Why Bigotry Wrapped in the Bible is Still Bigotry

This summer the Supreme Court will rule on whether same sex couples have the right to marry, and be afforded all federal marital benefits. After hearing oral arguments on the legitimacy of California's Proposition 8 and the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, it is anybody's guess whether they will rule narrowly, broadly or if they will rule at all. Many scholars have opined that the court may find that the defendants have no standing and therefore will "DIG" the cases (i.e. decide that the court should not make a decision).

Much of the opposition to same sex marriage centers on the popular belief that the Bible finds homosexuality to be a sin. The attitude of those that believe this to be true ranges from mild tolerance to abject disdain. It all depends on what you believe the Bible says about homosexuality.

The Bible actually doesn't say much about homosexuality and Jesus doesn't say anything about homosexuality. There are only five to 12 scripture verses that speak of homosexuality and their interpretation is fiercely debated between conservative and liberal religious scholars. A large part of the scripture deals with condemning violence, idolatry and exploitation associated with homosexual acts not with condemning consensual same sex.

The most explicit examples of admonishments of homosexual acts in the Bible occur in Leviticus 18:22, 20:13 and Romans 1:26-27. Leviticus 18:22 states: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." Leviticus 20:13 says, "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them." Romans 1:26-27 states, "26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature. 27And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet."

Regarding the "Holiness Code" of which the Leviticus scriptures are a part, it can be argued that they are part of a set of outdated regulations for ancient Israel that have been largely contradicted by the New Testament and are historically ignored by most Christians.

To support Paul's writings to the Romans requires that you accept what Paul felt was the conventional wisdom of homosexuality being an unnatural act. You would also have to accept that Paul supported the Israeli tradition of punishment by death rather than Jesus' philosophy of loving one another. In Romans 1:32 Paul writes, "who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them."

The first mention of a homosexual act is in Genesis 19:5 and Judges 19:22. Both of these scriptures condemn rape, not homosexuality. The homosexual rape in Genesis 19 was part of the story of the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah. In Judges 19, rape again is the central theme as the men raped both men and women. David Lose, author of a series of books on "making sense" of the Bible, wrote, "there is broad consensus among scholars on both the left and the right (except for the very most conservative) that these passages have nothing to do with homosexuality per se, but rather with hospitality and justice."

Scholarly debate has raged over whether the Bible specifically condemns consensual sex or whether the negative interpretation should be limited to the larger issues. There are several scriptures in the Bible (Deuteronomy 23:17-18, 1 Kings 14:23-24, 15:12-13, 22:46, 2 Kings 23:6-8) that condemn homosexual acts as it relates to prostitution, violence, and idolatry, not consensual sex.

Another point of concern regarding the Bible is the use of the word sodomite to refer to sodomy. Many modern scholars have taken to substituting the word homosexual for sodomite in many passages (1 Corinthian 6:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:9-11). However the word homosexual wasn't used until the late 19th century and it is more likely that sodomite referred to a resident of Sodom, and was representative of the general lawlessness and wickedness that led to the fall of that city.

Regardless of how the court rules there will remain a great divide between those that believe this is an argument over civil rights and those who believe this is about religious morality. Those who base their objection to same sex marriage on religion will never acknowledge that the gay and lesbian community is being denied a basic and fundamental civil right. For them homosexuality is a sin and marriage is a holy sacrament sanctioned and ordained by their God. Any attempt to "change" the definition of marriage amounts to blasphemy and is seen as evidence of a decaying morality. In the minds of the faithful, religion trumps civil liberties.