If there is one bumper sticker that I have seen the most of besides political ones it is certainly the “Coexist” sticker. There is something about this sticker that really annoys me. A reflex that does not exactly invoke tolerance for the person with the sticker.
Though why is this? The tolerance sticker like many things invokes a truth, but at the same time invokes an error. Now of course you can’t expect a one word bumper sticker made up of religious symbols as a full statement articulating fully what the owner of the sticker wants it to mean. It certainly is rather clever in the use of religious symbols to spell out the word and that leads to its popularity. But the symbol for smarmy people who put this on their bumpers seems to be missing. The message really is “I’m tolerant, your’e not – get with the program.”
There is also a “Can’t we all just get along?” vibe and again there is a larger truth there. Religious tolerance properly defined is certainly something to be promoted and strived for. The original design came from a Polish graphic designer Piotr Mlodozeniec who designed it for an art contest for a museum in Jerusalem. It was popularized when U2 started using it on a backdrop on one of their tours. Considering the religious clashes that have occurred in Ireland you can see why it appealed to them.
Now you can’t psychoanalyze someone from their bumper sticker, but you can look at general outlooks and make some guesses at what might motivate someone to choose this sticker. The fact that these stickers are sometimes combined with other left-leaning slogans helps to make these guesses. Though once I saw a “Coexist” bumper sticker with a “Nobama” one. From my armchair view my guess is that a large group of the coexisters are either not religious or of the “spiritual not religious” type. They are rightly scandalized by religious intolerance especially when it involves violence. Though at the same time know little about actual religious intolerance. For example I doubt if there is a large intersection between coexisters and those that are upset about the religious intolerance of the HHS Mandate. The fact that Muslim dominated countries severely restrict other religions is also something that pretty much passes them by. This view is grounded also in religious indifferentism which is another implied message of this bumper sticker. All religions should get along because they are all equally made up.
This idea of tolerance is something other than how the Catholic Encyclopedia defines it.
Toleration in general signifies patient forbearance in the presence of an evil which one is unable or unwilling to prevent. By religious toleration is understood the magnanimous indulgence which one shows towards a religion other than his own, accompanied by the moral determination to leave it and its adherents unmolested in private and public, although internally one views it with complete disapproval as a “false faith”.
In fact if you told a coexister that you liked his “forbearance in the presence of an evil” sticker I am certain he wouldn’t like that definition.
Mostly what annoys me is that the call of tolerance falls far short. I am called to love my neighbor, not just tolerate him. I am also called to love my enemy and not just tolerate them. But the false view of tolerance sees no allowed enemies. I am called to love those of other faiths and when possible to bring the Gospel to them. That type of fiery love is dissipated in the luke-warm water of tolerance.
If you look for the word tolerance in the Catechism you won’t find it and you certainly don’t find the false view of tolerance that levels all belief.
843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as “a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.”
That tolerance definition is a gem! Thanks for finding it.
In my loooooooong experience with Tolerance Pushers. . .the ones who shout “tolerance!” loudest are usually the first to shout “hang ’em!” when someone disagrees with them.
Fr. Philip Neri, OP
“Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.”
I LOVE this quote. I am going to make my GK Chesterton bumper sticker now…
Bonus! A shared pet-peeve. You’ve eloquently nailed it.
Right up there with the “Darwin” stickers that put feet on the bumper sticker version of the ancient Christian Icthus-fish
Thanks, Jeff. From now on, I will try to assume people with “Coexist” bumper stickers are U2 fans. From, you know, back when being a U2 fan wasn’t as smarmy as putting a “Coexist” bumper sticker on your car.
And when I asked him why he strode
Thus scowling down the human road,
Scowling, he answered “I am he
“That champions total liberty.
“Intolerance being, ma’m, a state
“No tolerant man can tolerate!”
— Phyllis McGinley
What is the “i” in co-exist?
I am woman hear me roar? 🙂 Actually it is the middle letter of sin, pride, and anxiety. Whenever “I” is the center, it is bad.
