Scarcely a day goes by that I don’t see the popular “COEXIST” bumper sticker gracing the back of somebody’s car. It usually accompanies other stickers of a similar ilk, but often stands alone. I can’t help but wonder about the decision process of the folks who apply this sticker to their bumper. There seems to be a couple of possibilities:
- They simply want people of differing views to get along without violence. There is no pronouncement of religions being all the same, or of some desire to see a one-world religion. It is primarily a view of peace.
- They want a world of peace and understand that the best way to accomplish this is to promote the view that there is no religion that is better than any other. Not only war, but any kind of verbal disagreement is seen as the enemy.
Before weighing in on which is the more likely true message, here’s how the website http://www.coexistbumpersticker.org describes the meaning of the sticker and its purpose:
The letters that spell coexist use different religious symbols to represent the different religions. Here are the letters used and what religion they are for.
C – This is a crescent moon that represents Islam
O – This is the peace symbol or pagan/Wiccan pentacle.
E – It is the male/female symbol or a scientific equation.
X – This is the Star of David and represents Judaism.
I – It is a pagan/Wiccan symbol used.
S – This is a Chinese yin-yang symbol.
T – The cross is used to represent Christianity.
Now that you have been enlightened to the coexist bumper sticker meaning, you can see how it is designed to promote peace and coexistence among different people, no matter what your religion is.
Many people don’t think that this is a good idea, but if you think about it, when people start to coexist with each other, the problems in the world will become less. If you believe that coexistence is a good idea, then this could be the right type of sticker for you to add to your vehicle.” (emphasis mine)
While the makers of the bumper sticker promote the message in a non-threatening and winsome way, there’s good reason to think they have in mind a message more in line with (2) than (1). The line I’ve italicized betrays this: “when people start to coexist with each other, the problems in the world will become less.” While the statement on the surface seems innocuous enough, when we consider what it takes to accomplish a lessoning of the “problems in the world” we see that it cannot merely refer to physical or verbal fighting – there are many, many other things wrong with the world: hunger, disease, racial inequalities, environmental issues, etc. With each religion and/or philosophy comes a differing view about how to approach each problem. And some problems are viewed as worse than others based upon the particular worldview examining it. For instance, a New Age person might view environmental issues as the most pressing problem of the day, since in that worldview the earth is all we have and we must treat it (or, her, as the case may be) with much care. On the other hand, some Muslims (and some Christians, I’m sorry to say) don’t really care about these issues at all. With such divergent worldviews, it’s a pipe dream to imagine universal agreement on fixing the world’s problems.
With that line of reasoning as our base, let’s think about this for a second. There’s only two ways, theoretically, to bring about peace and harmony among all peoples, and to cure the world’s ills. In one, the realization must emerge that only one way is correct. When the masses understand this, harmony will ensue since there will be a common belief system, and with that common worldview will come a common purpose and outlook. In the second, the realization must emerge that either there is no true religion or philosophy, or that all religions and philosophies lead to the same ultimate goal, or god. This too leads to a common worldview and purpose and outlook.
Guess which view the COEXIST crowd is most likely to espouse? The first is intolerable, since having only one way is viewed as narrow and bigoted. It almost goes without saying that you would be hard pressed to find someone with the COEXIST bumper sticker holding this first view. The second must be the choice. But with the second comes the view that true peace and coexistence can only take place once religion is relegated to the realm of non-importance. After all, it is supposed, any claims on religious truth leads to discord, and disagreement is not harmonious.
Compare the message with the famous song “Imagine” by John Lennon:
Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Lennon’s song has become something of an anthem for the New Age worldview. It lays out in strikingly unambiguous words what it takes to achieve true peace, true oneness.
But the Christian who holds the Bible as the infallible word of God, and Jesus as the only way of salvation, will understand the COEXIST message in a different way. There will only be true harmony when every knee is bowed to the one true and living God. Yet this doesn’t mean that we cannot “coexist” in a more biblical sense. Here are some guidelines:
- As Jesus commanded, we should love our neighbor (i.e., everyone – cf. Mt. 5:44-47)
- While we may disagree with the views of others, and may even engage in discussion and debate, we must do so “with gentleness and respect” (1 Pt. 3:15).
- We must seek to “live at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18; cf. Heb. 12:14).
- We must pray for a peaceful existence with all people (2 Tim. 2:1-2).
- We must do good to all people (Gal. 6:10)
- We must understand and teach that biblical coexistence is not about differing belief systems; instead, it is about divergent peoples coming together under a common belief, namely that Jesus is the Messiah who died for sins and rose from the dead.
What we must not do is compromise our message. If Jesus truly is the Messiah, we must preach it – yes, with respect and gentleness – but also with clarity and boldness. True love for all people demands nothing less.