Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sodom and Gomorrah

In the Sodom and Gomorrah narrative, homosexuality is undeniably part of the story.

Were pervasive same-sex relations the reason for the destruction of the cities? Pardon my frankness, but this is what I am wondering—is the willingness to rape the visitors the outcome of homosexuality or is the homosexual rape part of a culture of all kinds of lust and brute violence? I am thinking of prison rape. Is it a function of homosexuality or is it a function of brute violence and lust?

I am asking because this story is used to condemn homosexuality today. Is that what this story is about? Is this an admonition to those who claim same-sex attraction and love?

Are the other stories in these chapters admonitions about personal moral conduct? How is this to interpreted in the context of all the other goings on?


Unknown said...

I am so frustrated by the commonly accepted interpretation of this story (and I admit to having blindly accepted it myself for years.)There are so many issues in play here in this story and yet we are taught that this city perished because of the sin of homosexuality. Are we saying that if you are a homosexual, you are a rapist? Because that's basically what these men were going for - a violent act of rape and degradation. Their very behavior outside of Lot's door clearly shows that what they were was a violent mob of angry men. But if one must insist on believing that this is a story of homosexual relations, is it possible that in this particular city, every single man from every part of the city was a homosexual? Because the Bible states that all the men from Sodom, both young and old, surrounded the house. How could that possibly be? And why in the world would Lot think that offering his virgin daughters would in any way suffice if what these men truly wanted was just gay sex. And yet, the story continues to be used as proof that homosexuality is condemned. No doubt Sodom was a sinful city, but I don't think the point is adequately made that homosexuality was the issue. I know my arguments are not revelations and yet I never hear any honest discussions among the majority of my church friends that maybe, at least on this particular story, we might have misinterpreted something along the way.

Beverly Choate Dowdy said...

Laurie,frustration noted.

In his book, Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity and Why it Matters, David Kinnaman says, “In our research, the perception that Christians are “against” gays and lesbians—not only objecting to their lifestyles but also harboring irrational fear and unmerited scorn toward them—has reached a critical mass...Outsiders say our hostility toward gays—not just opposition to homosexual politics and behaviors but disdain for gay individuals—has become virtually synonymous with the Christian faith.”

Maybe one thing we can do to lower that anti-gay perception is to take care to interpret scripture as well as possible without implying things that may not exactly be the case.

Here’s a little more from Unchristian,
"Out of twenty attributes that we assessed, both positive and negative, as they related to Christianity, the perception of being anti-homosexual was at the top of the of the list. More than nine out of ten Mosaics (born between 1984 and 2002) and Busters (born between 1965 and 1983) outsiders (91 percent) said “antihomosexual” accurately describes present-day Christianity."


Homosexuality presents deeply complex, highly personal, yet very public conflicts. A reading of Scripture puts homosexual conduct under spiritual and moral scrutiny—no doubt. That said, it is very sad that young people hear us collectively picking out this as the most salient sin.I believe the research in Unchristian said about three percent of folks identify as gay or lesbian. Maybe we are harsher in our look at this since ninety-seven percent of us have other issues...

Further, as the research in unchristian, and an ear in society brings out, we bring very little of depth to relating to this topic. North American biblically oriented church members feel threatened by the growing openness of homosexuality in our culture and its acceptance by young people. Kinnaman says such Christians, have relied on “two methods of dealing with the threats they perceive from the homosexual community: preaching and politics.”

As we talk of scripture and look for the message of God and grace, we must find more ways to relate the meaning of these things to the reality of same-sex attraction and relationships. Preaching and politics are not substitutes for loving thoughtful relationships, loving dialogue, and even-handed teaching.

Beverly Choate Dowdy said...

From Becky Roe

Bev: First thanks for your ministry in doing this blog. It works well for me and my schedule having a Biblical discussion without all the travelling. I appreciate the opportunity to dialog with you.

On the "Sodom and Gomorrah" discussion, rape according to the psychologists is anger acted out, prison rape is anger and a violent form of controlling another person...
It’s quite a phenomenon, how God hardwires the genders...

I have wonderful friends who are homosexuals, and we are friends because they know I don't want to know what they do when they have sex, any more than I want them to know what I do when I have sex. So we have that agreement...
This is B. Roe

1/24/2010 5:24 PM

I enjoyed your reading your comments, Becky. Your experience as a nurse gives you insights that many of never have.

I am also glad you find the study worthwhile. We have so much to learn....

Anonymous said...

Hi, Bev!

This is Laura "Reisert" Kalinkewicz, and I've been reading along with you for a while.

From a theoretical perspective, and from the conversation started with Laurie's and Becky's comments, I think it so important to note--especially given your reference to Unchristian--how these "visitors" in Genesis are treated as "others." The result of the unfamiliar? The foreign? Fear turning into hatred, acted out through violence, and--eventually--condemned.

I am in sure agreement with your other points about the layered evidence against Sodom and the biblical treatment of homosexuality. However, it makes me ache that this story has been perversely used by Christians for the principle it condemns--fear, violence, mistreatment, "otherness." In a gospel that proclaims unity and peace, what is the more important lesson of this story?