Archive for the ‘Manners’Category

Be a good neighbor

Several of my Facebook friends pointed to this piece today, alarmed at the implications of the story—the gist of which is that somehow Bible study is being singled out in this case. The piece most of them linked to does not mention how many people this Pastor was having over on a weekly basis, and I asked but didn’t receive a response. Actually, that isn’t true—one person did respond pointing out that weekly football parties, sewing clubs, and so on are also disruptive. (For those who haven’t had the opportunity to review the stories, Pastor David Jones and his wife Mary are in a dispute with San Diego County over the use of their home for a weekly Bible study group.)

So I did some poking around, and the pastor is quoted in another article as saying there are typically “around 15 people,” and while they “usually” park on his property “sometimes it spills over into the cul-de-sac.”

It’s time to take a deep breath.

This pastor, who has been hosting more than a dozen people at his home (located in a cul-de-sac) once a week for FIVE years doesn’t seem to have spent too much time thinking about his neighbors. It feels to me like they were just waiting to have a reason to complain, and when one of the Bible study participants (allegedly) hit the vehicle of one of the neighbors, the complaints to the county started. I’m a pretty understanding person, but if one of our neighbors hosted 15 people (and let’s be honest, if he’s saying 15 it’s probably more likely than not around 20) once a week for five years, I’d be pretty put out too.

So, the county very correctly investigated this, most likely trying to determine which (not if) county ordinances have been violated. Most areas do have ordinances that restrict land use, and maybe it’s the number of people involved, maybe it’s the weekly nature of the meetings, but it’s entirely possible that these meetings do violate an existing land use ordinance. For example, the events listed above: Football parties are seasonal activities, not year round. Sewing clubs? Not part of my repertoire, but I’m pretty sure that when I lived in Chicago, there were village ordinances that placed restrictions on reoccurring weekly activities—due in large part to the number of women in the area who had turned Mary Kay, candle, and Pampered Chef parties into what amounted to at-home businesses by having said “parties” weekly and screwing up traffic in residential areas. You also cannot hold a yard sale every single Saturday—it’s considered a business at that point.

It’s not just religious activities that are targeted here, but you wouldn’t know it for the hue and cry. A few thoughts/questions:

Did any of the neighbors ever tell this couple that this activity was bothersome? If so, why didn’t they arrange to mitigate the problem—say, by carpooling as many as possible to reduce the number of cars in the area? Or, how about limiting the number of people there weekly—rotate the group, again, to reduce disruption to the neighbors?

If the neighbors didn’t try and solve this before it reached this point, bad on them. But if they did, and the Pastor ignored it, or resorted to the “it’s our house, we can do what we want” position, then shame on him. Regardless, not realizing what impact he was having on his neighbors isn’t exactly Christian either, now is it?

When you live in a community, you should take your neighbors’ feelings into consideration. When you don’t, the county will do it for you via ordinance. And when you violate those ordinances, either unintentionally or willfully, expect someone to do something about it.

Just don’t make a federal case out of your inability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

To me, those neighbors were incredibly patient. Dozens of people, every week—the fact that there haven’t been multiple complaints for a while is rather remarkable. I don’t care if you are holding a Bible study, a cooking club, or Wiccan ceremonies, if you live in a neighborhood, it’s just not appropriate to subject your neighbors to this every.single.week.


05 2009