Re: Christian Cohousing & Diversity
From: Michael Mariner (
Date: Fri, 5 Sep 1997 16:16:25 -0500
Scott Cowley Said:

>What is "christian" about "christian cohousing" ?
>Indeed, what is "cohousing" about "christian cohousing" ?
>This sounds like the "vegan" cohousing we had discussed last spring.

Answer:  Christianity is a binding force, a force that motivates 
Christians to live in community.  Vegan is another belief system that is 
so pervasive that vegans want to live around others who eat vegan.

Though existing cohousing groups typically have *some* diversity of 
spiritual belief (Jewish, New Age, Christian, Buddhist, atheist) the 
forces that bind them typically include being white, middle class, 
college educated and having read the Cohousing Book.

What I hear Scott being irate about is *some* Christian (and Vegan!) 
sects tendency to not want to associate with others who are not "saved," 
even those who are not part of their particular church.  I, too, would 
like to see everyone be more tolerant and to avoid being insular, at 
least, that's the ideal.

>Don't you get it ?  Cohousing is not just another utopian commune movement.
>Sure, we are an "intentional" community.  

I  disagree and I regret Scott's condescending tone of "Don't you get 

True, cohousing isn't an income sharing "commune" but cohousers have 
considerable property in common, make decisions in common and eat some 
meals together!  Are we talking about complete purity here?  I don't see 
any hard boundaries between cohousing and other forms of intentional 
community.  Many of the 60's communes have become more cohousing-like 
and, over time, some cohousing communities may become more commune-like, 
who knows?

And, actually, I feel cohousing *does have* some "utopian" aspects if you 
define utopian to mean a more visionary way of living that is better than 
what we had.  If you define utopian to mean a static, perfect, heavenly 
place, no, cohousing ain't that.  (My dictionary has both meanings 

>But the historical cohousing 
>movement principles of _Diversity_, Cooperation,  a concern for the land we 
occupy and use, >

Cooperation is a must - we can't have community without it and we won't 
sustain ourselves for long if we don't steward the land.  Diversity is a 
helpful ideal and a laudable goal if we don't get dogmatic and rigid 
about it:

- On the one hand, we all are unique personalities with diverse opinions, 
likes, dislikes.  We can't help being diverse.  (Try to reach consensus 
and you vividly experience diversity, right?)  I actually think that 
embracing diverse personalities takes more flexibility and personal 
growth than embracing people of different races, religions, or 
subcultures.  I have trouble with wildly irresponsible or relentlessly 
controlling people, no matter what race or religion they are, but: 

- On the other hand, most cohousers envision a society that would be 
kinder, gentler and more tolerant if we all lived in diverse communities 
where we constantly rub elbows with diverse ethnicities, spiritual 
outlooks, ages, etc.  This is a wonderful ideal and goal.  But 
realistically, when we put up our shingle that says "come join our 
cohousing group" we have to move forward with those we attract.  I've 
heard of some groups that worked hard to attract diversity (of age, race, 
income, whatever) and either failed completely or got some token members 
of the targeted diversity.

So let's not give up on the goal, but let's allow it to evolve over time. 
 Right now, 1990's, we should encourage vegans, Christians, Trekkies, and 
Neo-Luddites to each have their own communities and learn to tolerate and 
love the diverse personalities within their groups.  Then when they come 
to regional cohousing gatherings (and we should definitely invite all), 
we can all rub elbows and ideas and begin to moderate and soften 
hard-edged, xenophobic beliefs once or twice a year while celebrating the 
sharing we've learned in cohousing.

I say any cohousing is better than a suburb of isolated households who 
rarely rub elbows with anyone except those who are completely like them 
and let TV or ingrained prejudices define their world view. 

>and especially an attempt to create a Humanizing force at a neighborhood 
level which evolves 
>away from the the existing capitalist system (a system which continues to 
embrace war 
>and christian religion as vehicles to enforce its principles of waste and 
exploitation) are 
>much broader than a community representing such a single belief system.

Scott, the above paragraph sounds like a leftist rant. I don't know what 
to say except the great majority of people I know in  cohousing make 
their living in the capitalist system.  Almost everybody sees excesses 
and problems with it, but free enterprise with a social consciousness 
seems to be evolving.  We just need to insist as a culture that all 
businesses serve society besides making a profit.  (The tide turning 
against tobacco may be a sign of this.) And, yes, a lot of people would 
like to evolve a local economy where many could be employed right in 
their cohousing community.  There are already many who work at home 
and/or barter goods and services within (and without) the communities.

>As always, we must fight to avoid sinking to our lowest common 
>denominator:  An idyllic, gated golf
>course community of like-minded, well-off American isolationists.

Well, in some ways relatively well-off, like-minded cohousing sites *are* 
gated communities, though I haven't heard of any with golf courses.  The 
gate you must pass through is the cost, the time and tolerance to sit 
through hundreds of meetings, the ability to form empathetic 
relationships with other cohousers, a belief in the holy grail of 
cohousingness, etc. True, coho groups could probably do more to make the 
gates less imposing, but the gates will be there, nonetheless.

Isolationist?  I've heard that during the post move-in burn out phase, 
some cohousers tend to hole up for quite a spell.  Also, even post-burn 
out, cohousers seem to largely concentrate on their own communities.  Few 
have an energetic outreach program going on to show adjacent 
neighborhoods the cohousing way.  In time outreach may well increase.

Scott, I'm hearing you infer (by the context of paragraphs above) that a 
Christian cohousing community would be the epitome of this lowest common 
denominator.  For one thing, Christians vary hugely.  Many Christians 
(even far right) are finding passages in their Bibles that say humans are 
supposed to steward the earth and live harmoniously with all peoples and 
all species.  A commitment to stewarding may not be widespread (far as I 
know) *yet*, but is growing.  There are also passages in the Bible that 
laud the benefits of living in community.  And, yes, there are a 
definitely Christian (and non-Christian) isolationists .

Finally, we must have ideals and goals (such as diversity) to strive for 
and we shouldn't be complacent about the working toward them, but let's 
not be so pure that we denigrate or disallow Christian or vegan 

Like punker Billy Idol said, "...ain't nothing pure in this world, ain't 
nothing sure in this world.... but it's a nice day for a white wedding, a 
nice day to start again."  

Kat Kinkaid's book about Twin Oaks Community is called "Is it Utopia 
Yet?."   No, but each intentional community is working towards it one day 
at a time in its own diverse way, according to its unique idea of what 
Utopia is.   Viva la diversity!

Sorry, I can't tell you where to look in the Bible for those passages.  
Can anybody else?

Michael Mariner

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