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My lease is ending and I need to find a new place to live. After moving out of my parents' place I have always lived with roommates. I am not yet able to financially afford my own place by myself. For a variety of reasons it's very hard to find a decent place in the area I am in. I viewed a very nice place that has basically everything I want (affordable, good location, enough space, good kitchen etc) however the place is intended for Christians.

Apparently it used to be strictly for Catholics and now it’s more about having "Christian values". I'm not sure if this is a good fit as I don’t consider myself religious. The only specific rules I was told about this are no being excessive drinking at home and over night guests must sleep in a different room. Where I'm currently living we don't have such rules but I tend to follow them anyway, however I’d really like to be able to drink as much as I want or have someone sleep over on the occasion. That being said, everything else is nice so I may still take it and see it as a compromise.

How can I communicate I need to be told specific rules that they consider Christian values? Since I'm not Christian myself, the term "Christian values" is a bit vague to me. I told them that I don't consider myself Christian and would like more information to make a decision, but they replied, "feel free to ask any specific questions".

To be clear, I consider myself to be "without religion" more so than a devout atheist. I don't have problem with people who are religious but don't want them trying to convert me. (some Christian values I do agree with, like care for your neighbor.)

  • Just to confirm; Do you anticipate that they will enforce these rules? If so, have they any legal backing to enforce these rules? (tenancy agreement, local laws, etc.?) – user8671 Sep 20 '18 at 10:42
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    @Kozaky I think technically they don't have any legal backing to enforce rules but I don't want to live with people I wouldn't get along with anyway – Haptometer Sep 20 '18 at 10:45
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To avoid any issues in the future about what you expect and what they expect I would suggest just having an open discussion with them about it.

The rules they have set are quite vague. Is excessive drinking 2 glasses of wine or 2 bottles? Is the rule for no overnight guests intended to prevent random sexual contacts done in the house or would a sibling coming over be a problem?

I would start by acknowledging that you understand they are trying to keep to the christian values and even though you are not strictly religious your personal believes and behavior overlap a decent amount. Go over the things that trouble you phrasing it something like "You expect this kind of behavior, but sometimes I enjoy doing this and that, would that be acceptable?".

Being open with them shows that you care about the values they want to uphold and that you are willing to follow the "rules", you just want to know what is the extent to those rules to determine if it is a compromise you want to make. You definitely don't want to take the place on the other merits and be here in a few weeks again asking "My religious roommates are being judgmental towards me, what can I do?" or something like that. I believe they have seen a few too many american college movies and are worried about the tenant replicating that behavior, but I doubt that is on your agenda. Just be open with them and understand specifically what they are looking for so you can make the choice based on facts not speculations.

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I think that the best course of action is to talk to them and make it understood that while you yourself is not a christian, you respect their beliefs and rules they want to enforce in their house (moderate drinking, no guests staying over in the same room).

Only you can decide if it is a good fit or not, but it is important to have an open dialogue with the other tenants to see if both them and you can live under the same roof.

Edit per your edit: Tell them that you are absolutely fine with only drinking in moderation and only letting guests sleep in a separate room, but also ask if they have any other rules that you should know of. This way there should not be any surprises when moving in.

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Your confusion is not unreasonable, as the scope of "Christian values" varies from person to person, and the exact rules can't be gleaned just from reading the Bible. These likely prohibit things like excessive drinking and unmarried sex, but they may also expect you to pray with them (or at least not disrupt their prayer), observe certain holy days, and so on.

However, it may be the house is trying to skirt any legal hot water by offering the nebulous restriction, since in many areas it's unlawful (with some exceptions) to restrict housing based on religion. It's also often unlawful to restrict based on sexual orientation, so "Christian values" might be code for "no homosexuals".

At this point I would research the law and, if the relevant law does prohibit restrictions based on sexual orientation, I would ask them straight out whether they would consider renting to homosexuals, just to see how they might try to answer without breaking the law.

Of course, even asking the question might get me rejected as a possible renter -- but then again my innate skepticism means I probably wouldn't fit into that environment in the first place. But this probably explains why they want you to "ask questions", to judge what sort of person you are based on what sort of questions you consider important.

I would consider it as a kind of game, to see how much I can discover about these unspoken boundaries by asking detailed questions:

  • I understand you prohibit excessive drinking, but what about two or three glasses of wine at night? Does it have to be wine or is hard liquor OK?
  • I like yoga and Buddhist meditation. Is it OK if I practice in the common spaces of the house, or should I stay in my room? Or is it not allowed?
  • How do you guys feel about heavy metal rock, as long as I keep it to a reasonable volume or wear headphones?
  • Are there clothing restrictions expected in the house? What if I walk to the bathroom in my underwear, is that against the rules? What if I walk there naked?

And so on. Again, if it was me, I'd get more and more outrageous, just to see what they'd do ... but then I wouldn't really want to live in that kind of environment. The point is to test the limits, and get them to think what they actually want in a roommate.

Most likely, though, they just they want someone who will be a good roommate and also respect their religious views. Certainly challenge them -- but be nice, and don't be surprised if they are more tolerant than you expect.

  • In the US, at least, you can't get around laws that easily. Advertising the housing as a "Christian Community" or "community with Christian Values" is already illegal. No more proof needed. – Clay07g Sep 20 '18 at 15:59
  • @Clay07g well, that is not entirely true, as the law is complicated. I was generalizing for the sake of argument, as it depends on the details of who owns the house and how it's rented, and the laws of the particular jurisdiction, since US federal law has exemptions. – Andrew Sep 22 '18 at 3:06
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    +1 I have lived with them for a few months now and there are a few different denominations in the house. I had no idea that different types of Christians can have such different beliefs (such as fundamentalist Catholics compared to Anglican etc) – Haptometer Dec 9 '18 at 9:45
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    @Haptometer It's pretty much the same for any religion. Next time someone says casually that they're a "Buddhist" you could ask, "Oh? Which school? Theravāda? Tibetan? Zen? Even then there are many subdivisions. Many Christians who publicly espouse "Christian Values" have trouble iterating exactly what these are, much less reconciling them with teachings in the New Testament. I'm sure your housemates could give you an earful of the friction between different sects. – Andrew Dec 9 '18 at 17:58

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