Bumper Stickers and Millennial Culture
There can be a million distractions while driving and the laws restricting cell phone usage and texting are an attempt to minimize diversions. But I have to admit one of my greatest distractions is reading bumper stickers. I am simply intrigued by some of the philosophical nuggets that can be gleaned from those little pieces of adhesive.
I have been known to pull so close to the car in front of me in an effort to read the bumper sticker that I almost trigger road rage. But you have to admit that there is nothing worse than reading the large print and then not being able to read the small print punch line.
So the other day my wife and I were driving and I saw the COEXIST bumper sticker, which I had seen many times before but this time was different. The COEXIST bumper sticker has been surrounded by controversy since its creation by Piotr Mlodozeniec, a graphic designer from Poland. He first created it in response to an art contest sponsored by the Museum on the Seam for Dialogue, Understanding and Coexistence which is an organization located in Jerusalem.
The design originally represented Christianity, Judaism and Islam but has been changed by some to add Wiccan, the symbol for male/female and the Chinese yin-yang. Most people will tell you that it is simply a symbol of peaceful coexistence between all religions and is not meant to be an ecumenical blending of them…thus some of the controversy.
I recently had a conversation with a group of Millennial generation students. We discussed the “Don’t all roads lead to Heaven?” debate they frequently face on their campuses. I have often referred to this generation as Mosaics because they formulate their lives and philosophies taking pieces from multiple belief systems, mores and philosophical perspectives.
They tend to be comfortable with contradiction so combining belief systems is not difficult. They may enthusiastically embrace Jesus Christ and then add a little eastern mysticism plus other religions rituals, thus the belief that “all roads lead to Heaven.” You can see why the COEXIST movement would be appealing to them.
The point of my blog is not to debate the bumper sticker, its meaning or what anyone believes it means. My point is that it is symbolic not just of theological debate but cultural reality. We should know exactly what we believe and why we believe it.
However, if we cannot communicate those beliefs clearly to a generation who hears with their eyes and sees with their hearts, then does it matter?
This bumper sticker communicates clearly with basic symbols. How are we communicating our message of grace, forgiveness and hope?