December 12, 2018

Why I am an Ally – Part 3

If you are new to this series you might want to jump back in and read Part 1, where I talk about some of my personal interactions, or Part 2, where I discuss Romans 1 (and 2). Thank you to everyone who posted comments. They have definitely enriched the posts.

One of my paragraphs in Part 2 caused a little bit of confusion though. I wrote: “I do believe that the Bible condemns homosexual activity and I will talk about this more in a future post…” Let me clarify by way of another example. I believe the Bible teaches that the Earth was created before the Sun and that Sun revolves around the Earth. That does not that I believe the Earth was created before the Sun and that the Sun revolves around the Earth. Do you see the difference? Please give me a little latitude to unpack this in Part 4 or 5 before assuming what I may or may not hold to personally. Again, I ask you to limit your discussion to the specific topic at hand.

With that let us jump to our next biblical text.

Sodom and Gomorrah

“The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” – Genesis 18:20-21

“Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 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.” – Genesis 19:4-5

Pretty easy to put two and two together, isn’t it? The “grievous sin” of Genesis 18 is paralleled with the homosexuality seen in Genesis 19. That is the way we learned it in Sunday School, didn’t we? Except this conclusion is completely wrong.

Remember in my previous post how I encouraged you to focus on what the text actually says, and to put aside any preconceptions and assumptions you might have about it? Well, if you do that here, a different picture quickly emerges.

Let me first look at the big picture.

It was rather fortuitous that yesterday’s post by Mike the Geologist was about the Flood story of Genesis 6.

Stephen commented:

…a possibly unintended consequence of treating this story as a historical memory is that it takes the focus off what the story really means and places it on an ultimately futile quest for what “really” happened. I’m not against historical study by any means but until we invent a time machine I am more interested in what the author(s) is trying to get across. Why is he telling me this story?

Why are we being told the story of Noah, and why are we told the story of Sodom and Gomorrah?

When we compare the two stories there are some very striking parallels. I have listed a few that immediately come to mind:

  • Sex, or attempted sex, between humans and heavenly beings. In Genesis 6 there is this strange tale of the Sons of God marrying the daughters of men. In Genesis 19 there is this strange tale of humans wanting to have sex with messengers from God.
  • In Genesis 6, God saw how corrupt the earth had become. In Genesis 18, God says: “I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me.
  • God destroys the wickedness (by flood, and then by fire and brimstone)
  • One family is preserved.
  • God (or his agents) actively intervenes to protect them by shutting them in. (7:16; 19:10-11)
  • A lasting memorial is created. (altar vs. pillar of salt)
  • Sin quickly reintroduced by offspring being intimate with their father. (We again have the weird story of Canaan seeing his father naked and being cursed for it and the equally weird story of Lot’s daughters having sex with him so that their family lines would be continued.)
  • The offspring of the sinful offspring become Israel’s traditional enemies. (The Canaanites, Moabites, and Ammonites).

Chaplain Mike made some interesting points when he talked about how the purpose of Genesis is to tell the story of Israel’s origins. His post was about Adam, but the same holds true for the stories of Noah and Lot. It is interesting how all of these stories help to answer the question (from an Israelite perspective) of “How and why did we get here?”, and also “How and why did everyone else get where they are?” There is a recurring pattern in both of wickedness, judgement, preservation, return to wickedness, and the newly wicked becoming the ancestors of their neighbors who they see as being outside of God’s promised blessing. The tying of fresh sin to the foundation of the other nations is their way of explaining why they (the Israelites) are part of God’s big plan, and the other nations are not. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this in the comments.

As mentioned in my previous post, when we zoom into the detail too quickly we lose that big picture and the primary point of the passage which is to help answer the big questions of how and why.

That being said, here are eight reasons why the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is not about Homosexuality.

1. As mentioned above, this is an origins story, as such, it is a narrative of how Israel came to be.

2. Genesis 18 does not specify the wickedness. It is only spoken of in general terms. However we might interpret the specific incident in Genesis 19, it is only one specific example, and should not be interpreted as the whole of the wickedness. (More on this later.)

3. This is, overall, a really weird story. God visiting humans. Other humans wanting sex with God’s messengers. A Father willing to sacrifice his daughters to a mob to save strangers (I mean who does that? And Lot is considered to be righteous???). Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt. His daughters both sleeping with their father. Any attempt to principalise this story and try and apply it to our modern context is just going to lead to all kinds of problems.

4. The text states: “All the men”. Statistics tell us that only a small percentage (the actual number is up for debate) of the male population is homosexual. So, if “All the men” were involved this was largely a heterosexual crowd, not a homosexual one.

5. The Hebrew word that is translated “men” is a collective noun. Elsewhere it is translated “Human” or “Humanity”. The scene is describing a mob, which may or may not also have included women.

