Respect my beliefs and I’ll respect yours

The other day, I pulled a package from my mailbox that contained a book: The Case for Christ. It was sent to me from Mesa, Arizona, by a first cousin. Her husband has always been a devout evangelical Christian, and some time after she married him, she chose to become one herself.
Barbara should know better by now. I thought I’d put the lid on this issue a few years ago, when I received a very Christian-religious card from her at Hanukkah time. I had already sent out my greetings, which never vary: Hanukkah cards to my Jewish friends, Merry Christmas cards to my devoutly Christian friends (one retired Presbyterian minister among them, someone I’ve known since high school), Happy Holiday cards to everyone else. So the next year, since she’d made her religious preference very clear, I sent Barbara one of the very Christian cards. What I got back was a similar one, with a note asking if I had also converted! I thought my response was clear enough: Certainly not, but I like to send cards appropriate to the beliefs of the people I’m sending them to. And the issue seemed to rest after that, at least for several years.
Last year, however, I got another one of “those” cards: Wise Men and Shepherds Trekking Across Desert Sands Under a Stylized Star. And the other day, I got this book. Its author is Lee Strobel, billed on the front cover as “a New York Times bestselling author.”
Its subtitle is A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus, which I suppose is why Barbara figured this might have special appeal for me — maybe even her desired results. But The Times touts too many “best-selling authors” these days, and the publisher is the religious Zondervan; this book can be bought at any one of its many brick-and-mortar shops, or found online as one of its ebooks.
My cousin’s enclosed note reads: “Harriet — Don’t know what you’ll think of this book, but I hope you’ll at least find it interesting. Anyway, feel free to keep it, pass it along, or donate it as you see fit…”
The book is a hefty 300 pages, not including its index plus many citations and author’s notes. Yes, it may make interesting reading, but for now it’s at the bottom of one of several tall piles I have of volumes already seeking — or demanding — my attention.
The irony in all this is that the night before I opened my mailbox to find this book, I had stayed up late to watch a film on the life of Edith Stein; born to an orthodox Jewish family in Germany in 1891, she ended life as a converted nun, becoming a saint of the Catholic church in 1998 — 56 years after her death in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. I saw this on EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network), a Catholic channel that broadcasts 24/7 to the faithful, but also makes available lots of valuable learning for inquisitive people like me. Her life was fascinating — conflicted in many ways, yet unwavering in others; I’ll return to her story here in the near future. But now, I have to address my cousin, who also left her religious roots, then keeps on annoying and insulting me by attempting to dig up mine, something that Edith Stein never found it necessary to do.
My message to Barbara is the same one I send at least once a year to other persistent souls trying endlessly but fruitlessly to turn me into a Christian: I know you are sincere in your beliefs, but please be secure enough in them to know when to stop proselytizing others who are already sincere, secure, and — like you — completely satisfied with theirs. Please treat me as I treat you, with respect and restraint. Thank you.
I have not yet decided what to do, ultimately, with this book…

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