Don't Blame the Bible

06/24/2015 04:01 pm ET | Updated Jun 24, 2016

I was sitting on a plane, torn between the need to work and the desire to sleep, and the passenger next to me decided to chat. It was the typical "Where are you headed? Work or fun?" conversation until I mentioned screening BREAKING THROUGH at an upcoming film festival. He leaned in. When I told him it was about the personal stories of openly LGBT elected officials, he leaned back.

"Nothing personal, but I don't think gays should be allowed to get married," he offered. Rather than skewer him for thinking his statement could be anything but personal, I took a deep breath and gave him my best attempt at detachment: "Oh, why is that?"

"I just don't get it," he said. "It feels creepy to think about what two guys do in bed." I smiled: "Well, nothing personal, but it feels creepy to me to think about what you and your wife do in bed." He laughed, I continued: "I just don't let it impact my views on your civil rights." As he reclined his seat, he mused: "Ya know, I never thought of it that way." I reclined too and chose to sleep.

That was one of the most honest conversations I think I've ever had on the topic. He didn't talk to me about traditions he didn't personally keep, he didn't try to hide his views behind a Bible he didn't read, he just owned his bias. I can appreciate honesty.

It's the dishonesty that irks me. Those, who in the name of God, are propagating prejudice. And their parishioners, who claim to believe the Bible but haven't read more than an isolated verse without context and repeat what they're told if it supports their biases.

When considering the Supreme Court's upcoming ruling, a guest columnist in the Citizen-Times wrote: "Is the Supreme Court prepared to ban the original Bible which is, in my opinion, the only authoritative basis, historically, to exclusively maintain, respect and promote traditional marriage?"

It made me wonder which traditional marriage components, as described in the Bible, she was wanting to maintain and promote?

Was it "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:24)? This is the most quoted "proof" that that's what God intended. There is even a wedding song built around that rather romantic notion. Except, that verse says nothing about marriage - that notion didn't even exist, since there were only two people in the world, and neither had father or mother...

Or is she indicating a desire to maintain the other marital traditions - as commanded by God in the Old Testament - that are far less sentimental and in fact counter the notion that one man should only marry one woman?

Women were the property of their fathers, who decided to whom and for how much they should be married or sold as slaves (Exodus 21:7). Masters decided the marital fate of their slaves (Exodus 21:4) and the price of adultery was death (Leviticus 20:10). Yes, I know, that was how things were back then - but that's no excuse: after all, Biblical laws were specifically intended to elevate God's people above the wicked culture that surrounded them.

Virginity was highly valued - more so than the lives of the women themselves:
- A rape victim had to marry her rapist. This was allegedly a blessing for the victim since no longer being a virgin (regardless of the reason) was such a horrible thing. The rapist's punishment? He had to pay her father the marriage fee and could never divorce her (Deuteronomy 22:29-29).
- A bride who couldn't prove she was a virgin was to be stoned (Deuteronomy 22:13-21).

Men could have several wives and concubines, but there were some downsides for them as well:
- A man had to marry his brother's widow if she were childless. One man followed through with the marriage part but "spilled his seed on the ground," so God killed him (Genesis 38:8-10). The widow didn't have a say, even if she wanted to marry someone else (Deuteronomy 25:5).
- What happened in the marital bedroom was also regulated: A husband having intercourse with his wife during her menstrual cycle would be cut off from their people (Leviticus 20:18).
- If a man divorced his wife and she re-married, then her second husband died, the first husband couldn't re-marry her (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

Is this the "traditional Biblical marriage" favored by those who are willing to set themselves on fire to stop gay couples from having the legal right to marry?

While cherry-picking one verse from the Old Testament to condemn "men lying with men" and ignoring the passages stating that adultery should be punished by death, many self-identified evangelicals try to dismiss the other marriage-related admonitions by saying "Well, that was the Old Testament; we live by the New Testament now."

According to the New Testament, it was best to never marry. But, since Jesus said that lusting after someone is the same as committing the sin of adultery, it was better to have a marital outlet for your fleshly desires (1 Corinthians 7:8,9) within these boundaries:
- No interfaith marriages (2 Corinthians 6:14).
- Husbands must love their wives and wives must submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:24, 25).
- No limit to the number of wives, unless a man aspired to church leadership and then he had to be "the husband of one wife." Some interpret this to mean he could've only ever had one wife - so no divorced church leaders (1 Timothy 3:2).
- No divorce (Mark 10:9).
- But if divorce occurs, no matter what happened or who wanted it, remarriage is adultery (Mathew 19:9). And, single people marrying a divorced person are also committing adultery (Luke 16:18).

I know people who faithfully adhere to these principles. Though I disagree with their viewpoints on homosexuality and marriage equality, I acknowledge their consistency of belief and practice. And, when having calm, personal conversations with them, we often agree: there are spiritual standards that apply to the believers and there are civil laws that apply to everyone - and we must find a way to ensure we are all treated equally under the law.

But there are far more people who don't live according to Scripture yet claim that marriage should be "the way it's always been, the way God says it should be." It really seems they don't know what the Bible actually says. If they did, they probably wouldn't want the Biblical "traditional marriage" made into law.

So please, own your biases and don't blame the Bible. It's dishonest and hypocritical.