I was out walking my dog yesterday morning and I came up to a house in our neighborhood that had two cars sporting the suddenly fashionable “COEXIST” bumper sticker. I’ve been seeing a lot of these bumper stickers throughout the Chicago area. It is obviously a plea for the peaceful coexistence of the various world faith systems.
If you’re not familiar with all of the symbols represented on the bumper sticker, they are:
- The “C” is fashioned into the star and crescent moon of Islam
- The “O” is fashioned into the peace symbol
- The “E” is fashioned into the male and female symbols
- The “X” is fashioned into the Star of David symbolizing Judaism
- The “I” is fashioned into the symbol of Wicca or Paganism
- The “S” is fashioned into the yin/yang of Taoism
- The “T” is fashioned into the cross of Christianity
On the surface, this seems like a reasonable plea. We all share the same globe and we should all seek to peacefully coexist with one another.
However, I cannot shake the feeling that whoever came up with the “COEXIST” concept is suffering from several preconceptions that betray a worldview that is antithetical to all of the worldviews represented in the bumper sticker.
The first preconception is that all of these disparate worldviews can peacefully coexist.Yet even a casual glance at the worldviews represented will prove this claim false. Islam seeks the radical conversion of all ‘infidels’ (i.e., non-Muslims) and is willing to do so by threat of violence. Christianity believes that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone and Jews reject the Messiah-ship of Jesus. Let’s not forget the vast worldview differences between the religions of the west (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) with the religions of the east (Taoism). The irreconcilable differences of these worldviews makes coexistence difficult without a corresponding change in worldview.
The second preconception I see in this mindset is that these worldviews all share a ‘common ground’ with which to peacefully coexist. In other words, the underlying assumption is that this worldview represents the “all roads lead to God” mindset. Anyone who has studied anything in any of these religions and worldviews would see this mindset as the height of naivete. Sure there may some common elements in these worldviews. For example, Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all monotheistic faiths that claim the patriarch Abraham as a central figure. But this argument is like saying that because men and chimps share 95% similar DNA, they are alike. Yet the 5% that is different is insurmountable! Where Christianity, Judaism and Islam differ are on key points of doctrine that make it impossible to find common ground without seriously compromising their respective faiths. Again, it goes without saying that there are even more differences when we throw in Wicca and Taoism into the mix.
The third, and by far the most insidious, preconception is a subtle arrogance and superiority in the “COEXIST” mindset. The worldview being promoted by “COEXIST” is that all of the various faiths and worldviews represented in the “COEXIST” symbol need to ‘grow up’ and ‘act like adults.’ While it may seem on the surface that “COEXIST” isn’t promoting a positive worldview (“positive” in the sense of promoting a worldview of its own), but rather a “can’t we all just get along” type of mentality; the reality is that “COEXIST” is promoting a worldview in which it is superior to all of these other worldviews and that truly enlightened people will adopt its relativistic ecumenical worldview. This is the height of arrogance and condescension.
As a Christian, I believe that the Christian worldview is the correct worldview and that all other worldviews represent deviations of one sort or another from the true worldview. This might strike some (or most) as the “height of arrogance and condescension,” but the reality is that if one of these worldviews is true, then by necessity the others must be false. Secondly, the reason for my believing the Christian worldview to be true isn’t based on my superior wisdom or intellect, but on the simple fact that God has created the world in which we live and created mankind in his image. God has not left himself without a witness, whether that is in nature itself or in the hearts and minds of those created in his image. As we read in the book of Proverbs, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” True knowledge is gained when we “fear the LORD” and align our thoughts with his.