Eternal damnation and family ties

My cousin is going to hell.

At least this is what my religion tries to tell me. It’s not because she is a horrible person or because she has committed some unthinkable crime, but because she is the wrong religion. (Maybe that’s the unthinkable crime?)

I never really thought about it before, but this realization entered my head during a recent conversation with another cousin of mine (she’s the “right” religion so I don’t have to worry about her). We were trying to think of a present we could get her for her bat mitzvah when I made the off comment that maybe we should all get permission before we attend the celebration. We both laughed but afterward I really started to think about it.

It bothered me that if I live according to strict religious teaching I should be concerned for my little cousin’s soul, since she would not be one of the saved when Christ comes the second time. (Geez—technically she is still waiting for the first time).

At the same time, all I can see is the beautiful, smart and sweet 13-year-old cousin I love dearly. Why would God not want her as a part of his eternity? I mean I could think of a lot of other people in my own religion who seem less deserving to be saved than she (myself included at times).

You see I am a Roman Catholic and my cousin is Jewish (as you should have probably picked up on by now). Her father is Jewish and since she has grown up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood her parents decided to raise her in the Jewish faith.

I consider myself to be from a family with a fairly strong religious background. Yet ever since my aunt married my uncle, we have been accepting of him and his religion completely. This has been true not only for our side of the family but also true of my uncle’s family.

It’s actually kind of fun during the winter holidays because we get to celebrate both holidays with them. You see most of my family has moved out of the Chicago area, and we usually end up spending Christmas Eve with my uncle’s relatives. This past year the only Catholics around the tree were my parents, my sister, my aunt and myself.

Of course this is not to say that we abandon the religious aspect of these holidays when we share them with people of other faiths.

If anything I believe that this sort of presentation of both faiths makes us all stronger people. I have gained a respect and reverence for the Jewish faith since I have had my cousins around who share with me what they learn while they grow up. We have all learned an important lesson between the bonds of love and the differences of faith.

In a world where many people grow up hating whatever they do not understand or whatever is different, my cousins and my family are learning that differences we may have in faith or in background mean close to nothing when there is love between the people.

My heart knows no difference between my cousins who are Catholic and my cousins who are Jewish. In fact I think myself quite lucky to get the inside scoop about what I had always considered a mysterious religion when I was younger.

Well with a little research and some phone calls, my cousin and I decided that we were going to plant some trees in Israel in our little cousin’s name as our gift to her. Trees might not be as fun at money for her right now but hopefully she will appreciate our efforts in making a special contribution to the land of her faith.

After all, even though she knows we’re going to hell, we still love her.