Part III: UnClobber (Genesis 19 – Sodom and Gomorrah)

Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19)

The first Clobber Passage I’d like to unpack is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction in Genesis 19.

Take a poll of your average church-going folk, and likely you’ll discover that the most popular answer to the following question, Why did God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, would be: because of homosexuality.

The traditional perspective on this story is that because of the rampant sinfulness of the people of the cities Sodom and Gomorrah, and specifically the sin of homosexuality, God “rained down sulfur and fire from heaven,” and “destroyed the cities of the valley” (Gen 19:23-29). Why would God take such drastic actions against two entire cities? Destroying men, women, children… killing hundreds of people? “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave,” said God to Abraham (Gen 18:20).

Evidently, whatever they were doing had gotten bad enough that the people around them (presumably?) cried out to God against them. Their sin was so grave that both God and people outside their communities had had enough. So God planned to visit to “see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me.” (Question: why did God need to visit the city to find out on God’s own if it was as bad as was rumored? Especially when just eight verses earlier God was able to “magically” hear Sarah laughing from inside her tent? Interesting. But we’ll save that for another day.)

Calling Out God for Being Unjust

What happened next, as the story goes, was a fascinating dialogue between Abraham and God. Abraham bargains with God, interceding on behalf of Sodom. He essentially shows more compassion than God does, as the story goes. Saying, “would you really destroy a city full of wicked people when there might very well be some righteous/innocent people there as well?”

Abraham said, “what if I can find 50 righteous people in the city, will you call off your plans of destruction?”

Abraham called out God for not doing what is just. And God acquiesced.

But Abraham kept going…

“what if I can only find 45?”

“Sure,” said God, “I’ll spare the whole place for 45.”

“Okay, how about 30?”

“Fine. I’ll spare them if you can find 30 righteous people.”

“20??”

“Deal.”

And then, ridiculously so, like the husband who isn’t satisfied with just getting to go play golf with his buddies, have lunch at the clubhouse, then hit the pub afterwards to watch the big game, but STILL calls his wife to ask if he could go over to his buddy’s house to play videogames all night, Abraham asked, “Well, I’ve come this far… how about 10, God… what if I can find just 10 decent people in the whole city. You can’t honestly justify killing an entire city then, can you?!”

God, who didn’t seem to mind Abraham wagering with God and questioning the Divine sense of justice, relented. “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it,” God replied. (Gen 18:22-33)

We never get to know if Abraham was successful or not in finding just 10 righteous people. I suppose you could argue that since the story eventually ended with Sodom and Gomorrah being destroyed, that that shows Abraham was unsuccessful. But that isn’t how the story plays out. We never are told if Abraham even had a chance to find 10 righteous people. The story goes straight from Abraham and God wheeling and dealing to two angels immediately travelling to Sodom at night. And, after the infamous disaster that was An Evening in Sodom, the next day brought forth the burning sulfur and fire. So who knows if God was just joking around with Abraham, never really intending on changing plans. Or, maybe it’s possible that this story was never told to reflect the exact historical accuracy of what actually happened. But, for the sake of this series (and its probable audience), I will assume that the Genesis account is a reasonably accurate description of the events that took place.

(Sidenote: Archaeologists have uncovered several sites around the Dead Sea that could possibly be the ancient ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah. And each of these sites confirm that incredible devastation was caused by some sort of burning sulfur, and entire cities were leveled. There are really some fascinating discoveries being made. Read here and here if you’re curious. I offer this sidenote because I think that there indeed was an historical event that involved the decimating of the Cities of the Plain, i.e. Sodom and Gomorrah. Whether or not it happened precisely the way Genesis retells, or precisely when Genesis suggests, is another matter. But, as I said, for the sake of this series I will move forward under the assumption that Genesis 19 is an accurate retelling of those events.)

So what DID happen that fateful night in Sodom? And based on what the author of Genesis tells us, can we deduce that homosexuality was a primary (or even secondary?) sin of Sodom’s that led to their demise? Do any other Biblical writers reflect on this story, and if so, what do they have to say?

Here’s what I’d like to do in Part III:

  • Walk through the story in Genesis 19, asking questions and making observations along the way.
  • Once we’ve made it through the story, I’ll draw out some bigger observations about what the story tells us and what it doesn’t tell us.
  • Then we’ll take the traditional understanding of this story, lay it over the top of what we’ve discovered thus far, and see what emerges.
  • What do other Biblical Authors have to say about what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah, and why?
  • Does Genesis 19 function, in any way, as Biblical support for the sinfulness of same-sex attraction, same-sex relationships, gay people, or any other issue relating to sexuality (homo or hetero)?

The Story

Genesis 19:1-14

The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the town square.” But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

The story begins with the two angels, who just recently departed from partying with God and Abraham in chapter 18, entering the city of Sodom at night. Lot, who possibly was functioning as the gate-keeper, greets them and invites them to his house to spend the night. When they decline and suggest they’ll just stay in the town square, Lot seems to panic, and “presses them strongly,” the writer tells us, to come to his place instead. Lot had been with these people in this city for possibly more than 20 years. He knew their ways and he knew that it would not be safe or wise for two visitors to stay the night in the town square. So he strongly encouraged them to come to his place, where he made them a nice meal and they prepared to turn in for the night.

But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.”

They finished eating and were getting ready for bed, when suddenly a great commotion arose outside. Evidently, word had gotten out that two outsiders had come to Sodom for the evening, and this caused the men of the city to come and surround the house.

Now, estimates for the population of Sodom (based on some of the archaeological studies mentioned above) are between 600-1200 people. Just to get an idea of what is happening, let’s say 900 people lived in Sodom, which would equal approximately 450 men. What does the story say? “The men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man.” Wow. Every single man, the story says, came to surround the house of Lot and demand access to the town visitors. Young men (read here: boys). Old men. All the men.

And what do they ask? “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them.”

(At this point, I could spend some time on the word “know” in this verse. It is the Hebrew word yada (which immediately brings all new light to that Seinfeld episode, doesn’t it…). I could point out how yada appears over 900 times in the Hebrew scriptures, and only 14 (1%) of those times is it used as a euphemism for “have sex with.” But I won’t. Some people take this line of reasoning and say that the men didn’t want to have sex with the visitors, only that they wanted to interrogate them. It’s a convenient argument, but I don’t think it holds water. If for no other reason than because just a few verses later in the story Lot offers his daughters to the men, daughters who “have not known any man.” I doubt he was saying, “my daughters have never gotten to sit down and get to know other men before, so why don’t you interrogate them for a while?” Moving on…)

No, I think it’s safe to say that the 450 or so men and boys of the city wanted to have sexual relations with the visitors. They wanted to know them in the Biblical sense.

Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”

This is what Lot was afraid of. This is why he pressed so strongly that the two visitors not stay in the town square. He had lived with these people for 20 years or more, and was terrified at what they might do to his guests. “I beg you,” he says, “do not act so wickedly.” And then, in a sadly-ironic moment, Lot offers his two virgin daughters as a substitute. Speaking of acting wickedly… #fail

But Lot’s primary concern was that no harm would come to the men taking shelter under his roof. 450 men and boys forcing themselves on two men was not a good thing, in any shape or form. It is no wonder that the wickedness of Sodom (and Gomorrah) was well known throughout the area. Gang rape like this does not go unnoticed. Neither to God nor to people in the surrounding communities.

But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.

The men and boys of Sodom, who had surrounded Lot’s house, were now thoroughly pissed off that Lot was denying them their fun. “Who is this outsider, this Lot fellow, who thinks he can come to our city and judge us? He will have a worse fate than the two visitors when all is said and done!” Not only were these men and boys planning on gang-raping the two visitors, but also they were now intending on doing even worse to Lot. Does it get worse?

Unfortunately (or, rather, fortunately) the men and boys didn’t know whom they were messing with. Our modern day saying of “don’t bring a knife to a gun fight” is a direct descendant of the ancient saying, “don’t bring a rape party to the house of angelic beings.” (It’s true. Don’t bother Googling it.)

The two men rescued Lot from the attackers and proceeded to blind all 450 of them… “the small ones AND the great ones” (weird statement, isn’t it?). Evidently the men’s newfound blindness caused them to grope about for the door, eventually leading to them wearing themselves out. Can you picture 450 blind men and blind boys, blind GREAT and SMALL men and boys, excuse me, groping about in the dark for a door? I’m telling ya, the Bible is full of weird stories.

Anyways, the net result is that Lot was spared and the 450 men and boys gave up their hopes of gang-raping two visitors.

Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it.” So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the LORD is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.

