Dayton Christian Jewish Dialogue, December 11, 2005

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I present here some thoughts to set the stage for our discussion and a Reflection /Action Process for guiding our sharing. The process centers on the three actions of Observe / Judge / Act. I hope these musings provide a simple jump start for our discussion.

Looking forward to being with you!

Victor Forlani, SM


The OJA process is intended for groups working collectively, rather than for single individuals. The collaborative method allows for a richer reflection, a deeper analysis, and a more creative search for areas of agreement and, perhaps, effective action. The process of observe, judge, and act has proved to be an excellent means for groups to analyze a situation after sharing their personal views and feelings about it. The session may provide an opportunity to see how our different religious traditions are useful for mulling over important issues. The process encourages us to go beyond the interpersonal level and to think systemically in order to make a proper diagnosis of the social problem


I propose that we follow the Reflection /Action Process format as follows:

       Each of us describes the issue or trend touching on religion in the public sphere in America of concern to us.

       Select one or two of the issues to discuss for our session this evening. Perhaps by straw vote.

       Use the Observe, Judge, Act Questions to understand the particulars of the issue and our sense of how our beliefs impact the situation and vice versa.


Reflection /Action Process: a brief sketch of key elements of reflection-action process -

1.     Observe Carefully and intentionally examine the situation.

a.      Describe the issue and its manifestations.

b. What are the people dealing with this issue doing, feeling, and saying?

c. What is happening to them and how do they respond?


2.     Judge Form a judgment on it in the light of our faiths. Two key parts:

a.          Social Analysis -- Work to make sense of the reality observed.

                                i.        Why are things this way?

                              ii.        What are the root causes?

b.         Theological Reflection

                           i.       How do our biblical values and our religious traditions help us to see this reality?

                         ii.       How do they serve as a measuring stick for this experience?


3.     Act Planning and carrying out actions aimed at transforming the social structures that contribute to suffering and injustice.

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