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To My Aunt

BART, you probably haven’t read about this [forwarded message: Why Did Jesus Fold the Napkin?] ––––– you are so brilliant, and I understand how your mind was to reject Jesus, but He is the only way to salvation, He is the only God who died on the cross for our sins–––statues of buddah, baal and Hinduisms and islam and everything else is NOT the way to anything===go back to reading the Bible and before each reading ask God to help you understand. In these last days, you want to be prepared for heaven and the final judgement–––I am so serious, I really hope you understand that I love you and Christy and Persephone––––wouldn’t be much of an aunt if I didn’t at least tell you how important you are.

Dear Aunt,

Wow, I hardly know where to begin. You have always been so kind and sweet to me. I feel I owe you a true response that comes from the heart.

I shared the message you wrote with a number of friends and acquaintances. I hope you don’t mind. Strangely enough, most everyone advised me to either a) ignore you entirely or b) tell you something nice to appease you — in other words, to end the conversation as quickly as possible. I don’t think that’s right. I think you deserve something better than that. People say there’s little hope of genuine dialog between us, but I prefer to think otherwise.

I can’t help noticing the great distances between us. We are so far apart in so many ways: geographically, of course, but also chronologically: We are of different generations. We have had very different life experiences. In truth, we hardly know each other.

Despite all these distances, we are still family, and we still care about each other. I feel this is an opportunity to draw just a little bit closer, perhaps to get to know each other a little better. I would not want religion to drive us apart.

If you draw inspiration from reading the bible, then I am very glad for you. Speaking of the bible, I think we can both agree it is a fascinating and crucially important historical document. It might interest you to know that I have worked extensively on the website. In fact, I am currently working on an animated version of the Old Testament. I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s done. But I digress.

If the Christian tradition helps you to grow, to be a better person, then that is good. I respect and honor you and your choice.

Of course, respect is a two-way street. I would like to feel that you can respect and honor my choices as well, even when they are not precisely the same as yours.

If you ever want to know more about my choices, about how I think about these things, about my religious practice, or anything else for that matter, all you have to do is ask. I’ll be happy to share with you.

A few years ago, you advised me not to neglect my daughter’s religious education. I took your advice to heart, and what I discovered (again) is that there is such a diverse array of spiritual paths and traditions in this world. I don’t mean to say that they are all equal, or that they are essentially the same at the core. To the contrary, they are all different, and those differences are significant. Yet they do seem to have some things in common, and chief among those is this: They all represent an attempt to get at the deep truths of existence.

So, I’d like to suggest that even though we are on different paths, we may yet share some common ground.

With love and respect,

Your nephew

Published inFamilyLettersTheology


  1. HK HK

    well played. i’ll be curious to see if she accepts your offer and asks you a question about your journey.

  2. David David

    It’s cute that you brought up your work, but I got news for you–that ain’t getting you into heaven either!

    The unfortunate thing about this exchange is that your aunt’s concern is grounded in the idea that her mode of spirituality is the mode of spirituality. The comforting thing about such a perspective is that it allows one to ignore uncertainty. Of course, with a little distance, one can see the absurdity of believing that spirituality is anything other than a deeply personal (and therefore individual) process. The sheer varieties of Christianity alone indicate that.

  3. As HK says, well played. To “deep truths of existence” I’d add that for most religious beliefs, the Golden Rule turns up time and again, so that might be another shared area.

    Good luck and keep us posted!

  4. Avocado Tom Avocado Tom

    Agree with the other comments completely.

    Well put and glad to see you took the time to answer honestly. I was at my Grandmother’s the other day and had a similar experience where she asked me about gay marriage (a somewhat distant cousin is a Lesbian and just got married). It was tough to find the balance and the respect, but that’s what she deserved – and in some way, wanted, as she was the one to bring it up and ask me my opinion.

    I don’t know that your aunt will ever be able to accept your choices, but I hope she can respect you and you can continue to share a mutual love and respect.

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