Can We “Coexist” With All Religions?
“Why can’t we all stop arguing about religion, find common ground and coexist?” This is a recent question I received.
We’ve seen Bono of U2 display it at concert. They’re found nationwide on bumper stickers. I’m talking about the symbolized statement… “Coexist”! Several variations of this peaceful gesture are abound. However, the most popular is the word “Coexist” constructed from symbols of the world religions & philosophies.
[Note: Kevin Ott, the editor — who has studied many U2 biographies — said this: “I’m doubtful Bono believes in the ‘all ways lead to God’ version of Christianity. Bono used a variant of the ‘coexist’ symbols (only showing three symbols: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) during their ‘Vertigo’ tour in 2004 in the context of a political statement that he was making about the Middle East — particularly Jerusalem.”]
The “Coexist” phrase most often contains the following symbols for each letter: C – the crescent moon that represents Islam; O – the peace symbol or pagan/Wiccan pentacle; E – the male/female symbol; X – the Star of David that represents Judaism; I – a pagan/Wiccan symbol; S – the Chinese yin-yang symbol; T – a cross used to represent Christianity.
I cannot display the “Coexist” graphic for fear of trademark violation. It is no less ironic that multiple lawsuits for trademark ownership have been waged over this symbol of peace over the years… I digress!
Can all religions and beliefs live together as one?
All religions, at their core, answer several age-old self-imposed questions:
* “Why Am I Here”?
* “Is There A God”?
* “Where Did We Come From”?
* “What Will Happen When I Die”?
In the minds of most people, any belief system which addresses these questions qualifies as a religion, and gathers believers. Some religious zealous cause’s people to drink poisonous Kool-Aid or commit suicide en mass to a passing comet so that their spirits can join the “alien” community.
The Coexist campaign offers the ideology of universal peace — a noble and universal gesture on the surface. In reality, “Coexist” ignores the core of most religions.
The “Coexist” slogan implies that although most religions, when compared, offer very contradictory ideologies, those contradictions should not considered — and therefore all beliefs should find common ground so we can all sing a global “Kumbaya.” However, the fundamental differences between religions cannot and should not be ignored.
Can the Religions Grouped Together Within “Coexist” Actually Coexist?
Not according to The Voice of the Martyrs website Persecution.com.
The Voice of the Martyrs is a non-profit, inter-denominational Christian organization dedicated to assisting persecuted families worldwide. They even offer a global prayer map warning Christians of the potential dangers around the world — a warning of persecution and death.
I should clarify, I reference religion generically in this article. Some “religions” are cults legally recognized as religions such as Scientology.
That said: most religions call for some level of isolationism and separatism. Some call for complete isolation from the outside world.
And, yes, Christ commanded us to love the world, to spread the Good News of the Gospel, but He also made bold claims of total exclusivity (i.e. when Jesus said in John 14:6: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to God except through me,” emphasis mine). Another example from the Bible: the Apostle Paul commanded us to not be unequally yoked in marriage.
Certain segments of the Muslim religion emulate the actions and follow the commands of its founder who slaughtered non-believers [i.e when its founder killed most of the Jews who lived in Arabia shortly after he formed his religion], and advocate death to those who do not believe, or to those who fall away — which, I should add, is a very different belief system than what Jesus taught.
Christ commanded us to love our enemies, not slaughter them! To say that these two very different belief systems, created by founders who acted and spoke very differently, can happily run in a field together through a field of flowers is, ludicrous and naive. And this is only two of the seven belief systems grouped within the “Coexist” logo!
Can we “coexist” — as in physically live in the same region and not resort to violence? Hypothetically, yes! Are all religions the same? Absolutely not!
No matter how much we attempt to live in harmony, our world is in a fallen state of existence. We live in a world of good versus evil. Discrimination and conflicts between races and religions have existed for centuries, and is as prevalent today as it was thousands of years ago.
It is the belief beyond the basic questions I previously mentioned that separates and segregates religions.
Religion instructs us with directives and commandments. Christianity specifically is focuses upon self-reflection. It instructs us to fix ourselves first (by, ironically, surrendering our self-will to Christ and allowing Him to do the transforming work) — to remove the plank from our eye before removing the speck of dust from others. The Muslim religion demands daily prayer. The Jewish religion is the foundation of Christianity, but does not acknowledge Christ, which puts it at odds with Christianity.
Do I want world peace? Absolutely! However, war and anger between the same religions with different perspectives can destroy the fabric of individual, yet very different religions. America is a country suffering from anger of inequality, political and social injustices, and racism. Assuming that 70% of America calls themselves Christians, these differences are among people of similar religious beliefs.
The world cannot find equilibrium. For the world to evolve into total political correctness and the “tranquility” of the “coexist” mentality, millions of people who are passionate about their religious beliefs would have to abandon them or fundamentally change them by ignoring the teachings of the founder of their religion.
The critic of Christianity says: “Never mind that Jesus boldly taught that belief in His atoning works on the Cross and Resurrection is the only way to God. The world is wiser than Jesus and knows better than the One we have dedicated our entire lives to following. Discard what Jesus taught His followers, the world will be in peace, and live happily ever after.”
Although people don’t say it in so many words as phrased above, many forces in our culture our making this demand to Christians: drop the core belief that you’re most passionate about.
Unfortunately, as I have experienced, some find it acceptable to force Christians to abandon their beliefs so others can obtain their subjective, postmodern version of “coexist” paradise.
As a Christian, am I willing to abandon the teachings of Christ? To stop spreading His word? Am I willing to lay down the Bible in obedience to the co
mmands of a lost world that is seeking unobtainable peace and harmony? Even if I stand alone, I declare: I will not!
As mentioned earlier, to be a Christian means I am commanded by Christ to offer love to those who hate me.
18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’
Since you posed this question to a Christian website, I will respond as a Christian. To be a Christian, I am compelled by the Holy Spirit who lives within me to stand strong for Christ and His Word. Christians are not called to ride the fence.
I quote Revelation 3:15-16 –15: “I know your actions, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. 16 Since you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to spit you out of my mouth.”
We live in a world that is so blessed, yet filled with evil actions and intentions — murder, adultery, deceit (pick any of the Ten Commandments). These sins have been around for centuries, and it’s not about to end any time soon. This world is not our home. If this world is not our home, then we should never deny what Christ taught for the sake of pleasing relativists. Turn our backs on Christ just to please people who demand we stop believing in absolute truth, when it was that absolute truth of Christ that transformed our lives and, in many cases, saved our lives, our families, our marriages, and works miracles?
Christians are called to spread His word and works with love, and most difficultly, as an example of Christ as we are His church. I will never water down my beliefs just to make critics happy. Christians must not forget we are here to serve others as Christ did, to spread His word in love — and, most difficult of all, to live by example.
I pray you find Christ and His peace!