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I'm in Love But He Doesn't Share My Religion

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Dear Athena,

I'm 18, and there's this guy who is 17 that I think I'm falling in love with. We have been friends since we were babies. I always thought of him as family. But there is one thing standing between us. I am a strong Christian, and he's not. I know the Bible says not to mix with other religions or nonbelievers. But the thought of not being with him makes me drown in my own tears. Giving up my religion is not an option — God is important to me! But I am so in love! What do I do? Please help!

Signed,

Love and God,

Dear Love,

I don't want to sound condescending, but here goes: You're so young! What I mean is, I can guarantee that this is not your only chance at love. That being said, a conflict between love and religion is important to explore, because you'll likely be confronted with this conundrum again in your lifetime.

You have strong feelings for your dear old friend, but are you certain he has those same feelings for you? If he doesn't, that solves the problem right there. If he does and you both want to pursue a relationship, then you will have to do some soul searching. Can your religious views evolve to include accepting him as is? Does his religious affiliation or lack thereof really get in the way of your own commitment? Does he expect you to change your views and beliefs? Does he respect them? Even if he's not a devout Christian, it's possible you share many values just the same.

I certainly don't want to stand in the way of your faith, but I must point out that much of the Bible's teaching can be, and has been, reinterpreted to suit culture and society as it stands now. For example, Old Testament law forbade priests from shaving their heads or beards (Leviticus 21.5). The New Covenant states that a woman's hair is her "glory" and she must maintain a "feminine hairstyle," while men should have "masculine hairstyles." I'm sorry, but what does that even mean? Should a man not have long hair? Are women forbidden to have short haircuts?

If you really want my opinion, it's this: What was written a couple millennia ago isn't necessarily relevant to the world we live in today. Some houses of worship even support same-sex marriage today — and I don't know of any that care about their parishioners' hairstyles.

So, what can you to do? One option would be to date only those who share your religious views. Does that limit your options? Sure, but you've made it clear that God comes first. No one can stand in the way of your relationship to God, and no one can take away your faith. But that doesn't have to be in competition with a mortal relationship of your choosing.

After all, inviting someone into your life with patience, kindness and love is a Christian thing to do, no?

Yours,

Athena