"We Gotta Get Out Of This Place"
“‘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."
(Ezekiel 16:49 - TNIV)
(Ezekiel 16:49 - TNIV)
Sodom and Gomorrah.
No one wants to live there.
I certainly don't.
The realities of those strange cities from the distant past and their bizarre inhabitants certainly have little, if anything, to do with me and my life as a civilized man who lives in the 21st century. The only way they could have any less relevance to me or anyone like me is if they had been built on Mars.
And yet, I've been asked about them, endlessly...for some reason, there are people who somehow connect the full truth of my life, or that of others like me, with the events of the story in Genesis of God's wrath being poured out on Sodom and Gomorrah.
It's funny how the minds of some people work.
But, in fact, these cities are so much a part of our collective consciousness, at least subliminally, that it's virtually impossible for any one of us to ignore them...so we will discuss these often-misquoted and generally misunderstood Biblical references.
Sodom...the mere mention of the name of this ancient and doomed metropolis evokes a feeling of darkness and basic ickiness, even though it was actually one of many geographical areas that was destroyed by God in the days of the Old Testament.
Because of the way language has evolved with the coining of terms like "sodomy" and "sodomite", there is just something about Sodom that sounds dirtier and more evil than Tyre and Sidon or Jericho or any of the other wicked cities mentioned in the Bible like Ninevah, or even Babylon.
Gomorrah, it seems, was basically just guilty by association because we know nothing specific about it.
But they were the original sin-cities, and they were obliterated as a result of their wickedness, if you take the stories of the Old Testament literally.
We can see from the above Scripture verse, however, that Ezekiel clearly had a different take on what, exactly, was the sin of Sodom. His perspective certainly was different from that of the conventional wisdom. This prophet said that the sins of the city were arrogance, gluttony, and indifference to the poor and needy.
And yet, the city of Sodom, particularly, has become inextricably linked over the centuries to people having same-sex attraction, and to the perceived hatred and intolerance that God apparently has for such types. This is in spite of the fact that homosexuality is never once mentioned in the Scriptures as the reason for God destroying it.
In the Hebrew Bible, Sodom was a city destroyed by God because of the evil of its inhabitants. The clearest texts on the sin or sins for which Sodom was destroyed are found here in Ezekiel, and in the book of Jude (I'll get to that in a minute).
But here's the big question:
QUESTION #6: Did God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexuality?
Answer #6: No, He destroyed it because Abraham stopped at 10!
The story of the city of Sodom's destruction (again, nothing is really ever said about Gomorrah)...and of Abraham's failed attempt to intercede with God to prevent that destruction...appears in Genesis, Chapter 18 and 19.
No specific sin is given as the reason for God's intense wrath, but in the story, Abraham asks God if He will spare the city for the sake of 50 righteous people who might be found there, and God says, without hesitation, an absolute yes.
Then Abraham asks God if He will spare it for 40, and again, God says yes.
Then he asks if God will spare it for 30...again God says yes.
Then there is a request for the city's salvation for the sake of 20 righteous people, and God immediately agrees to the proposition with no argument, whatsoever.
Then Abraham, seeing that God is so agreeable to giving the city a reprieve, asks if He will spare it for the sake of only 10, and God, again, agrees.
But then, for some reason, Abraham stops at 10.
Even though God was apparently totally open to showing mercy to the city, Abraham never thinks to continue in that vein and say "Will you just spare it for my family...or even just for me?"
The pattern in the OT was that God would typically pronounce judgment on a city/nation/group of people, usually through a Prophet, and then wait for the city to repent, or for an intercessor to rise up and call for mercy to thwart the judgment.
He told Moses in a similar story concerning the Israelites, "Now leave me alone that my wrath may wax hot against them!", implying that if Moses would ask for mercy, He would have no choice but to give it.
And he did.
And He did.
In Ezekiel He said that He would spare a nation for the righteousness of just one man..."I looked for A MAN to stand in the gap and make up the hedge, but could find none, and so I sent destruction..."
But for some inexplicable reason, Abraham just stopped the bidding at 10. Even though God was clearly flexible and open to an alternative, Abraham never asked for anything beyond the sparing of the city for 10 righteous people, and in so doing, sealed the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.
It's not like this was the original "God Hates Fags" campaign in which God was out to rid the earth of all the homosexuals, regardless of anything Abraham or anyone else had to say about it. The subject of homosexuality never comes up in the discourse between God and Abraham.
The connection between Sodom and homosexuality is derived from the depicted attempt of a barbaric mob of city inhabitants to gang-rape the male guests who come to visit Lot.
