Bumper Sticker Theology

16 Aug

As I drive around town, I often encounter interesting bumper stickers on cars in front of me.  Sometimes the message is silly, sometimes it is vulgar, sometimes it is serious.  One of the more common bumper stickers I’ve seen in recent days is this one . . .

Each of the letters in the word is a symbol for a different religion or ideal.  The thrust of the message seems to be that we should all get along and that to do so will make for a better world.  I take it to be an imperative to all religions to coexist.  But as I look at this bumper sticker, I wonder why it is necessary.  I believe we are already coexisting pretty well.  Is it illegal to be a Muslim in America?  Are Jews regularly rounded up and imprisoned for their faith?  Are atheists arrested for their lack of belief?  Americans of every religion and no religion live next to each other every day with relatively few incidents of hateful behavior toward one another.  The foundation of religious freedom is one of the things that makes our country great.  The effect of the kind of toleration which seems to be at the heart of the Coexist sticker, however, is to level out and water down all belief.  It is almost as if the sticker is saying, “It’s fine to have beliefs, just don’t let them affect you in real life.” The people who made the Coexist sticker blame religion for much of the conflict in the world.  Admittedly, religion has been used through the ages as a tool of power to bring great harm on many people. But the answer is not to stop believing, or to put religion in a private sphere where it does not effect public behavior. I believe the answer is to stop using religion as a tool for grabbing power and instead seek to live your faith (or lack of faith) in public and private.

Believers and non-believers can not both be right. Hindus and Christians can not both be right. So all should have the right to contend for their beliefs in the public square without being silenced or censored. In the best case scenario, some may put a “Coexist” sticker on their car to promote the free exercise of religion. But I am afraid more often than not, the “Coexist” sticker is advocating a world where faith is put on the shelf in favor of the idea of “keeping the peace.” But this is a false peace and a hindrance to the freedom of thought which should mark our national discourse.

 

2 Responses to “Bumper Sticker Theology”

  1. jamieahughes September 4, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    I saw this on a hunt for a “Coexist” bumper sticker image to use in my own blog. Well said!

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