Ezekiel 16:49, What Was the Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah?
Yesterday, I was a featured guest on Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson’s radio program, a conservative live talk show. I knew before accepting the offer that it wasn’t a good fit for me, but I didn’t quite expect the direction the interview went! Rather than discussing the History Channel’s miniseries on the Bible (the stated topic for the day), the Reverend quickly probed out my liberal bent, and began playing to his conservative audience, on topics such as abortion and homosexuality. I didn’t bite on abortion, so for roughly half the interview, we were stuck on the topic of homosexuality, and a comment that I made about how liberal Christians do not tolerate intolerance.
At the very end of the hour, a caller began yammering loudly about the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah (homosexuality, in his opinion) and how God struck them down with fire and brimstone. Reverend Peterson wisely terminated the interview a few minutes early, before I could address the caller. Probably, he knew his scripture better than the caller, and wished to end the session on a fire-and-brimstone note.
The truth is the Bible nowhere says that homosexuality is the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. This is a widely-held belief whose basis probably comes from Jude verse 7, though that verse doesn’t address homosexuality, but rather condemns “fornication and going after strange flesh.” However, there is one place in the Bible that gives it to us straight about why God condemned them to death. It’s today’s verse in Ezekiel, and it is God speaking directly:
“Now this was the sin of your sister 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.”
So there you have it, from the lips of God. Believe me, Ezekiel was no prude, and he wasn’t just being politically correct. If Ezekiel meant to portray the evil of Sodom and Gomorrah as sexual perversity, he had several colorful words in his vocabulary to do so, and no compunction against using them. But he didn’t.
Let’s be clear: there is an ancient law in the Old Testament that speaks against homosexuality. Christians generally recognize that this law code has been superseded by Jesus. Today, we eat shellfish and wear cotton-blend undies and allow hunchbacks in our holy places. There is a man in the New Testament (Paul) who well understood the change Jesus brought, but who couldn’t seem to let go of this one old law about homosexuality. But let’s get our Bible scholarship right. God didn’t destroy Sodom because it was full of homosexuals; he destroyed it because they held no compassion for the poor and needy. Jesus didn’t condemn homosexuals; he condemned those with no compassion for the poor and needy. If we wish to grow as Christians, under the example and teachings of Jesus, we really need to overcome our homophobia and put our focus where it belongs.