6. If Lot knew the crowd itself was homosexual, he wouldn’t have offered his daughters in place of the visitors. This ties into my next point…

7. This IS describing a mob trying to commit a gang rape. Gang rape is about power. It is NOT about homosexuality. In fact it is very much an act committed by those who consider themselves heterosexual. If you want to do further reading on this, google rape in U.S. prisons. You will find that while the perpetrators generally consider themselves to be heterosexual, a victim will be homosexual at a rate much much higher than that of the general population.

8. Finally I want to look at Ezekiel’s interpretation of the Sodom and Gomorrah story. Now while Ezekiel might seem to be far removed from the events of Genesis in terms of time, in terms of the compilation of these stories they are likely from the same time period in the Babylonian exile. The stories are being put into their final form during the exile, as a way to explain, “here is how we got here.” This is why we see so many parallels with Babylonian literature. Ezekiel then is in a good vantage point to offer commentary, which he does. In Ezekiel 16:49-50 God tells Ezekiel why he destroyed Sodom:

“‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.”

I cannot remember when I first read this. But I definitely remember being “gobsmacked”. Wait, what? God’s describes grievous sin as being arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned, not helping the poor and the needy? While I warned above about being careful of what you try to apply from these texts to modern life, I want you to ask yourself, “Does his description seem to apply more to homosexuality or what passes as much of the American Evangelical church?” When I look at Christianity in America today (and Canada as well but maybe to a lessor extent), what I see is rampant consumerism and an unwillingness to share meaningfully with what they have with those in need. I only need to go to my facebook feed to show many many examples of this.

In summary then, this is not a passage about homosexuality at all! It doesn’t fit. It could however be taken as an indictment of how we as Christians live in the west.

I could go on, but I am running out of time. In my next post I will discuss the Leviticus text and some corresponding New Testament passages, and start to unpack my own overall view on how I understand this topic. For this week, I look forward to your comments and further discussion on this particular passage as we further the conversation.

Comments

  1. Christiane says:

    “God’s describes grievous sin as being arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned, not helping the poor and the needy? While I warned above about being careful of what you try to apply from these texts to modern life, I want you to ask yourself, “Does his description seem to apply more to homosexuality or what passes as much of the American Evangelical church?” ”

    it’s the ‘excuses’ from the extreme conservative ‘christian’ right that bother me . . . . the cry against ‘social justice’ as some kind of ‘socialism’;
    while instead preaching a message of prejudice, misogyny, homophobia, intolerance for the poor as making up the ‘Christian World View’

    I have a problem with this:
    will someone explain to me WHY them what preaches contempt for the poor ALSO insist on saying “we are ‘anti abortion'” ??? Where’s the integrity in that?

    • Mike Bell says:

      Thanks for your question. I do feel it takes us off topic a bit.

      • Christiane says:

        yes, I see. And you are right.
        Mike, you can remove my comment and I will ‘try again’ tomorrow to stay on topic – thanks for feedback 🙂

        • Robert F says:

          It is so hard to stay on topic these days. It will get harder still.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Especially when the subject is a Culture War flashpoint that disconnects every neuron above the Christianese brainstem and waves the Bright Red Murder Flag in front of what’s left.

  2. Iain Lovejoy says:

    Further points:
    The sin Sodom is to be destroyed for cannot logically be their treatment of Lot’s visitors because Lot’s visitors, since Lot’s visitors are only there to tell Lot that Sodom and Gomorrah are to be destroyed for their sins: whatever they have done, they have done it already before Lot’s visitors turn up.
    Gomorrah is also destroyed for the same sins as Sodom, and they weren’t involved in the Lot incident at all.
    “Have sex with them” is a pretty tendacious translation of the Hebrew: it says “know them”. “Knowing” someone can indeed be a Hebrew euphemism for having sex with someone, along the lines of the English expression “get to know intimately” but it doesn’t automatically mean this. That Lot proposes sending out his daughters is an indication that whatever the crowd have in store for the visitors may well include sexual humiliation and rape, but it can only be inferred. “Bring them out to us so that we can get properly acquainted” might reflect both the on the face of it apparently innocuous request and the reality of the genuine menace. “Have sex with” is a flat-out mistranslation, in my view, deliberately chosen to give the impression of some kind of sexual desire and some kind if proposed orgy, rather than what it actually is.
    If we move aside from anachronistic modern western Christian sexual hangups and look at it from the moral concepts of the authors, the really serious crime here, and the deliberate contrast with Lot, is the abuse of hospitality. Sodom’s behaviour in violating and mistreating strangers is being deliberately contrasted with Lot’s immediate and generous hospitality on spotting the strangers in the immediately preceding passage. Abuse of guests and strangers was, as I understand it, in ANE eyes, an infinitely more serious issue than sexual sins.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I DO remember hearing radio sermons where “Bring them out that we may Know them” was read in a lithpy limp-writhted voice (with giggles).

