Billy Graham: Punish America or Apologize to Sodom & Gomorrah

The following is from a letter by Billy Graham posted recently on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website:

Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

She was probably thinking of a passage in Ezekiel where God tells why He brought those cities to ruin. “Now this was the sin of … Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen” (Ezekiel 16:49–50, NIV).

I wonder what Ruth would think of America if she were alive today. In the years since she made that remark, millions of babies have been aborted and our nation seems largely unconcerned. Self-centered indulgence, pride, and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle.


Yes, there are plenty of examples to support the case Graham is making, but is it fair or accurate to suggest that all points indicate a fundamental moral decay?

And before you answer, consider the following:

Just over a decade ago, women were denied many basic rights in our country, as well as access to many educational and employment opportunities.

A couple of generations ago, African-Americans and other people of color were oppressed, segregated and violence against them was largely tolerated, if not sanctioned.

Medical technology has helped us greatly improve both the longevity and quality of life for millions.

Could it not be argued on as many bases that we’re advancing in positive ways – even particularly with regard to affirmation of the rights of the marginalized – as we can for moral decline? Yes, pornography is a real problem, but what about our historic problems with sexual oppression and abuse? Is it really worse now than ever before?

Interested in your thoughts.

About Christian Piatt

Christian Piatt is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.

  • http://twitter.com/TravisStanley Travis Stanley

    Ironically, many of the things Rev. Graham might see as “moral decay” are, for me, signs of hope and gospel.

    • Frank

      Or ironically you are following a made up gospel. 

      • aaronpxian

        Frank don’t you have better things to do with your time then go around to every liberal blog on patheos and tell them they aren’t Christians? It is people like you that keep me far, far, away from conservative Christianity

        • Frank

          It’s your choice to deny the truth or not.

          • http://jewelfox.dreamwidth.org/ Taryn Fox

            The truth is, the passage of scripture he quoted there says an awful lot about being “haughty” and “arrogant,” and “unconcerned” with the “poor and needy”, but not a damn thing about buttsex.

            Yet somehow, the latter is the sin of Sodom. And we’re the ones who decide what we want the scriptures to mean, while you’re the ones who are just telling it like it is.

            Bull.

      • http://joeyspiegel.wordpress.com/ JoeyS

        I don’t think you understand irony. 

  • DCFem

    You (of course) know that “moral decay” is a euphemism for all of the challenges that the patriarchy has had to fight against since women gained the right to vote. It is just so awful for old folks like Graham to even have to think about LGBT people as actual human beings, or sexually active women not paying for their “sin” with unwanted pregnancies, or health care laws being passed that mean you will have to sit in a waiting room with “those” people. Some of us view these things as advances in our society but I’m sure we don’t meet his definition of good Christians.

    • Gail

      Agreed, except I would delete the word “old” from in front of “folks.” I know many bigoted, homophobic folks younger than 35 and many loving, open-minded folks older than 75.

      • Bert & Deane Langdon

        Bert & Deane Langdon are two 80+ who like the comments.

  • Russell Gross

     “Now this was the sin of … Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant,
    overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were
    haughty and did detestable things before me.”

    Doesn’t that passage mostly describe the far Christian right? I’ll give them some credit and admit that I don’t think they’re unconcerned. The rest of it, though, seems to feed right into our American prosperity doctrine.

    • Niy

      I see ur point Russell, but you overlooked detestable being defined many times in the bible. Check out Leviticus 20:13

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/NFKCZRZ2YU3FXJLK22CNMEU4KQ Ian

    “were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty”… why is it that the Christian Right ignores these sins of Sodom and focuses solely on the sex?  and they do the same for America too… and themselves.

    • tellin it like it is

      Who says they do ignore them? How could S & G be concerned with others, when the men of that city wanted to forcibly rape the angels? You think that wasn’t arrogant, thoughtless, selfish, perverted, and sinful? How can you enable such an idea?? Stop trying to attack others for what is clearly an act of sin to God, and stop being in denial. Raping some one is nasty, arrogant, controlling , selfish, degrading, haughty, spiteful,and narcissistic. Not to mention, sinful! The over fed part could mean , an infinite appetite for lust, perversion and sex with other men.!

      • mroge

        Most homosexuals are not rapists. So yeah what these people wanted to do was wrong, but it does not have anything to do with the current debate about gay marriage. Also you forgot about the poor and needy part.

  • Paul Freeman

    I’ll have to agree to what has been missed in the passage from Ezekiel.  There is no doubt a shift in our society’s approach to morality has drastically changed over the last 50 years, much the dismay of those who have attempted to define it based solely on how the biblical understanding has been, till now. 

    But there needs to be a shift in our understanding.  It’s not clear how to proceed until all voices are heard.

    • JwmChristie

      Simply proceed with love.

  • JwmChristie

    Fundamentalism is itself ‘moral decay” into idolatry .

  • Paul D.

    Amazing how he can look at one of the several passages saying Sodom’s sin was inhospitality and lack of concern for the needy, and then go and put others in the same boat for liking technology and sex. 

    • JohnChristie

      I like sex & technology.

  • JwmChristie

    Jesus was not a Christian but he was a progressive Jew who condemned the conservative Pharisees & Sadducees who could not see past their own noses.

  • Franklin

    I’m tired of radical clerics calling for America’s destruction. Why do they hate America so much?

