The Bible is NOT a weapon! Quit beating people with it! (ie. Why Sodom wasn’t destroyed because of homosexuality)

Since moving worship services 100% online, thanks to Covid-19, I’ve taken liberties to be more creative, and hopefully more engaging.  For example, in place of a traditional sermon, we recently asked worshippers to submit questions for a fully spontaneous “Pastor Q&A.”  We didn’t know what questions would be asked, thus we intentionally did not have prepared answers.  We answered every question, as best we could, from the heart.

Questions were chosen, more or less, randomly, leaving about a dozen unanswered questions when the time ran out.  This week, we’ve responded to the remaining questions, in a variety of ways.  The one remaining question is a bit more sensitive in nature than the rest.  So, rather than responding in a newsletter article or a brief Facebook Live devotional, this feels like a more appropriate space.

The question is…

My whole life, I’ve been beat senseless with the “Sodom and Gomorrah” argument about being gay. I hear, however, that Pastor Vance has a very different take on it. 

The question is obviously written by a member of the LGBTQ+ community, who is also a follower of Jesus and a member of the church I serve.

The “Sodom and Gomorrah” passage is found in the Old Testament book of Genesis, Chapter 19, verses 1-28.  Let’s focus on verses 1-5…

The two messengers entered Sodom in the evening. Lot, who was sitting at the gate of Sodom, saw them, got up to greet them, and bowed low.  He said, “Come to your servant’s house, spend the night, and wash your feet. Then you can get up early and go on your way.” But they said, “No, we will spend the night in the town square.”  He pleaded earnestly with them, so they went with him and entered his house. He made a big meal for them, even baking unleavened bread, and they ate.  Before they went to bed, the men of the city of Sodom—everyone from the youngest to the oldest—surrounded the house  and called to Lot, “Where are the men who arrived tonight? Bring them out to us so that we may have sex with them.” (Genesis 19:1-5, CEB)

Two travelers arrive in the city of Sodom, as night approaches, without a place to stay.  Concerned for their safety, a man named Lot extends hospitality to them, offering them both a place to stay, a hot meal, and protection.

This is important!  We often overlook the importance placed on hospitality in the Bible.  Jesus said, “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me…when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.” (Matthew 25:35 & 40).  Hebrews 13:2 says, “Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it.”

In ancient times, travelers depended on the hospitality of strangers.  Hospitality was a reciprocal arrangement; a host provided food, shelter and protection, and in exchange the guest provided news from their travels.  It was also assumed if a host provided hospitality, someone would do the same if the host were ever the traveler.

Though the primary needs for a traveler were food, water, and shelter, a primary commitment of the host was a guarantee of personal protection.  To invite someone into your home obligated you to protect them from harm, as long as they were under your roof.

Returning to the story, later in the evening, the men of Sodom came to Lot’s home, demanding the travelers be turned over; “Bring them out to us so that we may have sex with them.” (Genesis 19:5, CEB – also NIV, NLT) In my opinion, this is a woefully inadequate interpretation of their demand.  Other English translations say…

  • “Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” (ESV, KJV, NRSV)
  • “Bring them out so we can have our sport with them!” (The Message)
  • “Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.” (NASB)

All of these translations miss the mark, and dance around a more accurate, yet uncomfortable, word – RAPE.  The verse should say, “Bring them out to us, so we may rape them.”  Rape is defined by the World Health Organization as, Physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration – even if slight – of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object. The attempt to do so is known as attempted rape. Rape of a person by two or more perpetrators is known as gang rape.”

The men of Sodom wanted, by definition, to “gang rape” the travelers whom Lot was obliged to protect.  There’s more to this story – a lot more!  But, to answer our friend’s question, let’s keep our focus here.

It should be noted that soon after, in Genesis 19:23-25, God completely destroys Sodom and everything near it, as God had forecast in Genesis 18.

But, why?  Why did God destroy Sodom?

As the question stated, “My whole life, I’ve been beat senseless with the “Sodom and Gomorrah” argument about being gay,” this passage has oft been mis-used as a condemnation of homosexuality.  But, there is a clear difference between consensual sex and rape, regardless of whether the sexual contact is heterosexual or homosexual.  “Homosexual” physical intimacy is between consenting persons of the same gender – NOT rape!  The men of Sodom – regardless of their sexual orientation (Which is a topic the Bible never addresses!  The Bible talks about same-gender sex, not orientation.) – were clearly not inviting Lot’s guests to participate in consensual sex.  Their intent was rape.

One might ask, “If men want to rape men, isn’t that homosexual?”  The answer is, “Not necessarily.”  The rapist and the victim might be heterosexual or homosexual.  That doesn’t matter.  The issue is not sex.  The issue is rape.

Besides, throughout history, there are countless examples of heterosexual men raping men.  It happens in prisons.  It happens in battle and armed conflict – even now.  In fact, rape in armed conflicts, in any form, is considered an international war crime.    As is always the case with rape, the point is violence.  And, in the case of male rape, the violence is also emasculation, particularly in patriarchal, male-dominated cultures.  To put it bluntly, in such cultures, a raped heterosexual man is no longer considered a man.

So, again, why did God destroy Sodom, if not for homosexuality?  In Genesis 18:20, the Lord said, “The cries of injustice from Sodom and Gomorrah are countless, and their sin is very serious!” (CEB)  No mention of homosexuality.  But, rape would certainly be considered unjust and sinful.  Ezekiel 16:49-50 says, This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me.” (CEB)  Again, no specific mention of homosexuality.  Yet, rape is clearly “abominable,” as is pride and societal injustice.  Only Jude 1:7 – a rather obscure passage – refers to the “sexual immorality” of Sodom, which certainly includes rape, but may or may not include same-gender sex.