    • Peter Wolfe says:

      My RSV, says “they have never known a man”, is that a sexual reference or also a bad translation ? I am with you but trying to be honest with text.

      • Mike Bell says:

        It is the same Hebrew very form for “know” and “known”. I understand both here to be sexual in nature though the same word is used of God in chapter 18 when he wants to “know” for himself what is going on.

        While I didn’t get into this, there is a bit of a theme in Genesis where trying to obtain the attributes of God in some senses is a bad thing. Eating of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Building a tower to reach God.

        I was tempted to mention in the post, but didn’t want to get sidetracked, that God, both this story and in the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, seems to lack foresight and/or foreknowledge. In both stories he needed to see the activity in order to “know” it for himself.

        • Karin R says:

          That’s what my thoughts landed on, “Did God really have to go down to see what has been done; if it’s as bad as the outcry that reached him?” Will think on this some more!

      • Iain Lovejoy says:

        Don’t get me wrong, there is a clear implication that the people of Sodom intend to intimately violate Lot’s guests. Perhaps “get to know them more intimately” might be closer? The problem is that the use of euphemism is deliberate: there really is no telling what the people of Sodom intend to do with them: it could be anything and it obviously isn’t going to be something nice. “Have sex with” deliberately removes both the ambiguity and basically the menace: it implies the consensual sex this definitely isn’t and makes it about being naughty with genitals, not violating strangers.

  3. Does the text actually say that Lot and his family were righteous?
    If not, I guess the fact that Abraham didn’t dare go below 10 means we’ll never know 🙂

  4. “In summary then, this is not a passage about homosexuality at all! ”
    _______

    I would politely disagree; as would millenia of Church fathers.

    • Robert F says:

      Wait — so you’re sourcing your interpretation of that passage in church tradition? I thought you were a “Scripture is sufficient to interpret itself” kinda guy.

      • And it is and it is quite clear. Were the sins of Sodom more than just homosexual behavior? Yes. Scripture is clear.
        But to say, based on Scripture, that homosexual behavior was not part of the problem? No, you can’t get there with a fair reading of Scripture.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          Ok, then let’s have an equal portion of sermons vociferously condemning: “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned”.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            This!

            I always tell people that I’ll be willing to sit through a sermon condemning homosexuality as soon as I hear sermons condemning overeating and obesity. But that’ll never happen, so I’m safe.

            • Adam Tauno Williams says:

              Yep.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              The shtick of the too-fat-to-stand-up preacher-man doing a screaming pulpit rant denouncing some (usually sexual) SIN SIN SIN has a basis in fact. Many years ago there was a blog (whose name I can’t remember) which linked to several RL YouTube videos of such sermons.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned”.

            Why do I think of REVEREND Kenneth Copleand demanding a NEW top-of-the-line private jet?
            Why do I think of Donald Trump whom Christian Leaders Worshippeth?
            Why do I think of REVEREND Al Mohler and “where are they going to go”?

            • Christiane says:

              Headless,
              I remember a friend who blogs on Wade Burleson’s blog telling of how he worked in the missions to construct a Church with a tin roof and a dirt floor for some very humble people.

              When he returned home, his own Church was arguing over what color the rug should be in the new sanctuary, and he was asked to give his opinion.
              He did not understand ‘why’ when he got up to speak, he began to weep . . . .

        • Mike Bell says:

          Only if you equate gang rape with homosexual behaviour. I personally do not know any homosexuals who have ever participated in Gang rape, so no, I would not say this particular passage has anything to do with homosexual behaviour. I am generalizing with my next point, but the homosexuals I know can all be described as gentle and kind. I do not see their behaviour described at all in this passage.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I personally do not know any homosexuals who have ever participated in Gang rape…

            Though I’m sure it’s happened somewhere, sometime.

            Another factor to consider is Mob Psychology; the “Men of Sodom” in this scene had formed a Mob. A Mob turned Rape Gang going out of control, including who went along because everyone else was and/or fear that if they didn’t the mob would bend THEM over.

            (I vaguely remember a tragic news item from many years ago about a gang rape at a bar; the tragedy was one of the rapists was a passive mentally-retarded man who got browbeaten and taunted by the others until he joined in for a whack on the victim. The sin of those who browbeat him into joining in was the greater — monster multiplication.)

            Lot and his guests were facing down such a mob. An illustration of just how bad things had gotten in Sodom, and why the Messengers were going to nuke it.