Much has been said and written of the sinfulness of that instance. For the original writers of the Biblical account, it has been speculated, the actual sin may have consisted mainly in the violation of the obligations of hospitality, which in ancient cultures was a very big deal. But this view does not take into consideration that before the "guests" arrived in the city Genesis 18:17...before any "hospitality" could have been rendered...its destruction was already planned. So we probably need to rule that out as being the only reason for God's wrath, even though in The Book of Judges (19-21), we find a similar account where a city is almost totally destroyed in punishment for a mob of its inhabitants raping a female.
Many times in the "Pentateuch" (Torah) and in the Major and Minor Prophets, writers use God's destruction of Sodom to demonstrate His awesome power.
This happens in Deuteronomy 29 (no mention of homosexuality)...
...in Isaiah 1, 3, and 13, (no mention of homosexuality)...
...in Jeremiah 49 and 50, Lamentations 4 (no mention in either)...
Amos 4:11 (no mention)...
...Zephaniah 2:9 (no mention)...
Deuteronomy 32, Jeremiah 23:14 and Lamentations 4 reference the sinfulness of Sodom but do not specify any particular sin.
Specific sins which Sodom is linked to include adultery and lying (Jeremiah 23:14)...
...impenitence (Matthew 11:23)...
...careless living (Luke 17:28)...
...fornication (Jude 1:7 - KJV)...
...and an overall "filthy" lifestyle (2 Peter 2:7), which word ("aselgeiais") elsewhere is rendered in the KJV as lasciviousness (Mark 7:22; 2 Corinthians 12:212; Ephesians 4:19; 1 Peter 4:3; Jude 1:4, or wantonness (Romans 13:13; 2 Peter 2:18).
In Ezekiel 16, a lengthy comparison is made between Sodom and the Kingdom of Israel: "Yet you have not merely walked in their ways or done according to their abominations; but, as if that were too little, you acted more corruptly in all your conduct than they." (Ezekiel 16.47 - New American Standard Bible)
There is no explicit mention of any sexual sin in Ezekiel's summation, and "abomination", as we will see in the next chapter, is used to describe many sins.
Don't Miss the Point
But here's the bottom line...whether the story of Sodom and Gomorrah has any relevance whatsoever to modern day people with same-sex orientation or not, the fact is that if you went to visit the "gayest" city in America tonight...
...wherever...you wouldn't have to worry about the locals gathering outside your door, threatening to gang-rape you in the streets!
Gang-rape, whether done publicly or privately, is both immoral and illegal, as it should be. In fact, rape of any kind is generally condemned by both the gay and straight communities...and this kind of threat made by these primitive people wasn't even about sex, anyway...it certainly wasn't about love...for these barbarians it was about intimidation...about letting the outsiders/intruders know that they weren't welcome.
And even though this occurrence wasn't the reason for the city's destruction, (because it had been sentenced to annihilation prior to this event), it definitely shows you how grossly dark they all were.
And if it doesn't prove how irrelevant the lives of these crazed savages are to those of responsible gay people living in the modern world (who are or should be against rape), the thing that removes it even farther from anything we can identify with is that they weren't even trying to rape people!
According to Jude 1:7, they were after "strange flesh", which is rendered in better translations as "celestial beings":
Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
In 40 years of counseling I've heard just about everything...every kind of sexual issue you can imagine...but I never met anyone who wanted to rape an angel!
Then the story gets even more weird, because Lot, when he hears the threats of the would-be rapists, offers to send his virgin daughters out to the men so that they could sexually assault them, instead of the celestial guests in his house!
Then, later in the story, these same daughters get their father drunk and attempt to seduce him so that he could impregnate them!
Suffice it to say, no one in their right mind, gay or straight, wants to live in a place as messed up as Sodom and Gomorrah! So please don't bring up Sodom and Gomorrah to me to make your point about what you think about God and His relationship to gay people. As a man with that orientation, I can't relate at all to wanting to gang-rape angels, or mortals, or anyone at all, for that matter...and even though I know a lot of gay people, I've never met anyone who was cool with that idea on any level. In that sense, these cities are just as removed from gay people, both intellectually and emotionally, as they are from straight people.
And as a father, I certainly can't relate to the idea of seeing my daughters as "things" or as property...commodities that can be sent out, against their will, to be raped by strangers!
The fact that God was willing at all to spare the place when He entertained Abraham's incomplete intercession for it is really quite remarkable.
So if you want to exercise your homophobia and clobber a gay person with some Scriptures, just by-pass this story in Genesis, altogether.
That gay person is more than likely just as grossed out by the story as you are, and can't relate to it any more than you can.