A few years ago, I began seeing bumper stickers surface the read, “COEXIST”. The font of each letter was a symbol for various religions.
I suppose one of the original objectives when this was created was to say that there are many religions in the United States, and we should all coexist, amidst the differences.
If this was in fact one of the original perspectives, I venture to say what happened very, very shortly afterwards was a slightly different viewpoint thinking that there are many different religions in the U.S. today, and we should all agree that they are all equal… that they are all fundamentally the same… that they are all right…
But then something happened… something else surfaced more recently. Because to say we should coexist, and believe that all of our religions are the same, or, all right, doesn’t quite stand on its own two feet.
All religions are not equal. Fundamentalist Islam, for example, threatens Jihad on any non believer… Buddhism claims peace with all people.
All religions are not fundamentally the same. At best they are superficially the same, and fundamentally different. If you look at the moral code of most religions, maybe you find similarities. But you shouldn’t be looking at the moral code of a religion, you should be looking at the more deep rooted doctrine. Here, you find, they are fundamentally opposed.
All religions, or belief systems, are not all correct. Since they are all doctrinally different, they all claim different truth’s. For example, Islam states that Jesus never actually died… it only looked like He did. Christianity, obviously, claims Jesus did die and did rise again.
So, someone got to thinking… “COEXIST… no… there must be something better… Ah, I know… we’ll call it TOLERANCE. Because in the American post-modern culture today, it is completely arrogant, and disgraceful, rude and disrespectful to say anyone is wrong… it is, in fact, ‘intolerant’ to say that I’m right and someone else is wrong in their worldview.” So then this bumper sticker emerged:
But it’s ironic though… For me to say that I believe that my Christian worldview is right, (thus implying that all other worldviews are wrong), I am viewed by the post-modernist, contemporary, tolerant American, as intolerant. But those who accuse me as being intolerant for saying they are wrong, are in fact saying that I am wrong for believing what I believe… thus, they are intolerant as well. Do you see the problem here? Let me restate that; I am considered intolerant for saying I am right and someone else is wrong… but those who accuse me of being intolerant are saying that I am wrong and they are right… Does this not make them intolerant as well?
“Truth, by definition, is exclusive.” If something is true, it excludes what is not true. There is no other way around it. For example, for me to say Christianity is true, Buddhism cannot be true. For Buddhism to say it is right, it cannot say that Christianity is also right… it disagrees with the fundamental belief systems at its core! The same goes for Islam, Baha’i, Wicca, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Shinto, Jainism, Universalism, and on and on.
As far as tolerance goes, I believe it to be a red herring of sorts. It misses the point of truth. Human beings want to know what is true, not how to believe in a falsity. Therefore, to get caught up in a debate about tolerance can be a complete and ineffective waste of time. Truth is the issue. Truth is what is at stake.
However, I do believe, as Christians, we can and should coexist with people of other faiths. How else will you have a chance to share the Gospel message… the Good News? Webster’s defines ‘Coexist’ as “existing together at the same time”, or “to live in peace with each other…” That’s how I am defining it. We should not only coexist with non Christians, we should coexist with them in love. Let our Light shine to others so that they “may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” If you have to start on this track in a conversation, perhaps share why you believe the Christian faith is right, instead of why they are wrong. If you go stomping around telling everyone else how wrong they are, how attractive is that? How is that demonstrating love towards your neighbor? As I once heard, far too often Christians are known for what they are against, rather than what they are for.
1, Ravi Zacharias
2, Matthew 5:16