What does the Bible REALLY say about Sodom and Gomorrah?

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.

A new venture

Many of you that see this blog know of my extensive involvement in Ag social media.  I immensely enjoyed the opportunity to work with a number of talented people across the agriculture industry.  We launched the AgChat Foundation over four years ago.  This past August, after serving for two years as the president of the Foundation, it seemed a good time for new leadership.  (And I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure I was ready to step down, but some honest, frank conversations with some gals I trust a lot helped me see that the passion and energy of my initial involvement was lacking.)  Since my role changed, I continue to serve as a board member and on the executive team, and am very comfortable that AgChat Foundation will continue to thrive under the leadership of new president, Jeff VanderWerff and executive director Emily Zweber, as well as the entire staff and board of directors.

I didn’t really have any plans, really did enjoy the non-profit work the last few years, but waaaay to soon an opportunity I couldn’t resist developed.  To make a long story short I am now a Channel Seedsman

Who is Channel?

channelChannel is a brand of Monsanto  (yea that evil, hated corporation).  Or seen another way, the clear leader in delivering innovative seed technology to the agriculture industry in the last 10-15 years.  Dekalb/Asgrow are the larger, more widely known Monsanto brands.  They are retail brands, available through many retail outlets around the country.  Channel is sold and serviced by independent dealers who are focused on the seed business and aim to provide exceptional levels of customer service.

Why did you do this?

I’m still asking myself that question!  But I see a tremendous opportunity. Long before I was involved in ag social media, I spent a lot of time in the precision ag field, collecting, evaluating, learning from data.  Channel’s vision is to deliver exceptional service.  For many, this means agronomic services and expertise.  I don’t stand in a corn field very often, but I have an intense interest and passion in what I refer to as data-driven agronomy.  Taking all available information, studying and learning from it to maximize the profit potential of every facet of the seeding operation.  While selling seed may be new for me, the passion for bettering production agriculture is not.

Are you crazy?

Possibly…   I fully understand seed sales is a highly competitive business and it’s no different in northeast Kansas, with many solid and well-run businesses offering seed and a variety of connected services to farmers.  Yet, I’m excited for the opportunity to combine the technology from the leader in this industry, with a brand that is focused on service, to work to deliver value to the local farming community.

Golden Rice – and a personal perspective

Golden Rice could be considered one of the significant advancements of the 21st century,  Through biotechnology, a strain of rice has been developed that has extra Vitamin A, a deficiency killing hundreds of thousands a year.

As expected, there is strong opposition to this new advancement in science.  The New York Times had a good piece on the topic, which I shared with my Facebook friends.

The topic of hunger and starvation in the third world is one that has interested me and I am firmly in the camp that Golden Rice would be of significant benefit to much of the world that does not know the luxury every one of you (and me) reading this blog post enjoys.

However, I will admit I have very little on-the-ground, real world experience on this topic.  I have heard the direct stories of a few farmers from around the globe, but other than that much of my knowledge comes from a media source of some type or another.

However, at this point I would like to introduce you to Ryan and Becky.  They are friends of Marci and I, just last winter we spent time with them at their Chicago home.  Since then, they and their children have moved to the Philippines for Ryan’s work.

It is Becky’s comment that I want to share with all of you from my FB post about the New York Times article:

 Darin Grimm - something like that could hugely benefit the people here in the Philippines who are not getting the proper nutrition they need from the rice that is all they are currently eating. I think it’s easy for those of us who have only known the US to judge what the rest of the world “needs” because we’re able to go out and buy anything we want food-wise, and at the very least what we need to survive. I just helped out in a free medical clinic in a remote flood-stricken area last week and it was SO hard to have to tell people that the best way to treat what was wrong with them was by eating foods high in fiber or in iron when all they have available to them is rice. They might be better off if they had rice that could provide them those much needed nutrients.

Now, this is super cool to me on two levels.. First, because it is real world experience that confirms what I have been told about needs and the situation in places like the Philippines .  Becky’s direct experience (she is a nurse, btw) shows the very specific problems that Golden Rice was designed to address.

Secondly, connections are amazing things.  We’ve known Ryan and Becky for a long time, and it fascinates me that friendships built years ago are utilized for something as seemingly random as Golden Rice, not something us as couples would probably ever have discussed when together.