The two men urged Lot to go and get whomever he wanted to save and then get the heck out of dodge. Evidently, Lot was informed, the two men were about to set fire to the rain (thanks Adele, for the theme song) and burn the houses down! (Which again begs the question: was God fooling around with Abraham? The two men make it sound like they were sent there for the purpose of destroying the city all along. Hmmm…)

And we are reminded, from the two men, that “because the outcry against the people of Sodom had become great before the LORD” that the city would be destroyed. God had heard people’s cries against the inhabitants of these cities and now God has firsthand evidence of their wickedness.

Lot tried to get his future sons-in-law to come with them and escape, but they thought the old kook was just jesting about. I’ll bet they regretted that decision. Show some respect for your elders, boys.

A Few Observations

Lot Was Well Informed  –  If the city of Sodom was only about 900 people big, then someone who lived there for 20 years would certainly have been well acquainted with the people, the customs, the culture and the vibe of the city. 900 people is smaller than most people’s High Schools, and think about how much you “knew” about different cliques, groups, tribes, classes, etc. And that was only after being with those people for a couple years! So it is safe to imagine that Lot knew the men (and the women and the children) of Sodom well. Probably each one by name. It was not a large city (sidenote: if you checked out the above archaeology sites you may have discovered that fairly recently a site has been discovered that some are claiming were the Cities of the Plain, which included Sodom and Gomorrah. At these locations were burial sites with over 1 million buried bodies! This suggests that Sodom could have possibly been several hundred thousand people large! TOTALLY different from the more established and generally more accepted location and size of the other Sodom site. It’s an interesting exercise to read through this story with both sizes of cities in mind. Can you imagine 100,000 men and boys surrounding a house, all wanting some gang-rape action? Sometimes it is impractical, if not impossible, to read the Bible as literally as some would have you.) Lot knew what happened to visitors because he knew the people of Sodom and probably even more likely because he had witnessed it before. Which is probably why the author of the story tells us that he strongly pressed them to stay at his place and not in the town square.

Entire Cities Can’t be Gay  –  The story goes to great lengths to tell us that every single man in the city of Sodom had stormed the house of Lot that night. Old men. Young men. Boys. And if the traditional understanding of this passage is that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their rampant homosexuality, then are we really supposed to accept that in a city of 900 people, that 100% of the 450 men and boys were all gay? Even the highest estimates on how often gay people are born are 1 in 10. And even in the most concentrated gay cities in the world (think San Francisco) there isn’t even close to the ratio of gay-to-straight men that this story suggests, should we accept that the men of Sodom were homosexuals. It is ridiculous to think that the men in this story were gay men. An entire male population of any city cannot be gay. And if they are, you probably wouldn’t see any children there.

Rape is Not the Same Thing as Consensual Sex  –  I feel like this point shouldn’t have to be stressed, but these boys and men in Sodom wanted to rape the two visitors! Do I really have to explain that this is inherently and fundamentally and categorically a different thing altogether than a situation where one person who is attracted to another person of the same gender wants to have consensual sex? That alone should give a person pause enough to consider why people think that homosexuality was the grave sin of these cities. If you are a person (and they do exist, trust me) who cannot separate in your mind gay-sex from rape, then you have different issues that I can’t help you with. Add to all of this the “gang” part of the story and you start to drift even farther away from anything having to do with homosexuality. This atrocious offense the men and boys of Sodom wanted to commit against these visitors was not to inflict their homosexualness upon them. No, it was to gang rape them. And consider for a moment what’s going on: there are boys in this mob that want to actively partake in this rape. What kind of people create a society where young boys would join a mob in the hopes of participating in rape? This is not a city full of men and women who were born gay and discovered that they have attraction to their own gender… No, this is a city of foul and debase creatures so sick and demented that they’ve trained their children to rape visitors. For pity’s sake, stop thinking of Sodom as a “city full of gay people” and start recognizing what the story is trying to tell you. It’s a city full of evil people. And again, if you shrug your shoulders and brush this off and just think, “what’s the difference?” then I don’t know what to say to you. That’s just sad. (Not to mention wrong and factually inaccurate).

It’s Not About Sex, It’s About Power and Control  –  If you’ve ever watched Criminal Minds, or CSI, or any of those procedural dramas, you’ve probably come across episodes dealing with rape. And what do they always tell you (especially in Criminal Minds)? The attacker does not rape their victims because they are attracted to them (even if in some cases there is an attraction). Rape is not about sex, it’s about power and control. It’s about anger, hatred and sometimes vengeance. Even more so, gang rape is not about attraction or sex. It is about exerting your power and control over someone else. We know that in ancient cultures it was a common practice for the victorious armies to rape the defeated armies (often the generals or other high ranking officials). This was not because the one army was full of gay men (well maybe it was, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell didn’t exist yet). No, it was a tactic that announced in no uncertain terms that “we won and we now control you… you are weak and we are strong.” In this story we have two visitors entering an evil-infested city at night. The men and boys of Sodom wanted not to have sex with them because they were attracted to them, but they wanted to show their power and control. Exert their might and show dominance. When you consider it was gang-rape these men and boys wanted to do, and when you consider the cultural practice of raping outsiders and foreigners to show your power and control over them, it becomes harder and harder to argue a case that these men were homosexuals and God destroyed the cities because of homosexuality. It wasn’t about sex. It wasn’t about homosexuality. Rape has nothing to do with a loving relationship. It was about power and control. Big difference.

Gay Men Don’t Want to Have Sex with Women  –  One thing traditionalists point to as evidence for their interpretation is that when Lot offered his daughters to the men they refused. Well, since they didn’t want to have sex with two girls, but instead wanted to have sex with two men, then clearly they must be gay. Case closed. Burn the place down. Since I’ve already shown that this story has nothing to do with attraction and sex, I will point out here that what is often overlooked is the very nature of Lot’s offer. If Lot lived with these people for 20 years, and knew them all by name, and knew that they were gay (assuming the traditional perspective for the moment), then why on earth would he offer them two girls? If they are gay men wanting to have gay gang-rape sex with two other men, why would Lot think they would have any interest in his daughters? Very illogical. And before you can argue back, it should also be acknowledged that assuming (as I am) that Lot knew the men and knew they only wanted to rape the men out of a sickness and evilness for the sake of power and control (and twisted fun?), then it also wouldn’t make sense for him to offer his daughters. Because that would not have satisfied their desire to exercise dominance over the visitors.  So why did Lot offer his daughters? I don’t know. Perhaps it was a last ditch effort to protect the two men. Hospitality was such an incredibly huge thing for people in the ancient world (especially the Hebrew people) that he might have been trying any idea possible to prevent what clearly would have been the most egregious breach of hospitality. But if they were homosexuals, then Lot would have known they were homosexuals and therefore would not have offered his daughters as a consolation prize.

There’s Nothing Gay About This Story 

Nothing in Genesis 19 states or even suggests that the men and/or women of Sodom were people who were born with same-sex attractions.

Nothing in Genesis 19 states or even suggests that the men and/or women of Sodom were practicing a gay lifestyle.

If you were to have crashed on a desert island as a baby and grow up all by yourself with nothing but coconuts and a Bible that washed ashore, you would not read this story and come to the following conclusion: the people of Sodom were gay… and since they practiced homosexuality God clearly destroyed them.

No, the only way you can logically make a connection like that is if you already come to this story with the presupposition that homosexuality in any form is wrong, evil, sinful, etc. Then, and only then, would you read this story and in it find confirmation that God destroyed them because of homosexuality. But at that point, you are merely proof texting and practicing good ol’ eisegesis.

Genesis 19 is a story about (among other things) a society that was completely out of sync with the heart of God. A debase and deviant people, where they would regularly gang rape visitors. Where they would abuse their children in such fashions that they would also take part in acts of evil such as gang rape. A people deserving, in the eyes of the author, of the judgment of God. A conclusion supported by other Biblical authors.

But not because of homosexuality. The text just simply does not support such a conclusion. Not only that, but other Scripture passages give us even further insight in to why God acted out such harsh judgment on the peoples of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Speaking of “other Biblical writers” who weigh in on the destruction of Sodom, it will precisely be to that that we will turn in the second half of Part III.

To be continued…

18 thoughts on “Part III: UnClobber (Genesis 19 – Sodom and Gomorrah)

  1. I found there to be a lot of rhetoric in here that is misleading. I also found some ideas that were either false or anything but evident. Nevertheless, your interpretive beef, that this passage is not about “homosexuality” (meaning orientation), seems correct. But that seems neither shocking nor too interesting. But it is concerning. Because it gives fodder to the mind of a culture ready to forever sweep away traditional sexual morality and with it, intentionally or not, marriage and the family. (Consider the social scientific data on the breakdown of the family and you’d be alarmed, too. And this is mostly the fault of two conspiring problems: contraception and no-fault divorce). I say it is concerning and gives fodder, meaning what? If one agrees with your basic point (which I do), it leaves untouched the question about sodomy (defined as anal or oral sex). But most people don’t know the definition of sodomy or how it is a distinct object of moral evaluation from sexual orientation. Hence, most people who change their minds by your persuasion, perhaps, and no long condemn homosexual orientation, will also stop condemning sodomy. But the one condemnation does not logically follow from the other. Hence, we can see that to refrain from condemning someone’s orientation does not in the least entail that one must not condemn sodomy.

