Sodom and Gomorrah:
The True Story
Arguably, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is the biblical story most often
used to condemn homosexuality. Yet as popular as Genesis 19 is with religious
zealots, this story is the weakest of all passages used against gays and
lesbians. A close reading of the story, along with some simple research
on the meaning of the words used proves this.
The word "Sodomite" today generally means a person who participates
in anal sex. Yet at the time of this Biblical story it meant something entirely
different. The Hebrew word which we translate as sodomite is "kudash"
(plural kadeshim): it literally means hallowed or sacred and according to
author John Boswell, "referred to prostitutes in pagan temples."
The sexual practices of the pagans were long considered to be idol worship
because of the connection with the pagans' religious rites.
Research shows most early theologians made no connection with homosexuality
until after scripture was translated from Hebrew and Greek to English. For
a more complete word study read Boswell's book, "Christianity, Social
Tolerance and Homosexuality."
Most preachers begin with Genesis 19, but to get the rest of the story,
you must start in Genesis 18. In this chapter, the messengers are sent to
Abraham to inform him of his impending fatherhood (yes, at the age of 90
or so) and to let him know about the impending destruction of Sodom and
Gomorrah. Abraham bargains with the messengers to save the cities. The point
here is the fate of the cities is already sealed. Chapter 19 is nothing
more than a report of how the inevitable destruction unfolded.
In Jewish tradition hospitality was of the utmost importance. Lot had
an obligation to protect his guests when it became obvious the locals intended
to harm them. Lot offers his daughters instead. No matter how one views
homosexuality, this final act is about rape, a crime of violence.
So, what is the sin of Sodom? If you search the scriptures, there were
- Deuteronomy 29:22- 28 -- serving false gods;
- Deuteronomy 32:15-19, 21-25 and 31-33 -- apathy, sacrifice to demons,
idolatry and gluttony;
- Isaiah 1:2-4, 9-10, 20 and 23-31 -- forsaking God, showing contempt
- Isaiah 3:8-11, 15 -- oppression, discrimination.
Finally the New Testament's description of Sodom's sins has to do with
the rejection of "the message" (Matthew 10:14-15, Matthew 11:23-24
and Mark 6:11).
Given the evidence, it's easy to see the destruction of these cities,
which for years has been conveniently blamed on homosexuals, was caused
by much deeper issues than sexual orientation. God's wrath was brought down
on the cities because of cruelty, neglect, oppression, the persecution of
the poor, and idol worship.
The "sin of Sodom" may be evident in today's world, but the
gay community is not to blame.