New Era of Change – Part 8 – LGBTQIA++

New Era of Change – Part 8 – LGBTQIA++ May 5, 2022

Plaguing churches today is differences over LGBTQIA acceptance. The word “sodomite” became synonymous with “the sin of Sodom,” and gay life, and the objection is over same sex relationships. The interpretation of the destruction of the city of Sodom seems to be interpreted according to perspective.

Wealthy poverty  image by Geralt on Pixabay
Wealthy poverty

image by Geralt on Pixabay

Working with new generations (Gen Z) – Series

The power of words

It’s important to look deeply at language (symbols) and what they mean. I’m not a Hebrew scholar so I avoid interpreting. I researched and created visual semiotics, so use a semiotic view of words (symbols) to understand them, plus context.

Today we use words that are so familiar their actual meaning has little impact. For example, if someone says to “bite the bullet,” it lacks the soul stirring mental framework of biting a bullet or billet as a way of coping during surgery without anesthetic.

The ancients viewed words as having the power to bring things into existence. Magical. The Bible is full of references to the power of our words. – Power Of Words.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” – John 1: 1 – 4

The word Sodom has been used to speak things into existence. The terms Sodomite and Sodomy didn’t become part of Biblical translation until the 11th Century.

What does the word “Sodom” actually mean, when did it come to represent the sin of Sodom, and what was the “sin of Sodom.” The Bible tells a very different tale. Our Jewish brothers tell a very different story about Sodom. Revealing the actual sin of Sodom might make people take a very uncomfortable second look at themselves.

The Hebrew word Sodom is a unique word that comes from a root meaning “to burn.” It can also mean to act violently. It can even mean to harrow or plough a field. The word means or implies nothing of a sexual nature. The Greek word for Sodom in the New Testament is the same word with no additional meaning.

If it’s important, give it a name

When something becomes important to people, they create a word for it, such as “harlot.” Harlot is a common word in the Hebrew Bible, occurring around 50 times, essentially meaning someone who cheats on their marriage (adultery), or to a lesser extent someone devoted to sex as in a prostitute. It was used frequently to describe the people as being adulterous with God.

The Hebrew does have a word for a male prostitute: qadesh. Qadesh means a sacred (devoted, clean) person. Or the opposite – someone devoted to sex and unclean.

The word for both Harlot and a male prostitute come from a word meaning “clean” morally and ceremonially. It can mean the opposite: unclean.

Being clean in Judaism generally involved a purification ceremony. No one was considered clean, not even the priests.

It’s noteworthy in determining importance that the Hebrew language never developed a word for men lying with men. Nor did the Greek and Roman languages. Nor for women lying with women.

In contrast the word “unclean” and its variations occur around 225 times in the Bible. This doesn’t even include the word “defiled.” There’s a word for a male prostitute. But for men lying with men – nothing.

Those who devoted themselves to sex that was culturally considered unacceptable were considered devoted to it. They were considered unclean. Note the connotations: devoted and unclean for ceremonial purposes.

Being “unclean” in Judaism basically means excluded from religious ceremonial practice. Women couldn’t participate during their menses except if they were far removed from the gates, and in that patriarchal society they couldn’t do priestly functions. But as the synagogues grew in number, women did participate in religion, and even in politics.

Apparently in the 11th Century men laying with men became important to Biblical translators. They named it “sodomy.” This “sodom” translation is a distortion almost beyond belief.

Had men lying with men been important in Jewish and other cultures, there would have been a specific name for it, such as harlot.

 The backdrop

If you have ever lived in Arab lands one thing sticks out: their hospitality. I had to be careful not to compliment people about their possessions because they were likely to give the thing to me. Even the nomadic Berbers who still live in tents welcome strangers and offer them mint tea prepared with chunks of sugar in a pot over an open fire. In the winter they live in the mountains, then in the summer they come to the common land to grow crops. Despite the lack of material wealth they are very hospitable.

The ancient Arab custom was for strangers who passed by to be able to stay three days without question. It was also important to help the guests get on their way again. That still stands today among Bedouin tribes. Settled Arabs cite this as important in their culture although it doesn’t occur often.
The Three-Day Guest Law: The Bedouins. Hospitality, Food & Friendship in Arab Business Culture.

When Jesus came to visit he had a lot of followers. So in the passage where he visits Mary and Martha this would have been a major thing. Just think about going to the well to get that much water for washing, beverages, and washing the dust off of sandaled feet.

Most of the Middle East had arid lands with major sections that barely supported tribal living. Droughts were frequent that caused people to leave their homeland for better places. There were significant cities, but mostly the early settlers, like Abraham, were immigrants who were nomads who lived in tents and their families became tribes.