    My view of the passage is that it is primarily about wickedness, and that includes but is not limited to sodomitic acts. And that leads me to my main point, below, and several ancillary points.

    The main thing I would want to say in reply is that the issue shouldn’t be about sexual orientation but about sexual practices. Sodomy (defined as anal or oral sex) is a sexual practice which is not limited to any single type of sexual orientation. Yet the Christian tradition condemns it. And what I find intolerable in this debate (and I’m not saying this about you), is when someone’s condemnation of sodomitic acts is taken as affront to other people’s orientations. There is an enormous reaction as is grave injustice has been done to even voice such condemnation. Why can’t people understand that someone like me can condemn sodomy and leave untouched whether one’s orientation is something that deserves censure and blame. And why can’t people see my action and quit judging me for being a gay-hater. And can’t I condemn a type of behavior considered in the abstract, not connected to anyone, without being taken to blame everyone who’s committed the act? Blame is not the same as wrongdoing. The one attaches to people the other to action types. I believe sodomy is absolutely prohibited AND I believe that orientation, which is not scientifically well-understood, is not itself sufficient to deserve blame.

    Now, some ancillary things. 1. It wouldn’t seem to be ‘gang rape’ if they asked for consent. 2. “Entire cities can’t be gay” . Rhetorical flourish and straw man argument. The nub of the point is unimpressive. 3. “It’s not about sex it’s about power and dominance”. This is strikingly naive. A fount of cruelty and violence is lust. Secular and sacred authorities attest as well as the informed common sense of mankind looking at its own history.

    • A, thanks for contributing to the conversation. Your take is always welcome!

      Gaining better insight in to the story in Genesis 19 does not obviously lead to the conclusion that A) orientation is a real thing, or B) a certain orientation is damnable, or even C) that all sorts of sexual expression are now permissible. It would be a fools errand to develop of theology of sexuality solely from Genesis 19. My point (which is hard to make when it’s not completely finished yet) is that Gen 19 ought not function as a Clobber Passage precisely because it does not address the issue of whether or not a person who is attracted to the same sex (or acts upon that attraction) is an offense to God. These clobber passages are traditionally used as proof texts to support an already assumed conclusion: homosexuality is wrong. But Gen 19 does not address that nor support that, nor can that conclusion be drawn from a reading and interpreting of the text.

      So yes, there is not necessarily a logical flow of ceasing-to-condemn-the-orientation must therefore mean you also cease-to-condemn-the-practice. The Catholic Church (as I’m sure you know better than I) put out a document in 1975 titled Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics wherein they acknowledged that in nature some people were definitively predisposed to a violation of natural law (i.e. they are homosexual), and that this condition, insofar as it is innate, is morally neutral. However, to act at all on such predispositions would always be immoral and never approved of. This seems to be the roots of the widely held view today that says, “sure, people may be born gay. But they cannot ever do anything about that gayness. They must remain celibate.” (for a while it was popular to Pray Away the Gay, as though God could fix someone and straighten them up, but that’s all but been shown to be a sham).

      I think it should be noted, however, that just moving people from a place of “condemning the orientation” to NOT “condemning the orientation” is no small matter. That is a HUGE shift in thinking, and a very important one indeed. I am glad that the Catholic Church was able to make that shift, and I pray that more and more individuals and protestant churches can also make such a shift.

      I’m sorry you have found, in other conversations, an attitude that decries you as intolerant towards someone’s orientation just because you condemn the practice. But I do hope that you can in some way see (if you don’t already) where that viewpoint comes from. It’s hard for straight people like you or me to really understand this. We (straight people) would LIKE to be able to make a separation between practice and orientation. This makes sense to us. This allows us to condemn someone for acting out their gayness in sexual practice while maintaining that we DON’T condemn the fact that they are gay. But that just does not translate well, if at all, to our gay brothers and sisters. If you condemn what they do, which is simply the natural outflow of who they are and how God made them, then you by proxy condemn who they are. I understand you don’t get that, and it frustrates you, and you probably feel like you’re being unfairly judged. But that’s probably just the lot us straight people have: we CAN’T understand it. We’ve never had to wrestle with who we are, who we are attracted to, how our sexual orientation manifests itself, what we do with those attractions, or how our practices relate to our natural orientation. It’s just different for us than for them. And because of that, and other reasons, I can completely sympathize with them should they reply back to you that “you are judging and condemning THEM” even though you protest by saying “no I’m judging an abstract action.”

      To your ancillary things, I reply: 1) I don’t get your point. Are you suggesting that perhaps if these hundreds of men and boys succeeded in getting the two men to come outside that they would have asked them for their consent to “know” them? Setting aside how absurd that seems to me, what’s the point in such speculation? 2) Though it may feel like a straw man to you, here’s why it’s not to me. The traditional belief on why God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah is because of homosexuality (perhaps some would say “wickedness,” but they’d quickly follow up with: primarily wickedness in the form of homosexuality). As it is understood today, some people are simply born attracted to the same sex. If this story is truly in the Bible to demonstrate God’s attitude toward people who are born gay, and we know this because God destroyed an entire city after men wanted to have sex with men, then you would be forced to accept the fact that ALL these men were gay. The story teller went to great lengths to say that every single man was there, at the door. And this is just ONE reason why I think the traditional interpretation of Gen 19 does not hold up. Because it would require that all of those men and boys were gay IN ORDER to maintain the assertion that this story is evidence of God’s condemnation of homosexuality. And that is simply unreasonable. Alone, this point may not impress anyone. But when it’s added to all the others, the traditional understanding of this story simply does not hold up. 3) Meh, I guess you’re entitled to your opinion. I just reply by saying, “to NOT think it’s about power and control, but to think it’s about sex, is equally if not MORE naive.”

  2. Colby, I read your essay with interest, because I know you and respect you. I will be reading more of them. Your writing as a mixture of secular wisdom and biblical text is hard for me to sort through, but if your main premise is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is MORE about a depraved expression of a need to humiliate and dominate others, than it is about homosexuality, then I would agree with that. In the story they don’t seem to be expressing homosexuality, but extreme violence.

    When you say that gays are born with a genetic attraction to the same sex, I’d like to hear where that comes from and the genetic component identified. I want to REALLY have you hear an idea of mine in this area and see what you think. But that’s for later.

    You also say to the man who commented above that heterosexuals have never had to wrestle with who they are attracted to or how we might act on that attraction. Hmmm. I guess I’m not the norm then, cuz I’ve been attracted to others who are married (when I was single) to other men (when I’m married) and have had to deal with very strong emotions and desires that I felt it was wrong to act on. And in some cases, it took a LONG time to come to a place of peace where I was free of the obsession (I guess you’d call it that).

    Do I say that God made me this way? He certainly made me a sexual creature and I think many would agree that we have temptations outside of our marriages, but did God make me that way? I will need to think about that… I guess he did. Does that mean he is okay with me acting on those feelings?

    And here is one more thing, that you seem to hit on, but don’t express in the same way my brain is working on it. If we see scripture as the word of God, then there are no details added that are insignificant or details we need that are left out. You point to the emphasize on the fact that the entire town was at Lot’s door. Says it three times. The detail that the men wanted sex, rape, carnal knowledge, whatever, is part of the story. It could’ve been told differently, especially if their desire for sex wasn’t the point. Why did God choose to tell it that way?

    Love to hear your comments back. And I hope you go into things that aren’t necessarily “clobber” text. Maybe an examination of heterosexuality from the biblical perspective? I know you’d do it justice.

    • Hey Linda, thanks for joining the conversation!

      I’m not sure I’ve said anywhere that gay people are born as such due to genetics. If I have, then it was a mistake. Only because the search for the “gay” gene has pretty much come up inconclusive. So I’m not convinced it’s necessarily a “gene” thing. Rather, I would agree with the widely held (outside the church, that is) view that some people are oriented toward a certain sexual preference, and this is due in part to both nature and nurture. To say “they are born that way” is not the same as saying “it’s in their genes.” No one has found a “straight gene” either, I don’t think. Though same-sex attraction is as old as humankind itself, it is still not fully understood. But anyone standing on the “gay gene” argument is standing on shaky ground, as far as I see it.

