Poetic Justice is an advice column that offers counter-advice to submissions at other publications whose contributors have failed the reader.
A reader wrote to Slate earlier this month dismayed at the faith-based well wishes of her in-laws. The solution proposed by “Prudence,” in the event that tolerance is too much, is to tell the in-laws to knock off the Jesus talk.
The full submission is below titled, “Help! My In-Laws Think Jesus Is Going to Help Us Find a New House.”
My partner’s family are fairly religious (church every Sunday, religious art, religious music in their homes), while he and I are not. I’ve never overtly stated my religious beliefs to them (agnostic, but definitely not Christian), and my partner and I believe they think he is still somewhat religious, just less so than them. We are a straight couple in our late 20s/early 30s and live completely independently from them, though my partner is fairly close to his family and we live nearby.
My problem is that it’s almost a verbal tic for them to say things like, “I’m praying for you” or “Jesus saves” to me (and everyone) when any sort of issue, large or small, comes up and it’s starting to REALLY grate on me. I don’t at all push my (lack of) religion on them, and I do not believe that Jesus will help us find a new house! Can I gently ask them to knock this off? I have some other, unrelated tensions with them so I’ve hesitated to bring this one up. Is this worth it or should I just suck it up?
— Jesus Ain’t Coming
To Slate’s credit, Prudence began her short response with a plea for tolerance.
“‘Is it worth bringing up’ is a question only you can answer,” Jenée Desmond-Harris wrote under the penname “Prudence.” “Personally, I find it easy to take these comments for what they’re worth and accept them as well-wishes. It’s not as if someone who says ‘I’ll pray for you’ is asking you to lead the family in prayer before a meal.”
A few lines later, Prudence adds, “But I’m not in your head, and I can’t tell how upsetting it is for you to hear these remarks or how much of a betrayal of yourself it feels like to simply say ‘thanks for that.'”
The solution? “If you decide it must be addressed, your partner should be the one to have this sensitive conversation with his parents on your behalf.”
An alternative, if Slate’s initial advice of religious tolerance was far too much to handle, could be religious exploration.
The reader writes that she’s agnostic. Has she considered why she’s allergic to Christian well-wishes? Does it stem from insecurity within her own faith? Did a toxic experience spoil her lens of the church? Has she ever spoken about it? Could she open up the discussion with her own in-laws, who obviously care enough to extend their encouragement?
When it comes to faith, the stakes are high, far higher than the 34 percent of adults who don’t believe in hell seem to think.
An anathema to Christian rhetoric strong enough to provoke a submission to Slate’s advice columnist likely indicates lingering questions left untouched for comfort’s sake. Prodding them might find some spiritual security.
Conversely, the reader might just be blatantly intolerant of Christians in a culture that has prioritized bars and gambling over church-going. In that case, introspection would still be needed. What makes her agnosticism so righteous to censor the speech of loved ones who wish her well? Maybe take a yoga class and learn to “coexist.”