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Christian, husband, father, and pastor. Also a proud and dedicated nerd. One of the dads at TheDadLetters.com and author of TheLivesIHaveLived.wordpress.com. Acts 20:24

A Touchy Subject, Part One: I Don’t Think We Should Coexist

Audrey Rae, Braxton, and Charlotte-

I don’t think we should “coexist”.

Let me explain.

There’s a bumper sticker that’s on the back of a lot of cars these days (especially here in the Portland area) that depicts the word “coexist”, but, in substitution for the letters, various symbols are used. It began with a mix of symbols, some representing gender, others philosophy, and others religion. But, as time has passed, more and more of these symbols are being replaced by religious ones.

…Sigh…

On the surface, this simply is telling religions, “don’t be rude to one another”, which I totally support. Respect is incredibly important, and should be showed as often as possible. But at the heart of this bumper sticker is an idea that I just can’t get behind. It’s the idea that “all roads lead to God” or that “what you believe is right for you and what I believe is right for me”. It’s the belief that all religions are created equal and are, therefore, equally true. It’s a popular idea, one that many people are getting behind.

And I find it outrageously rude.

There’s something that most people don’t understand about being devoutly religious: you don’t consider your religion an opinion. So many people out there consider religion an opinion or a lifestyle choice, and so when others say that their way is the “right” way, they think it’s rude or politically incorrect. They think you’re pushing your opinion on others when we should just allow people to have whatever opinion they want. And then follows the bumper stickers encouraging us all to just hold hands and sing around a campfire.

But, to those of us who are deeply committed to a religion, we see things significantly different. We do not see our faith as an opinion, we see our faith as fact. When someone suggests that our religion is “just as valid” as any other, that person has taken something that is of utter importance to us, something that we base our entire lives on, and condescended it down to the equivalent of what fast food we prefer. “Oh, you like Burger Jesus? That’s cool for you, but it gives me indigestion. I like Taco Allah. But both are cool, you know, whatever.”

If you want to respect someone, if you want to validate their beliefs, then sometimes you have to tell them that you think they’re wrong. It doesn’t have to be “you’re wrong and I think you’re ignorant” or “you’re wrong and obviously a terrible person”. It can simply be, “I think you are wrong, and I’d like to explain if you’re willing to converse.”

I can outright say that when I have someone of a different religion tell me, as a devout Christian, that they think what I believe is wrong because it contradicts what they believe, I feel far more respected and validated than if someone were to suggest that what I believe is “great for me”. That might as well be said with a gentle pat on the shoulder and be followed up by the word “kiddo” in a degrading and condescending tone.

It is more polite, more respectful, and more politically correct to understand that those devout in their faith consider that faith a fact. To suggest that their religion “coexist” with other religions is to suggest that what they believe is just not true. If you want to respect someone’s religious beliefs that don’t agree with your own, politely and honestly tell them that you disagree, respectfully offer conversation about the topic, and never, never, disregard the seriousness of their belief. Saying that their belief is equally valid with all other beliefs is the equivalent of invalidating all beliefs equally.

If we truly want to coexist, we need to understand that coexisting comes with disagreements. The vast majority of religions come with two precepts: there is a greater place than this one that all people should be a part of, and that their religion is the only way to get there. To tell them not to attempt to convert people is like telling them to let people suffer a horrible fate. It’s like gathering all oncologists and telling them “keep your healing to yourself, cancer is just as valid a way of staying alive as not having cancer.” In the eyes of the religious person, it’s not just disrespectful, it’s cruel. I hope none of you ever disrespect someone in that way.

Show some respect, kids. Tell people you think they’re wrong.

1 Corinthians 1:4

            Dad

P.S. – I approve of this bumper sticker:

nerd coexist

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13 Comments on “A Touchy Subject, Part One: I Don’t Think We Should Coexist”

  1. ralphamsden September 4, 2014 at 10:23 am #

    Something in me wanted to be combative against this sentiment, or purposefully misinterpret what you wrote so that I could be offended- but the truth is it is definitely an insult to not take someone’s word for it that a subject is important to them, or in this case, sacred. Some people think that this is aggression fighting over peace, but instead (I believe) that it’s advocating honesty over passive aggression.

  2. Daniel Karistai September 4, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    “On the surface, this simply is telling religions, “don’t be rude to one another”, which I totally support. Respect is incredibly important, and should be showed as often as possible. But at the heart of this bumper sticker is an idea that I just can’t get behind. It’s the idea that “all roads lead to God” or that “what you believe is right for you and what I believe is right for me”.

    The heart of this bumper sticker isn’t that “all roads lead to God” or some form of moral relativism (that is poorly framed in this piece). The heart of it is the very simple message that people with completely different, and often contradictory, worldviews should be able to live as neighbors without killing one another. Pluralism, if done well, is what makes room for the ability to have valid disagreements with one another without it turning violent. Considering much of what is happening in this world is the antithesis of coexistence, this is a message that should be spread far and wide.

