To My Anti-Aunt

Back in , I wrote my “Anti-Aunt” an email after she had sent a long series of forwarded emails, all with a severe, negative, political and religious bent. Finally, I got tired of it and wrote back, asking her to stop sending things like that and think through what she was sending.

I am posting this as an open letter, with the use of a pointed nickname, because this past week, she has begun sending these things again. I will not put up with such negative, fearful, hateful messages. I feel sorry for her. She is sending a terrible, intolerant, unloving, exclusionary, and fearful message to her grandkids and others like me, her nephew.

I have edited out the names and email addresses of her and the other relatives to whom I sent this reply. The text is otherwise unchanged.

From: Ben W.
To: Anti-Aunt
CC: Other Relatives
Subject: Think before you forward

Dear Anti-Aunt,

Recently, I have received some very strange email forwarded from you. I have not responded, because I really didn’t know how to reply. I am dismayed. When it’s clear that you, yourself, approved and sent them, then by sending them to others, you have shown you approve of what they say.

Some of them have made me angry. Some of them have worried me. Some of them, I have found simply sad, that you didn’t consider what they said and what they meant, before sending them to others.

I can only conclude that you have not really thought through these things, or that you do, in fact, believe them. I hope it’s the former.

Please do not forward such inflammatory things to me any longer. I cannot and will not, in good conscience, accept them.

I want to love you. I will be happy to hear news about my family.

I would like to ask you to use some critical thinking. You were a schoolteacher for many years, and have a college degree in education and ministry. You are an American and a Christian. Yet, I think you have not considered what the messages you have been sending are really saying about what you believe, or what you are willing to agree to.

There are some common themes to these messages. What do they say? What does Christian faith and American democracy say? What do you say? These are rhetorical questions. I’m not asking for a reply. I’d just like you to consider these points in relation to the email you’ve sent, and then I’ll let it be, so that we may have peace as a family.

Many of them urge me to write to a politician or a political action group, and claim to speak for God and country and family values. Many of them say some belief or group or person is wrong or immoral, un-American or un-Christian. Many of them urge drastic action to achieve what they promote. Many of these come from groups whose leaders mix politics and religious beliefs, and ask readers to support their religious views.

Well, let’s see. There was this man called Jesus of Nazareth, a controversial figure among Jewish teachers and believers of his time. He was known to be a radical liberal, some sort of beatnik or hippie, and wandered around with a bunch of jobless, shiftless young men and women. He attracted followers to his teachings, which were considered alternately a novel reinterpretation of Judaism or a heretical stance to be stamped out as ungodly. He spoke out against religious and political leaders. He destroyed temple property and assaulted businesspeople and disturbed the peace. He broke accepted custom and law in religion. He preferred the company of commoners, even criminals and outcasts, and the mentally and contagiously physically ill. He practiced some sort of magic and medical healing without a license. He urged forgiveness and compassion and cooperation for the common good.

Perhaps you see where I’m going with that. It’s a stance often used to point out the love and forgiveness of Christian beliefs. — So why, then, when I compare it with those emails, do I find them so wholly lacking in those qualities? (I intended the pun on “holy.”)

I believe that the emails you have been sending are the very beliefs you and I and other Christians and Americans and Americans of other faiths should find so alarming and dangerous.

Well, let’s see. I’m American. I’m Christian. I’m a member of a family and I have friends. In fact, there are many things about me that I consider important. There are facts of myself that I cannot change, even if I wanted to. There are other things I wish I could change; but as much as I try, it takes time; and some things, I know of no way to change. There are beliefs I hold true and moral. However, as an educated person and a person of faith, I must consider that I am not always right or perfect, and perhaps I should think through things and even change my beliefs, if they don’t hold up to questioning and to real life. Occasionally, I discover I am not as clever or right as I’d like to be, and I am compelled to change myself and treat others differently, according to my new, hopefully more complete, understanding.

I am sure I could mention plenty about the documents and principles of our American democracy and how our founding fathers and mothers, and succeeding generations, have shaped them. But I’ll presume you are aware of them. These were often pragmatic but radically liberal men and women who believed in a great many freedoms and very little in politicians and big government bureaucracies. They wrote much about their ideas on politics and religion. The separation of Church and State springs to mind, as does the right to worship as we see fit. The right to agree to disagree, too, seems notable.

I can’t understand why you consider such extremist things to be acceptable. I believe they do harm, not good. Please don’t send them. Better yet, please reconsider why you find them just. I have found many such emails offensive, but have held my tongue, until now. No longer; enough is too much.


Ben W.