Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sodom and Gomorrah: Not about homosexuals.

(I'm on a roll lately, I know. Like I said, will probably post in phases :)

If anyone is like me, they tend to take what they hear and trust in its authenticity, it's truth.

Claim: A can of Pepsi is 150 calories.

Claim: Sodom and Gomorrah is an example of what God will do when a society falls into the pit of rampant homosexuality.

= A largely held belief.

So sometimes the necessity to analyze and discover the truth for oneself doesn't exist. I'm willing to trust the Pepsi can. I remember when this information wasn't required, so I'm just grateful for scientists, activists, and whatnot who make this sort of information available.

It's just not a priority for me to know for myself that my soda has 150 calories exactly. It's an approximation, I'm sure. Don't care. Happy to have something with which to make decisions on.

It wasn't until recently someone presented the idea that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah likely had nothing to do with the "sin" of homosexuality. Intrigued (I love this sort of thing), I looked it up. How many of us have read the Sodom and Gomorrah story for ourselves? I hadn't until just recently. Not really.

If you've a Bible anywhere, it's in Genesis 18-19 (KJV)

It begins in verse 20-21:

"And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know."

Abraham stands in the way and a negotiation of sorts breaks out. Abraham wants to know if God would destroy these cities should 50, 45, 30, 20, and then 10 righteous people reside there. God says he wouldn't destroy the wicked if in the process he would destroy the righteous.

So God, or rather two angels, descend and come upon Lot, their host, who offers them a servant's house, washing of feet - basically a nice stay so they can be on their way in the morning. The angels instead opt to walk the streets that night, but Lot insists and they relent.

Word gets around of two very good looking men staying the night.

Chapter 19, verse 4-5:

“But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us that we may know1 them.”

Lot instead offers his two virgin daughters (what a guy).

“And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my room.”

Now I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d be beside myself if I was one of his daughters. Just unwitting whores, really. Perhaps this is where we get the whole daddy pimp thing? Disgusting! This is JUST as horrific as a gay gang rape.

Why don’t we decry this? Because it was cultural?

The angels then kick ass, declare the city just as wicked as God had suspected and implore Lot to take his wife and daughters out before God destroys it.

And this is the same story where Lot’s wife, upon fleeing, looks back and turns into a pillar of salt.

The end of the chapter is rather disturbing but has nothing to do with Sodom…wait. It could:

Lot’s daughters fear their father has grown too old, and since he has no sons and now no wife, thy figure they should take matters into their own hands. They imbibe him, have sex with him (not one night but two), and both give birth later to their son-brothers.

This isn’t sinful? Is it not sinful because the youngest had a son who would be one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Benjamin)?

I don’t get it!

I don’t think the sin here was so much homosexuality. People enjoy reminding others that the word “sodomy” must be derived from Sodom (or rather Sodom named after sodomy). Don’t you get it? It makes so much sense.

For me, this story has little to do with homosexuality and more to do with rampant, violent sex as well as irreverent attitudes regarding sex. If it has anything to do with sex at all. The thing is, I can’t read this and think Lot is okay here because he offered his daughters in order to protect the strangers who came in.

(yes, I know the JST "corrects" this but for the life of me I don't know why. Would seasoned translators truly have misread this? What would be the motive of such an oversight? The idea of offering daughters seems cultural to me, but I admit merits some research as I've little knowledge in this area)

And anyway, would this have been considered sinful if the two angels were women and the mob of men stopped by and demanded to "know" them?

Lot: “Yeah, they’re right back there. Have at.”

Would we then be using Sodom and Gomorrah to decry homosexuality? Come on!

For further light and knowledge, please visit this site. Just now found it and it's fabulous.

(and now for a fun, out-of-context scripture from the OT:

1 Sam. 18: 1, 3-4

"And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul...Then Jonathan and David made a covenant because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle."

Commentaries like to say this was mere friendship, but it sounds like lots more to me ;)

Check out this website for further information. Just discovered it.


Shadows said...

Homosexuality is a very bad sin. Incest, on the other hand, is perfectly acceptable. NOT.

T.J. Shelby said...


Amanda said...