          • Patriciamc says:

            When I was in college, it was whispered about that guys should not go out alone because there was a gay gang rape gang coming out of the nearby gay bar and targeting the college guys. Rumor had it that the university administration was covering it up (that I can see). Anyway, if this was even true, I don’t think it’s so much about standard gay behavior as it is about a bunch of drunks with chips on their shoulders.

            • Mike Bell says:

              Was very tempted to delete this comment. Unsubstantiated fear mongering should not be spread. Unfortunately I see fear mongering on unsubstantiated posts on Facebook all the time.

              • I’m glad you didn’t delete it, Mike. Rumors like these could be contributing factors in anti-gay violence.

                People around here still remember the death of a young gay man in downtown Bangor, Maine in 1984. He was walking with a male friend one night when three teenage boys got out of a car, harassed the two men, and threw one of them over a bridge, leaving him to drown. Terrible as it was, the murder has become a unifying event for gay rights.

              • Patriciamc says:

                I’m terribly sorry; I didn’t mean it that way.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        The Sola Scriptura rejection of tradition is often quite flexible. Situational, even. The situation being determined by whether or not tradition conforms to the desired conclusion. I was gobsmacked the first time I saw the “Tradition!” argument from a conservative Lutheran, but now that I older and sadder but wiser, I am used to it.

  5. Robert F says:

    Throughout the Bible, and particularly the Old Testament, the sin of social and economic justice against the poor is condemned again and again; by comparison, sexual sin is condemned just a smattering of times. So Ezekiel’s condemnation of Sodom for its injustice to the poor is consonant with the rest of Scriptural emphasis on the seriousness of that sin; yet we have an American church far more concerned with the lesser sins, if sins they are.

    • Robert F says:

      Correction: ….the sin of social and economic injustice against the poor…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Where the arrogance of those on top of Sodomic society could fuel gang-rape mobs “Because We Can”.

    • Ronald Avra says:

      Your observations are correct.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      …yet we have an American church far more concerned with the lesser sins, if sins they are.
      Christianese obsession with Pelvic Issues(TM)?

  6. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    “””why they (the Israelites) are part of God’s big plan, and the other nations are not”””

    It is VERY VERY VERY difficult for the adult me to read at least the earlier sections of the Old Testament and not feel that I am reading what is in no small part a political|nationalist polemic/propaganda piece. And at times an over-the-top ham handed one at that.

  7. Stbndct says:

    Actually Sodom and Gomorrah are discussed in the book of Jude verse 7. If we are to look at it all let’s read it all. Also we are rightly shocked by Lot offering his daughters but let’s remember that in those times hospitality was highly valued. Women were considered only a little higher than dogs. So let’s understand those times and not the ones we live in.I think the passage on Sodom also speaks about power and other things but clearly also condemns homosexuality. It isn’t and either or discussion.

    • Mike Bell says:

      Jude says: “7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion.” – I am sorry, are you arguing that Gang rape is not sexually immoral and perverse. Because I would argue that it is.

      • Stbndct says:

        Mike, the text actually says indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust. Which means went after other flesh in the Greek.

        • Michael Bell says:

          Again, so how does this not mean gang rape?

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            Is this the Western obsession with tying everything back to an aspect of ***individual*** morality and a deep seated resistance to addressing corporate|group|mob evil?

            As a culture we are extremely uncomfortable discussing sins of power. I’ve seen many examples of elaborate cognitive hoops to take something back to specifically individual responsibility. Rape MUST be about Desire [even though we know it very often is not], otherwise our tidy world view is under threat.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              Is this the Western obsession with tying everything back to an aspect of ***individual*** morality and a deep seated resistance to addressing corporate|group|mob evil?

              Yet another parallel to a Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation.

              Which spawned which? New England Puritanism (with its navel-gazing emphasis on personal sin-sniffing) was an early influence on this country’s culture, and its Victorian descendant tunnel-visioned onto Pelvic Issues during a time of Altar Call Tent Revivals. Amazing how tunnel vision on ***individual*** morality helps out group evil. Especially when that evil involves a Power Difference between In and Out groups.

          • Stbndct says:

            Mike, I just don’t think the story is all about gang rape. Notice that the men surrounded the house and demanded that the men be sent out. This precedes the rape of the daughters. They didn’t ask for the daughters to have a gang rape. Why did the men first surround the house and what did they want ? You and I won’t agree but that’s fine we each have our opinion. I am not trying to minimalize the gang rape that did occur but I don’t find that the first cause.

            • Mike Bell says:

              I don’t think the story is about Gang rape either. Which is why I looked at the big picture first. I agree that that sexual immorality was part of the wickedness, Jude focusses on this, Ezekiel does not. But I don’t for a second believe that the specific incident was about homosexuality. Saying that a mob demanding sex with men = homosexuality is like saying a mob demanding sex with women = heterosexuality. Quite frankly, it is an invalid comparison. Being heterosexual, or homosexual, has nothing to do with Gang rape.

              • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

                I understand that in the dynamics of prison gang rape, the victim is THE FAG. The rapist is Even More of a Man because he “Made a Woman out of Him”.

                Animal Forced Dominance Display.
                ANIMAL.

                And this was an attempt to gang rape visitors who had been extended Hospitality by a resident of the city. Anyone remember The Red Wedding on Game of Thrones? Preceded by an obvious bread-and-salt Hospitality ritual?

        • Rick Ro. says:

          –> “…pursued unnatural lust.”

          “Baa, baa…”

          Remember, some of these people were shepherds. That could just as easily mean bestiality.

        • Iain Lovejoy says:

          The text says “other flesh”. The preceding verses talk about angels abandoning the proper dwelling and the whole thing is about some people, themselves laviscous, who are coming in to the congregation and leading them astray.
          The sin of Sodom according to Jude does not seem to be homosexuality as such, but, again, breach of hospitality they were looking for “fresh meat” to add to their own immoral practices. The particular combination of genitals involved is not the issue.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            And according to Ezekiel it was singing “I Got Mine” along with Glenn Frey. Social injustice, extreme inequality, the rich lording it over the poor and indifference to their cries.

            The attempted gang rape in Genesis was just that psychopathic “Want? Take” attitude of Sodom’s rich and powerful spilling over into sexual behavior. “I can do Anything I Want to them. Anything.”

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      It certainly mentions sexual violence as an example of the City’s wickedness. To say that in Genesis 19, and earlier, that it is specifically about homosexuality is reading into the text.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        +1

        Also, and I don’t know, but given that earlier texts seem as interested in order vs. disorder as they are “good” vs. “evil”, how does that play into this? That those societies were brutish, violent, and disordered [chaotic].

        It makes sense for a pre-technological society whose survival, even in relative prosperity, is always tenuous would be very concerned with orderliness. Even if they could not articulate that peril, it is hard to believe they did not constantly feel it.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          Well it has been said that the Creation story is a myth about the war against the Chaos Monsters. In this context, I would go further and state that in Genesis, you see the introduction of the God of Israel, a very much nationalistic deity. He is identified as the one who defeats the Chaos Monsters at creation, defeats evil humanity through the flood, at the Tower of Babel and Sodom, as well as diverse other minor conflicts. The basic pattern of good = Israel, bad=not Israel (unless you are not of Israel but are good to them) etc is established. This is the foundation of a national religion. Of course it gets much more nuanced in other writings, but the essential pattern is there. The author picks stories to emphasise what he wants to emphasise.

  8. Mike, I think you are correct in saying that this is not about homosexuality.

    In this case, sex was a weapon, a force meant to destroy these messengers sent from God. If there was any sexual desire involved on the part of any of the mob, it’s not necessarily what’s going on here.

    Some say, incorrectly, that it’s about “lack of hospitality” in the ancient near east culture. They misunderstand, and use that argument perhaps to justify homosexuality. It’s not all about that either, although Lot’s offer of his daughters to the mob is certainly an example of the fierce adherence to the code of hospitality. He was trying to protect his guests at all costs.

    I think what’s going on here is not sexuality, gay or straight. It’s not about hospitality, although it’s in the story. It’s not necessarily even about rape and violence, although these are the weapons used. Violence is used elsewhere in the bible and cities don’t get fried.

    I believe that these people were punished for the one unforgivable sin that Jesus warned us about: blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Think about it. Lot’s friends were messengers sent from God, the one god of the Hebrews. Perhaps they were angels, perhaps prophets, but they represented the one God. The men of Sodom wanted to destroy, to humiliate severely, the ones whom God had sent. If that doesn’t qualify as blaspheming the Holy Spirit, I don’t know what does. And I think this interpretation gets lost in the noise about homosexuality.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      That is reading a lot into the text. The mission of the men did not change from their meeting of Abram till its fulfilment. The writer of Genesis indicates that they were wicked, violence is offered as an example, and that is that. In fact, the context of the violence, namely an attempted attack on a man’s guests within a culture that values hospitality is pretty clear.

      • We can agree that it was an extreme case of wickedness, and gang rape was used as a weapon. I agree with you that I may be reading into the text a bit, but the object of the gang’s anger and hatred in that case was the men sent from God, and demonstrates the level of their hatred. That’s a factor that doesn’t always show up, except in the cases of other prophets, or the crucifixion of Jesus, or the stoning of Stephen, for example (but, to weaken my argument, nobody got fried in those cases).

