In Alabama, faith remains a cornerstone of many communities. It is not a simple box to check or a title to wear. Rather, faith is the lens through which a significant number of us see the world.

For countless Christians, the tenets of their faith, especially those related to marriage and sexuality, have clashed with a significant cultural shift. Unfortunately, some have reacted to that change with hatred and anger. That is simply unacceptable.

On that same note, the poor conduct of a few should not be used as an opportunity to attack an entire faith community. Recently, my colleague Kyle Whitmire penned a column, “A guide to Biblical dating and marriage in the 21st century.” Readers who began the column in anticipation of relationship guidance according to the Bible were met with a poor attempt at humor suggesting that a biblical view toward marriage condones rape, slavery and abuse. He endeavored to lighten his tone by stating, “Religions are grocery stores with many shelves, and you get to pick what you put in your cart.”

The column flippantly paints Christians with broad strokes that demonstrate the same lack of judgment and tolerance he finds so offensive in some of the public figures he has encountered.

The cultural edicts of the Old Testament indeed reflect cultural norms thousands of years before the arrival of Christ. They are nothing if not shocking to our modern sensibilities. Taken outside of their context in the Bible, they would indeed appear to be a draconian code outdated in today’s society. They represent the first part of the redemptive story of the Bible. The laws, edicts and mandates of the Old Testament ultimately point to a fallen, broken people in dire need of restoration.

Perhaps the most central verse connecting the Old Testament and the New is found in the simple words of Romans 5:8. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The central theme of the Bible is flawed people redeemed through the sacrificial love of God. It is a message calling to the downtrodden, broken and weak. It was never intended to be an instrument of hate. In fact, the pages of the Bible reflect one of the greatest love stories ever told.

Christians who sincerely believe that God designed marriage between a man and a woman are not simultaneously condoning rape, slavery and abuse. More importantly, they are not, by their mere belief, espousing bigotry or intolerance. In fact, many Christians, especially those with lesbian, gay or transgendered friends or family, understand and are sensitive to the reality that the Bible’s admonishments on sexuality may be offensive to those who disagree.

We can and have passionately argued the merits of the state’s interest in a definition of marriage that aligns with a Christian religious perspective. Christians, people of different faiths, and those with no faith at all deserve their say on important public policy issues.

Christians may not ultimately win the argument, but religious tolerance is a critical part of our heritage. Mr. Whitemire’s piece misses that virtue, inflames each side of the debate and ultimately undermines the quality of discourse on an important policy issue.

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