“i” in the center is bad… right… like win, bride, white, and especially think, you wouldn’t want to do that!
[…] Coexisting with People who have Coexist Bumper Stickers – Jef. Miller, The Curt Jester […]
Here in Oregon, one of the least-churched states in the union, those stickers flourish like dandelions. I’ve had a few frosty run-ins with such bumper-sticking folks while peacefully praying at 40 Days for Life. Oy vey…
“Right up there with the ‘Darwin’ stickers that put feet on the bumper sticker version of the ancient Christian Icthus-fish.”
I was going to put my “Like science? Thank a Catholic” bumper sticker next to one of those.
Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them… We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.
Karl Raimund Popper
here is a good rebuttal to this bumper sticker
i really don’t understand why the author thinks the slogan is specifically aimed at T, but in any case actually it is a terrible rebuttal because it misses the whole point. the explanation hinges on C being intolerant, which for some individuals is true but the entire point of the idealistic hope is that all people can coexist peacefully, which means they would no longer be intolerant.
This sticker always reminds me of the scene from the movie “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” when Sarah points our that he bf having many symbols of completely contradictory beliefs tattooed on him “does not make him a citizen of the world…it makes him full of crap.”
I have never seen the supposed “homosexual” and “pagan’ symbols before. The only version of the COEXIST sign I have seen in Australia consists of
C = crescent moon =Islam
O = om symbol = Hinduism
E = normal E
X = star of David = Judaism
I = normal I
S = yin/yang symbol = Buddhism
T = Cross = Christianity.
This is far less objectionable than the version you have here, in fact I rather like it.
Coexisting and tolerance are two different words with different meanings. Coexist is not equal to tolerate.
The “coexister” is more about live and let live; the “tolerant” is about judge and THEN let live (way harder)
Love and acceptance are the key here. Compassion and respect.
I dont’ understand why this has to be such a splinter for some.
This lovely idae of a happy coexistence becomes an issue only if you seek or want to control other peoples spiritual devotions.
Hard to coexist with someone whose faith requires him out her to kill you because of your faith
Just one more thing. the coexist thing is good in the sense that we need to live together in harmony on this planet as best we can. Seek to be at peace with all men – that is a good thing. But the truth is that Coexist ends at death. Only Christ can get one to heaven.
This article is neither amusing, nor insightful. Anyone who can react so badly to the notion of tolerance (which is not what coexistence specifies anyway – rather the need to live with each other in a spirit of understanding and cooperation) falls so far to the right of any stance that might be considered worthy of discourse that I am repelled by the very notion of attempting to do so. If only I were more tolerant, perhaps I wouldn’t wish to see such a fool struck down by the God this “Jester” professes to love.
Why people can’t get along
A true covert of Islam reads the Koran and reads that the infidel must be converted or killed because the Islamic belief says that the Koran’s Allah is the only true God and the only path to a blissful afterlife
The true Jew believes that they are God’s chosen people. When they read the Torrah they see they are command to sacrifice in the temple in Jerusalem. According to their belief, the location of the Dome of the Rock is hindering their entrance into heaven.
The true Christian reads the Bible and reads that Jesus Christ and his death on the Cross is the only way to get to heaven and that they are commanded to share that with others and tell them that unbelief in this truth will send the unbeliever to hell.
Homosexuals are upset with Christians for not accepting them because Christians believe that homosexuality is a sin, and that all sins must be left behind when one becomes a Christian.
Buddhists/Confucianists believe in living a life of balance. They believe that there is a little bit of good and evil in everything and everyone. Jews, Muslims, and Christians cannot accept this because each believe that their God is pure and righteous and that the devil is 100% evil and is not equal to God.
There are some who claim to follow a particular belief but pick and choose what to believe about that faith. A true convert of a belief cannot do so. Their holy books are not a guideline but the very words of life.
Can true converts literally coexist, i.e. live side by side; yes, but they cannot accept one another. It means to ask them to declare that their God is wrong and that their holy book is a lie. to ask that means to ask them to change their faith.
