• The Sodom story

    January 25, 2012

    I once read a book with which I completely disagreed. The author did use a phrase, however, that has stuck with me over the years. He said some Christians act as “peddlers of certainty.” For whatever reason, some of us like to overstate the likelihood of our correctness about any number of beliefs. Maybe we’re insecure and trying to convince ourselves. Maybe we just think that with the stakes as high as heaven and hell, everything we believe ought to be unquestionable. At any rate, I can easily become a peddler of certainty, expressing more confidence in what I am saying than is truly warranted. With that in mind, I commit in these posts not to overreach in my attempts to persuade. I’m just going to put down what I’ve learned from the past two years of study. You can then make up your own mind.

    That being said, my confidence level is honestly pretty high that the Sodom story is not about God’s feelings toward homosexuality. I have more confidence in this than I have in the Warren Commission’s report. And Elvis might be alive, but Genesis 19 is not about homosexuality, despite my friend’s confident (overly confident?) assertion that it is. She says, “God is very clear in His Word “¦ It is clear that [homosexuality is] an abomination to God. This is so in both the Old and New Testaments. Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 is only one of many examples of God’s view on homosexuality.”

    Well, let’s look at the story. The Scripture text is in italics. My thoughts are interspersed throughout.

    1 The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2 “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”

    “No, they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.”

    3 But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate.

    Wow, Lot sure is friendly with total strangers! The modern reader might miss it, but this is actually how the author of this passage lets us know that Lot was a righteous man (though his morality is more than a little questionable later on). In those days, traveling was very dangerous. Cities were not what they are today, and there were no interstates with a Holiday Inn Express at your nearest exit. If you took a long journey, you depended on the hospitality of strangers along the way. To “spend the night in the square,” as the pair of travelers in this passage plan to do, would be to place yourself at considerable risk to thieves and thugs. Lot rightly offers to take the vulnerable in.

    4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom””both young and old””surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

    6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing.

    Folks in Sodom have heard that a couple foreigners are in town, and apparently the townspeople don’t like it. They surround Lot’s house. Notice, this mob isn’t gay, even though they want to “have sex with” the travelers. The text says, “All the men from every part of the city of Sodom””both young and old””surrounded the house.” Are we to suppose every man in town was gay? It defies belief. As a friend of mine pointed out to me once, even in our era of easy air travel, no town in America is anywhere near a hundred percent gay, even though gays could easily accomplish this if they wanted to. So it’s almost inconceivable that this mob in Sodom is gay. More likely, these are straight men who intend to violate and intimidate the visitors rather than show any hospitality as Lot has. Men gang raping men has often been a form of humiliation throughout history for the defeated in battle (or in prison).

    Lot is incensed. “Don’t do this wicked thing,” he says. My friend who sent me the email would no doubt say the “wicked thing” here is homosexual sex.  But the very next verse seems to argue otherwise. Lot says,

    8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

    Man, ol’ righteous Lot is not so righteous anymore. Take my daughters and “do what you like with them”? Dang. But this should underscore how serious this idea of hospitality was. Lot says, look, take my daughters””also a clear sign that Lot knew these men were not gay””but he says, “don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.“ Notice, he doesn’t say not to have sex with these men because that would be gay, and God hates homosexuality. He says, don’t do anything to these men because they are guests who have come under his protection, and that would be wrong. Seems to me the “wicked thing” here is not gay sex, but mistreatment of the extremely vulnerable. It’s interesting to me too how people who want to make this passage about homosexuality see no problem with Lot offering his daughters to be gang raped, just as long as those dirty homosexuals don’t get their penises anywhere near the male guests (which no one seems aware yet are angels).

    Well, the story continues. The angels blind the evil men of the town, rescue Lot and his daughters, and soon the town is a pile of ash. Bye-bye Sodom.

    So is this passage about God’s hatred of homosexuality? The passage itself and the slightest understanding of the culture back then seem to strongly suggest otherwise. Plus, no other reference to Sodom in the Bible makes any mention of homosexuality having been the cause of its destruction.

    But there’s also a curiously similar story in Judges 18 we can examine. We’ll head there next.

    Posted in: The Gay Posts

Comments are closed.