The limits of inclusiveness

Columbia, a planned community in Maryland, was intended to be a suburban utopia without social divisions. It’s been fairly successful in its way: Money magazine ranks it #4 out of the top 100 places to live in the United States.

Utopia of course comes at a price. Everything that interferes with the perfect system has to be suppressed, and perfect systems are demanding and comprehensive. It can be a problem, for example, when someone suggests publicly that there are things more important than suburban amenities, as when a church that had been operating out of a bland interfaith center wants to put up a cross: Plan for Cross Shakes Columbia to Its Core Values.

The problem is that people who agree on suburban amenities don’t necessarily agree on more important things, and it wrecks the utopian feel of the place for someone to mention them. It suggests possible conflict. So why not treat silence on the subject as the most important thing of all? Isn’t that the way to preserve the common enjoyment of amenities? Isn’t that what the place and its inhabitants are all about? Isn’t that their religion?

As the writer reports, “Some guardians of local tradition see the cross as a challenge to the core values of Columbia…. ‘This is Columbia—you are talking about a special place.’ … [Many] … feel … strongly that the cross will be an offense to the idea of interfaith centers as sanctuaries of inclusion.”

The message, then, is that inclusion has to exclude anything that is at odds, even symbolically, with the traditions and core values that make it special. It’s not a surprising message for Columbia, since the utopian solution of religious disputes is the suppression of all religions except one. It does seem a bit paradoxical though.

1 thought on “The limits of inclusiveness”

  1. Down here, a developer who
    Down here, a developer who decided to build a Roman Catholic community called Ave Maria tried to get informal agreements from the stores not to sell un-RC things like contraception and pornography. Not legally enforcable, mind you, just gentlemen’s agreements. The usual squeaky wheel-types went ape about it and I don’t think the developer got what he wanted.

    Apparently, it’s non-inclusive if a group of Roman Catholics want to build their little slice of utopia out in the swamp surrounded by alligators. Leave ’em alone for crying out loud!


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