Re: Christian Cohousing & Diversity
From: Catherine Harper (
Date: Sat, 6 Sep 1997 13:27:19 -0500
On Fri, 5 Sep 1997 Gorwydd [at] wrote:

> *Just how tolerant are YOU yourself? Who would you refuse? Who HAVE you
> refused?

Let me jump in and split a few semantic hairs.  I'm very tolerant.
Tolerance is not enough.  

Diversity is one of the strangest and most tenuous values of cohousing, if
you think about it.  I think many of us have an innate sense of why it is
important...  And yet commonalities are probably a bigger part of what
makes communities hang together, and they are less often discussed.  

If you apply a narrow metric of diversity, it's pretty easy to skew your
results to look either diverse or not diverse -- for instance: in my
social circle, there is vast representation of different races, ethnic
groups, religions, sexual orientations, reasonable mix of ages...  of
course, on the other hand, we're all a bunch of liberal intellectuals,
with a vast preponderance of computer geeks (this is not a hard

Diverse? Um. We are diverse in ways that are for the most part
non-threatening to eachother.  Having seen members of this group
interacting with people who weren't members, I think I can also safely say
that we are fully capable of being cliquish and aloof, and there are
people that won't be accepted.  (And in that case I doubt "refused" is the
issue -- let's face it, it's easy enough to just make people feel
uncomfortable and less than welcome, and avoid those kinds of
unpleasantries.  Do not mistake me -- I'm not proud of this.)

But going back to tolerance... Okay, while most people I know have some
facets that I just tolerate (my husband's fondness for Abba comes to
mind), if "tolerance" plays a large part in my reaction to people, doesn't
that just mean I don't like them but I'm being polite about it?  (Or, I
guess more productively, you could look at tolerance as a way of getting
beyond the superficial things that you put you off from a person long
enough to actually get to know them.)

> *Is the idea of cohousing so pure that it cannot or should not be
> interpreted/adapted by others for their own purposes or visions?

Who's idea of cohousing?  I'm in the "it's a physical/organizational model
for organising an intentional community" camp.  It think there should be
at least as much room for diversity between groups and there is within
groups (and being a bit skeptical about how much room that is, maybe I
think there is more room for diversity between groups).  I think values
are something that the individual groups should work out on their own --
though of course, where you can learn from others, it's usually a good
idea to do so.

> *Do we have the right to define what cohousing should or should not be in a
> concrete, denotative way?

Well, people could claim the right for themselves, though I think it's
futile.  I don't know if any body could lay claim to some kind of "one,
ture, cohousing" and certainly no one then has any way of dealing with
heretics.  (I mean, what are you going to do?  Copyright the term and sure
people who are using it in a way you don't agree with?)  (Sorry -- I've
been in a few too many debates about whether people are real thises or
thatses.  Unless you have some kind of body prividing oversight and
licensing -- and probably even then -- all you can do is rant and rave,
and people will call themselves what they want.)

> To maikano [at] (Michael Mariner) I pose these questions: 
> *If you want to initiate a Christian community, would you permit
> non-christians to live there as well? 
> *What about unwed Christian couples, what about Homosexual Christians...
> would you allow them to share your intimate spaces? 
> I would be very interested in discussing with you what your view of cohousing
> is, and find out what methods you will use to determine who can and who
> cannot buy into your vision.

Me too...  I was busy when this first came up, but my bias is that "what
do you have in mind" is usually a good starting place for a discussion. 
(And honestly, I don't know that cohousing needs to be a vehicle for
overcoming prejudice.  -- It would be, nice, I agree, and I *personally*
think very highly of cohousing working that way, but I'm also willing to
admit that maybe it's not for everyone.  I probably wouldn't be one to
live in a Christian cohousing group to start with, not being Christian and
all.  Though y'know, if I met them, and they could deal with me -- and my
friends, and husband, and other lovers, etc.  etc, not to mention my
religious community -- and I could deal with them, I'd be willing to
rethink that.) 


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