When I was reading the bible near the end of the year last year, I read through these chapters and realized they didn't even say anything about homosexuality. The whole thing is based on one word: know. Bring the men out so that we may know them. Does this mean the whole town wanted to gang-rape these visitors? Somehow, I doubt it. I know that "know" often means "have sex with" in the bible, but it does not mean it EVERY SINGLE TIME. For instance, "Joseph knew his brothers but they knew him not." Or what about when Abraham looks unto heaven and knows God? Does that mean he's having sex with God (homosexually, I'd add). No, of course not, and no one would even suggest such a ridiculous thing! So why would we assume that that one instance of "know" means sex? Considering that to know often meant sex between a man and a woman, wouldn't it be more likely that it was the other definition of the word?

It's times like this I wish I could read the bible in its original language. I had one person comment on one of my posts, way back, that COULD read Hebrew, and said that the S&G verses didn't mention homosexuality at all. Another commenter, a Catholic scholar, told me that the interpretation of S&G as having to do with homosexuality came from a particular cardinal in the 1500s? I can't remember which century, but that might have been it. It was on a separate blog that I deleted, so I can't go look it up...ah well.

Anyway, you'er right, the rest of the chapter seems so disgusting (father offering virgin daughters as a gift to make the guys go away, daughters sleeping with their scumbag dad...) that I dont' see why people make such a big deal out of homosexuality in S&G. And frankly, in the bible, God doesn't seem to think the incest is wrong! Just another one of those contradictions that plague the text.

Soxy Pirate said...

I think anyone would be extremely hard pressed to find a single legitimate biblical reference to the "sin" of homosexuality.

A.J. said...

the Joseph smith translation of gen 19 9 And they said unto him, Stand back. And they were angry with him.
10 And they said among themselves, This one man came in to sojourn among us, and he will needs now make himself to be a judge; now we will deal worse with him than with them.
11 Wherefore they said unto the man, We will have the men, and thy daughters also; and we will do with them as seemeth us good.
12 Now this was after the wickedness of Sodom.
13 And Lot said, Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, plead with my brethren that I may not bring them out unto you; and ye shall not do unto them as seemeth good in your eyes;
14 For God will not justify his servant in this thing; wherefore, let me plead with my brethren, this once only, that unto these men ye do nothing, that they may have peace in my house; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.
15 And they were angry with Lot and came near to break the door, but the angels of God, which were holy men, put forth their hand and pulled Lot into the house unto them, and shut the door.
The Official Scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Yudanashi said...

What is really interesting is that 1. the fact that these men that are the object of desire are angels... heavenly beings and that the fact that they are "male" is why Sodom was destroyed. Talk about going after strange flesh, an angel would certainly be strange flesh.

It is interesting to look at Ezekiel 16:49 ( and look at Joseph Smiths comment concerning this in the Church manual about Joseph Smith where he states that the sin of Sodom was rejecting the prophets

kuzzuns said...

I too think there is more to the Sodom and Gomorrah story. The scriptures seem to give only a few hints about it. Surprisingly, Ezekiel 16:49-50 and some other scriptures state that Sodom's main sin was in that they failed to help the poor and needy (sins of omission rather than commission). Perhaps it doesn't really matter what their specific distractions were, which caused them to be caught up in pride, haughtiness, and idleness rather than engaged in service to their fellow beings.

Natalie said...

I think your analysis is spot-on, Lisa.

As for other biblical references to homosexuality... Leviticus (19?)forbids it (along with forbidding men cutting their hair, picking up sticks on the Sabbath, etc.) Paul includes it in his list of sexual sins. Something like, "man should not lie with a man as he does with a woman." Don't know the reference off the top of my head. But Paul also said that woman should be subservient to their husbands and remain silent in church, and that slaves should faithfully obey their masters. So I think there's some room for, eh, cultural relativism.

I think its so fascinating that one message that never changes, in any scriptures, and is represented across many of the world's religions, is the importance of caring for the poor and needy. The classification of various "sins" changes frequently..... the Book of Mormon condemns polygamy, and the early prophets commanded it. Health codes change drastically according to place and time. Standards of dress/modesty are entirely dependent on culture. But ranting against riches never gets old.

One of the most universal maxims, in philosophy, religion, etc., is "love thy neighbor as thyself", or some variation of that.

This leads me to believe that the most importance "measures" of "righteousness" (if it needs to be measures, which I don't think it does) relate to our interactions with other people. It does not seem that our own personal sins have as serious consequences. I certainly think we should respect ourselves and our bodies, as they are God's creations.

