June 3 2006
Most Christians are fully aware of this story, and they quote it with glee. For the sake of those who aren't familiar with this oft-told tale, I'll briefly recap so you'll have the basics.
I guess the first thing I should do here is introduce you to the cast of characters. At the top in a starring role is God and His costar is Abraham. In this particular story we don't see much of either, but they do play a key role in the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. Then there's Abraham's nephew, Lot, one of the residents of Sodom. Lot has a wife, and two daughters (both virgins as you will soon find out). And rounding off the cast are two angels (male-again as you will see later in the story). The setting takes place in the plains just north of the Dead Sea surrounded by cliffs and rocks.
In this infamous story God decided that he had had about as much as he could take from "The Cities of the Plain," of which Sodom and Gomorrah were the two most famous. 'The stench of their sins" had reached him all the way into heaven is what he told Abraham one day during a visit. (That must have been some stench, since it would take thousands of years traveling at the speed of light just to get out of our galaxy let alone all the way to heaven.) Abraham pleaded with God not to destroy the cities if he found any righteous people living there, and God promised that he wouldn't as long as that provision was met.
Genesis 19 opens with two angels walking into Sodom (were they there to see if they could find any "righteous" citizens, or were they there on reconnaissance?). Abraham's nephew, Lot, is sitting at the gate when he sees them. We don't know what Lot was doing at the gate either.
Lot sees the two angels and takes them to his house fearing their safety. But they don't get there unseen. That night all the men of the city show up to Lot's house demanding the two angels so that they may "know" (i.e. have sex with) them. Lot is appalled by their actions, so in order to save them, he offers in their place his two daughters who had "never known a man" (or had never had sex with a man). In other words, they were virgins. (I've got say, in that culture being a virgin wasn't necessarily a good thing.)
This act only made the men angrier and they threatened Lot with the same treatment. Just as the men reach Lot's front door, one of the angels pulls Lot inside, and the men of Sodom are struck with blindness. They then tell Lot to take his family and get out of town that night before God rains down fire on them. He and his family were also warned not to look back.
Lot was rather attached to Sodom, so the angels literally took him by the hand and led him out of the city, telling him and his family to head for the hills. Lot protested and asked if he could head to a small nearby city. "It's a small city" he told the angels, so they agreed but he had to hurry. So for Lot's sake, they spared the city of Zoar.
Lot took his wife and his two daughters and they left Sodom just before dawn. As the angels promised, as Lot's family left the city, fire came down from Heaven. Lot's wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt, thus proving throughout history that God hates homosexuals and the women who look back upon them (i.e. fag-hags). But it turns out that Lot was still afraid and left Zoar and headed for the hills anyway, where he dwelt in a cave with his daughters.
What amazes me most about this story is that nobody seems bothered that God, of his own volition, would take it upon himself to come down to a city for the sole purpose of destroying men, women and children. Isn't that out of character for a God of love? Is that how a loving father behaves toward any of his children? And what about these "men of Sodom?" Even in San Francisco, where huge numbers of men are gay, you would still be hard-pressed finding a situation where "every man in the city" would come out and demand to know two strangers (even if they looked like Brad Pitt or Orlando Bloom).
There are several other troubling events that nobody seems to care to discuss either. In my mind the most troubling thought is this-Lot is apparently considered a righteous man-even though he was willing to give up his two daughters to be raped by a mob of angry men to protect two people he didn't even know. The men of Sodom were considered evil because they wanted to have sex with two angels (adults), but were unwilling to rape two innocent girls (probably very young, eleven or twelve since they hadn't been with a man-which usually happened at the age of thirteen or fourteen). Does that sound backwards? Granted, rape of any kind is unwelcome. But let's ask, "What kind of father would throw his own daughters to a mob of men like that, specifically emphasizing their virginity?"
Now Lot is a widower with the two daughters he was so ready to sacrifice only a few hours ago. While living in their cave, the two daughters decide that they don't want to die virgins, so they conspire to have children with the only man they know. They get their father drunk and then the oldest daughter sleeps with him. The next night they get their father drunk again, and the youngest daughter sleeps with him. Both girls get pregnant, and according to Genesis 19, their father had no recollection of what happened, though it happened twice.
This brings up some interesting questions which I won't address here, but that's a lot of alcohol. I've been pretty drunk before, but I'm pretty sure I would know if I committed incest (which wasn't officially banned until later in the book of Leviticus.) Lot's oldest daughter gave birth to a son and named him Moab. The youngest daughter gave birth to a son and named him Benammi a.k.a. Ammon. And if you know anything about the history of Israel, these two groups of people made things very difficult for the Tribes of Israel throughout most of their developmental years.
I must say, the God in this story doesn't sound like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son. Nor does he seem to have a problem with a man that would offer up his two daughters to be raped by a mob of horny (and now angry) men. And what fully amazes me is that it seems that it's homosexuality, not incest that God finds repugnant. Genesis 19 strikes me not as much as a condemnation against homosexuality, but a stark reminder that God's family is far more dysfunctional than any of those who oppose it. Yet these are the family values that Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and all the other far-right teachers keep trying to aver.
If you look at the reasons given for this horrific event, there aren't any. God told Abraham that the stench of their sins has reached him. But what was that stench? Did it smell like homosexuality? But throughout the Bible, Sodom and Gomorrah have been chosen to represent sins other than sexual. Usually when you hear them mentioned, Sodom and Gomorrah are synonymous with greed and selfishness not with homosexuality. The only reference to the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah is in Ezekiel 16, where God accuses them of being greedy and selfish. He also claims that they didn't help the poor and needy, the widow and the orphan. And then He (God) accuses Israel of being worse than Sodom and Gomorrah.
So in my mind, Sodom and Gomorrah are more an indictment against God and his so-called "children" than it is against homosexuality.