News and notes from Reston (tm).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Meanwhile, in the other anti-Reston: Imagine no religion (it's easy if you live in Columbia)

Those of us who've long followed Columbia, Reston's evil doppelganger to the north, with its awesome, almost-as-mauve planned communities, Satan Wood Drive, and a shopping mall which declared war on Christmas last winter, will hardly be shocked by the latest news from our fellow New Urbanists(tm):

The founders of Columbia were convinced that religion, like everything else in the planned community envisioned as a suburban utopia, should be harmonious and inclusive. So instead of a welter of churches all vying for space within the model township, the founders opted for interfaith centers.

Now, one congregation's plan to place a 16-foot cross on a new building at the town's oldest interfaith center in Wilde Lake Village has stirred an anxious response. Some guardians of local tradition see the cross as a challenge to the core values of Columbia.

"I think it's just wrong," said Robert Tennenbaum, a planner and architect who helped design Wilde Lake. "This is Columbia -- you are talking about a special place."
Too special for Baby Jesus? Apparently so!
The town's interfaith centers were another innovation. Instead of selling building sites to individual religious groups, the Rouse Co., which developed Columbia, made land available at a fraction of its market value to groups of at least two denominations that agreed to work together and build the centers.

Yet the ebb and flow of unity and separation between religions is a pattern woven through the centuries, said James Grubb, a professor of history at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Sometimes entire denominations have moved toward mergers, only to split again.

"The Columbia experiment has done better than most, but after 40 years of ecumenism, I'm not surprised it's fragmenting," he said. "Ecumenism is often followed by identity politics -- people adhering to their differences."
We simply can't imagine that!

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