  • Debishopmsp

    What I find so interesting, in addition to your comments here, if the focus of behavior involving sexual relationships. As the quote shows, Sodom was not about sex. The overwhelming biblical focus was on how we treat our fellow human beings. We are succinctly called to care for those in need, whatever that might be. We’re not asked to teach a narrow view of morality to any who disagree with us, regardless of how much pain we inflict. 

    You know, it’s one of the biggest secrets of the bible. Jesus never required anything of anyone he healed/saved/rescued/forgave. There was no quiz about specific beliefs, synagogue attendance, eating habits, orthodoxy. Nothing. For me, that’s the gold standard, aka, the golden rule.

    • http://www.facebook.com/aaron.minix.5 Aaron Minix

       What about the woman caught in adultery in John 8? Didn’t Jesus tell her to go forth and sin no more? And doesn’t Jesus tell us that if we want to be his followers, we are to carry our cross and follow him?

      • http://www.bipolarlessons.com/ Mary

        It seems me she is talking about dogma, not sinful acts. Adultery comes under the Law of the Golden Rule. Jesus made it clear that he was disgusted with the organized religion of the Jews that placed more emphasis on ceremonial rules than on love.

        Jesus never even once told his followers to practice a formal religion. In fact it seems to me that he was preaching just the opposite. He was pointing out the dangers of following a lot of made up rules rather than living an authentic spiritual life.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aaron.minix.5 Aaron Minix

    I think you mean “a century” rather than “a decade” when talking about women’s rights.

    What exactly do you mean by “sexual oppression and abuse”?

    Is it really worse now than ever before? Probably about the same, the only difference is that now most churches are caving into things that Christendom has unequivocally condemned for centuries, ie abortion, contraception, divorce, fornication, etc. All sex related things. But sex is important, and has huge consequences. And if we don’t take it seriously, we’re going to get burned.

    • Consumer Unit 5012

       I could be wrong, but I don’t think the Bible says ANYTHING about contraception.  And as for Abortion, it’s only mentioned in one place:  Numbers 5: 12 to 31, which is a how-to guide to CAUSE an abortion if a woman’s suspected of adultery.

      So, yeah.

  • http://www.facebook.com/naomi.bicheno Naomi Ann Bicheno

    ” ‘Now this was the sin of … Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen’ (Ezekiel 16:49–50, NIV).
    … millions of babies have been aborted and our nation seems largely unconcerned. Self-centered indulgence, pride, and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle.”

    WTF?  Instead of taking the most simplest and obvious reading: If America is like Sodom then its sins are being arrogant, overfed, unconcerned, not helping the poor and needy, etc … instead he takes a conclusion that’s not even mentioned in the text – abortion.

  • JohnChristie

    I think the Bible story of Jonah is an appropriate lesson for Rev. Graham & us all. I have been waiting for it to appear.I guess I should make that happen. I would like to see some discussion. I think so many only know about the Whale & not God’s teaching of trust in the power of love for each other by setting the example of forgiving again & again, which is really what love is & what Jesus taught that God is.

  • http://www.LifeAfterCaregiving.WordPress.com/ Linda Brendle

    When I read discussions like this, I’m always struck by how everyone focuses on “the others.” As I read the Scriptures, I see plenty of “sins and abominations” to go around, and it seems to me that if we focused more on the log in our own eye rather than the splinter in “the other’s” eye, the world would become a better place, one person at a time.

    • Christian Piatt

      amen

  • Bespectaled1

    It’s only a civilized “thing” to do, about all the mentioned advances made in our society. Jesus basically said that is what is expected of us. We are to address the moral decay in our society, as Billy Graham has noted. Doing what is expected of a people , does not excuse correcting the other.

  • Bespectaled1

    A biblical understanding of marital relationships is; 1 man to 1 woman. As far as recognizing those who are of a different sexual orientation, the bible speaks to abstaining from sexual gratification with another, as being celibate. The bible only condones sex within the covenant of marriage. “All” people are to be celibate outside the covenant of marrige. Being differently sexually orientated is not a sin, in and of itself. The behavior of acting out in a sexual way is sinful and unbiblical.     

  • Bespectaled1

    There may be no direct scripture verses about abortion being an alternative, but the bible as a whole, speaks to the sanctity of every life, the born and unborn.

  • Dan Mann

    @Chris:

    In light of the recent election and of Billy’s son Franklin’s decision to remove the Mormon Church from the BGEA’s list of cults, I would comment, that unless God punishes the BGEA and Franklin in particular, then He’ll have to apologize to a bunch of Pharisees and money-changers.

    With regard to your premise that perhaps we’re advancing in many ways – thank you. I’m glad someone is actually willing to say so.

    Regarding moral decay, I bow to GK Chesterton, who reportedly submitted his essay to the Times of London on the topic of “What’s Wrong with the World”, “Dear Sirs: I am. Sincerely, GK Chesterton.”

  • TheBestPoet.com

    What is the relationship between a legal right to do something or other, and our moral responsibility for that right being granted?

  • Gail

    I am appalled at your comment that you think Billy Graham is wrong. How dare you. If you had been reading your Bible and praying, you would know America is on a destructive path of sin. When young babies are being raped and people are living in open sin and laughing about it, yes, I think America is on a major moral decline and only God’s mercy has kept us from being completely destroyed. Wake up America, the fire of hell are waiting if you don’t!


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