        Even before Abraham bargained with God to save the cities, God had lamented their evil, saying that their sin was so grievous that he would have to destroy them. So their evil preceded the sin of the gang rape, and in that case they would have been destroyed rape or no rape, but the rape illustrates it better.

        I also think that Abraham stopped short of bargaining God down to one because he suspected there would be nobody, not one, righteous enough to be saved. But the text doesn’t say that either.

        Somebody mentioned earlier if Lot’s family was counted in Abraham’s bargain. No, I don’t think they were in the count because they were intended to be spared. The others didn’t have the opportunity.

  9. john barry says:

    So with so many extremely knowledgeable people on this site how does this understanding fit into the natural law teachings of the Catholic Church that has been the under pinning of legal and social foundations for over 2000 years.

    We do not live under the old convent but we do live in the world of natural laws. Natural laws that enable an individual, a group, a society , a culture and nations to prosper if they follow the natural laws.

    If we want to make homosexual activity a normal , accepted part of our secular society then we should do so knowing that the natural law was established and maintained to allow people to flourish as individuals and as a society.

    Gluttony , being selfish, arrogant , uncaring etc. all are individual issues/sins that do not require a society to condone or accept them, up to individual, they do not harm the natural order/law.

    While not the only sin in the story, it certainly was the central sin to my understanding based on attending Sunday School over 3 years from 9 to 12 years. Do not think story has changed, our wanting to change our understanding is what has changed.

    The story has a Lot to think about. Would hate to run the Sodom tourist bureau, come for a day , never leave. Jerry Lee Lewis theme song for S and G , Great Balls of Fire.

    • Mike Bell says:

      Hi John, I will tackle this next week. I promise.

      • John barry says:

        M Bell thanks and thanks for your thoughtful series. I also like your curve.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > natural law teachings of the Catholic Church

      Maybe it doesn’t.. I am not sure that is a problem. As a Catholic sympathizer I find their positions the weakest when they resort to Natural Law arguments; many of which sound a lot like cultural conventions. And their interpretation of Natural Law **HAS** changed over the ages in relation to sexuality and race.

      > that has been the under pinning of legal and social foundations for over 2000 years.

      Has it? Really? I am extremely skeptical of this claim. I find a much stronger case that the advantage and preference of the economically established are the legal and social foundations of the last 2000 years. So if Might-Makes-Right is the Natural Law, then yes, it is certainly the foundation.

      But then I look at the Reformation and do NOT believe it was principally about Theology so much as societal accommodation of the rise of the Mercantile Class -> which was as happy to use Religion to serve their own political ends as those of any other age [and, of course, some of their grievances were legitimate, they usually are].

      > We do not live under the old convent but we do live in the world of natural laws

      Yes, terminal velocity is 9.81m/s/s and the speed of light is ~3.00×10? m/s.

      > Gluttony , being selfish, arrogant , uncaring etc. all are individual issues/sins that
      > do not require a society to condone or accept them, up to individual, they do not
      > harm the natural order/law.

      I know many a Cuban whose family was driven off the island by revolution – in response to aristocratic arrogance and uncaring – who would strongly disagree with your claim.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Further confusing the issue, American Christians are obsessed with Pelvic Issues.

      Would hate to run the Sodom tourist bureau, come for a day , never leave. Jerry Lee Lewis theme song for S&G , Great Balls of Fire.

      Maybe Ken Ham will put that in the “walled city” section of his Ark Park.

  10. seneca griggs says:

    My guess: Those in the “post Evangelical wilderness” will find homosexual behaviors to be acceptable within certain parameters.
    _______

    Evangelicals? The only God ordained sexual expression is between a husband and a wife.

    • Mike Bell says:

      I think you might be surprised. I still attend an evangelical church. A prior denomination debated for 25 years over the role of women as elders. Eventually the older ones died off and the younger ones brought in change. I see quite a difference in attitudes between older and younger pastors, and between older and younger people in the congregation.

      That being said we are getting way off topic here, so let’s continue this thread next week.

      • Radagast says:

        Mike,

        I see quite a difference in attitudes between my older and younger children and we are only talking a maximum of a 15 year span between oldest and youngest. But then that is probably a topic for next week. I will say that my talk with eighth graders on the Church’s view on human sexuality has now become one of my least favorite things to do as the younger generation finds the Church an intolerable institution.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “Scientific breakthroughs gain acceptance by waiting for the old guard to die off.”
        — attr to Isaac Asimov

        • Or, as attributed to Max Planck, “Science advances one funeral at a time.”

    • Evangelicals have made similar corrections in the past, about topics they were just as convinced had clear biblical answers (race relations, age of the universe, etc). It *might* not be a bad idea to at least acknowledge the *possibility* this might be another one of those times.

