Queering the Bible, Pt 2. – Sodom and Gomorrah

The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19

Part 2 of an article that I wrote a while back, while I was the LGBT Officer at Bradford Uni, and had a lot of students come to me who felt that it was difficult to reconcile their sexuality or gender identity with their Christianity. I’m not a theologian, but I did a bit of research to bring this together.

This passage is often used to criticise homosexuality. It has been so often used that ‘Sodomite’ and ‘Sod’ has become an insult to throw at gay, lesbian, bisexuals and the wider queer community. ‘Sodomy’ was refered to in UK law as the act of anal sex, associated with gay males. But is Genesis 19 really a condemnation of homosexuality?

The actual sins of Sodom are provided throughout the Bible;

  • The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah include the making of false idols, Deuteronomy 29:23-26 and Deuteronomy 32:32-38 23
  • Making false sacrifice, murder, greed and rebellion against G-d, Isaiah 1:9-23
  • Arrogance and Pride, Isaiah 3:8-9

Jude 1:7 is often used as to argue that the sin of Sodom and Gommorah is homosexuality – “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”

The fornication and ‘strange flesh’ referred to here could either a condemnation of promiscuous adultery, as condemned in Jeremiah 23:14 or, more likely, a reference to the fact that the visitors were angels of G-d and their flesh was literally ‘strange’, coming from the Greek heteras which, ironically, is the source of the word heterosexual. The phrase more accurately translates as ‘other flesh’.

The main sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was inhospitality. In Gen 19, Lot, and immigrant to the city of Sodom, welcomes two strangers through the walls of the city and into his house. The townspeople are suspicious of Lot and the two strangers, them all being outsiders. All the men of the town gather outside Lot’s house demanding to have sex with the men. Now, let’s make this clear, not all the men of Sodom were gay, the presence of women and children in the city tells us that. The fact that the men of Sodom wanted to have sex with the men was nothing to do with sexual enjoyment, but about their assertion of power. They intended to let the strangers know who were in charge by gang-raping them. Modern psychology tells us that the main reasons for rape are through anger and to assert power. Sodom was destroyed because the townspeople were violently inhospitable to the visitors. To put it in context, because in Biblical times, towns and cities were separated by vast swathes of harsh desert, hospitality was more than just good manners, it was about saving lives. This view is backed up by Jesus’ later quotes on Sodom and Gomorrah, in Matthew 10:13-15
and Matthew 11:20-24.

Other references in the Bible to Sodom and Gomorrah can be found here: Jeremiah 49:16-18;50:2-40Lamentations 4:3-6Ezekiel 16:49-50Amos 4:1-11Zephaniah 2:8, and 2 Peter 2:6.

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