      Regarding your third paragraph, I think you misunderstood what I was saying. In your examples, they are all attractions to other MEN. My point in its context is that straight people do not have to wrestle with a sense of identity in the same way that gay/bi/queer people do. So it becomes incredibly difficult for us to understand what they must feel, and how their experiences shape them. It is TOTALLy normal for ANY human to be attracted to multiple people. Your story is normal in every way. It would be the exception for a person to ONLY ever be attracted to ONE person their entire life. I don’t know if that has ever happened! But if we can’t separate and acknowledge the difference between Person A who is straight and struggles with feelings of attraction to people other than their significant other, versus Person B who is gay and is attracted to people of the same sex, then we won’t get anywhere. Being gay is NOT like someone who is predisposed to being attracted to multiple people. That’s just called “being human.” Apples and cucumbers.

      I’m not sure why you would ask the question: if God made me a sexual being who is attracted to men other than my husband, than does that mean God is okay with me acting on those feelings?

      This feels to me like (and many people try to make this same “argument”) an insincere question. I don’t think you would really buy in to a view of God who blesses promiscuity. Who blesses breaking of marriage vows. Who blesses betrayal and dishonesty and disloyalty. For that is what you are describing.

      Being gay is not those things.

      Of course, a gay person can most certainly DO and BE those things. Just as much as a straight person can.

      But asking: “Is God okay with me being in a relationship with a person whom I love, cherish, respect and want to be with, who happens to be the same gender as I, for that is how I believe I was created” is altogether different than, “is God okay with me acting on these feelings of attraction I have for people that are not my spouse, for I believe God created me to really have strong sexual urges.”

      Regarding your final question: you’re tapping in to a much larger question about hermeneutics, understanding Scripture, and our basic posture towards the Bible. Way too big to go in to here. But I will challenge your assumption… you say, “if we see Scripture as the word of God, then there are no details added that are insignificant or details we need that are left out.” I don’t quite follow your logic, here. This seems to presuppose a view of inspiration that I would not adhere to, and I don’t think you would either. You are describing a version of the doctrine of Inspiration known as Dictation, where the belief is that God literally dictated all the words of the Bible to its authors, and they were merely the vessel responsible to physically write that down. If THAT were the case, then perhaps a logical conclusion could be “no details added… no details left out.” But only the most extreme fundamentalist still defends Dictation Theory anymore.

      Scripture is, to me, much more complex, diverse, and beautiful than something that is the result of God dictating God’s words through humans. God did not, if you will, “tell” the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Rather, it was a story that was passed on orally from generation to generation until one day it was finally written down by someone. Was this all occurring under the guidance and the inspiration of God’s spirit? You bet. But this is a much different thing than saying “God told the story” as some sort of dictation theory.
      Scripture is also not a text book. Not a history book (although it does have books in it that describe history). It is a library of sorts, a collection of stories and letters and poems. ANyways, I’m getting sidetracked…

      Of course the men wanted to have sex with the two men. No one is stating otherwise.
      What I AM stating, however, is that their demand was not a result of the fact that they were all gay men wanting to practice a God-honoring demonstration of homosexual love. It was not because hundreds of men and boys, through nature and nurture, grew up in Sodom and discovered that they were attracted to their own gender and lo and behold one night here come two hunky men that they are all simultaneously attracted to and want to come and politely ASK if they’d like to take part in a giant orgy with them.
      To Alex’s point, of course this had something to do with lust and sex.
      To my point, it had MORE to do with control and evil and power and domination.
      To my other point, this is all categorically different than what we mean when we talk about “homosexuality” today.

  3. If this is too long I can post such long replies in the future at a different place…

    A reply. Thank you, Kolby. I appreciate the discussion and look forward to more. I prefer my name isn’t used, but you can just write “A” if you like. :-) The reason is that when I apply for jobs, sometimes my name will be searched for and in today’s climate if its associated with traditional morality that might hurt my chances. Not a big deal, but it is a concern.

    Okay I’d like to reply first by being a bit nit-picky.
    1. “Gaining better insight in to the story in Genesis 19 does not obviously lead to the conclusion that A) orientation is a real thing, or B) a certain orientation is damnable, or even C) that all sorts of sexual expression are now permissible.” —I think you meant “obviously does not lead to”, right?

    2. “It would be a fools errand to develop of theology of sexuality solely from Genesis 19.” But who attempts this? If they did they’d be a fool indeed. But why say this, here, now?

    3. “My point […] is that Gen 19 ought not function as a Clobber Passage […].” But if ‘clobbering’ is not a rhetorical flourish then not passage ought to function as a clobber passage. For clobbering is a vicious act. And whether the clobberer possessed the truth is irrelevant to his doing a clobbering act. You give too much credit to the clobberers. They condemn themselves by doing what is vicious. And that ought to be assumed in this blog, not taken seriously. Now, doing so, says nothing about the truthfulness of interpretation or validity of inferences performed from an interpretation. So if someone says “The passage indicates that sodomy is wicked.” He might be right. Suppose he is. But now suppose he infers: “People with homosexual orientation ought to be treated just like they are sodomites.” He makes a mistake in logic. For it doesn’t follow from his interpretation, even when his interpretation is true. For there are some with homosexual orientation who habitually abstain from sodomy and deserve no censure for it (from practicing homosexuals or gross homophobes). But suppose this person NEVER clobbers anyone with the passage but only politely conveys what we’ve supposed is a true interpretation and see is a bad inference. Then the passage Gen 19 is NOT FUNCTIONING as a clobber passage. For our man is not a clobberer.

    4. “[…] an already assumed conclusion: homosexuality is wrong.” But that’s ambiguous in precisely the way I complained about beforehand. “homosexuality” can mean “homosexual sex acts” or “homosexual orientation”. Which is it? Context here indicates you mean it to be both. Is this correct? If so, then your passage below which says “But Gen 19 does not address that nor support that” is still not quite right. Since the passage does not say anything, for or against orientation, and does indicate that sodomy is or can be wicked, it does give support for the claim the orientation and homosexual sex acts are bad, because it supports the second half of that conjunction. It isn’t enough support to justify that conjunction, to be sure. But you didn’t specify that, you just denied it could support it at all.

    6. “I am glad that the Catholic Church was able to make that shift […]“… let me complete that thought… to make the shift from condemning orientation to not condemning orientation. I’m not aware of the Church’s teaching office ever condemning orientation. So it didn’t shift. To say “the Catholic Church” made the shift is an ambiguous statement. Do you mean “The teaching office changed its teaching” or do you mean “The people of the Catholic Church used to believe orientation was condemnable, now they don’t”. I assume you meant the latter. Correct?

    7.If we maintain that the practice is wrong but not the orientation, then it greatly matters what we say when asked “why is the practice wrong?” I maintain that it is not wrong because the sex act is between two people of the same sex. That’s not what makes it wrong. A sex act is wrong when it is not a marital act (and even married people can do sex acts with their spouse which are not marital acts). So single, gay, straight, married, and unmarried people can do an wrong sex act, say, sodomy. So to say that we straight people don’t understand is to risk assuming that all straight people condemn the practice for the same reason. But they don’t. My grounds for condemnation have nothing to do with the fact that those committing sodomy are of the same sex. So if any gay person takes my claim as an affront to “how God made them” then so equally should all the married people who think anal and oral sex is okay between spouses.

    8. “If you condemn what they do, which is simply the natural outflow of who they are and how God made them, then you by proxy condemn who they are […].” This is the huge trick that gets played. For straight people, like so many of my students here at the university, often feel that the natural outflow of being in love is to consummate in intercourse. No need for marriage just yet, if ever. So if this reasoning is not exposed as ad hoc, then there is no rationale for marriage. For then sex acts are good if they are “then natural outflow” of who the person is and how God made them, gay, straight, hormonally charged teens in love, etc…

    9. “I understand you don’t get that, and it frustrates you, and you probably feel like you’re being unfairly judged.” I have been unfairly judged. But it’s precisely because it is assumed that “I don’t get it.” For one, no one has ever asked me if I have homosexual or bisexual orientation or even if I’m really a woman though I look like man. So the presumptuous attitude of self-righteousness behind judgments against me is repugnant. Take a parallel. A friend of mine was in a debate about abortion at the university he teaches at. The feminist defender of our abortion laws said, “You don’t understand abortion, because you’re not a woman”. The presumption and self-righteousness here is alarming. And that’s to say nothing of the logic. My friend replied: “How do you know I’m not a woman?” Though funny, the point is deep. Second, he said, “But the defenders of abortion in Roe vs. Wade and subsequent cases were all men.”

    10. Piggy-backing on the previous statement. Most people in this debate, pro and con, profoundly lack understanding of human psychology. We grow up an are naturally interest in sexual stimulation because like so many things we are immaturely attracted to, it is pleasurable. Most of us, boys and girls, masturbate. We are, I suppose, technically at that poin, all homosexuals. But as most of get older we become interested in the opposite sex. But most of these continue to masturbate and now, in our culture, to view pornography. So I suppose most are bisexual at that point, technically speaking. So it seems the natural tendency of humans is to be bisexual. And that’s not surprising. For the natural tendency of humans is to be lustful and to get sexual pleasure however, without regard to the nature and order of human sexuality itself.

