Chances are you’ve heard of the controversy involving Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson. If you haven’t, in a nutshell, Phil apparently made some comments regarding homosexuallity that proved quite controversial. This is a very divisive topic in America today. There will be people that read this that fundamentally believe “gay rights” are simply a continuation of a long battle for equality by those oppressed because they are different (women and African-Americans come quickly to mind). There will be those that read this who believe the increasing acceptance of homosexuality in society will be our fundamental downfall. So the diversity and strength of feeling is quite significant, and it is not my intention to comment on the issue itself.
What I do want to talk about here is the frequent reference I see by many Christians to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah whenever the topic of homosexuality comes up. Usually this reference is somewhat along the lines of “look what God did to Sodom and Gomorrah, this is the exact path we are headed down by accepting gay marriage/homosexuality”. I was recently involved in a Bible study where we spent an evening on the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and i think the Biblical support for such a view is pretty lacking. Let’s dig in:
First, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is pretty dramatic, in Genesis 18-19 we read that the city was evil, that God decided to destroy it entirely, and he sent angels to rescue one man and his family (Lot). The biblical account that makes this story relevant to today’s controversy happens in Genesis 19:4-11. Basically, the men of the city attempt to break down the door of Lot’s house so that they can gang rape the angel visitors. They are so desperate that Lot offers his virgin daughters instead (which is a horrific concept itself that we seldom talk about), but this is not what the men want. Finally the angel visitors smite the men with blindness and they apparently disperse..
Clearly, there were incredibly strong homosexual desires present. Shortly thereafter, God smites the city with fire and brimstone and there is the link that many Christians find relevant today.
First, I want to establish that the Bible is very clear that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was quite great. There are approximately thirty references to the cities throughout the Bible after they are destroyed, usually in reference to the great evil present there. But what did God find so wrong? What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah that so God so deeply abhorred that he utterly destroyed them? Interestingly, the Bible doesn’t have a lot to say about what specifically was wrong, simply referring often to their fundamental wickedness.
However, there is a single verse in Ezekiel (16:49) that says this: “Behold, 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.” (ESV)
Read that verse again (and again).. Sometimes I have a sneaky suspicion that while we frequently use the Bible as a club to try to force those unlike us into submission (an unfortunately all too common historical Christian theme). What it seems God is usually trying to do is plead with each of us to examine our lives and try to understand how we can personally serve Him better.
And it does seem based on Ezekiel 16:49 that America is unfortunately maybe way too much like Sodom, and it has nothing to do with homosexuality.