To me, this represents a simple, small, example of the power of social media to enhance what we collectively know and understand.  To learn from the experience and insight of others.  It’s the kind of necessary plumbing that will be needed to help solve the difficult challenges of meeting the needs of an expanding, increasingly affluent global population, while not neglecting the very basic and often unmet needs of the millions of people still living in desperate poverty.

Fake Beef Anyone?

A couple weeks ago, a story broke on the ability to produce meat/beef in the lab. The article itself is fairly slanted, but it’s the concept of lab-based meat that I want to talk about.

First, I want to acknowledge that this whole story was probably more of a marketing win than any breakthrough in science. The ability to develop food products in the lab that taste like meat has been progressing for some time. Many years ago I remember hearing about a soybean-based product that with a little added chicken juice was supposed to replace genuine chicken. I suspect this current effort was at best a small step forward on the lab meat journey, backed up by a big win for a marketing department somewhere. (As you can see, time and experience has jaded me a bit on the idea of a “breakthrough”)

Secondly, it is quite apparent that the agriculture industry I am a part of was VERY unimpressed with this scientific advancement. That concerns me a bit, at a pure science level, it’s hard to argue against this kind of thing. If essential nutrients or other positive attributes can be provided in a new, potentially useful form, what is wrong with that? Isn’t that the premise the entire biotech industry is built around?

I understand that the potential success of a product like this would cause significant disruptions in the livestock industry for sure and spillover effects in the grains and all of agriculture. We feed cattle for a living, and would feel the personal affect very much. I would remind everyone that technology change always brings about massive upheaval and with it new opportunities. How do you suppose the very large and diverse horse industry felt as tractors started to take over farm operations? Or more recently, the makers of soybean chemical products like Blazer and Cobra when Roundup Ready soybeans so quickly dominated the soybean industry? (For those not in agriculture, apologies for some industry-specific product names there) It is easy to fear potential change without trying to be objective. So for the remainder of this post I am going to try to as objectively as possible consider lab-based meat, realizing it is near impossible to completely remove my personal opinion or bias.

Lab-based meat would certainly find a market as a speciality product for those that for either health or ethical reasons would not eat regular meat. There’s probably only a small portion of this already small market that would be interested in the product, so for practical purposes it would remain a niche-based and expensive option. In this scenario the effect on the agriculture industry would be minor, and lab meat would simply be added to the dizzying array of food choices already available.

I have very little information on the economics of producing lab meat. I have seen arguments that it will always be expensive, as well as arguments that it will fairly quickly be cheaper to produce than traditional meat. (Who ever knew that prime rib/pork chop would come to be known as traditional meat!!) As long as lab meat is an expensive option, I am pretty confident it will be a niche product.

The more interesting/unsettling scenario would be if lab-based meat could be produced and sold at a price point less than conventional beef. From a pure economics view, it should be able to gain significant market share and cause major disruptions to a large, existing industry. This all assumes the public is willing to accept lab-based meat — that is by no means a sure thing. The public has a massive distrust for science messing with their food, and I suspect lab meat would be no different. It is just very interesting for me to note that in this case, the general agriculture industry tends to side with the anti-science crowd and support the “back to nature” concept!

Patience

I read something on the internet the other day..  something along the lines of “home remedies meet the 21st century”  Something about if you put a virtue you really, really want as a blog title, 64.39 days later you will blessed with an overabundance of that virtue.   I’ll let you know how this works.  (Plus we should be in the heart of harvest at that time, so I’m sure I’ll need some!)

Anyway, I’m thinking a lot about the idea of behavior change recently.  For those involved in agriculture agvocacy, it really gets to the core of what we are trying to accomplish.  We see a lot of garbage/lies/misinformation out there regarding food production today, and ultimately that information causes what we believe is bad behavior.  And it’s important to note here that oftentimes sound science, reasonable options to properly manage a resource-limited planet, get swept under the rug because of mis-information or lack of knowledge.  But ultimately what we want to accomplish in agriculture agvocacy  is having influence in order to change behavior.

