Political and cultural causes are important. They motivate us to make the world around us better and hone our sense of justice. Also, the excitement of fighting the good fight can be, for lack of a better word, fun. But everything has its time and place. And even if we think a particular political issue or cause is the most important thing in the world, not everyone will agree (even if we block the Durham Freeway and disrupt graduations).

This came to mind as I was looking through my email this week and saw that the Congress for the New Urbanism, a city-planning organization of which I’ve been an occasional member, is going to amend its charter to add language about climate change and equity, among other things. See below:

I joined this organization because I became very interested in what makes some places so satisfying to walk around in, while others make me stomp the gas pedal. During a trip to Beaufort, North Carolina, a historic village on the Crystal Coast, curiosity on this point came over me. I undoubtedly annoyed my wife the rest of the trip, observing the building setbacks, road widths, and architectural styles trying to identify the special sauce.

When we got home a few days later, I discovered that the Congress for the New Urbanism seemed to have all the answers. They took the best practices of human settlements from across time and space and applied them to our modern world. Like me, they found drive-through towns made for cars rather than people tacky and soul-deadening. Their mission was to bring the lessons of successful places big and small — Charleston, South Carolina; Manhattan; my hometown of Hillsborough, North Carolina — and apply them to modern development.

I was sold. I bought the books, listened to lectures, and even did a certification in New Urbanism from the University of Miami School of Architecture so I could be an official member of the CNU. I’m still very interested in pursuing development projects along these lines, convinced that making places that encourage human interaction is an antidote to our atomized, screen-obsessed culture.

Many progressives agree. The CNU appears to have more of them than of right-of-center people like myself. But is that progressivism necessary for building beautiful, walkable places? I doubt that the people who built Rome and Paris (or Beaufort and Manhattan for that matter) would agree with much modern progressives believe.

Coincidentally, this week I also saw a popular “YIMBY” (meaning, yes, in my backyard) account on Twitter bemoaning the fact that the YIMBY community has not done enough to speak up for the Palestinians. Soon after, the “YIMBY Action” page remedied this oversight and made a statement.

YIMBYs have a large overlap with the “New Urbanist” crowd, as they both want to develop more densely and intentionally in established settlements, so it caught my attention. I know for a fact the YIMBY/New Urbanist coalition is very politically diverse, yet those in charge of these organizations don’t seem all that concerned about weakening the cause for which they were formed in order to chase unrelated causes.

So why do YIMBY leaders feel they need an opinion on the Palestine conflict? And why does the charter of CNU need to be amended to add progressive boilerplate? In my view, it’s because our modern obsession with political causes ignores the boundaries necessary for a healthy civil society.

Interestingly, some on the activist left are also somewhat frustrated by this and have come up with the term “the omnicause” to describe it. When they set up an organization like Black Lives Matter to focus on one issue, it suddenly starts devoting time and energy into other issues (LGBTQ+, climate, Palestine, etc), becoming indistinguishable from other left-wing groups that started with one focus before getting swallowed by the omnicause.

The omnicause is a symptom of the left’s lack of boundaries for their activism. Activists are hard at work making every organization, political or not, into an organization devoted to this omnicause. They even began putting their creed, summarized in the “We Believe” sign, in their front yard. Their lack of boundaries extends to making their neighborhood another venue for perpetual activism.

In a healthy civil society, we need organizations and spaces that not only bond us with our ideological kin but also ones that bridge between the groups. In Harvard professor Robert Putnam’s book “Bowling Alone,” he details this need for both bonding and bridging social capital. He also shows organizations that achieve these vital tasks are disappearing.

Organizations that are a natural fit for bridging social capital, like a chess club that pulls from many different ideological tribes in the wider area, should just focus on that one task for which they were formed. If an Israeli and a Palestinian can each say to themselves, “Yes, but I do know X from the chess club. So they’re not all bad. Maybe we can work something out,” then a place has been created for dialogue. If we burn all our societal bridges, so to speak, that social capital will not exist when it’s needed.

The Duke University graduation doesn’t need to be about a ceasefire in Palestine. The chess club doesn’t need to be about climate change. The NFL doesn’t need to be about feminism.

Keeping healthy boundaries between politics and many other institutions of civil society also gives us some personal respite from the political and cultural wars. If a climate activist can go to her yoga class without once thinking about what the person on the neighboring mat’s position on the Green New Deal is, she’s much more likely to achieve inner peace (or whatever). And if an America First patriot can go to his hiking club without thinking about whether the guy showing him the endangered frog believes 2020 was stolen, he’s much more likely to enjoy the great outdoors, which is what he actually came to do.

So, while our political views motivate us to pursue the good, including the common good, we should voluntarily impose some “time, manner, and place restrictions” on them. Don’t let the omnicause, or the right-wing equivalent, swallow all areas of your life. Allow yourself to be part of some organizations that exist for their own sake so bridging social capital can form. If an organization you’re part of is taking positions on unrelated causes, even ones you agree with, speak up. Time for some healthy boundaries.