Re: Re: Re: Cultural Consistency
From: Lynne Farnum (lfburrhus.harvard.edu)
Date: Wed, 22 Jun 94 16:55 CDT
Caryn wrote that religious diversity is "not quite as easy
as it sounds".

True, there could be logistical problems to work out, but most
of them would arise without religion as a factor.  A number of
our members are vegetarians  -- not, as far as I know, because
their religion tells them to be -- so we already have an 
agreement that at common meals there will always be a veggie
option.  This would also solve the no-pork, no-shellfish, and
no-meat requirements of the respective religions.  If someone 
had more stringent requirements -- say, kosher only -- that 
might be more complicated to deal with.  But again, the same 
degree of dietary difficulty could arise for non-religious 
reasons -- i.e., someone is on a special diet for diabetes or
high cholesterol, or someone who is religiously agnostic but
for ethical reasons eats a vegan diet.  In these cases the
community goes as far as it can to be accomodating, and if that
doesn't seem far enough the individual would have to decide
whether to compromise their diet, not attend dinner on nights 
when they can't eat what is being served, or bring their own
food to the common house.

On the issue of people not being able to work on their 
respective sabbaths -- I can't see this being a big problem.
I personally don't know anyone who is that orthodox, but I
wouldn't expect it to be a barrier in cohousing.  Though there
will be common work days, they will never have 100% attendance
whether on a sabbath or not.  Pick any day of the week and 
there will be someone who can't make it, because of work, family,
or social commitments.  It's hard enough to schedule meetings of
our cohousing group now, and it's only a fraction of the size of
the eventual community!

Christmas decorations in the common house ... I understand this
has been a hot issue in some communities already.  Since not 
even all Christians consider the tree an appropriate symbol of
the holiday -- the fir tree, holly, etc. being thoroughly pagan
symbols of Yule -- I don't see how this could NOT be an issue.
I think I would be unhappy if my cohousing community were so
homogeneous that everyone AGREED on what was appropriate! 

Any community with the slightest diversity of spiritual beliefs
is going to have to develop guidelines for appropriate expression
in common areas of the community.  We could decide on no 
decorations associated with religious holidays, or decide that
anyone can put up anything they want, or make a list of agreed-
upon holidays to acknowledge.  I think a key point is to make a
distinction between displays that appear to express community 
intent, and those that are more personal.  I wouldn't want to be
banned from putting up a Christmas tree in my front yard, and I'd
be happy if my neighbor had his front door decorated with the 
sheaves of grass and tangerines (if I am remembering correctly)
that the Japanese use to welcome the New Year.  On the other hand,
I think a creche or menorah on the lawn of the common house, facing
a public street, is appropriate because it implies that the entire
community is making a statement.  (Oops, I meant INAPPROPRIATE!)

Another thing that will probably require negotiation and policy
making is  the conducting of religious rituals in common areas.
Can you hold a wedding in the common house?  I think few would
object.  What about full immersion baptism in the pond?  Or a
Druidic ritual in the forest?  Does it make a difference what time
of day it is held, whether it's visible from the common house, or
whether children can observe it?  Again, I think the important thing
is to distinguish between community events and private ones, and
to make sure no one ever feels forced into being an unwilling
participant.

We live in an extremely diverse society, where even people who
seem "just like me" can have surprising differences when you get
into nitty gritty issues.  Cohousing has to deal with these 
differences and develop a framework that's comfortable for all 
the members of a community; the only alternative being some sort
of ideological purity as an entrance requirement -- and that's not
what most of us are looking for.

Lynne Farnum
Rose Tree Cohousing


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