We live in a World that says, “COEXIST. All religion is basically the same, so just leave people alone, and let them believe what they want to believe. They are fine, you are fine, just be happy that you have your religion, and let them have their religion.” We live in a world that would certainly reject things like evangelism or exclusivity. In fact, the western world is okay with religion and Christianity as long as it is private; as long as it doesn’t mess with public affairs; as long as people aren’t talking about it all the time. We live in a world that says to evangelical Christians, “You don’t like when the Mormons come to your door to talk about Mormonism, and the Muslims, secularists and Hindus don’t like it when Christians go talk to them about Jesus. So why do Christians in particular feel the need to be so missional? Just leave people alone, and be happy. COEXIST.”
As a Christian, I want to examine this symbol and the various worldviews it represents and hopefully answer the following questions:
• What do people believe and why do they believe it?
• How does that belief system answer the deep questions of the soul?
• Why does it matter?
First of all, what do all of the groups represented on COEXIST believe?
The Star and Crescent of Islam
Muslims believe in the one God, Allah. They believe he is not triune, but that he is one being and one person. Muslims do not believe in original sin, but they do believe in sin, and their understanding of forgiveness or justification has everything to do with what are called the 5 pillars of Islam.
1 Shahadah: According to Muslims, the first step in “getting right with God” is called the Shahadah or the testimony. And this is very literally a testimony. You have to say and believe, “I testify that there are no deities other than Allah alone and I testify that Muhammad is his Messenger.”
2 Salat: The second pillar is called Salat or prayer. A good Muslim prays five times a day and must face East during these prayers, praying towards Mecca.
3 Zakat: The third pillar is called Zakat or giving to the poor. This is a gift of 1/40th of everything you have to the poor or to those in need.
4 Sawn: The fourth pillar of Islam is Sawn or fasting. This is a fast from sun up to sun down during the Arab month of Ramadan.
5 Hajj: The fifth and final pillar is Hajj or the pilgrimage to Mecca. Mecca, of course, is a city in Saudi Arabia, and all Muslims are to go to Mecca at least once in their lifetime. Once in Mecca there are several symbolic practices of Islam that must be performed.
That is essential the “what” of Islam, but why do Muslims believe what they believe? The answer is the teachings of the prophet Muhammed and, specifically, the Quran. There are a lot of nuances to these pillars and there is much more to the Muslim faith as outlined by the Quran, but in large part Islam is wrapped up in these five pillars. This is true for every Muslim I know – prayer, Ramadan and the Hajj are events and practices that have deeply shaped their understanding of the world.
Peace is an idea or moment of harmony with no violence or discord. But peace for some is more than a moment; it is a movement. Peace is the idea of being a pacifist and the belief that peace is your highest conviction. For a pacifist there is no room for war or even for an ongoing disagreement on any grounds. People, the pacifist would say, should strive for peace and unity before anything else. The common sentiment of the pacifist is, “Can’t we all just get along?” The anthem of pacifists is John Lennon’s Imagine:
“Imagine there’s no countries, It isn’t hard to do, Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too, Imagine all the people, Living life in peace…You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one, I hope someday you’ll join us, And the world will be as one.”
Male & Female Symbol
This symbol has come to be identified with the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender group. People may argue that this isn’t a religion or a worldview, but rather a sexual decision. However, this is not how people in the LGBT community view their lives or, at least not how the narrative has been told. The narrative of the LGBT movement says that you are a “gay man” or “lesbian woman” or you are “transgender.” I have found this to be true in basically every friendship that I have with a gay man or woman. Their sexual orientation is their most defining characteristic; it is their most important identifier. This decision, or as you might say if you are a gay man or woman this realization of who you are, that you are gay, is the most important thing about you, and therefore it totally defines your worldview. And so, if that is true – and it typically is true – of the LGBT community then this is very appropriate, and it has been raised to the place of religion. It is a defining worldview, a lens through which everything else is viewed.
