It has been around for many years, the bumper sticker that is asking the people all around the car sporting it to “coexist”. The message is simple, stop fighting other people from other religions and lets all just exist together on this planet together. I fully believe that many (if not all) who have this message on their car are promoting peace on earth, the problem is that language is real and words have actual meaning and the word exist has set the bar far too low, especially if you claim to be a follower of Jesus.
Jesus does not tell us to simply exist alongside other people in the world, he has told us to love them. Loving another person requires more of a relationship with them than not killing the person. That is what coexistence means after all, to exist near other people without ending their existence.
Is that what we are striving for? To simply not kill people near us because they have a different religion or thought process than us? And isn’t existence just a bare minimum of actually being alive? The idea of existing does not promote helping one another, having friendships, discussing ideas, or simply being neighborly. It promotes a bleak world where we all just keep our heads down and our mouths shut and try not to do anything to offend other people. But I want to give those with this bumper sticker the benefit of the doubt that they are not promoting this lack of interaction and they do not want everyone ignoring one another for the sake of existing.
So what is the real message? That there be an end to religiously inspired violence in the world? I think that most people would wholeheartedly agree. Christians believe that Jesus was and is God and he clearly tells us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek when we are harmed, so therefore nobody believing in Jesus would disagree with this. I cannot speak for what other religions teach other than what I know from their writings and most of them teach a similar level of peace to other people, even those who have vastly different belief systems. The only religion I am aware of that is mainstream that has a religious text that promotes violence to those who disagree with them is Islam and I have never met a Muslim who openly said they want to do harm to me as a Christian. Maybe they were lying to me when they said they have no desire to kill Christians and many have explained why the Quran does not actually promote violence (even though it clearly does within the text itself). The point is simple, the vast majority of people (religious or otherwise) do not want to hurt others because of differing beliefs and most people who are non-religious are also seeking peace with others. So is the message of “coexist” even necessary when a majority of people reading it would agree wholeheartedly that violence towards others is a bad thing?
Here is what I believe the people who have those stickers are truly wanting to promote. The complete privatization of religious belief. Believe what you want but do not talk to me about it and don’t you dare bring it into the political sphere or the public arena in any capacity. The problem is that everyone does this all the time. Laws are moral by nature and the morals that guide those laws come from an individual’s belief system, whether it is guided by God, or nature, or their own personal code. Society is structured around the moral code of the people living in it, so to ask that everyone keep their personal belief system quiet in the public arena means there can be no public conversation about anything meaningful. Instead of trying to avoid all talk about religion and belief systems, why not embrace the conversation and have civil discussions about these ideas? We agree based on what we know about Socrates and Plato that they were smart men who changed the world because of their intellect, yet we now despise the very core of what made them so great. Go read the Republic again and see that they constantly debated religious and philosophical ideas in public and never shied away from pointing out the flawed logic in their opponents, even if it was offensive to them.
It is possible for an idea to be wrong and people who hold illogical or flawed ideas of right and wrong should want to reform to what is true. I always welcome a conversation that can help me see where I am wrong and steer me towards the truth and I do not usually get that kind of challenge from superficial conversations about sports or the weather. Our ability to disagree with one another while remaining friendly has almost vanished, if we do not make a change in our society it will completely disappear before we know it. We must do more than coexist, we need to actually love another, engage with each other, learn and grow from each other, or we are missing out on a huge portion of life as it is meant to be lived. Christian brothers and sisters, let us lead the charge in this, commit yourselves to have meaningful conversations with coworkers and neighbors and never be afraid that someone might make you question what you believe. Let is spur you on to a deeper study of God’s word and let other people help sanctify you in pursuit of the truth.