    11. If you read number 10 above you could predict what I might say about this remark of yours: “But that’s probably just the lot us straight people have: we CAN’T understand it. We’ve never had to wrestle with who we are, who we are attracted to, how our sexual orientation manifests itself, what we do with those attractions, or how our practices relate to our natural orientation. It’s just different for us than for them.” Most people have a good sense of shame (not weird guilt feelings). Hence we don’t like to speak of sex. Some don’t like that word. Others avoid the word ‘masturbation’. And that is normal and good. But that shame also prevents us all from talking about the sexual fantasies we might have experienced. So many many ‘straight’ people are known by psychologists to have homosexual fantasies. Take a case and point. Men seem to be turned on sexually by observing females being homoerotic. Sad. True. “Normal”. And, yes, bad.

    12. Reply to your reply to my ancillary points. 1. I was speculating on the striking point that Lot says “have my daughters” and they say the don’t want them but want the men. So they definitely prefer men to virginal females. Perhaps it is gang rape, but it wasn’t obvious to me at first. Not much hangs on that, perhaps. I’m not sure. But either way, the gang wants to sexually abuse a man not a woman. 2. It may or may not have felt like a straw man, to me, I don’t remember. But I thought then and think now it is a straw man. For the denial of the conclusion you come to is incredibly implausible and so, refuting it is, where refuting it is supposed to show the further conclusion that Gen 19 is not about sodomy. What about the explanation you give as to why it is not a straw man? I’d reply like this. First, you say that the text indicates that all the men of the city come. But my version reads in v. 4 “The men of the city beset the house, both young and old, all the people together.” That doesn’t entail that all the men in the entire city were there. For the phrase “all the people together” seems to quality the phrase “both young and old”, saying that there was a single group composed of young and old people who came. So it isn’t clear the text indicates every single man, young and old, came, and it even more so unclear that “the story-teller went to great lengths…” Second, in explaining you say “the traditional belief is”, but I’m not so confident. Could you give me some evidence on which tradition and whether it is really that traditions belief? I’m not trying to be annoying. :-) I honestly am not convinced. Third, I agree that most people conflate practice and orientation, so that if someone believes the practice is wrong they believe the orientation is wrong. But that’s not to say that people that blame practioners would blame those who are oriented but don’t practice. If someone so oriented was blamed it would be because the blamer things that such a person likely practices. And in the cases were the person oriented is known to be so oriented, it is likely he or she does practice. But even so, if a person is blamed for being oriented it is not for merely being oriented, in the majority of cases. For if the blamer were told, but he is not practicing but is habitually abstaining, my guess is that the blame would cease in all but the most callous people. Fourth, Suppose a person thinks that a large group of men, young and old, who clearly ask for a male to ‘know’, is evidence that that crowd practice sodomy and violently do. And suppose this person infers by the fact they were struck blind as well as God’s destroying the city, that someone being violent and sodomitic are wicked. That seems like a sound inference. And suppose this person then infers that this text seems to indicate or be some evidence that God is opposed to violent sodomy. That’s all good and fine, right? Your problem is when the next inference is made: “And so, God is opposed to sodomy in general”. Have I got you right? Now that inference does not seem crazy or unreasonable, even if that inference is not fully justified by this passage alone. (Now remember I agree with you it oughtn’t be for clobbering, and moreover, it can’t justify condemning orientation). Would you agree that that inference is not unreasonable even if it fails to be sufficient for justification? Now, suppose a final inference is made: “And so, God thinks that everyone with sexual orientation, practicing or not, deserves destruction.” That is clearly irrational. But knowing that is a matter of being a good reasoner and not about interpreting the passage. Correct?

    13. To think it is not about power, violence, domination AT ALL, is, I agree, equally naive as thinking it is about that but NOT about sex. It seems obvious it is ABOUT BOTH. The question is what is causal relationships?

    Kolby, I really appreciate this conversation. And I hope it continues as cordially and civilly as it has so far. Bless you in your work and thought!

    • Eh, it’s not too long. I mean, sure it IS long, but if you haven’t noticed, I tend to be long-winded myself!

      WIll for sure use “A”, in fact I edited my previous comment to reflect such a change.
      I used to have to fear being found out that I have more “liberal” views, so I get it.

      A couple interactions with some of your #’s…

      1) Yes. I did in fact mean “obviously does not lead to.”

      3) I’ve addressed in another comment, somewhere, that I’m intentionally using the term “Clobber Passage” for a couple reasons. Yes, there do exist people that “use” these passages in a non-clobbering way, but that doesn’t concern me. These passages have acquired such a label because they have been the go-to places for Christians when they need to point to why homosexuality is wrong, sinful, an abomination, etc. And the Bible being used in this way sickens me, as I’m sure it does you. I will keep referring to them as “Clobber passages” because it maintains, in the forefront, the reality of the situation: that our LGBTQ brothers and sisters have been hated, oppressed, judged, shamed, excommunicated, and many other terrible things by people in “God’s” name. ANd it’s gross. And if by my using the term “Clobber Passage” over and over again helps somehow to remind people of this, I will do it. I’m afraid people have not given ENOUGH credit to the clobbers (and by “credit,” here, I mean things like “attention” and “raise awareness to”).

      4) I’m not convinced (as you seem to be) that the story in Gen 19 indicates that anal-sex is or can be wicked. I AM convinced that sexual aggression, domination, power, control, rape, inhospitality, et al, are or can be wicked. The nature of the type of sex (whether it be male/male, male/female) is not significant in my opinion, as the parallel story in Judges 19 will show (when it get to Part III-B)

      5) This was my favorite point of yours, by far… ;)

      6) I will defer to you since, you know, you’re more Catholic than I am. However, my understanding is that prior to the 1975 document I referenced, the Church had a coherent and simple view of the morality of homosexual acts, and that was essentially that homosexuals as such did not exist. It believed that everyone was heterosexual and that therefore homosexual acts were chosen out of depravity, curiosity, lust or bad moral guidance. And these acts were condemned because, like you say, they were not “marital acts,” and were condemned in the same way and for the same reasons as premarital sex, adultery, masturbation or sex using contraceptives. So the “shift” I referred to was that the Church began to acknowledge that some homosexuals were such by nature (even if some were still a result of the aforementioned). If I have this wrong, then I apologize.

      7) I probably shouldn’t respond to this, simply because there’s probably no ground to be gained on either side. I have no concept of a view that condemns everything that is not a “marital act.” I’m not even sure what a “marital act” is or isn’t, but your view seems totally foreign to me.

      8) I still maintain it’s not a “trick.” This is very difficult to type out, or for me to try and articulate it with written words. I wish we were downing a six pack over a fire and discussing this in person, because then I might be able to flesh out my thoughts on this better. Suffice it to say, though, that I think it is worth considering how a gay person is affronted and confronted with their sexuality as part of their identity in ways that straight people NEVER are. Straight people grow up in a straight world, where from adolescence they understand that Valentines Day is for boys & girls, that dances are for a boy and girl, that their favorite tv shows involve romances between a boy and a girl, where their parents are (most likely) a boy and a girl, where gender identities are drilled in to them by society (intentionally or not). The whole world seems set up to tell gays how confused and different they are from the beginning. Straight people just enter in to, if you will, their sexual orientation. They are ushered there quite normally, naturally, and smoothly. Gay people, though, have to wrestle with issues of identity in entirely different ways. And that forces them, I imagine, to wrap up their orientation with their own identity in MUCH TIGHTER ways than straight folk do. Hence I think that straight folk easily can separate, and in argumentation want to REQURE a separation, of orientation and identity and acts. I just have to believe it’s not the same for gays.

      9) I’m sorry, I know it sucks when people seem hell bent on disallowing you a certain argument or rationale. I’ve been there. All I can say is that the WAY you argue this (I have read other discussions you’ve engaged in on this topic) seems to CLEARLY indicate that either A) you are NOT gay, or B) you are so far closeted and repressed and full of fear, that you in turn HAVE to argue so vehemently… “thou dost protest too much.” It hardly seems necessary to ask you of your orientation, but I think I understand what you’re saying. Regardless, I still don’t think you get it.. and I’m certain I don’t get it either, for that matter.

