It’s a common claim accepted as truth: God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because gays had overrun the place.
This past week, Franklin Graham repeated this biblically illiterate and twisted claim as if the LGBTQ community should be on notice that wearing shirts that say, “So gay, so what?” might result in God sending fire from the sky like the good ole days.
Like blindly spouting, “God helps those who help themselves” is in the Bible without double checking, the claim that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah over homosexuality remains one of those commonly repeated claims that is biblically false.
No, God didn’t destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexuality– and that’s what Franklin Graham is Wrong About Today.
No need to take my word for it– if the Bible is our authority, let’s just look there.
The Bible does tell us that Sodom and Gomorrah was overrun by wicked people, there’s no doubt about that. When Abraham tried to bargain with God to save the city, we remember he had to keep moving the goal post to strike a deal with the Almighty. And yet, in the end, the only ones to be saved were Abraham’s family who lived down there– and even that was clearly a matter of God just doing Abraham a solid, because later in the story we discover that Lot was a horrible human being who should have been at ground zero of God’s wrath.
I’m sure you also remember that God sent a couple of angels to do the extraction mission just in case the gang of misfit oil drillers failed to drill deep enough into the asteroid or detonate the nuke that would divert it into space and save the city.
Okay, I might be confusing that last part with a movie I saw once, but I think my point still stands.
Anyhoo, the angels went into the city to grab Lot and his family, but there was just one problem: their worst fears turned out to be true and the city was full of basically the worst people on the planet. They even formed a mob outside Lot’s house and wanted to haul these strangers out into the street and gang-rape them. Lot tried to talk them out of it, but they reminded him that he was just an immigrant and that they’d do even worse to him if he stood in their way.
Now, I *shouldn’t* have to explain that there’s a difference between being gay, and wanting to beat and gang-rape immigrants in your local town. If I have to, there’s a problem- but it’s not really my problem.
The irony here is that in fact, this wicked action tells us the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were likely harshly disapproving of being gay– which is precisely why they weaponized it. You see, in these ancient cultures homosexuality was largely despised because the one on the receiving end of the transaction was seen to take on the role of a woman– and if there’s one thing they hated more than gays, it was women. Thus, for one man to rape another man wasn’t an act rooted in sexual desire, but an action rooted in humiliating and demoralizing that person. It would have been an action to strip them of their manhood.
Had Lot seen them as being gay, he would never have offered to let them have sex with his virgin daughters instead (horrible human being, remember?). They weren’t interested in that option- not because of sexual orientation, not because they were seeking sexual pleasure, but because they wanted to send a strong message to these new immigrants who wandered into town.
This was rape. It was an anti-immigrant hate crime. None of it has anything to do with sexual orientation.
These weren’t people inviting the angels to come out and participate in a gay pride parade, but were instead trying to humiliate and demoralize them by forcing them to be on the receiving end of male/male sex, something that would have been extra detestable for these bronze age tribes.
So, say it with me: Trying to gang-rape immigrants as a way of humiliating and demoralizing them isn’t the same thing as just “being gay.”
What the people of Sodom wanted to do to the strangers who came to visit Lot revealed the deeper wickedness that made the city detestable to God: a lack of hospitality for strangers. In fact, for those who claim a belief in the inspiration of Scripture, we turn to the Bible itself to tell us why God destroyed the city:
“Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom: pride, fulness of bread, and prosperous ease was in her and in her daughters; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away when I saw it.” – Ezekiel 16:49-50
When God describes why he took these folks out, he lays out the case quite clearly: The people of Sodom were rich and full of themselves– thinking they were entitled to whatever they wanted, giving no thought to helping the poor or to showing hospitality to strangers (immigrants), and they showed scorn for anyone they felt was inferior to them (aka, “haughty”). To top it all off, they attempted to do something that should be seen as detestable in the eyes of anyone with a sliver of humanity.
Basically, when the mission to divert the asteroid failed, God was rather okay to put on that Bloodhound Gang song and tap his foot with the beat while humming “we don’t need no water…” and you know the rest.
But none of that has anything to do with being gay.
When the Bible describes a bunch of rich a%&@! who didn’t give a rip about the poor and needy, and who hated immigrants so much that they were content to rape and dehumanize them, it’s not describing the same thing as when that kid in your church youth group works up the courage to admit they’re gay.
It’s not the same thing. It’s not even close to the same thing.
And to sucker millions of people into blindly believing otherwise is What Franklin Graham is Wrong About Today.
Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com.