Transitioning now from the myth of The Creation Story found in Genesis to history remembered about the fall of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, we find our second text from which an argument is often made regarding the condemnation of homosexual relationships.
The story, found in Genesis chapter 19, is exactly the type of plot one might find in a modern day film or television show; it’s brutal, to say the least. There are bad guys trying to break down doors, good guys in imminent danger trying desperately to stay alive, and a narrow escape that has you biting your nails until the final verse! It truly is an example of great story telling!
I won’t relay the full story for you in this post; you can read the complete text here. The gist of the story centers on a terrible wickedness displayed by the people of the cities and God’s intention to destroy the two cities as a result. God sends two angels down to the city of Sodom, where Lot is living with his family, to warn him of the impending doom so that he might gather his family and flee the city before it is destroyed.
Lot takes the two angels (who appear as men) into his home and shows them great hospitality. Not too long after the angels arrive, all of the men of the city of Sodom show up at Lot’s house demanding to see the two visitors so that they can have sex with them. (I told you it was brutal!)
The angels eventually lead Lot and his family out of Sodom before it is destroyed, and from the name of this city came the term sodomy.
It is important to note, here, that the word come to be known as sodomy does not come from a Hebrew word, but was first introduced around the year 1300, originating from an Old French term, sodomie. The Latin term, sodomita is what is translated into the King James Version of the Bible, and in every instance this term is used in that translation, the reference is to male prostitutes associated with places of worship.(1)
The temptation has been to assume that the wickedness of the citizens of Sodom was that all of the males were homosexuals and, on the surface, that’s a fair assumption. Or, is it?
If we pause to look at the story for only a moment, we must surely ask the question, “What is it we’re actually reading here?”
Is the story trying to make the point that every man (after all, the passage says, “ALL the men of Sodom”) somehow, as a result of his wicked choices, suddenly (or even over time) “became” a homosexual? Or, is the author of the story attempting to demonstrate the depth of their wickedness by invoking one of the most heinous actions imaginable: gang rape?
No matter our differences on religious issues, I’m sure we must agree that an example of attempted gang rape is in no way related, nor should it ever be compared, to a loving, committed relationship between two people of the same sex.
Homosexual rape, like heterosexual rape, is never to be condoned. It is horrific is every sense, and God must surely weep when it occurs.
Heterosexuals and homosexuals alike act in extremely sinful ways and make terrible choices everyday. Just because a certain group of people made certain destructive choices does not mean we can superimpose those choices onto another group of people and call that group naturally and inevitably perverse.
The city of Sodom is noted throughout the Old Testament as having been a place of wickedness and worthy of its destruction, but nowhere does it state that homosexuality was its wickedness. The opinion of Jesus on the matter seems to be that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their unwelcoming ways, for he evokes the two cities in a conversation with his disciples regarding cities that might not welcome them on their travels. (Matthew 10:14-15)
Whatever the case may be, the story of Sodom has nothing to do with natural, loving relationships. The people of the city rejected the ways of love and thus, the ways of God. What the specific sins were is not clear. What is clear is that when we reject the ways of God, and act in unloving ways, the consequences will surely lead to sadness and tragedy.
In my next post, we will make our way over to Leviticus and what is known in the Jewish tradition as The Holiness Code.
Until then, peace be with you!
(1). Jeffrey S. Striker, “How to Decide? Homosexual Christians, the Bible, and Gentile Inclusion,” Theology Today, Vol.52, No. 2, July 1994.