      12) … 1) The gang wants to sexually abuse the outsiders, the visitors, the “guests.” 2) Interesting note about your text. Any Hebrew scholars in the house that can help us determine the best understanding of the text? When I use “traditional” I know that it isn’t overly helpful (I think I addressed this in Part I). I’m trying to just cover a very large swath of interpretive conservatism, as it has “traditionally” been understood. To your “Fourth” point, I just don’t take the same assumptions in to the story that you do, namely that “sodomy” was one of the major definers of their wickedness. I don’t see the need to limit their sexual wickedness (of which I’m certain existed) to only “homosexual acts.” I think that other Biblical authors help give a clearer picture of Sodom’s wickedness (which I will eventually get to, in Part III-B… damn if I’m not so slow!). But anyways, it’s hard for me to follow all of your “supposes,” when I can’t buy in to your premise of sodomy. That said, if you say instead that this text indicates that God is opposed to violent sexual acts, I would say that that would certainly be PART of what God opposed about Sodom (again, there was MUCH more going on there that ultimately led to their destruction). And so then yes, to answer your question, I do think it would be unreasonable to then infer that “God is opposed to sexual acts in general.” Although, if you read Judges 19, a parallel story to Genesis 19, in order to stay consistent with some of your argumentation here, you would HAVE to land at or near a place that says “God is opposed to sexual acts in general.”

      I’d love to ask you this, A, because I really got confused with something during your #7 and #8. It SEEMS to me that you are suggesting that you oppose homosexual acts NOT because they are a result of same-sex behavior, but because they are non-marital acts. Is this correct? If so, then my question is this: do you then support the relationship between two people of the same-gender who commit to ONLY participate in “marital acts” (again, I’m not fully certain what that does/doesn’t entail)? Or, to put that differently, would you support a gay relationship where they only hold hands, snuggle, live together, kiss, etc… but do not partake in sodomy/oral sex/whatever else would be considered non-marital sex acts? It seems to me, based on your reasoning for being opposed to the practice, that you would then be open and accepting to such a relationship as I’ve described. Is this correct? Do you understand what I’m asking?

      I appreciate the convo, too!
      It’s been a while since I’ve tried to match wits, reason and logic with an “ancient Grecian philosopher.” Though I can probably stand toe-to-toe on the wits, I know I’m always chasing you guys in reason and logic! …. Exhausted! (Where’s the ping pong table when you need it, right!?)

      Also, I think it’s awesome that you still spell my name in the fashion that I spelled it back in the day. That’s how you knew me, and that’s how you still know me. Love it.

      • Several remarks. I’ll intend to be brief. :-)

        I thought 5 might indeed have been my best point! ;-) I do hope my points below are slightly more informative that my previous and laudable point 5.

        1.

        You say: “I’m not convinced (as you seem to be) that the story in Gen 19 indicates that anal-sex is or can be wicked. I AM convinced that sexual aggression, domination, power, control, rape, inhospitality, et al, are or can be wicked.”

        I would infer from the story that anal-sex, perhaps other acts, were the means by which the litany of evils you list, was in fact perpetrated. So anal-sex certain *can be* wicked. I’m sure you’d admit that the story at least provides initial evidence for that. Does the fact that anal-sex *can be* wicked mean that it *is wicked*?

        You give a litany of sexually bad things and say they “are or can be wicked”. But you surely can’t mean that each item *is or can* be wicked. For rape cannot fail to be wicked. And depending on what you mean by ‘wicked’ I’d say that sexual aggression can’t fail to be wicked.

        2.

        I’m not sure why you then say: “The nature of the type of sex (whether it be male/male, male/female) is not significant in my opinion, as the parallel story in Judges 19 will show […].” For I’d said this multiple times. It’s not that the type of pair that makes sodomy what it is, it is primarily the type of sexual act it is, something we can describe independently of considering what sort of humans are involved, what gender, age, etc.

        3.

        You say “the Church had a coherent and simple view of the morality of homosexual acts, and that was essentially that homosexuals as such did not exist. It believed that everyone was heterosexual and that therefore homosexual acts were chosen out of depravity, curiosity, lust or bad moral guidance.”

        I’m not sure what your evidence is for this. But suppose you have some good support for this statement. Do you mean to claim that the Church held that there was no such thing as homosexual orientation? Is that how to understand your claim that the Church held that “homosexuals as such did not exist”? Okay. But we don’t have knowledge whether there is such orientation in the sense that same-sex attraction is determined by nature and not at all by nurture. How could we? We don’t even understand how to draw the line in general between nature and nurture in so many areas studied by the sciences? So it is not proved in the sense of “genetically determined”. In fact if you go to the APA (American Psychological Association) website, here, http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/sexual-orientation.aspx, you’ll see it is not about a genetically predetermined trait that is unalterable. What we do know is that patterns emerge regarding sexual behavior and attraction, and that distinct types is really slightly misleading, since attraction to others, says the APA, comes in degrees on a continuum. Note: the APA is a source referenced by almost all the legal disputes in our legal system that have dealt with this issue.

        The Church is as wise or wiser than science in saying that “sexual orientation ” is a mystery; we humans with our science and knowledge still haven’t figured out. Can this agnosticism justify maltreatment of those who consider themselves homosexual in orientation? Of course not, not does the Church condone such maltreatment *in any form* of fellow men and women.

        With that said what about the second part of your statement: “It believes that everyone was heterosexual and that therefore homosexual acts were chosen out of depravity, lust, etc.”

        The Church does not believe that everyone *is* heterosexual in orientation nor that everyone *is* holy. But we ought to be. Unfortunately, the Church’s official language often goes into what I’ll call Boyscout talk. “A scout is honorable, brave, etc.” We want to protest: “‘is’?! you mean ‘ought to be’…” So that’s my first point. There is confusion in the expressions offered by the Church, if indeed the Church has said that “everyone is heterosexual” in orientation.

        My second point will be a Facebook note that I’ll tag you in because it’s long and I don’t want to put huge digressions on your blog. If you want to add it to this comment, that’s fine. I just didn’t want things to get too bulky… ya know?

        4.

        About your number 8.

        I’m all for the six-pack discussion when possible (more, my friend, more will be required).

        I agree with you that there are culture prejudices and sometime they run deepest in some Christians. (But not only Christans. Any traditional or conservative branches of Judaism and Islam also have such prejudices). But having a prejudice is not a sin –most of us are practically born with them. Acting on them certainly can be sinful (depending on how one acts). And even if one has and acts badly from a prejudice it still doesn’t follow the prejudice assumes a mistaken standard. Now, don’t get me wrong. Gay-bashing, bullying, intimidation, etc., are all wrong. For those sorts of actions are wrong to do to anyone.

        But it is a hasty generalization to say “the whole world seems set up to tell gays how confused and different they are…” It might feel like that to some gays, to be sure. But does that mean the world is set up that way? Does that mean without condoning sodomy the world will remain an oppressive system? Does that mean without expanding the legal definition of marriage that the world will remain an oppressive system? Even if these changes were thought necessary, ought we hope in the removal of oppressive prejudices in this life? Does such hope have any basis anyway?

        5.

        About your 12.

        You say: “I don’t see the need to limit their sexual wickedness (of which I’m certain existed) to only “homosexual acts.”” Neither do I. I would argue the text obviously implies wrongful behavior far beyond simply sodomic acts. But I would argue there is no basis to exlude sodomitic acts, either, and initial evidence that sodomic acts were part of how the group did evil –even granting for argument that sodomy in marriage or sodomy in committed homosexual partnerships are not always bad.

        You say to me that “if you read Judges 19, a parallel story to Genesis 19, in order to stay consistent with some of your argumentation here, you would HAVE to land at or near a place that says “God is opposed to sexual acts in general.””

        That is certainly an argument and clearly stated. We’ll see about that when I get to that passage (which I haven’t yet… damn if I’m not too slow ;-)

        Grace and Peace to you my friend! Keep the convo going.

  4. Hey Colby. Been thinking. Ya know, this is the strangest conversation. Not just because it’s not face to face, therefore lacking the context of eye contact, and body language and facial expression that communicates so much more than words, (I spend my days teaching adolescents with autism to read and attend to such things if they want a true understanding of what others are saying) but also because it seems to start in the middle.

    Why do I say, “in the middle”? What you and I know of each other is superficial in many ways. When you are trying to hear someone, to see what they see, to put the lens of their glasses on, so to speak, it seems important to know more about them than just what they say about a specific passage in the Bible. When I read what you write, I see what dozens of men and women have written before you. It’s not new, but the fact that I have known YOU is new. Knowing a person adds to what they say.

    When I look at the picture at the top of the page I see a young man who wants to be taken seriously (the facial expression), but doesn’t want to get caught up in taking himself too seriously (the hat). You’ve been a pastor, a worship leader, are a husband and a father and no doubt have been other things as well. That’s what I know. And you have a strong viewpoint, and have lost things because of it. And you don’t know me very well. either. So, I’ll tell you that, as interesting as the academics and exegesis may be, I feel like I need to know a teacher to trust him/her. I need to know something of their holistic approach to scripture, of their struggles to understand and know and follow God. They have to be real and human to me. It’s hard to get that online, eh?

