Sodom & Gomorrah
“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” Ezekiel 16:49 (NIV)
Fire and brimstone are all I could remember from the sermon. I sat in the backseat of my mom’s SUV submerged in guilt. God was going to obliterate me for wanting to fuck my pastor’s son. Earlier that Sunday I sat through a charged sermon against homosexuality. Vitriol popping off my skin like bacon grease, I listened to men I admired denounce Barack Obama because he supported same-sex marriage. I told myself that was last my Sunday.
In Genesis 18, we find Abraham bargaining with God over the fate of Sodom & Gomorrah. First Abraham asks God to spare the city if he finds 50 righteous people, then 40, then 30, until eventually they agree on 10. If God can find just 10 righteous people then he will spare the city. In the next chapter, God sends two angels to investigate the city and meet Abraham’s nephew Lot. The divine visitors spend the night at Lot’s house, where a mob of men turn up unexpectedly. They demand that Lot surrender the visitors so they can rape them. Lot refuses and instead offers his virgin daughters.
And this is where the story begins to fall off the rails for me. Why is the “most righteous person in the city” so willing to allow his two daughters to be raped? If the issue is the city’s heathenish activities, is male to female rape somehow preferable to the alternative? Most importantly, what type of father would rather his daughters get raped than two perfect strangers- even if they are sent from God?
Miraculously, God blinds the crowd of men so they can’t find Lot’s door and eventually the crowd disperses. The following morning Lot and his family escape the city just before it is set to be destroyed. The divine visitors have to basically drag them out by hand, and give Lot’s family one instruction- do not look back. Of course, Lot’s wife looks back. And immediately she is punished and transformed into a pillar of salt.
Growing up in a Haitian Pentecostal Church, we always stopped reading after Lot’s wife dies. But recently I’ve found myself fixated with what happens immediately after the city is destroyed. Lot and his daughters are living in a cave somewhere in the mountains. His daughters concoct a plan to get him drunk and rape him so they can have children. They then carry out this plan in subsequent nights and give birth to children that end up the forefathers to two pagan tribes.
Where one could have interpreted the offering of his daughters as a show of devotion to God (Abraham and Isaac on the mountain) the irony of the two saved daughters getting their father drunk and fucking him in his stupor feels too obvious to be accidental. The most righteous man in the whole city was spared so that he could end up impregnating his own daughters? Present-day moral standards aside, there is a biblical precedent against child-parental nudity established in Genesis 9. Immediately following the flood, Noah’s son sees his nudity and is cursed just for looking. How God could curse Ham and not Lot’s daughters is beyond comprehension. Ham stumbled upon his already drunk father, Lot’s daughters plotted to intoxicate him then take advantage like a group of fraternity bros at a house party.
After doing some theological research I found that many famous rabbis such as Rictor Norton, and Jay Michaelson interpret the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah to be less about their sexual preference, and more about their lack of hospitality. They were unfriendly to visitors and brazen in their disregard. Michaelson compares the modern homosexuality-centered interpretation of the story to an axe-murder going on a killing spree, and people fixating on the axe as the problem. He’s supported by a number of old testament references that condemn Sodom without any reference to sodomy.
Jeremiah 23:14 (NIV)
And among the prophets of Jerusalem
I have seen something horrible:
They commit adultery and live a lie.
They strengthen the hands of evildoers,
so that not one of them turns from their wickedness.
They are all like Sodom to me;
the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah.”
Amos 4:1–2, 11 (NIV)
Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria,
you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy
and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”
The Sovereign Lord has sworn by his holiness:
“The time will surely come
when you will be taken away with hooks,
the last of you with fishhooks….
“I overthrew some of you
as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire,
yet you have not returned to me,”
declares the Lord.
In Ezekiel, God describes the sin of Sodom as arrogance, laziness, and lack of concern for the poor. A scathing indictment of a people’s priorities and how they spend their time, not a diatribe on sexual preferences. The logic involved to rationalize God’s hatred of gay people using the story of Sodom & Gomorrah, can equally be used to justify rape, incest, and drunkenness- at least when personally expedient. It’s a faulty logic based on a lazy reading of ancient Hebrew, but its one that’s been difficult to challenge.
What if the story of Sodom & Gomorrah were used to preach good manners and hospitality? What if the cities’ destruction was inevitable and the moral of the story was non-attachment? What if the story were told from the perspective of Lot’s wife instead of Lot?
As a practicing Sodomite I’ve adopted a new vantage point on this ancient story. To me it’s an old testament iteration of the Pauline doctrine “all man have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was inevitable because it depended on the righteousness of humanity, not because of anal sex.