People who journeyed or immigrated generally were forced to migrate due to droughts, invasions, and politicial turmoil. Abraham’s parents likely took them from Ur to Harran for because of invasions, and it’s likely Abraham migrated West to Canaan for this same reason.

“The plight of aliens was desperate. They lacked membership in the community, be it tribe, city-state, or nation. As an alienated person, the traveler often needed immediate food and lodging. Widows, orphans, the poor, or sojourners from other lands lacked the familial or community status that provided a landed inheritance, the means of making a living, and protection. In the ancient world, the practice of hospitality meant graciously receiving an alienated person into one’s land, home, or community and providing directly for that person’s needs.” – The Extra Mile: The ancient virtue of hospitality imposes duties on host and guest.

Hospitality to the stranger among them was a virtue that was part of culture and an expectation. To not offer hospitality to the stranger among them was a very uncivil act.

The sin of Sodom

The Bible has many references to the Sin of Sodom:

“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.” – Ezekiel 16:49-50 (NASB) (The abominations are never listed.)

“Also among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: The committing of adultery and walking in falsehood; And they strengthen the hands of evildoers, So that no one has turned back from his wickedness. All of them have become to Me like Sodom, And her inhabitants like Gomorrah.” (Adultery is mentioned, men lying with men is not.)
– Jeremiah 23: 14

In Jewish literature from the period Sodom was considered to be a relatively wealthy town that ignored the poor and the stranger.

“The people of Sodom said: Since we live in a land from which bread comes and has the dust of gold, we have everything that we need. Why do we need travelers, as they come only to divest us of our property? Come, let us cause the proper treatment of travelers to be forgotten from our land. (Talmud Sanhedrin 109a)”

“The Talmud basically understands Sodom’s chief iniquity to be the fact that they closed off their gates to strangers. One of the Torah’s central principles is the fact that Jews were once strangers in the land of Egypt, which endowed us with the moral imperative to care for the less fortunate; shunning travelers is a big transgression.”  In Jewish tradition, sodomy doesn’t mean what you think.

Sodom – the posterchild for mistreating the needy (the other)

In the Biblical passage on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, there are two stories that stand in sharp contrast in Genesis chapters 18 and 19.

When Abraham saw the Angel of the Lord, he bowed to them and said, “Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves … ” Then he went to his wife Sarah and she prepared bread cakes, curds, milk and a calf.

When the Angels of the Lord entered Sodom, Abraham’s brother lot treated them similarly with the hospitality of his home and food. But the men of Sodom came to the house and demanded Lot give them the angels. Lot refused, even offering his daughters. “But they said, “Stand aside.” Furthermore, they said, “This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them.””

Judge a Society by Its Hospitality.

Seeing what you want to see

Just as translators at one point incorrectly made Mary Magdalene the poster child for prostitution in the 5th Century, the town of Sodom was incorrectly made the poster child for men lying with men in the 11th Century.

In this current age in which LGBTQIA issues have become high profile in people’s minds, the Biblical teachings are becoming very distorted. High priority is placed on the rejection of LGBTQIA, and low priority is placed on hospitality of the stranger, the immigrant, the poor and needy just as in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Archaeological evidence

Was there really a Sodom and Gomorrah? The ancients said that it was near the Dead Sea. Remains of two cities have been found there. Evidence is that around 1650 BCE (correct time frame) it was subjected to heat strong enough to melt metal and that it was destroyed by fire, and salt spoiled the area for many years. Scientists speculate that a comet burst above the cities. – Ancient City’s Destruction by Exploding Space Rock May Have Inspired Biblical Story of Sodom.

The date and area correspond to the Biblical story. But there is no certain scientific proof, just like the rest of the Bible.

Take Home Points

Religion is culturally situated and changes over time. People see and emphasize what they want to see.

Does this sound familiar in today’s world: “I made my money myself. Why should I give anything away? Go make your own money. Go back to your homeland. Stay away.”

“Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,” – Revelations 3:17 (NASB)

Is this love? What were the ancients telling us? What I will do is ask you to use the stricter standard of law that asks, “Beyond a reasonable doubt?” Or at least appeal to the lesser standard of civil law, “More likely than not.” The standard of belief and conduct for Christianity is love.

How to Keep Millennials Engaged in Church – on Patheos

What Is Meant by Truth? – on Patheos

Tabernacle of Hate – False Religion – on Patheos

10 Reforms Christianity Needs to Make Right Now – on Patheos

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The standard of belief and conduct for Christianity is love. Legal standard.

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Our answer is God. God’s answer is us. Together we make the world better.

– Dorian

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