This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.- Ezekiel 16:49-50
I’m reading through Genesis this week, and tonight will watch Alabama vs. Clemson in the national championship. As a graduate of UA, naturally I’m rooting for Alabama. But I especially hope Alabama trounces Clemson this year in light of the viral video that shows a Clemson player groping a downed Ohio state player. The player defended his actions as “locker room behavior” and offered a half-hearted apology along the lines of “boys will be boys” and “just having a little fun”. His attempts to justify his behavior reminded me of Donald Trump’s “locker room talk” recording which went viral a few months ago.
What does this have to do with Sodom and Gomorrah? Quite a bit, I think. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction is often used as a proof-text against homosexuality, but I don’t think that’s what it’s really about. You can read the “rest of the story” in context here. There is no way I can read this story and conclude that it refers to consensual, loving same-sex relationships. The “plain meaning of the Scripture” is that a large crowd of Sodomites sought to gang-rape Lot’s guests, who unfortunately for them happened to be angels. There’s a similar story in Judges, this time involving the gang-rape of a woman, which also ends badly for the residents of the town. The Judges story didn’t involve loving, consensual relationships either. It’s interesting to me that the Sodom story seems to be much more widely known than the Judges story.
I don’t think either story is about sex, homosexual or heterosexual. They are stories about violent disregard for other human beings bringing violent consequences to the perpetrators. They are stories about people using other people for their own entertainment in horrific ways. Locker room talk and locker room behavior may not result in the same physical damage, but I’m afraid Jesus might tell us the thinking that underlies such talk and such behavior is a deadly danger. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Jesus knew that thoughts and attitudes usually result in behavior consistent with those thoughts and attitudes. Trying to control human behavior via an ever-expanding list of rules, as the Pharisees did, is like playing whack-a-mole. The root of the problem is attitudinal, not behavioral. Change your attitude, and changes in behavior will follow.
The problem with Sodom was not one of sexual orientation, but of self-centeredness, as Ezekiel wrote many years later. The problem with Sodom is that they thought only about themselves and their own self-gratification. They had plenty of food, but stuffed themselves rather than sharing with those in need. They had plenty of free time, but used it to look for trouble instead of helping others. They saw Lot’s guests as objects for their own entertainment, not as persons.
People are meant to be loved, not used. If we strive to “love our neighbor as ourselves” we will treat people in ways we would want to be treated ourselves. That certainly rules out rape and other violent crimes, but when you think about it, it rules out a lot of other stuff too, in and out of the locker room. It’s something to think about.