    To clarify a mute point, when a person says that a heterosexual can deal with just as many questions about themselves, wrestle as much about their sexuality, feel as torn, you don’t know the history of why a person might say that. Sexual orientation is not the most serious sexual crisis a person can have, in my experience. It’s hard to state online why I might believe that, but it might be something just worth rolling around in your head for awhile. Not that you have to accept it, but to understand that there may be heterosexual angst equal to those of the homosexual (If angst isn’t too trite of a word to use). Let me be clear that I don’t think that you have EVER said this, but I have the impression that your empathy for the struggle of those in the gay community has something to do with how you view the scriptures.

    Another reason I feel like this whole conversation is starting in the middle is because I don’t know how you view scripture as a whole, hence my question to you about do you believe that scripture has no details added that are insignificant or details we need that are left out. You are correct in saying that I do not ascribe to dictation theory. Good call. I’m not picking up on what I said that brought that up in your mind. I would describe myself as looking at the method of inspiration as that of supervision, ala 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20-21. In the context of that view, I think the question is still a valid one in that it informs me about you, which this individual wants to know more about. I take it the answer is, “no.” I hear you that you don’t have the time to go into this with me. Fair enough.

    I am actually enjoying the interaction btwn you and A, though A has opinions I don’t hold to, either. But here’s one more reason I feel like this Clobber Text is an odd place to start; like it’s in the middle. Now, remember, I don’t have a degree in theology, or much time to read up on hermeneutics, so be patient, this is a sincere question; why isn’t Genesis 2:18-24 the first clobber text? I will keep reading and enjoying the long responses btwn you and other commenters. Things to think about!

    P.S. Am I being unreasonable with this whole “I need to know you better as a teacher thing?”

    • No, I don’t think you’re being unreasonable at all. Perhaps you have unrealistic expectations, but that’s not the same thing as being unreasonable.

      You are right, in a way, that this is the “middle.” But in some way, EVERY discussion is in the middle. There is some philosophy quote or rule or I don’t know what, that says something like “you can’t really saying anything at all without backing up and stating the presupposition behind it, and the one behind that, and the one behind that, all the way back to the beginning!”

      So yes, to fully appreciate my approach on the Clobber Passages one would be helped by knowing things like my hermeneutical approach, my theology regarding Scripture, my theology and philosophy regarding God, etc etc etc…

      But since I can’t really write about all of that right now, I’m “stuck,” if you will, writing about topics “in the middle.”

      Perhaps over time my blog will represent a more full picture of things. But it does not yet.

      I have strong convictions, yes. But the beliefs I hold that support those convictions I try to hold fairly loosely. I know well enough that beliefs change, and it’s easier to allow that change to happen when we hold them less tight. Some would feel the best thing to do with your beliefs is hold them as tight as possible, but I don’t. So yes, I have strong convictions about the ways the church has handled the LGBTQ community, and the way the Bible has been used to abuse gays, and the way gay people have not been given the freedom and the love to be who God created them to be. But the beliefs I have (from a theological perspective) I hold loosely. (Which is NOT the same thing, however, as saying that I’m indifferent toward my beliefs, or don’t really care all that much).

      Thanks for clarifying the “moot point.” I think I understand what you’re saying, and I agree. There are many different ways people can get jacked up with regards to our sexual identities. My point continues to be, however, that it is categorically different for someone to wrestle with their gayness than it is for a straight person to have attractions to multiple other people. I’m not attempting to compare them by degrees of difficulty, but trying to give space for their inherent differences. You’d be amazed at how many people do NOT allow for the differences.

      The reason I was curious about you and dictation theory was precisely because you said, “If we see scripture as the word of God, then there are no details added that are insignificant or details we need that are left out.” That, to me, is a very dictation-theory thing to say. That every word that is in there, or NOT in there, is a direct result of the fact that God supernaturally made it to be. Many other theories of inspiration would allow for the distinct authory-ness (yes, I made that up) to remain in tact. That the men (*sigh.. no women…) that wrote the stories/letters/poems of the Bible did so AS THEMSELVES. Yes, THROUGH the guidance/inspiration/what-have-you of God’s spirit, but NOT just as a tool of the Divine. Therefore, there is no need to necessary micro-manage the text, if you will. But this opens up other cans of worms that I’m just not energy-filled enough to go in to. Would you accept, for instance, the follow scenario: God is overseeing a certain Biblical author as they finally put on parchment a story that had been told for hundreds of years. God observes that this author is choosing to tell the story in THIS particular way because THAT is how it was finally passed on to them and it is the way he felt his fellow Israelites would best understand it. God perhaps thinks, “that’s not the way I would tell the story, I imagine, but it is still TRUE. I suppose I could meddle a bit and supernaturally force this human writer to put this detail in, or take that one out, but I respect his liberty and freedom too much. Actually, come to think of it, I quite like the way he put it.” And so, you have a passage of Scripture that has “details added or left out” from one vantage point, but not from another. But this does not impact its overall truthfulness or integrity of the story being told. If you were to accept such a scenario, would that threaten the doctrine of Inspiration for you?

      Regarding your question about Gen 2, here’s why it is not a clobber text: the clobber passages are those in the Bible that directly address the sinfulness of homosexuality. Gen 2 could only be used indirectly. You could INFER that homosexuality is wrong based on the inferred RIGHTNESS you see in Gen 2, but that is not the same as a text that says “homosexuality is a sin… an abomination… the reason a whole city was destroyed… a result of God giving people over to their unnatural desires…” etc.

  5. I liked your statement about convictions and beliefs,(it was good to hear that you hold some things loosely; Pastor James uses the same terminology) and I might know what you are saying. Semantically, I see the two words as synonyms, so it wasn’t real clear. In an “if a=b and b=c, then a=c kind of way, if you hold certain beliefs loosely and those beliefs are what support your convictions, you must hold those convictions loosely as well. Yet, I think I hear you saying that, concerning your conviction that homosexual relationships withing certain parameters are within God’s will, that you hold tightly. But the scripture interpretations that led you to that you hold loosely. ? Maybe give me some help here.

    I certainly see individuals in the Bible, not puppets of the Father. The differences between the gospel writers, btwn Kings and Chronicles, the writers of the Psalms and the prophets are wonderful examples of being able to see the personalities of the writers. We can easily agree on that. But your scenario: “God is overseeing a certain Biblical author as they finally put on parchment a story that had been told for hundreds of years. God observes that this author is choosing to tell the story in THIS particular way because THAT is how it was finally passed on to them and it is the way he felt his fellow Israelites would best understand it. God perhaps thinks, “that’s not the way I would tell the story, I imagine, but it is still TRUE. I suppose I could meddle a bit and supernaturally force this human writer to put this detail in, or take that one out, but I respect his liberty and freedom too much. Actually, come to think of it, I quite like the way he put it.” ‘ seems to go just a little bit beyond that if I am reading you correctly.

    When I think of the office of prophet, for example, and what they were expected to do as far as speaking for God, I see that as God giving them specific things to say, not to deviate from, much more “dictation” like, if you will, than the Psalms for example, yet their personalities still shine through! And if that can be the case, specific words from God and no automatons, with Ezekiel and Isaiah and Jeremiah (to name a few), why not with the writer of Genesis?

    Surely there is a position btwn human writers as automatons and God scratching his metaphorical head and saying, “that’s not the way I would tell the story.” Genesis, unlike some of the books that are poetic or apocalyptic, is a history. I see no reason not to think that Moses very much wanted to tell the story the way God would tell it, and communicating that desire to God, and God being an active partner. I think your scenario reminds me too much of George Burns in the movie, “O God”, for me to comfortable with it.

    Thanks for the background on some of your thinking and processing that leads to how you view things. It helps.

  6. I’m thankful for the thoughtful interaction I’ve been reading, Colby. You and ‘A’ and Linda are very helpful to the readers who, to quote Colby, ‘just don’t have the energy’ right now to take on this topic to this length. I wish I did, but just don’t.
    I am glad for your quick “inspiration perspective,” it really helps me understand you better. It makes more sense of the conversations in which you and I have participated. I hope you give ‘inspiration’ more thought in the near future. As you know, it has huge ramifications on how one understands any text.

  7. I dunno if someone already mentioned this (sorry that I was lazy and didn’t really read the comments all the way through) but there were some pretty – uh – boneheaded fallacy-type assumptions which I take to be rhetoric that were rather distracting.

