Friday, August 20, 2010

Coexist? Yes, yes, and no.

An interest group on one of the leading social networking web sites poses the above image and asks, "Do you believe in this image's message?"

They coexist in the trivial sense of existing at the same time -- it's easy to think of famous people living today who avow the faiths represented by the C, T, S, and maybe even the O if we know or follow any members of that particular cohort of the attention-hungry. If I'm not mistaken, the I is meant to represent a short-lived sect of theists whose founding prophet was martyred by having his arms, legs, and finally head chopped off.

In the sense of "believe in" that means something like "wish for," yes again. I wish all the followers of each of these faith traditions, even those avowing whatever the E and X are meant to represent, would take the approach outlined so nobly by Christian theologian Tim Keller (Cf.):
Many people run from any consideration of the Bible once they find such a biblical passage. I counsel them instead to slow down and try out several different perspectives on the issues that trouble them. That way they can continue to read, learn, and profit from the Bible even as they continue to wrestle with some of its concepts. One possibility I urge them to consider is that the passage that bothers them might not teach what it appears to them to be teaching. Many of the texts people find offensive can be cleared up with a decent commentary that puts the issue into historical context.
Catch that? If the creed decrees something provably false, ugly, destructive, pointless, inscrutable, or otherwise undesirable, just grunt harder and re-interpret it until it can be woven into the rest of reality's fabric. Soon enough, this will warp and rend the creed beyond recognition, but so what? Let it mutate and transmogrify -- it beats trying to mutilate reality, justice, and integrity to fit the creed. Whatever isn't worth avowing isn't worth avowing consistently or rigorously, so follow pastor Tim and spin twaddle into honey. All formless mush mixes well with all other formless mush, or so I have always observed.

Apart from all that, the answer is no, there is no good prospect of coexistence that deserves to be so called. The reality-existing creeds in question disagree sharply on essential points, and they trade truth claims like ice hockey players trade blows -- without a stable foundation, with lots of sliding around, gesturing, yelling, and whining. Hockey has its problems, but it doesn't inspire people to vote gay people's rights away, honor-kill anyone, or perpetuate child rape.

All that being so, I propose this form of coexistence -- the coexistence of the used-up facial tissue and torn-off plastic wrappers:


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