Dear Prudence

Help! My Cousin Is Great—but She Thinks I’m Going to Hell.

Dear Prudence answers more of your questions—only for Slate Plus members.

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Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.

Q. In the eyes of the Lord: My cousin lives in another city and is fun, loving, energetic, and exceptionally open with personal information. She and her family live in a community with strong ties to a large church upon which their religious, social, and education life revolves. About six years ago while I was visiting, we were having a typical great time drinking wine at her home and the concept of heaven and hell come up. She told me I was going to hell because her pastor said I am a sinner. I’m gay. I countered that I was amazed she would think this and even more amazed she would tell me. My final comment, before I left, was if she really thinks that I am not on equal footing with her in the eyes of the Lord, because someone who does not know me said so, then she was not as bright as I thought she was. Each year she has reached out multiple times via text and email to say hi, send silly pics, etc., and I can’t even muster a response. Should I let this go and reconnect knowing how she feels about me?

A: Do you think that you would enjoy catching up, swapping silly pictures, etc., knowing all the while she believed you to be hell-bound because of your sexual orientation? That’s a genuine question, by the way, not a “gotcha”; I think there are a number of reasons why someone might decide to make certain compromises with a family member’s religious bigotry, and that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ceding the moral high ground or compromising your true and authentic self. So if you think it’d be fun to get coffee once in a while and agree never to talk about the afterlife, you might very well decide to reach out. But if you think that last conversation would always be at the back of your mind, spoiling whatever peace might exist between the two of you, I think it’s a good reason to keep your distance. The choice is yours.