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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Don't We Already "Coexist"

Have you seen this bumper sticker? I am a very observant person, but for some reason I have completely missed this bumper sticker. I may be the only one because apparently it is quite popular. So popular in fact, it has birthed many varieties, to see a couple click (here) and (here), and a couple of different versions (see right).

What are the symbols?:

C (moon and star) - Islam
O (peace sign) - peace, or (pentagram) - Wicca
E - male and female equality or in some cases e=mc squared in that case it stands for evolution and scientists theories
X - (star of david) - Judaism
i - Wicca/Pagan/also the Bab/Bah'ai or the Buddhist dharma wheel
S (Ying Yang) - Taoism/ Confucianism
T - (Cross) – Christianity

I'm not really sure what this sticker means or what the purpose of it is. Seriously, I know "coexist" should be obvious, but is it? Let's look at the definition of "coexist" first.
1. to exist together or at the same time - Simple enough.
2. to live together in peace with each other especially as a matter of policy - Is there really peace if you are forced by policy to be peaceful?
3. to exist separately or independently but peaceably, often while remaining rivals (competitors) or adversaries (a person, group, or force that opposes or attacks) - Uh oh, not so simple anymore is it?

In fact, those last two definitions really contradict themselves - don't you think? If we are attacking each other or forcing others to be peaceful, we can strive for peace, but it certainly wouldn't actually exist. In fact, if either of these definitions are valid, aren't we already coexisting (existing at the same time, living separately, attacking, competing)? In which case, this sticker is making no statement at all. It is simply stating what all of the religions or other groups represented here are already doing - COEXISTING but not peaceably or harmoniously.

As I was researching, the overwhelming majority of people commenting felt that this sticker was representing a beautiful message of peace. An internet forum writer, Kyle Lacy said, “I think the bumper sticker is saying that we can all live in peace and harmony despite the way we choose (in a religious sense). I am tired of hearing about whether someone is right or wrong in terms of religious belief. I have chosen just to love people whether or not they believe the way I do.” Even Facebook offers this as a badge flair and gives it the description, "Coexist is a way to demonstrate your support of religious freedom, tolerance and understanding by showing the 'COEXIST' profile badge. " I'm just not buying the majority view here. I don't think these opinions represent the true meaning of the word "coexist."

Even those who disagreed with the possibility of the supposed message of peace seemed to agree that peace was the message it was sharing. Internet forum writer, Joe Shoemaker said, "Someone who believes that evolution and creationism can 'coexist' knows very little about either.” Mark Winebrenner said, "It is not possible. The irony is that some of the groups represented on the bumper sticker feel the only way to achieve world peace is to eliminate one or more of the other groups represented on that bumper sticker.” And finally, a strong opinion by Tom McMahon, "If some of the followers of the religion represented by the crescent moon 'c' on your cute little bumper sticker would stop hijacking planes and blowing up buildings, coexisting would be a little easier."

Somehow, none of this feels right. The message of peace is simply not represented by the terminology of "coexist." This is one of those tricky words in the english language. Like the word, "hope," it is misunderstood. I don't think the message was sent to share with us that we already "coexist," which we do. I do not see a literal meaning in a variey of religious or other group symbols spelling out the word "coexist," but what I do see is something much deeper. So, my thinking has shifted to the symbolic. Consider this person's view of this sticker: "On a personal level, this image represents the concept of "many paths" that I learned in an excellent philosophy class in high school...” – Nila Neeley (internet forum)

When I first saw this sticker, despite the surface-simple peace message some may see, I was instantly disturbed by it and immediately thought, "many paths." This is that politically correct, buzz term that seems to have saturated our world. If coexisting, as it is represented on this sticker, means I as a Christian pacifistically sit back and not share the ONE and ONLY true way ("I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me." - John 14:6), I want nothing to do with that definition of coexisting.

I'm paying closer attention to bumper stickers now and as I am watching this sticker grow and birth others, I fully expect to see the one that says, "Many paths - One destination."

What do you think? Am I digging too deep? When you first saw this sticker what came to your mind?


  1. Sue said...

    What a great post. I was with you on that journey of trying to grasp what they were meaning by it. All that ran through my head was that verse you quoted from John 14:6. Jesus is the ONLY way to God and to life eternal.

    That sticker represents the danger in New Age (Oprah) thinking and it unfortunately is going to mislead so many on the path to God away from Him.

    I personally have never seen this sticker but thanks for pointing it out!

  2. Karen said...

    Thanks for your comment, Sue. I, too, thought of the "church of Oprah Winfrey" when I first saw this sticker.

  3. Karen's Michael said...

    My first thought was that this similar to another word that no longer means what it should: tolerance. The new definition of tolerance is vastly different from what I learned in school. No longer is tolerance about accepting that other people will choose to believe differently from what we believe; nay, the new definition of "tolerance" requires that we accept and embrace their beliefs as if they were as valid as ours! To a Christian who believes that Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life (not A way, A truth, or A life), this mindset is absurd. To "tolerate" the way the enemy wants us to "tolerate" would be to denounce and reject OUR very beliefs.

  4. Melissa said...

    Here in our neighborhood in DC, it seems that every other car we see has that bumper sticker on it. Your gut instinct is is the Enemy wanting us to focus on anything but OUR belief that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.