Why did God destroy Sodom?  Apparently for many reasons.  But, there’s no indication the reason was homosexuality.  Whether or not the Bible condemns or condones homosexuality is an entirely different conversation, which has absolutely nothing to do with Genesis 19.  The sin of Sodom in Genesis 19 was the intent to do violence by rape to innocent guests, under the protection of Lot’s hospitality.

Violence.  That’s what this passage is about.  A very particular form of violence.  Sodom was destroyed, in part, for violence.  By the way, the story of Noah and the flood is also about God’s abhorrence of violence.  The Lord told Noah, “The end has come for all creatures, since they have filled the earth with violence.” (Genesis 6:13, CEB)

God hates violence.

Again, our friend said, “My whole life, I’ve been beat senseless with the “Sodom and Gomorrah” argument about being gay.”  Is this not also an act of abhorrent violence?  Could we not also argue that using God’s Word to condemn another, thus causing psychological and emotional harm, is an act of violence?  Even if homosexuality is deemed sinful by certain branches of Christianity, what right does anyone have to use any part of God’s good Word to do violence and harm?  Aren’t we repeatedly told in Scripture, and by Jesus himself, not to judge, lest we be judged?

Is not mis-using God’s Word, in such an abusive way, the greater sin?  I think it is!

To my friend who asked this question, I’m truly sorry for the ways you’ve been “beat senseless” by so-called Christians.  To all my LGBTQ+ friends and siblings in Christ, who’ve also been “beat senseless,” by this passage, or other “clobber” passages, I’m truly sorry.

And, to the heterosexual Christian community, at large: the Bible is not a weapon of violence!  Violence, of any kind, for Christians, is 100% UNACCEPTABLE! The Bible is a book of love; the love story of God creating, losing, and winning back his beloved creation.  And, a piece of advice: the next time you feel compelled to use Scripture to judge and condemn another, make sure you know what you’re talking about, and make sure you’ve applied it to yourself first!

As I said, whether or not homosexuality is a sin is a conversation for a different time and place.  But, even if you believe it is (I do NOT!), you might want to remember the words of Jesus, “Whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone.” (John 8:7, CEB)

 

4 thoughts on “The Bible is NOT a weapon! Quit beating people with it! (ie. Why Sodom wasn’t destroyed because of homosexuality)

  1. Dear Brother Vance,
    W-O-W!!!!!!!!!!!
    Thank you so-o-o-o-o much for sharing your theological thoughts as well as your own personal thoughts on a topic that has become so divisive in our denomination.
    I can tell you that as a 67 year young GAY man who has been living his life that way since he was raped by a preacher of another denomination back in 1971 while I was a ministerial student at college. I was raped by the college president many times and yet….back in those days….who would believe the words of a young student versus those of a 25 year tenured college president. I turned my back on God for many many years because of that initial ‘rape’encounter.
    Many years later I walked into a Metropolitan Ministries Church in St. Petersburg Florida and what did I see there in front of me larger than life??? A huge beautiful statue of a loving Christ wrapped in a crimson robe with his arms outstretched and for me…it was God saying to me…”Welcome home my Prodigal son! I have waited so long for your return my beloved child!”
    I gave my life to my Lord and Savior once again and to this very day I continue to serve him through deaf ministry; volunteering at a local hospital; being ‘Santa Claus’ for special needs and down syndrome and Autistic people and kids as well as deaf children.
    God’s pure love gave me comfort in those times when those people who were in the church chided and berated me because of my lifestyle….but God had a better plan….he opened their hearts when they saw PURE love….love that goes beyond reason or man’s thoughts. I am only the Lord’s hands and feet while I am here for a short time….and yes…there are those out there who still despise….but I look around me and see so many other amazing role models in my life…African Americans who refused to give up a seat at the lunch counter or on a bus’ women who wanted to vote and demand equal pay and shatter the ‘glass ceiling’; cancer survivors; holocaust survivors; and the list can go on and on….the point is….that it truly does just take a ‘spark’ to light a fire of reason or passion to make change and anyone of us can be that ‘spark’. I have chosen to help be a spark for those less fortunate than myself…..and if the need be and the Lord asks me to …I too will be that voice in the wilderness…calling one and all into our Father’s loving arms and tell them that I am thrilled see that they are back home safe and sound.

    Thank you Vance for being such a powerful spiritual presence in my life and in so many others as you truly open your heart to the purest form of Love known to man.
    Maybe one day I will have the joy and privilege of being able to meet you finally in person and we will break bread together.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Anyone having a relative or close friend who is gay knows they did not chose to be so, but for whatever genetic reason, were born that way. We have heard their accounts of having crushes on their same sex teachers or friends when adolescent, instead of to those of opposite gender like their other classmates. We have heard their feelings as they realized they were different and wondering why, maybe feeling defected because no matter how normal they wanted or tried to be, they couldn’t. We have listened to our older gay friends relate how they hated being gay, so tried washing the gayness away by marrying someone of the opposite sex, and how their marriage failed because they could not pretend to be something they were not—— heterosexual! We have witnessed our gay children or grandchildren wrestle with their gay identity, feeling they couldn’t fit in with the rest of society, even developing self loathness so strong where they attempted or even succeeded at suicide. We have seen their torture, felt their pain, as they have been hated and called ” abominations to God” by those who considered themselves religious in spite of their lack of compassion and their judgmental Pharisee attitudes. We know our gay friends did not chose to be homosexuals and neither did heterosexuals choose to be straight! Thank you for your Christian compassion and your spiritual awareness in explaining the real interpretation of Sodom and Gomorra,

    Like

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