    For one, it’s pretty silly to accuse God of ignorance. I mean, that would not likely be the reason for the whole “coming down’ thing, and absolutely and obviously not for the whole discussion with Abraham. I mean, at least that if nothing else is a chance for Abraham to intercede, and we know how we like kind-hardheartedness. I mean, serious brownie points there ( /: p )

    Also, just because 450 males of the city cannot be all entirely gay doesn’t mean they can’t all be gay, and of course we don’t expect them ALL to rape the visitors, cause it’s just hard to get that many people in at once. I mean, mostly it’s a mob – but that is just as condemning, since they all CONDONE this sort of thing, so it’s basically as bad as the practice. And remember, as far as I know gay people back then also might have sex with women. I mean, like in the Greek culture, having a bit of bromance with poor Patroklus never stopped the savage Dolopian from dalliance with the captive maidens.

    I don’t think your argument is at all substantive. The fact that part of the notoriety of Sodom and Gomorrah was sodomy, would still seem to indicate that one of their sins was that perversion. Sure, I bet that wasn’t the only reason – it almost cannot be only that – but one could hardly then go and say that it has nothing to do with the problem. And I would have to say that other passages (say Romans) would support the argument that if nothing else, this commonality of homosexuality in Sodom was the culmination and natural outcome of their depravity, and thus a fitting symbol or heading of their major sins.

    PS I noticed some other people already noted some of this sorry sorry but I was sooo lazy. So lazy that I didn’t even read the first guy. *_* but I hope this at least adds a slight rephrase or twist that is worthwhile.

    • Thanks for joining the conversation, Montague.

      “Accusing God of ignorance” is not the same thing as, say, leaving space for the possibility that God is not following a pre-determined and pre-established playbook. Many would question the notion that God has determined the whole future of everything and every situation, and thus is knowledgeable of every single decision and outcome and event, etc etc for all of time. I don’t know enough about Open Theism to speak intelligently about it, but I do know they point to this story as a way to illustrate God’s openness to changing. So I don’t think anyone (myself included) is accusing God of ignorance.

      What do you mean when you say, “just because 450 males of the city cannot be all entirely gay doesn’t mean they can’t all be gay?” Are you suggesting here that some people are “entirely” gay, while others are “partially” gay? Perhaps you mean to say, “some are possibly entirely gay while others are bi-sexual.” I’m just not following what you’re saying.

      Why would you assume that the whole mob wasn’t intending on ALL participating in the rape session? Is your only argument because “it’s just hard to get that many people in at once?” I assume your being cheeky here (if not a little immature). Maybe you’re unfamiliar with the concept of gang-rape…?

      And that fact that they all “condone this sort of thing” is entirely a wonderful point! THAT is a debasing thing, indeed! A city that perpetuates, condones, and practices such a thing as is described in Gen 19 is wicked indeed.

      There was no such notion “back then” (in ancient civilizations) of being only homosexual in practice or relationship. It was always something that was added to a “normal,” if you will, relationship with a woman. There was no concept or understanding or interest, probably, in a monogamous same-sex relationship. Which is another reason why using the story in Gen 19 to condemn all practices of homosexuality is unreasonable.

      I’m not surprised you don’t find my argument substantive. It seems evident by your tone that you are certainly convinced otherwise, and that is fine. We both feel differently about this issue, and that impacts how we accept/feel/buy in to the “other sides arguments.”

      I’m curious, though, why you would say that sodomy is part of the notoriety of Sodom and Gomorrah? This begs the question. “Sodomy,” meaning anal sex, is derivative from Latin meaning “sin of Sodom.” But again, this presupposes that the “sin of Sodom” was the sin of anal sex. So to accept that “sodomy” is the sin, or ONE of their sins, would mean that you accept the idea that they were deemed wicked because they practiced anal sex. I’m not sure I accept that. I DO accept, absolutely, that the way in which they PRACTICED, or at least INTENDED to practice, anal sex in this story is wicked. It was forced. It was not between two consenting adults. It was not out of love. It was wicked through and through. But much more contributes to its wickedness, in my mind at least, than merely the fact that it would have been anal sex. But you can’t just say “sodomy was the sin of Sodom” without pointing out HOW that word came to be (based on traditional assumptions about this story). We may generally accept the common definition of “sodomy” today, fine… but I reject the idea that says “the way Sodom was intending to practice anal sex in Gen 19 is evidence that any practice whatsoever of anal sex is always wicked.”

      Are you suggesting that Romans refers to Sodom? Because I don’t believe Sodom is mentioned at all in Romans. And what do you base your statement “commonality of homosexuality in Sodom” off of? Of all the other mentions of Sodom in the Bible (and there are quite a bit) make no mention of what you refer to.

      • Ok, going thu paragraph at a time…

        For the whole God’s knowing thing – well, I have had Calvinist teachers so it kinda rubbed off on me to think of God as knowing one future – and I tend to be a bit obtuse when it comes to seeing things another way (about as likely as shooting lasers from my face – but I’m still hoping to so it’s ok XD ). What I was thinking was that God works according to “justice equations” if you will (not meaning to be mechanistic or irreverent) – meaning things are “situational” – results depend on circumstances. But as you point out This is a bit too debatable to be used here so I concede this point.

        Ok, the by the “entirely gay” thing I meant that I theorize that these people did NOT, as you too agree, engage in monogamous homosexuality. In so I guess we agree here, though the conclusion is slightly different (I’ll get back to this).

        Ok, I’m beeing cheeky, but seriously, if gang-rape is not lining up for high-fives, I really do doubt that 450 people can in one night all rape two men. i don’t want to picture it but seriously, does such activity survive a mob that big? Anyway, let’s leave that ’cause it’s getting a bit morbid. And my point in saying it you do concede (that is, they all at least support it). So to skip the next one…

        Ok, this is addressed in our second sections, so…

        Ok, to connect the last two arguments:
        “I’m curious, though, why you would say that sodomy is part of the notoriety of Sodom and Gomorrah? This begs the question. “Sodomy,” meaning anal sex, is derivative from Latin meaning “sin of Sodom.” But again, this presupposes that the “sin of Sodom” was the sin of anal sex. So to accept that “sodomy” is the sin, or ONE of their sins, would mean that you accept the idea that they were deemed wicked because they practiced anal sex.”
        Ya GOT meh on the first part! Sorta. I Concede that the connection of Sodomy with Sodom is mostly traditional. However, I find your second assertion not entirely secure. For example, there is a substantive difference of a necessarily homosexual nature between rape of a woman and of a man. The fact that sufficient depravity finds little difference in degree between them is of course true. But certainly from a sharp (one might say hairsplitting, though if correct then it is good) philosophical view there is a difference. Rape of a woman naturally proceeds from lust for a woman coupled with the wish to take that pleasure at all costs. I don’t think that gang-rape is entirely separated from taxa of rape. Therefore, it seems possible if not proven that if homosexual rape is similar to “normal” rape, it would derive from the same type of root, that of homosexual lust. You cannot rape someone you would be repulsed to have sex with, at least not easily. I conclude then that homosexuality must be a prerequisite to their sin, EVEN IF it was not the MOTIVATION of the crime.

        The last paragraph (about Romans): I meant this to be a support to the earlier argument that homosexuality is necessary to or an outgrowth of moral depravity (in this case that of Sodom) since Paul states one result of depravity as being “given over” to “unnatural lusts” which I think we can assume include homosexuality.

        In fine, I agree with you that this passage does not show homosexuality itself, and does not constitute by itself a “knockout punch”. However, there is some merit to the significance that Sodom has as a sort of “origin” of Sodomy, and although not Biblical text, I don’t want to merely brush off all the traditional or the colloquial implications as irrelevant – especially since it’s only been out there for whatever thousands of years. As I explained, I do still think that Homosexuality is implicit to this story, even if it is not the main sin, and certainly we don’t find that homosexuality originated in a good place. All in all, although it’s not as crystal obvious as it’s made out to be, Genesis still offers lots of evidence to condemn homosexuality.

        Thanks for being very clear and polite. I hope to learn to be so too :P ’cause I’m bad at it (and at being clear – advance apologies). Anyway thanks for making us all think cause thinking is good.

  8. Colby,
    I stumbled onto your blog via some other research I was doing about a church I’d heard about, and my interest in if said church was open and affirming. Backwards way to find you, but so glad I did.
    This post is GREAT. Whether people agree with your assertions about the story of Sodom and Gomorrah or not, you’re getting them to think, and to consider the twisted ways people think about homosexuality and the church.
    I’m a huge fan of John Shore (my “story” is here: http://johnshore.com/2011/11/04/an-open-minded-christian-in-a-close-minded-world/) and I’m so happy to see another well-spoken, thoughtful straight dude share his unique, Godly perspective. I’m looking forward to the next part of your “argument.” thanks for being another light in the world that shows all Christians aren’t close-minded jerks.

  9. Good article, Colby.

    I’ve thought of it this way. If the angels were women would that’ve made the sin of Sodom any less in that the 450 men wanted to gangrape two women.

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