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Sermon : Sodom and Gomorrah

Sodom and Gomorrah: Genesis 19

Traditionally, as I mentioned before, the grievous sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is held to be homosexuality.

And this has been the prevailing theory in many circles for quite some time. And it is a theory which has also permeated our culture.

What do you feel when you hear the name Sodom?

What do you feel when you hear the word sodomy?

In the dictionary, Sodom is defined as 'any very sinful, corrupt, vice—ridden place' and that the city is 'representing homosexuality.' The word sodomy, which has obvious root in this particular Scriptural passage, is widely defined as intercourse with a member of the same sex with extremely negative connotations.

Sodomy has come to make us wince. We are taught to be disgusted at the sound of the word—it's a dirty. It's the deepest of wrongs.

This entire concept comes to us from the image in the middle of our story. The divine visitors sent by God to corroborate the outcry rising against the city have been convinced to lodge in the home of Lot, Abraham's nephew.

But as evening rolled along, and it was getting to be that time of night for bed, a mob of all the men of the city—young and old, all the people to the last man—descended upon the humble abode.

And the men of the city—young and old, all the people to the last man—shouted out to Lot, 'Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them to us! We want to have our way with them!'

But Lot goes outside, shutting the door behind, trying to create a barrier between the mob and the visitors. And Lot tells the men—and you can almost hear his desperate, whispered voice—Lot tells the men to not commit such a wrong. 'Don't do this,' he says. 'This is a wicked thing.'

And so we seemingly have this image of a mob of lustful men who wish to perform homosexual acts to the foreigners under Lot's care.

But then Lot offers them what seems to be a way out. Lot offers the men his two virgin daughters to use as they wish. But this only enrages the mob and they begin to force themselves upon Lot and the door of his home.

And so the image of the Sodomite is born—the lust—filled homosexual Sodomite.

I don't have to tell you that this is a disturbing story on more than one level. But if we believe in the power of the Scriptures to teach us, then we must take this seriously. It's been included in the overall narrative for a reason.

From what we've seen so far we have the basis for our traditional teachings on the matter. Sodom and Gomorrah we're told condemns homosexuals to the fate of brimstone and fire. But so far our reading has been superficial. If we take into account the higher criticism or historical criticism I mentioned earlier, we gain a few extra insights.

So what does cultural context tell us about this troubling story? What sorts of gears are turning beneath the top layer?

It's important to understand that our current attitudes in the West are in many ways dramatically different from those involved in these narratives. We have more than several centuries between us and them. While in some ways our attitudes might actually be a bit similar, largely the customs of the time are taken for granted by those of us today—and are viewed, hopefully, as shocking.

First, when Lot offers his two virgins daughter it is an example of how different our cultures value women. Here, Lot's daughters show the general status of women as property—they are their father's property until married when they then become their husband's property. Often the marriages were arranged by the fathers of the marrying couple, and the brides would be at least 15 years younger than their prospective husbands.

This story shows just how nameless, powerless, and entirely passive women generally were. While we still have a ways to go before we reach true equality, women now have more autonomy than Lot's two daughters.

Secondly, sex was viewed in many ways with much more political and social overtones than our sexual revolution has left us with. Or at least it was much more overt than today.

The Irish Catholic playwright, novelist, and poet Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying, 'Everything is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.'

This sentiment rings true today and it most certainly rang true in the past.

The mob of men, young and old—all the people to the last man—on the surface seemed to want to rape the divine visitors, but to what end? Perhaps this seems like an odd question to ask but it's an important one.

Were the men, young and old, merely seeking to gratify their sexual desires? They turned away the virgin daughters, so it must've been something else. The men must have been seeking to gratify their homosexual lust then, right?

But if this were the case, as many rabbis have pointed out, the alleged horde of men—young and old, all the people to the last man—could have committed and satisfied such desires amongst themselves. Why seek out these two foreigners?