Funny, what motivates one to finally join the blog-o-sphere.  But sometimes, you just can’t fit what you’d like to say in 140 characters (Twitter) or a small comment box (Facebook)…

I suppose I’m one of the few who had never seen this bumper sticker until yesterday.  I do live in the heart of the Bible Belt and in a part of the US known as the Redneck Riveria; so I suppose I should not be surprised that I hadn’t seen one until now.

My own first thought on seeing it was – that’s *awesome*.  Kudos for whoever came up with it.  What a perfect expression of part of what’s wrong with the world today – we aren’t doing such a great job of co-existing, or even attempting to.  It may, in the end, be an impossible request; but even making a better attempt at it is still a worthy goal, I think.

So today, I went looking online to see if I could find one for myself.  And I was absolutely stunned by what I found in the process – by the amount of hatred and backlash caused by such a simple (and essentially peaceful) message.  The worst coming from a Congressional candidate in my own state (though not my district), to wit:

“As I was driving up here today, I saw that bumper sticker that absolutely incenses me.  It’s not the Obama bumper sticker. But it’s the bumper sticker that says, ‘Co-exist.’ And it has all the little religious symbols on it. And the reason why I get upset, and every time I see one of those bumper stickers, I look at the person inside that is driving. Because that person represents something that would give away our country. Would give away who we are, our rights and freedoms and liberties because they are afraid to stand up and confront that which is the antithesis, anathema of who we are. The liberties that we want to enjoy.

Wait…what?  The liberties that I want to enjoy do tend to include things like freedom of religion.  Last I checked, that meant all of them – not just the one I subscribe to or that the majority subscribe to.  I have friends of just about every faith out there (and no faith at all as well); Jewish friends, Muslim friends, Baha’i friends, Buddhist friends, Wiccan friends, Pagan friends, agnostic friends, and atheist friends.  ALL are good people, or they would not be my friends in the first place.  ALL are people who live by the same basic values that anyone who calls themselves a Christian should – kindness, honesty, charity, fairness, et cetera.  And let’s face it, good deeds even if done in the name of evil are still good deeds; and conversely (and IMO more importantly), evil deeds done in the name of Good are still evil deeds.

It is not the subscription to or profession of any given faith (or lack of one either) that makes a person essentially good or evil, it is how you live and the actions you take that are the yardstick to be measured by – and I firmly believe that even the Bible supports this, over and over (note, not talking about what makes one saved or redeemed in a religion – just what makes a person basically good, or evil).  The Good Samaritan.  The sinner who anointed Christ’s feet.  The thief on the cross.  These were not being held up as examples of ‘the faithful’, by any means – but as examples of how ‘the faithful’ should act, that forgiveness is available to all, and kindness is not limited to just ‘the faithful’ (and in fact, the ‘faithful’ can be unkind as well).  It is not someone’s faith that makes them ‘good’ or ‘evil’ in my experience (though, good people certainly can be led to bad deeds via misguided faith, I agree; but that can happen with *any* faith.  Anyone who thinks that evil cannot be done in the name of Christianity also, has not paid attention to their history lessons.  And, how would you feel, if the ‘face’ of your religion to the rest of the world was someone like the ‘Reverend’ Jim Jones, for example?  If extremists like him and his followers were what people in non-Christian nations mostly saw or knew of your faith?  Is it so hard to understand that some of the ‘faces’ of Islam that make the news worldwide, are similarly not the true or real faces of Islam?  There is nothing news-worthy about people quietly going about their worship, after all…)

I read dozens of comments from Christians (about this simple bumper sticker) that claimed that it meant that one must accept that there is more than one God – even that this simple bumper sticker was an outright demand that one must embrace all differing beliefs and faiths.  This puzzled me as well – maybe they do not actually know the definition of the word ‘coexist’?  From the Online Dictionary:

co-ex-ist: 

1. To exist together, at the same time, or in the same place.
2. To live in peace with another or others despite differences.

I’m sorry, I don’t think I see anywhere in that definition that you must embrace differences.  Nothing that says you must accept them, either.  What is says is to live in peace, despite the differences.  What I see in that is nothing more than a request to live, and let live.  I do not get what anyone finds so offensive, or threatening, about that message or idea.  I don’t even find it to be particularly liberal in nature.  I honestly do not understand what can possibly be so terrible, or so un-Christian, or even un-American about the idea of living in peace with another, despite your differences.  I don’t see how that one simple ideal, to live in peace with others (even if it’s nothing we can ever manage to fully attain), runs counter in any way to either the Christian faith or the nation’s foundation.  I just do not understand.  I don’t think I ever will.

I also found a counter bumper-sticker that had a message that said something like ‘how can I coexist with someone who wants to kill me?’  And again I’d say – that is the same reduction to ‘us vs. them’ that causes so many problems in the first place.  The millions of Muslims in the world do not want to eradicate the millions of Christians, Buddhists, Jews…the majority of them just want the same things anyone else wants.  To be able to live and worship in peace.  It is the extremists, the outliers, that want violence and death; and it’s not so hard to paint the great unknown as being the very embodiment of evil, is it?  That operates heavily on both sides, IMO.  They are told that we all want to eradicate them, we are told that they all want to eradicate us; and nobody tries to find out for themselves whether that’s really true or not.  It is really just fear of the unknown talking, that bumper sticker.  Understandable, if all you know is what you’ve gleaned from the news.

I fully realize that even the Devil can quote Scripture: but, I cannot believe that this message in any way runs counter to the message of the ‘Coexist’ bumper sticker.  From Matthew 25:31-46:

 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.   

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’   

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’   

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’   

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

   44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

   45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

   46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

One may of course choose to interpret ‘brothers and sisters’ to mean only ‘brothers and sisters in Christ’; but I have always believed and always will believe that humankind, all of it, is what is meant.  If you believe that God created man in his own image, then to me you also must believe that all of humankind are brothers and sisters; be they saint, sinner, unbeliever, or of a different faith.

Honestly – how can any of us take such a simple concept, such a simple message as this bumper sticker is trying to convey, and blow it so far out of proportion?  Is it really asking so much, to just let people follow their own paths?

(as an aside – I do not intend to blog about religious or political things in general, this was just the first thing that happened to come up that I was motivated enough to write about, *grin*.  I am usually the first person to leave any given conversation if it turns too sharply to either religion or politics, just because the potential to give offense (unintentionally) is so high with either one.  What motivated me to join the fray on this one was that I could not understand why this (seemingly) small thing would be so threatening, to provoke such harsh responses, and from so many as well.)

Advertisements