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Feedback on Recreational Discussion

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Sep 16, 2005

We’ve received 102 responses so far on the question I raised recently about whether should sponsor recreational discussion forums. These responses were uniformly articulate and often profound. I benefited considerably from the exchange. In this first comment, however, I will concentrate more on reporting than analysis.

Forty-five donors, 54 registered users and three visitors responded. The number of visitors is statistically insignificant, but among registered users 32 were in favor of recreational discussion forums and 22 were opposed. Among donors, 23 were in favor and 22 were opposed. Overall, 56% were in favor and 44% were opposed.

The reasons for opposition were fairly evenly held among both registered users and donors, and fell into eight general categories:

  • Six respondents thought the only worthwhile forums would be those that dealt with serious Catholic topics;
  • Four feared that recreational forums would dilute the special purpose of and therefore weaken the site;
  • Nine expressed in various forms the view that serious Catholics should not spend time on something as frivolous as recreation, but should concentrate on spiritual growth and apologetics;
  • Three feared that even recreational forums would end up being dominated by a few heavy-handed individuals, as is so often the case with forums devoted to more serious topics, and that this would result in disharmony;
  • Two believed that recreation has no specifically Catholic component which can justify devoting forums to it on a Catholic web site;
  • Eight stated that they had no time to participate;
  • Seven stated that while the idea was fine for those who are interested, they themselves have no interest in it;
  • Two were not comfortable sharing substantial information in an online setting.
Those in Favor

Among the 57 respondents who favored recreational discussion, no fewer than nineteen emphasized that there is, or ought to be, a spiritual dimension to everything we do, and that it would be delightful to share recreational interests with people who were open to experiencing God in joyful and often surprising ways. I was personally struck by the great variety of forms in which this idea was expressed, none of which were what one might call excessively pious or even formally religious. In other words, none of these respondents was suggesting that Catholics can’t enjoy things unless they are always self-consciously relating them to God, but all of them were suggesting that both God and the spiritual life are present in recreation.

Others welcomed the idea of recreational discussion on as a means of overcoming isolation, taking a break from heavier spiritual responsibilities, making friends, or simply enjoying an oasis where discussions would be pleasant, courteous and clean.

The following discussion areas were mentioned by various respondents, which could probably be grouped into a few comprehensive forums: art (water color painting, calligraphy, mosaics and bookmaking), biking, camping, cooking, crafts, line dancing, family activities and traditions (including home schooling), fishing, gardening, hiking, movies, needlework, poetry, reading (books), reenactments, sailing, scuba diving, sports (both in general and particularly shooting sports), travel and writing. Half of these areas had multiple proponents, with family activities, gardening, art and sports at the top of the list.

The next thing to ponder is what all this means for With opinion fairly evenly divided, there is no clear mandate, and we may use a poll to sample a larger number of responses. But I’m intrigued by many of the suggestions we’ve received, and I am enjoying reflecting on this topic as further responses come in. If you haven’t yet expressed your opinion, please refer to my original introduction of this issue, and don’t hesitate to send me your ideas.

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