But to live the Word of Wisdom, obey the Law of Chastity, refrain from swearing, wear modest clothing etc., and meanwhile, own a hotel company (ahem, Marriott, ahem) where your employees make poverty wages, don't have health care, and can't afford to take time off to care for their families? That sounds like Sodom and Gomorrah.

And to me, it seems to be very far removed from Zion.

Lisa said...

Amanda: Before I joined the Church I considered going to school and learning Hebrew so I could read the Bible in its original language. It's rather frustrating to know I have to trust in the translations of a bunch of guys who, I'm suspecting more and more, let culture and pre-conceived notions (etc) get in the way.

Soxy: I know, but unfortunately we still teach that it does. Not just our church, either. More and more I think my blog will come to encompass more than just LDS teachings.

But it was a fun post. Done before, but I hope I got something new in there.

AJ: Believe you're new, welcome :)

You'll have to forgive me when I say I don't necessarily trust the JST anymore. That said, I'll have to look at the JST for other scriptures which discuss this topic. The sins of S&G are a culmination of so many things. Excess is part of it as well.

Though the Church has discussed the other sins of S&G, we and other Christian churches still hold onto the idea that S&G had anything to do with homosexuality as an exclusive sexual sin of the time. Fornication and homosexuality. Though I know the scriptures later allude to homosexuality being a sin, I have to take it with a grain of salt. Read Natalie’s comment for a better explanation as to why.

Besides, it’s not my place to judge whether or not a person’s actions will send them straight to hell or not.

As for Lot having NOT offered his daughters, I don't know. It seems to me this would be acceptable at the time - and forgive me again for not trusting Joseph, but like Amanda I'd be very interested in reading from the original Hebrew.

The thing is I can't imagine why any of the original translators would change that part, yanno? Where’s the motive? Would the original Hebrew be so confusing as to allow seasoned translators to miss that? (I’ve always imagined this to be the reason for the JST) The idea of one offering up his daughters isn't doctrinal - not like other churches contend it's okay to do so and we're correcting that as is evident in other JST scripture. It just doesn't make sense to me.

And anyway, it still fails to define S&G's wickedness as homosexuality. Just grievous sexual sins - which, really, could be fornication. Orgies. Adultery. And strange flesh could be the angels, yes, but certainly these men went after angels before (unless angels stopped by often) – “strange flesh” could mean bestiality as some have suggested, etc.

Yudanashi: THANK YOU! I couldn't find that scripture for the life of me the other day

And welcome :)

kuzzuns: Welcome! (so many new people!)

Exactly. And it makes sense if you look at Christ's words and NT scriptures which state that our number 1 priority (besides loving God) should be charity to our fellow man, irrespective of persons.

And yet we still like to point to S&D whenever we're discussing sexual sins. But that wasn't the point - and you really have no reading of that in the story itself. Even with the JST.

I think we focus far too much on sex and not nearly enough on charity, and this is a great example why.

Natalie So good to see you back :D

I agree completely. We’re far too concerned with the sins of others instead of helping others, myself included (but I’m working on it). Last I checked that was one of the two laws that everything hung on.

And I’ve come to take Paul’s writings with a grain of salt. Call me a cherry picker, but we all are in the end. All of us. I think that’s okay. After all, these men were men, too – their writings and admonitions hardly infallible as we aren’t. As even Joseph Smith and President Monson are, as they themselves would attest.

Kengo Biddles said...

Lisa -- er -- welcome back?

Thanks for this post. It's good to see another point of view on the subject, and definitely worth considering. I may have to make heavy reference to your blog later today when I blog about the religious tolerance website. Be warned. :D

Katie said...

Interestingly, if you do a study of the church's position on the "sin" of S&G, even different prophets have said different things. For instance, Joseph Smith taught that the sin of S&G was not homosexuality, but a failure to obey the prophets.

I would also be interested to know how the original Hebrew for those verses translated, particularly with respect to the very "to know".

Dawn Embers said...

I read that section of the Bible a long time ago. What I got out of it was that the places were so full of sin, but didn't see any actual reference to homosexuality.

Sodomy is something that most people don't understand. I was reviewing an erotica story that had gay sex and it referred to oral then sodomy. What people seem to not understand is that oral is also sodomy. The anti-sodomy laws at first weren't gay specific, and straight couples were also not supposed to take part in those activities. Sodomy is not a homosexual only act. But some people don't seem to know that.

Chris said...

Sounds to me like the problem was rape, not homosexuality.