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CHRISTIANITY AND THE NEWS Poking Holes in the Coexist-Movement
By Jeremy Jackson
Does Jesus coexist? The word literally means “to exist together at the same time or in the same place,” or “to exist together in peace”. The general cohesion of the design combines with the global peace movement that sways our emotions and something that feels good inside us just seems to click … “yeah.” In case you’re a little confused about the use of the symbols put together in the design, the increasingly popular bumper stickers, as designed by peacemonger.org, show the following: - Islamic crescent in the place of the “C” - the peace symbol in the place of the “o” - male/female symbol in the place of the “e” - Jewish Star of David in the place of the “x” - Wiccan/pagan symbol in the place of the “i” - Chinese Ying-Yang (peace symbol) in the place of the “s” - Christian cross in the place of the “t” I like clever things. So I do like the “coexist” symbol in many ways. I also am a fan of peace. Who likes war? Some Christians respond to the message by saying basically: “This is what Jesus taught and did. Like Jesus, we should love others no matter where they’re coming from.” On the other end of the spectrum, some Christians are truly offended by the message, believing that it dishonors Christ by making him equal to false religions and even putting him in partnership with ideas and belief systems that are completely opposed to his teachings. What does the symbol mean to you? If you comment below, I request that you present your thoughts and ideas reasonably and respectfully. It will be clear here that I generally am not a fan of the message. I don’t even think it’s very meaningful. It’s impossible to avoid people, so coexistence should not be commendable, admirable, or something we aim to accomplish. In reading a bit about the background of the sticker, excerpts from an interview with one of its promoters and some interesting quotes from Jesus himself, it’s my hope that you will consider carefully a very important question for anyone reading from a thinking person’s perspective: Does the cross really belong there? Do Jesus’ teachings and life lead us to assume that this was his ultimate purpose for us? Does Jesus coexist? Thinking people such as yourselves often stumble over His life and teachings, so I warn you to proceed with caution.                                                   .                                                                                                                   The Sticker’s Story In an age where war, religion and hate make the headlines internationally more than maybe any other topic, the emergence of the “Coexist” message immediately resonates with the majority of people, especially with anyone who has traveled or has a vision for global peace. Not only that, but it makes sense for followers of Jesus to want to promote this message. After all, we serve the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), who said “peace I leave with you” (Jhn 14:27), and of whom others said peace on earth would come (Lk 2:14). Yet, tracing the story of this message, one easily becomes confused about its origins and may become skeptical of the motives behind its promotion. Assuming the best – that its creators and promoters are really just truth-seeking peace-lovers who want what’s best for the world and hope to make a difference through a simple message, a message brought even by Jesus – is definitely where one should start, but some thoughtful probing questions might reveal important information and answers. Who really made the “Coexist” design? Why are there so many who claim to be its creator? Where did its inspiration come from? Who made it popular? What’s the purpose behind the urgent spread of the message? The “Coexist” message first gained notoriety when created for a competition and trademarked by the Museum on the Seam for Dialogue, Understanding, and Coexistance. Its creator, Polish graphic designer, Piotr Mlodozeniec combined symbols for the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths in the word and intended it to be used to promote religious tolerance – 2001. The symbol was then popularized on the global Vertigo tour of rock icon, U2, in the early part of the past decade. According to a published report, no one from the band had requested permission to use the symbol from its creator. The museum claimed rights. The legality of its use by U2 was in question. More recently, numerous versions of the design have also emerged on the market in the form of t-shirts, bumper stickers and more, with some subtle changes added to the design. Symbols for peace (Chinese ying- yang), male/female genders and other belief systems (Wiccan) have been added to the sticker shown here. The intent of newer versions is to promote peace not just between the three major religions but for a diversity of causes. Strangely, the movement seems divided. The movement’s aspirations for peace between people of different backgrounds are to be applauded and certainly should be sought out by believers and unbelievers alike from all backgrounds, but just how its leaders believe this peace is accomplished is unclear, so I decided to interview him on it to see what kind of a motive might be there from one of the design’s leading supporters. The stickers’ main promoter does not agree with the view that Jesus is in any way divine, or the embodiment of a Supreme being that governs the universe. He believes in Christ simply as a teacher. He follows the teachings of Jesus, in that Jesus said “blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God”, but he views the deification of Christ as a political ploy and an illusion. Jesus says in Mark 9:40 “whoever is not against us is for us.” Jesus was never out to make enemies. He did not want to drive anyone away, or offend people unnecessarily. He taught his disciples to embrace others who were bringing God’s peace to their area and trust God enough to sort the truth from error. A reasoning person could heartily agree with much of what this coexist movement member is saying. However, there still seem to be some fundamental flaws in this whole concept that need to be addressed.