Star of David
The Star of David symbolizes Judaism. Just like all of the worldviews I have discussed thus far, there is more to Judaism than I could express here. Very simply, a Jewish man or woman finds peace, finds his or her meaning, by obeying the commands of God. There are 613 commands in the Tanakh, or the Hebrew scriptures, what we know as the Old Testament. The faithful Jewish man or woman obeys these laws. So much of what gave Jewish men and women comfort in the past is no more, though. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is an example. As many of you know, when the Temple was still standing in Jerusalem on the day of atonement the high priest would make a sacrifice before God in the most holy place, and this sacrifice gave the people great confidence that God had heard their prayers and that their sins were forgiven. Today, however, the Day of Atonement is just a day of prayer and fasting with a hope that God will be merciful. There is no surety or Temple, so there can be no sacrifice. The Jewish people are still waiting on a messiah. They are still waiting on the one who will come set Israel right and who will set the whole world right through them. It is clear that Judaism is a worldview, and it is also a very powerful religion. In the AD 130s the Emperor Hadrian made all of the Jewish people living in the land of Israel leave the land so Jewish people dispersed all over the world. As a result, there were basically no Jews in Israel from 130AD until the 1870s – 1,750 years! Of course, Israel miraculously became a sovereign nation again 1948, but for 1,750 years Jewish people were pushed around the world. They were persecuted, they were hated, they were outcasts, and yet somehow Hebrew customs and traditions survived. Judaism is very powerful worldview.
This symbol represents Wicca or Neopaganism. This is witchcraft or a subscription to the dark arts. This could be defined by meaning through power or satisfaction through power – a very spiritual power, a beyond the natural world kind of power. Typically Wicca does consist of a lot of partying and drug use, and Wiccans are not ashamed of that. The ultimate end goa of Wicca is to have an experience with the supernatural or demonic. Rational westerners don’t often like to talk about spiritual things or spiritual forces, but there certainly is a spiritual realm and people who ascribe to Wicca. There are people who are having spiritual experiences that are very powerful; so powerful, in fact, that this shapes the way they live and move and have their being. It shapes their worldview.
The Yin Yang is the symbol of Taoism, and it represents all Eastern thought and religion within COEXIST. Eastern thought and religion is obviously very broad, and too much for this already long article, but here are two thoughts – one on Taoism and one on Buddhism. The Yin Yang is very central for Taoism. It Is saying that for all of the Yin (good) in the world there is corresponding Yang (bad), and therefore the trick in life is finding the balance between that which is good and that which is bad. Buddhism is actually very different. The goal of Buddhism is to rise above the good and bad of this world, to rise above cravings and desires and all of the rest of life, to where you can find Nirvana or non-existence. Nirvana isn’t heaven. The goal of Buddhism is actually to not exist, and when you don’t exist you won’t feel pain, but you won’t feel happiness, either. You just won’t be.
I have given a very short explanation of all of these worldviews, and I want to be fair so I will give an equally short explanation of Christianity. Christians believe that there is one God who is three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God created the world and everything in it good and made man in His own image, but man sinned. Man disobeyed God and fell out of favor with Him. Because God is loving and merciful, He rescued man by sending his own son Jesus to become a man and to die for man. Jesus was punished by His own Father for the sins of man and died on a Roman cross. However, Jesus rose from the grave and calls on all men to follow Him, believe in Him, be saved by Him and live with Him now and forever in His eternal Kingdom. For those who never find Jesus, they never find salvation, and they must face the wrath of God against their sins in a place of punishment called hell.
As you can see, worldview matters, and all of these groups believe in very different things for very different reasons. So, how do all of these worldviews speak to the soul? How do they answer the very deep questions of the soul? I want to spend a little time here because every human soul is asking some of the same very basic questions.
The first question is: What brings worth or justification to a man?
There is a deep desire in every human soul to be justified, to believe that you have a reason for being alive and that your life really counts and is really worth something. Justification seems kind of like a Christian word, but every soul longs for this and every worldview speaks to this.
Islam tells its believers to justify oneself through one’s commitment to the pillars. Allah will not be satisfied with you if you fail in one of these areas. Fear is very central in Islamic thought. It may be the driving motivator in this whole worldview.
Pacifists say be justified through peace or non-violence. The way to a justified world is peace, but the difficulty here is trying to find real peace and not just apathy or complacency.
A member of the LGBT community tells their fellow members to justify themselves by being who they really are, sticking up for themselves and carrying out their sexual desires. The LGBT community has become a revolutionary group. Normalizing that which is abnormal is where justification in the LGBT worldview is found.
The Jew is very clearly saying that one must justify oneself. Hebrew culture says find righteousness in obedience to the law.
Wicca says one finds justification in an experience. It may be evil, but it doesn’t matter. Connect with a spiritual force and find your meaning there.
Taoism and Buddhism both kind of give up on justification. There is a sense in both of these that says you can never justify yourself so just learn to live with the good and the bad, or just don’t be – run, forget about the world and forget about your soul.
The second question is the question of satisfaction: Where is satisfaction found? And what you find is that when you give an honest look at these worldviews, satisfaction is very hard to find.
