Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Homosexuality in the Bible, Part One: Was Homosexuality the Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah?

My wife and I attend a small group called Ekklesia on Sunday evenings at a church in St. Paul called Central Baptist. This summer we are exploring hot topics in Christianity. This Sunday, and next, we have the pleasure of hearing from guest lecturer, Dr. Clarence Bass, about homosexuality in the bible. Bass worked along side Karl Barth, and has written a few books on theology. He’s been involved with this particular topic for decades.

In part one of this post series, I’ll be investigating one of the most widely used biblical arguments against homosexuality, that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for homosexual sin. I’ll conduct the investigation by simply listing all biblical references to the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. Some of these are more relevant than others and I’ve excluded all other references in the bible to Sodom that don’t give us any insight into why God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. If you feel I’ve omitted important, relevant scripture, feel free to comment. (All scripture in this post comes from the NIV translation of the bible).

The most logical place to start is Genesis 18 and 19, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction. In Genesis chapter 18 God tells Abraham he’s going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. He never actually says why, except that “their sin is so grievous”(v. 20) and the people have become wicked. Abraham begs God not to, and pleads on behalf of any righteous people left in the city, eventually convincing God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if he can find 10 righteous people (the deal originally started at 50). Apparently, Abraham couldn't.
Genesis 19: 1-10
The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. "My lords," he said, "please turn aside to your servant's house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning."
"No," they answered, "we will spend the night in the square."
But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. 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."
Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, "No, my friends. Don't do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don't do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof."
"Get out of our way," they replied. And they said, "This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge! We'll treat you worse than them." They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.
But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.

Deuteronomy 32: 32
Their [Israel] vine comes from the vine of Sodom
and from the fields of Gomorrah.
Their grapes are filled with poison,
and their clusters with bitterness.

Jeremiah 23: 14
And among the prophets of Jerusalem
I have seen something horrible:
They commit adultery and live a lie.
They strengthen the hands of evildoers,
so that no one turns from his wickedness.
They are all like Sodom to me;
the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah."

Lamentations 4: 3-6
Even jackals offer their breasts
to nurse their young,
but my people have become heartless
like ostriches in the desert.
Because of thirst the infant's tongue
sticks to the roof of its mouth;
the children beg for bread,
but no one gives it to them.
Those who once ate delicacies
are destitute in the streets.
Those nurtured in purple
now lie on ash heaps.
The punishment of my people
is greater than that of Sodom,
which was overthrown in a moment
without a hand turned to help her.

Ezekiel 16: 46-50
You [Jerusalem] not only walked in their ways and copied their detestable practices, but in all your ways you soon became more depraved than they. As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done. " '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.
So, were Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed for homosexuality? No, not if you take a holistic view of scripture. In the Ezekiel reference, it explicitly states that the sin of Sodom was selfishly ignoring the the needs of the poor and the needy (see above), with absolutely no reference to homosexuality. God says he did away with Sodom because of this. Wow. So, why do Christians ignore this verse, when referencing the "sin of Sodom"? Could it be that an anti-homosexual bias leads some Christians to interpret scripture one way, rather than the way it was intended? Perhaps the story of Sodom teaches us how to treat people: a lesson in hospitality?

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