    • Christiane says:

      Hello Senecagriggs,

      we need to think about how we Christians give a nod and a wink to heterosexual weaknesses, while condemning utterly the struggle a minority of our population must go through trying to work out how to live with gender issues.

      Yes, the ‘perfect’ model is heterosexual Christian marriage til death do us part.

      But the evangelical Church, to its credit, understands that men and women are NOT perfect and that sometimes mistakes are made and people separate and divorce. Then the Church permits ‘re-marriage’ to other spouses.

      HOWEVER, when it comes to the minority population of those who suffer from gender issues, the evangelical Church has no understanding for these people. The Church NEEDS to be there for all people who are weak and fallen and trying to work out some kind of life for themselves, not just for the majority ‘heterosexual’ population.

      It’s something to think about, at least. We are none of us perfect people but we must keep trying to go forward in this life and it would help if the Church who shows favor and compassion to weakness in heterosexual people would also consider the plight of those who are struggling to live with homosexual tendencies and still have the same needs for human companionship that heterosexual people have. . . . .

      The Church needs to work this out.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Yes, the ‘perfect’ model is heterosexual Christian marriage til death do us part.

        Sometimes the perfect model is impossible from your position, and your only choice is the least bad of a bunch of bad alternatives.

        And if your idea of the perfect model is a Perfect Platonic Archetype, the perfect model is by definition an impossible ideal. IT CAN KILL YOU.

    • Clay Crouch says:

      If I’m wrong, all that I’ll be guilty of is giving another human being the love and respect that I would want given me. Mr. Griggs, what if you’re wrong about this subject? Soon enough you’ll have the answers your heart desires.

    • StuartB says:

      And only between a man and his first wife. Never his second or third.

      Who cares anymore what the Bible says if mores and rules are so fluid, amiright?

  11. Rick Ro. says:

    The Great Seneca has spoken, and he speaketh only Truth. All bow down to the Great Seneca and repent of thy sins. Please tell me, oh Wise One, what other sins must I repenteth of?

    Joking aside, I tend to read the Bible these days as a “look in the mirror and see what I must change” kinda thing. Most of Jesus’ teaching weren’t so much giving followers the right to around and tell people what they’re doing wrong, but rather teaching moments for followers (and others) to look at themselves and adjust their actions. In fact, the only condemning he did was aimed at self-righteous religious leaders who DID go around telling people what they were doing wrong.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Follow-on…

      So now I tend to look at OT scripture and non-Gospel scriptures the same way. These don’t exist for me to condemn others with, but they exist as a lens for me to examine my own life and actions. Thus it becomes “How am I like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah” rather than “Here’s scripture that I can use on others to show that THEY are doing wrong.”

  12. Radagast says:

    Attitudes are changing quickly on this subject over the last 10 years and I tend to follow Mule and Dana in my attitude on the subject and that is…it is none of my business what you do in your bedroom, these actions only make up part of a person and I tend to look at the whole, and… please don’t be in my face about your sexual preferences ( and go back to my prior phrase).

    But I do want to comment here. The next discussion will be more relevant but I am not into deconstructing text to make it sound less likely on the intent. First, the Jew living in the world during Jesus’s time on earth and before followed Old Testament Scripture including Leviticus which will be talked about in the next piece in this series. This formed their foundation. As their baseline they were not apt to think differently with every story, it was already in their foundation. As Paul preached, he also had this foundation, had he wanted to change it, it could have been pretty easy since he was pushing back on the Mosaic Law, and his audience was Greek/Roman, a culture that had already viewed relations among men differently. And yet he did not.

    Now one could argue that in his evangelization he de-emphasized it, yet that belief stated in Leviticus continued through the next two centuries, before the Gothic tribes tore up the western empire. It then became a fixture of what not to do for centuries. So viewing from the eyes of history at the time all this was occurring, it seems it was interpreted by the new Christian communities as written in the Old Testament even though the activity was being practiced in the metropolitan areas around them.

    I am not stating this because I am expressing a particular opinion either way. I’m just not a big fan of rewriting history due to the present climate.

  13. tophergraceless says:

    Rape is about power it is not about sex. having done research on the personal lives of men who commit rape all of them could have received sex, and many of them did on a regular basis, from wives, girlfriends, or hookups if they had wanted too. for them the rape was a way to express dominance and power over the victim. this seems to be the obvious reading i have of the Sodom text. What I really like is that is article pointed out something that I had forgotten about this story in that the cities had been condemned by God BEFORE the angles arrived. They only went to the cities to find the righteous people and get them out. And to pronounce doom. Plus, doesn’t the version of this story told by Abraham come across as quit different? almost as if there were probably many variations of the story in the oral tradition and only this one survived to our day?