Thinking about this, changing behavior can be much larger than just what we eat.  Changing behavior is a desired goal in many, many situations.  If your a parent, you get the need for changed behavior!  (well, if you have anything resembling normal kids that is…)  As a society we have an entire criminal justice system built around attempts to change behavior, although one could really question whether the approaches used are working there.  We may work with people, go to church with people, have friends, and if we’re in the mood to be honest admit that we ourselves have behavior that needs changed.

In all of these cases, I’m struck by one thing:  Almost without exception, true, lasting, genuine  behavior change is a slow process.  We all make a big deal about dramatic conversions.. the sever alcoholic that came home one night, vowed never to drink again and succeeded.  The cheating spouse who finally decides they’ve had enough of the lies and deceit.  The crazy foodie who meets a couple of farmers and dramatically changes her views.  But for every story of instant change, there’s a hundred more of painfully slow if any progress, of two steps backward and only one forward.

And now you see the real reason for my post title, patience is the single virtue I think we all need more of.  Especially so in our 24/7 instant answer world today.   Change takes time, change is slow, real lasting change is not easy, but worth it.  This applies as much to agriculture agvocacy as it does to many areas of life.

 

BE YOU!

Here’s a short Monday morning blog thought from me..  a post would be stretching it, but it’s a thought.  And this post is to my agvocate friends specifically:

We seem to spend a lot of time worrying about what’s all being said online.  We complain that some folks are preaching to the choir, we complain some folks don’t reach outside the choir “right”.  Some complain that folks like to #thankafarmer, they feel it’s too conceited/proud.  Some are grumpy at those that don’t like #thankafarmer.  There’s folks that feel like organic farmers are too pushy and don’t respect their conventional counterparts.  There’s folks that think conventional farmers don’t show organic farmers enough respect.   There’s people like me that just write blog posts complaining about all of it!!!

I can’t conclude much from this, except wondering why I didn’t just stick with computer programming a few years ago…   maybe I’d still be wondering what Twitter was..  one thing I know for sure, a computer is MUCH, MUCH less complex, than the human emotional spectrum (and I won’t even insert a joke about male vs. female here..)

(oh yea, and there’s folks that are going to HATE that I did not ever proofread this blog post, that I probably did a massacre to the English language with untold grammar and spelling errors) Some will hate that I use too many capital letters, some will hate that I use too many multiple punctuation marks.

You know.. do what you want, do what makes you happy, follow those people you care about.. if you don’t like my blog, don’t read it.  If reading it bothers you, find something more enjoyable to do, life’s short, there’s 5 billion people out there you can connect with.  We (or any other two people)  don’t have to, seriously.  It’s ok, just because we are all advocates doesn’t mean we have to all be friends, that would be crazy.  It’s ok not to like something, it’s ok to not want to participate/be a part of something you don’t see any value in.

People have emotions, they have feelings, we get along with some, we don’t with others, social media doesn’t change that..  we shouldn’t expect it to.

My Life as a Farmer

Today, corn planting commenced at Grimm Farms.  We’ll, that’s not entirely true.  We actually planted some corn on April 5th, but the decision to do so was so heavily questioned by my internet farming friends (the forecast was very wet/cold I’ll admit), that I dared not make too much an issue of it.  Except for some soil washing from all the heavy rains, the agronomist reports that corn looks like it’s doing fine to him.  Which I will admit made me breathe a sigh of relief! 

Image

Can you see the corn planter? You’ll have to look REALLY close! – And this is the neighbor across the field from our shop today

So, while we technically started planting corn April 5th, today is the day corn planting is really happening in a significant, confident way.  For us, I think it was the flood year of either 1993 or 1995 that we last planted a large portion of corn in May, so this is unusual.  

However, after a long cold spring so far, it feels great to be back in the field on a sunny, 80+ degree day!

And one other note, regarding the title of this post… My life as a farmer consists of sitting at a computer writing a blog post on the day we are planting corn!  I know there are those farmers who with a combination of things like Ipads and Autosteer compose blog posts in the field.  I am not one of those, unfortunately.  Basically, as long as the planter is running smoothly, and seed, etc. is lined up in front of it, I do not get to drive the tractor (nor would I honestly want to).  So this post is written from the much more boring confines of the shop office!

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