I agree with you completely, which is why I firmly believe that organized religion is the absolute worst thing that man ever invented and has caused more harm to the global society than good. I know that statement is very inflammatory to some, but think about how much less persecution and violence there would be if there were no Torah, Bible, or Koran.
please, most times that I get mad and want to take things into my hands, I remember
Romans 12:19 “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” What I take out of this is, a God who is loving, kind, who is merciful (forgives) and full of grace (gives us good things) is saying I have forgiven you so now you forgive… and if necessary I will repay. Some evil (all evil) with be dealt with by aforementioned loving God.
….. tell them that unbelief in this truth will send the unbeliever to hell……
John 3:19 “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”
All this over a bumber sticker?
Thank god I’m am atheist!
I’m a Christian and reading all these responses makes me more certain than ever the Christian Faith has been hijacked by those who feel their an elite brand of “Evangelicals” bearing no semblance to the example of Christ’s humility. I’m ashamed of their brand representing my Faith and they need to realize that by the Grace of God the majority of grounded Christians “tolerate” them. To be so aggravated by a Coexist symbol on someone’s car is not just comical but ver simple and singular minded. For someone who does not inherently equate love with tolerance does not have the capacity to love in the first place. They are no different than someone who speaks while holding a Bible thinking that the mere fact he holds a Bible his speech embraces Christianity. There is a word for it, it’s called babel.
(quote) The message really is “I’m tolerant, your’e not – get with the program.” (unquote)
No, the message is just “I’m tolerant”, full stop. Or “being tolerant is good”. A “Coexist” sticker is no different from any other sticker, e.g. “Romney” or “Peace” or “I (Heart) Puppies”. If you feel accused of being intolerant by Coexist stickers but don’t feel accused of disliking Romney, Peace or Puppies by those respective stickers, why is that?
Couple other thoughts:
I hate when these stickers include non-religious symbols. Science, non-discrimination (based on gender or sexual orientation) and peace aren’t on the same “plane” as religion. The whole point of the sticker, as I see it, is to promote non-violent tolerance among religions. Science inherently doesn’t compete with religion. Religion sometimes tries to compete with science, but that never ends well for religion, ultimately.
As the Rev. H. R. “Bob” Dobbs observed about religion, “they can’t all be right — but they can sure as he** all be wrong.”
Yes, a lot of coexisters and atheists know about religious discrimination, including the real kind as practiced by majority-Muslim countries against non-Muslims, as well as the fake kind, like the HHS mandate in Obamacare.
Religious objections to the HHS mandate are a classic case of misconstruing a requirement to practice tolerance as an imposition. The attitude is “you’re infringing my right to practice my religion by restricting my ability to infringe on someone else’s privacy”. If you want to pilot a jet but your religion forbids you to fly over states beginning with the letter “M”, then you don’t get to pilot a jet. The same kind of thing goes for the practices of medicine and pharmacy. If these distinctions over boundaries seem elusive, perhaps it’s not that surprising that a simple pro-tolerance sticker could be read as an accusation of intolerance.
[…] (link) […]
Ask yourself this question: why is the Nazi swastika not included in the “Coexist” bumper sticker? After all, it would certainly make a better “x” than the seal of Solomon. Call it “coexistence” if you like, as the left-leaning hippies are prone to do, but realize that the very existence of the coexisters depends deeply on the continued existence of traditional Western values and on men willing to make value judgements. The coexisters don’t seem to think that such men exist.
The Nazi symbol was first used thousands of years ago by the Hindus and it means Unbroken Love. Only after going to Tibet did Hitler see it and use it for his Nazi symbol. You will see that symbol on the cloths of Buddhist Monks and in the Hindu religion. Hitler changed the meaning.
The people who are promoting this sticker are largely Jewish. They are the coreligionists of a generation of slaughtered European Jews. I find their message wise, inspiring and more necessary than ever in a world that seems hell bent on holy war and division between “us” and “them.”