    • SRValdez September 4, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

      That may have been the message intended by the original creator of the bumper sticker, Daniel, but it certainly has not been my experience. Despite original intent, my experience has been exactly what is described above.
      Either way, it doesn’t change the actual point being made here, that we should treat other people’s beliefs with more respect that just downgrading them to opinions.

      • Daniel Karistai September 5, 2014 at 8:38 am #

        Fine, but what you wrote was about the “heart of the bumper sticker”. If you want to get to the heart of a statement shouldn’t the original intention of the statement be the interpretive lens rather than the many other ways the statement has been used or applied?

    • SRValdez September 5, 2014 at 9:10 am #

      I guess I can’t reply to your reply to my reply (replyception), so I’ll post my response here.
      This may be where we come to an impasse. I think meaning is given by the viewer, not the artist, but there isn’t really fact to back that up…

      I’ll ask this, would you slap a sticker of this on the back of your car?

      • Daniel Karistai September 13, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

        Yeah, I think we may be at a point where we agree to disagree. My question for you is, if the meaning of a statement depends on the interpreter rather than the originator how does that affect the way we interpret other things, like scripture? Ultimately, with this sort of contingency what Paul (or any other biblical author) originally meant to his audience doesn’t really matter when it comes to the meaning of the passage. My interpretation, and possibly my culture’s, is what gives scripture meaning rather than the other way around.

        No, I would not put a swastika on the back of my car even though the symbol has had a range of cultural meanings throughout history. I’m actually quite shocked/disappointed you’ve resorted to this sort of question. I wouldn’t put it on the back of my car because it would give my jewish (amongst others) friends the impression that I endorse the wholesale murder of their family members. This, quite ironically, is the exact opposite point being made by the Coexist sticker. Not only because one is globally equated to a movement of radical evil and the other is a new-agey promotion of peace but also because the swastika directly points to a specific post-WW2 culture while the Coexist sticker intentionally cannot be tied to any specific culture or religion.

  3. jedagrayJed September 4, 2014 at 9:20 pm #

    This is silly. Coexist.org states their purpose as: ” Coexist was created to address the crisis of understanding that tears at the social fabric of societies around the world. Globalization has outpaced our understanding of one another, creating divisions that plague communities with prejudice, hate and violence.” Conflicts arise as a result in such strong beliefs. The Duck Dynasty guy just went on TV and said we need to “Convert them or kill them” in regards to the Islamic state. Based on the article, the author feels that Coexist is addressing the crisis by spreading the word “all roads lead to God” which is in itself a religious statement. He is treating Coexist as a form of religion or religious teaching that he disagrees with. He feels, all roads do not lead to God, only mine does. Therefore, I will take an adversarial position against a group that advocates to exist separately or independently but peaceably. The problem is Coexist does not have a “statement of faith” and Coexist is specifically trying to reduce this type of prejudice! Prejudice: preconceived opinion that is not based on reason.

    • SRValdez September 5, 2014 at 8:01 am #

      As I told Daniel, a call to non-violence between religion may have been the original intent of the creator of “coexist”, but it hasn’t been my experience. Of those who have the bumper sticker or wear the shirt that I have asked what the meaning of the logo is, all have stated, in one way or another, that all religions should be equally valid.

      Now, you also say that it encourages religions to live “independently but peaceably”. I agree with peaceably, but my overall point is that, for most religions, to just live independently and not try to intermingle and eventually convert is the same as allowing people to suffer a horrible fate. It seems rude to me to expect people to stop trying to save others from that fate.

      • tendernessontheblock September 6, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

        So one religion’s divine right to seek to covert others over-rides the autonomy of those individuals?

      • SRValdez September 7, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

        No, Tenderness, it’s all peoples natural right to be able to try and save others from what they believe is a terrible fate, without being belittled for believing in said terrible fate.

    • Victor Campos September 9, 2014 at 8:05 pm #

      I couldn’t agree more…..there are always going to be bad seeds that will say convert or die on both sides of the Islam/Christianity debate….it’s these small portions of people that make the rest of that religion ashamed. That was the crusades, and with islam, this is now. I raise my daughter to believe that there is a God, One God. Maybe it’s all the same in the end, but in my opinion, I’m not going to force a religion i have come to resent because of omissions of “the holy book” and praising of a false God (Mary, in the catholic religion). If my daughter decides to become a Christian or a Muslim, I would be happy that she found something to believe in and find the best in that religion. As opposed to the worst.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. A Touchy Subject, Part Two: We Are “N” | The Dad Letters - September 9, 2014

    […] See part one here. […]

  2. The Dad Letters: Best of 2014 | The Dad Letters - December 28, 2014

    […] 10. I Don’t Think We Should Coexist […]

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