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You’ve undoubtedly seen them. The bumper stickers with one word: coexist. That word is made up of the symbols of various faith groups. Well, I bristle whenever I see one of them. Yes, the sticker bothers me.

For those who don’t know me, you may think you know why I don’t like it. It’s unlikely you do. 

I’m not an exclusivist. I do not accept the interpretation of John 14: 6 that insists there is only one path to the Divine. After all, the author of John was writing to people in a specific time, culture, and place far removed from the twenty-first century. My experience of the Divine is of one loving energy/power/entity that is in relationship with all of humankind. The Divine is within and between all of us. We each interpret our experiences of this energy/power/entity within our own experiences and that of our communities.

So what is my problem? 

It’s not that I don’t empathize with what the sticker says to so many people. Of course people are fed up with the sins of the church and other religions. As humanity we do indeed seem to be able to find ways to mess up.

My problem is simple. Human beings are entwined in a tapestry of relationality that precludes coexistence. We couldn’t coexist if we tried. Coexistence implies that we  do not influence one another. It implies that what I do has no bearing on my Muslim, Hindu, or atheist neighbor. Of course, it does. Everything any one of us does influences in subtle or not-so-subtle ways every other living creature on this planet. 

I’ve dabbled with “collaborate” as a better word for a bumper sticker. There are advantages to this word but it probably doesn’t quite capture the essence that begs capture. I’ve played with other words and phrases, too: shalom, interact, be one, and relate. Even “love” has connotations that not everyone would understand on a bumper sticker.

Maybe I will one day come up with the perfect bumper sticker word. In the meantime, I will continue my journey of striving to love my nearby and far-a-way neighbors. I will try to remember that who I am influences them and that who they are influences me. We are one, we just don’t act like it much of the time.


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