“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[s] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 4:43,44
I suspect many have seen the COEXIST bumper sticker on cars. While the idea of living in peaceful co-existence is laudable, the bumper sticker causes me some heartburn for several reasons. The actual bumper sticker uses symbols to show this multiculturalism. The “C” is replaced by a crescent moon, an ancient symbol of Islam. The “O” has been replaced with a sign adopted by the British anti-nuclear movement in the 1960’s. The “x” is the star of David, associated with Judaism. The “I” is the ankh, an ancient Egyptian symbol adopted by neo-pagans as a symbol of wisdom and strength. The “S” is a taijitu, a Taoist symbol in Asian cultures representing the difference between Yin (shady forces) and Yang (sunny forces). The “T”, of course is the Christian cross.
I did a little research to see what the definition of “coexist” was and also what was intended. The Urban Dictionary came up with what I consider to be the best definition:
“Coexist: A campaign ……..promoting the end of discrimination against all religions, as well as all discrimination. For Jews, Buddhists, Christians, Atheists, Blacks, Whites, Homosexuals — everyone to get along. To coexist. “
Nothing in that definition gets me very upset. But there’s more: it is actually a belief system which claims tolerance, but actually is a doctrine in the absolute belief that all religions are the same and ultimately equal, which on its face is contradictory – you cannot reconcile contrary doctrines of conservative Islam and Christianity. Believers in COEXIST will try and impose this absolute belief on any religious system despite absolute contrary doctrines. It essentially says that there are no religious absolutes – for Christians, that would mean that there is no absolute truth. That’s what gets me on edge. It’s subtle, and seems innocuous on its face, but it is deceptive and also self-contradictory. Here’s a dialogue to illustrate that last statement:
“Q: You have a COEXIST bumper sticker?
A: Yes, I don’t think that any religion has an exclusive claim to the truth.
Q: But isn’t that an exclusive claim that only that belief is true?”
The other thing that bothers me about the bumper sticker is the naïveté from which it is derived. I guess part of that reaction comes from the 1960’s where the Hippie generation in America espoused “peace” using the peace symbol for the “O” in COEXIST. While I consider peace as a high cultural value, the difficulty I have is that there are some on this planet who don’t want peace. Islamic terrorists, for example, don’t want peace. They want a Caliphate and Jihad which means killing infidels who disagree with their version of Islam. There can be no peace with a terrorist whose goal is to kill you, often killing themselves in the process. I recently hosted a friend from Nigeria, who said that in the past 10 years, there had been 40 terrorist attacks or bombings in his hometown of Jos, Nigeria. Just after he left the U.S. to return to his country, there was a solo terrorist attack which killed 49 in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub and wounded 53 more. This is the eighth terrorist attack in the US since the terrorist flew airplanes into the World Trade Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in 2001.
Christianity believes in absolutes, and in a culture where the next generation does not believe in truth, getting them to understand what absolute truth is a challenge. It clearly means that we have to develop new strategies for “passing it on” to the next generation. While talking to a group of pastors recently about this issue, I suggested that relational evangelism still works, and one pastor said that this was the model from the very beginning, and that we are now returning to the biblical model. The next generation can be reached by developing a relationship with them – mentoring is one way – in which you earn the right to speak into their life. Until you earn that right, they won’t listen.
So, our challenge is clear. We need to be aware of subtle diversions like COEXIST which seem innocent on their face, but actually undercut Christian theology. All religions are not the same. Allah is not the same as God who is a triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are commanded to love our neighbors, and even our enemies, but we aren’t to water down the gospel in doing so. Your opportunity is out there: there is in the next generation out there waiting for you to mentor and develop a relationship with. Do it today. It may have eternal implications.