I recently came across the above flyer posted on bulletin boards all over the campus where I teach. It appears to show how similar the moral teachings of the world religions are. Let’s take a closer look.
The “Coexist” at the bottom indicates that this poster is probably intended to promote a pluralistic and relativistic approach to religion that affirms that all religions are basically the same; they are all just slightly different ways to get to God. What’s a good way to respond to this poster?
While the full pluralistic “Coexist” mindset requires a bit more time and energy to address, it turns out that this poster, as one component of that mindset, is simple to address. In fact, I recommended to some Christian students I know that they turn the posters into conversation starters and do a little bit of simple jujitsu to show that, in its own small way, the poster actually highlights Christianity.
Before we get started, take a closer look at the poster and read it for yourself – you can click the photo for a larger version if you need.
Ok, now that you’ve read it, here are the three steps to responding to this poster.
1. Affirm that kindness can be found in all of the world’s religions, and that this is a good thing. Christians can, of course, joyfully acknowledge that we should all be kind to one another. While perhaps the intent of the poster was to promote pluralism, it may simply have been intended to promote kindness of all the religions towards one another. We can still recognize that kindness and love are important in many religions. In fact, the poster does strengthen the idea that God has placed a conscience in us that is not easily subdued – bolstering the argument for God from universal morality that C.S. Lewis made.
It is important that Christians be able to recognize and praise that which is good and true, wherever we find it – even in another religion. That doesn’t mean we are saying that all religions are ultimately true or good, or even that they are all the same. But if we are to reach people from other religions, we will need all of the bridges we can to connect with them.
2. Do a careful compare/contrast for each of the moral statements. The statements of each of the religions are not equivalent. Most of them are what is known as the “Silver Rule,” not the Golden Rule. The Silver Rule is the negative form of the Golden Rule, and basically says, “don’t harm others – don’t do the bad things to others that you wouldn’t want done to yourself.” The Silver Rule doesn’t actually say to do good things to others like you want done to yourself. After a person has read the poster, ask them if they are familiar with the Golden Rule and the Silver Rule. Ask them which is better, and then read through the moral statements and ask them which rule is being expressed in each statement. Only two of the moral statements refer to the Golden Rule – the statements from Islam and Christianity – so that makes those two stand out.
3. Focus on the specific wording in the moral statements from Islam and Christianity. Islam merely says to “wish for others as you would wish for yourself,” basically. Christianity, on the other hand, actually says you have to do it – your actions should demonstrate your good will – a point expressed many times in scripture. James 2:15-17 really brings that point home:
If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
Between the moral statements from Islam and Christianity, Christianity’s statement has a stronger expression of the Golden Rule; it is something you must do, not something you must simply wish.
Rather than demonstrating that all religions are equal, this list shows that Christianity actually stands out among world religions. I wouldn’t say that that consideration alone means one should be a Christian, but it is a step in the right direction. I hope these points will help you respond to the ideas expressed in this poster, should you ever encounter them for yourself. While there is much more to the whole pluralistic “Coexist” mentality, isn’t it good to know how easy it is to address some aspects of it?