    So I agree that rereading this story for the first time in a vary long time, that I can honestly say that it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with homosexuality and shouldn’t be used to condemn it.

  14. Michael:

    N.T. Wright has often been asked to weigh in on this issue, because it has torn Anglicanism apart.

    He maintains that one of the best treatments is given by Richard Hays in

    The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics

    Hays agrees that the passage about Lot is not primarily about Homosexuality, but goes on to treat all other passages. He does arrive at a conclusion that the Bible does not condone it, but does not single it out as a special sin.

    • Mike Bell says:

      I think a lot of comments have been heading into next weeks territory. Should be an interesting discussion next week.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        You’ve made Fridays lively around here.

        But then nothing packs in the comments like Young Earth Creationism or HOMOSEXULALITY(TM). And given Friday’s subject matter, I’m surprised we haven’t gotten a LOT more comments.

        • Mike Bell says:

          While the quantity of comments has gone down, I suspect that has much to do with people respecting my wishes and staying on topic. I have been very impressed with the quality of comments and generally the respect they have shown each other. Though I must say I am a little nervous about next Friday.

          • Patriciamc says:

            I think some are like me and are just taking the time to think through the post and scripture. There’s a lot of good info to ponder. I’d love to hear more about God’s attitude toward Lot and his offering up his daughters. I guess God save Lot just because Abraham asked him to?

  15. Stephen says:

    On the road so no time for a long post. (Stop that clapping!) These passages reveal how differently the ancients thought than we do. They obsessed about stuff we hardly consider and we obsess about stuff they would not have understood. This should give us pause lest we blindly read modern concerns into these passages.

  16. Jewish tradition seems to be very clear that Sodom’s fault was being cruel to the poor and to strangers. The various stories (midrash) about Sodom has the city rulers forbidding giving food to the poor with the punishment of execution.
    http://learn.conservativeyeshiva.org/introduction-to-rabbinic-midrash-4-lesson-4-the-sins-of-sodom-and-gemorrah/

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      But if that’s true, then Celebrity Megapastors and Christian Leaders(TM) will have to give up all their Furtick Mansions and Private Jets paid for by all those Social Security checks sent in as Prosperity Seed Money! All those Upper 10% Pillars of the Community who can tithe six figures!

      So let’s make it all about HOMOSEXUALITY!
      Not Greed and Selfishness on the part of Those Like Us On Top!
      A equals A! Who is John Galt?

  17. This passage didn’t cause me any concern at all in my early life. Nothing in it representend anything I’d ever felt the slightest urge to do. I did hear it a lot as a clobber passage, and still somehow felt better the first time I fully read Ezekiel, too!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Most of the time I’ve heard the story of Lot & Sodom, it’s been a clobber passage.

      Most blatant/extreme type example:
      The retelling/arrangement in “Gay Young Blade” by Jack Chick.

      …the first time I fully read Ezekiel, too!

      So you got beyond the “Nuclear War Chapter” beloved of Hal Lindsay’s/Left Behind’s disciples. (Or the “wheels within wheels” vision beloved of Eric Von Daniken’s…)

      Ezekiel was One Weird Dude. I understand in the original Hebrew he has the dirtiest mouth of any of the prophets. (Which didn’t translate accurately into Church Lady English.) My burned-out preacher writing partner is convinced Ezekiel was schizophrenic, rebuking the Know-it-Alls with Truth in the Voice of Insanity.

  18. Coming to the party late (on vacation last week) but wanted to add a couple of points that seemed to have been missed.

    First, there is a lot of evidence that part of hospitality in the patriarchal period probably involved ‘sexual hospitality’ (as noted by Bruce Malina and others). There are hints of this in the Bible, and in other ancient cultures. Abraham’s giving Sarah to Pharaoh might have involved this, though it seems the story has been ‘sanitized’ by later editors. Other examples include Sisera and Jael (which ended badly for him!), and the episode at Sodom. The Sodom incident seems pretty confusing in this regard, but that might be the result of later attempts to ‘sanitize’ it. Who knows?

    Second, a big part of hospitality, and ancient ethical and social values in general involved honor and shame. That is probably a part of this story that is underappreciated. The people of Sodom acted dishonorably toward their guests (which would bring condemnation on them) but beyond that they are guilty of attempting to dishonor their guests. Rape, in the ancient world, was not merely an act of violence but an act that was often used (and is today in some cultures) as a means of dishonoring a person, their family, and even their memory. To someone living in ancient times this might have been the more shocking element of the story.

  19. Leila Smith says:

    When this series is all finished, It should be put in a book format, either print on demand or ebook with on topic comments included. That way readers can review and study it without being online. Just a small suggestion 🙂

  20. Interesting read thanks!

    -Josh
    https://www.myremittanceenvelopes.com