In Islam how can one be satisfied? It is worldview based on fear and performance. One’s relationship with Allah is not personal. He is an overseer making sure believers do and live right.
The pacifist can never be satisfied because people don’t just find peace. People find peace when that peace is based on something real, not based on our imagination or on a hope that maybe there could be peace someday. People find peace when they find truth, and there is only one source of truth and one source of peace, and one day he will come and bring a perfect and lasting peace.
Members of the LGBT community may find some satisfaction when a bill is passed or an opinion poll shows that people’s opinion of homosexuality is changing, but people believing that something is right doesn’t make it eternally or universally right. In order to understand justification and therefore satisfaction, you first have to answer the question of who decides what is right? Or, who designed this world? There are clearly anatomical, scriptural, historical and social problems with homosexuality and transgender, and so far the changing laws have had no effect on the low satisfaction or high depression and suicide rates among LGBT youth.
As mentioned earlier, in post-Temple Judaism Jews hope that their prayers and fasting work, but there is no evidence of this; there is no sacrifice.
There certainly isn’t satisfaction in Wicca. People are living from one experience to the next. That is why we see so much drug use and death among Wiccans. There is no satisfaction.
In the Eastern religions the pathway to satisfy your desires is to say you have no desires and that you don’t exist; your desires cannot be satisfied so forget about them. We all know that isn’t real, it isn’t true.
Which brings us to the final question: What lasts?
In looking at all of these worldviews, at all of these kingdoms, I think there are a couple of obvious observations. No matter where you stand, it is clear that these worldviews are not all the same. They do not all say the same things, and therefore only one of them can be true. So, when trying to answer the question of what lasts, I think the better question may be: Which one is true? Which one is right? Which one is real?
What comes to your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you. So, who is God?
We look at all of these worldviews and they really all have this similar theme. It’s either you have to be perfect or you have to be nothing.
You have to perform the 5 pillars.
Forget about your country and your religion. Be nothing, don’t believe in anything, and imagine a peaceful world.
Normalize that which is abnormal. In other words, reject the normal, and turn truth on its head.
Obey 613 command perfectly. Be perfect.
Find the experience lock into the power, and lose yourself in that. Give yourself to the dark arts.
Be nothing. You are nothing anyway.
Be perfect or be nothing. The reason the world says this is that we know that we are supposed to be perfect. I have had the opportunity to be with several people shortly before they died while they were lying on their literal deathbed, and it’s interesting that one of the last things to go is that sense of regret. People will say, “You know, I really tried to be a good parent,” or “I wanted to be a good man, I wish I would have done this or that.” I think that deep down inside the heart of every man we know that we are supposed to be perfect. There is enough image of God in all of us that we know that we were meant for the garden, we were made to be in the presence of God. But we all know that we aren’t perfect, and so through the centuries people have come up with some systems to address this problem. And all these systems say be perfect or be nothing.
But Christianity says you aren’t perfect, you have baggage, and you don’t have to hide it. This is so unnatural for us. We all want to hide our sin, but Jesus tells us not to hide our sin. He says, “I know you are a sinner. I know about that and that and that, and I love you. I still love you.” Jesus loves you so much that He was willing to die for your sin. He was willing to pay the full price for your sin on the Roman Cross, and He was willing to die for you.
For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
— Romans 5:7-8
After being fully dead for three days, He rose from the grave. Jesus defeated death. Death has no power on Him, and death has no power on all who believe in Him. Did you hear that? Jesus defeated death. And if you believe in Him, trust in Him and live in Him you will never die. Jesus didn’t save you from sin to be nothing. Jesus saved you from sin to be everything – to live in His perfect Kingdom forever, to be a King in the Kingdom of Christ. All other worldviews say, “be perfect or be nothing,” Christianity says, “you’re not perfect but you can be everything through faith in Jesus.”
Here is what I know: there is a stirring in your soul right now because you know this is true. There is enough image of God still in you and enough Holy Spirit of God in this place that you can see this. Don’t miss Jesus. The one who is going to last is the one who is true to Him. This world only has one King, one Savior. His name is Jesus and He is forever. He is the answer to the questions of your soul. He fulfills, He satisfies, and He lasts.
This whole world tells us to be perfect or be nothing, but Jesus says, “I know you aren’t perfect, but I love you anyway, and I have forgiven you. I am going to make you perfect, and I am going to give you everything.” Don’t you want Jesus? Won’t you just trust Him?
Dr. Jason Dees is the pastor of Christ Covenant Buckhead and guest instructor at the Kanakuk Institute.