Tuesday, September 19, 2006
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A substantial percentage of men who have homosexual sex still consider themselves "straight," a survey of New York City men suggests.
The findings imply that doctors should not rely on a man's self-described sexual orientation in assessing his risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, researchers report in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Instead, they should ask patients specific questions about their sexual behavior, according to the researchers, led by Dr. Preeti Pathela of the New York City health department.
The findings are based on a 2003 health department survey that included
4,193 men age 18 and up. Respondents were asked about their sexual behavior and their sexual orientation.
Almost 4 percent said they were homosexual, while 91 percent described themselves as "straight." The rest said they were bisexual, "unsure," or declined to answer.
But of men who considered themselves heterosexual, nearly 10 percent had had sex with a man, but no woman, in the past year, Pathela's team found.
And of the 337 survey respondents who'd had sex with another man, almost
73 percent identified themselves as straight.
Cultural norms may have played a significant role in the discrepancy, according to the researchers. Foreign-born men, who make up a large proportion of New York City men, were more likely than their U.S.-born counterparts to call themselves heterosexual despite having sex with other men.
Men raised in cultures less accepting of homosexuality may be "reluctant"
to identify themselves as such, Pathela's team notes, or they may have a narrow definition of what constitutes homosexuality.
In general, self-described heterosexuals, whether they had sex with men or not, had fewer sexual partners than men who said they were homosexual.
However, self-described straight men who had sex with other men were less likely than gay men to have had an HIV test recently or to use condoms.
This pattern is "troubling," according to the researchers, and it highlights the need to target STD prevention messages beyond men who call themselves homosexual.
"It is of utmost importance for providers to take a sexual history that ascertains the sex of (the) partner or partners," Pathela's team writes.
"Given our data, asking about a patient's sexual identity will not adequately assess his risk."
SOURCE: Annals of Internal Medicine, September 19, 2006.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
A major subject of the ire of Christian Nationalists is homosexuality -- in particular, efforts to protect gay Americas from discrimination on the basis of their homosexuality. Conservative evangelical Christians profess to "love" gays and only "hate" their sin of homosexuality, but for some reason their "love" doesn't translate into refusing to discriminate against them or refusing to treat them as inferior, second-class citizens.
Christian Nationalists claim that being prevented from discriminating against gays would infringe upon their religious and civil rights, a position beset with fatal problems. It assumes that actively discriminating against gays, rather than just expressing disapproval of homosexuality, is required by their religion. Even if this were true, they also assume that they have a religious liberty interest in discriminating against gays which is more important than gays' civil liberty interest in being treated equal under the law. Finally, it assumes that there is something about homosexuality which justifies such a position even though this argument would never even be made, much less taken seriously, if the targets of discrimination were Jews, women, or blacks.
It's important to remember what the opposition to laws protecting gays from discrimination really means. These laws would prevent people from discriminating against gays when renting apartments and selling houses, so Christian Nationalists support the ability of bigots to deny gays fair housing. These laws prevent people from firing and refusing to hire, promote, or give bonuses to people just because they are gay, so Christian Nationalists support the ability of bigots to deny gays equal jobs and wages. These laws prevent people from refusing to provide medical, legal, accounting, and other basic services to gays, so Christian Nationalists support the ability of bigots to deny gays the same services everyone else takes for granted.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Journalist, poet, writer, photographer, and performance artist
Born in Siberia as Yaroslav Y. Mogutin, at 18, he moved to Moscow, where he began writing literary criticism and articles on gay issues for several Russian newspapers and journals. The relaxation of censorship and proliferation of gay journals that began with Gorbachev's glasnost and accelerated with the breakup of the Soviet Union meant that emigre and underground writers could be rediscovered and new writers could be published as well.
A few serious gay writers have appeared on the Russian literary scene as well. Among these the most noteworthy is the poet Mogutin. He soon began to publish his first articles, Slava became the target of a criminal prosecution for his outspoken writing and for being the first openly gay personality in the Russian media.
He was charged with "open and deliberate contempt for the generally accepted moral norms; malicious hooliganism with exceptional cynicism and extreme insolence; corruption of public morals, propaganda of sexual perversions, psychic pathology, brutal violence; using profane language; inflaming national, social and religious division..."
The political and legal harassment increased after his widely publicized attempt to officially register the first same-sex marriage in Russia with his American partner. On April 12, 1994 Mogutin made news by attempting to marry his boyfriend, Robert Filippini, at the Moscow Palace of Weddings. By the age of 21, he had gained both critical acclaim and official condemnation for his outspoken writing.
As an openly gay writer in Russia during Perestroika, his controversial opinions on homosexuality did little to endear him to the authorities, who harassed him to the point that he was forced to leave Russia for New York. In 1995, he was forced to leave Russia and was granted political asylum in the US, with the support from Amnesty International, American PEN, and other human rights groups.
He is the author of 6 books in Russian, including the autobiographical America in My Pants (1999), the best-selling collection 30 Interviews (2001), and SS: Superhuman Supertexts (2000), his most experimental book to date, which was banned for sale in all the emigre book stores in America, but won prestigious Andrei Bely Prize, the oldest unofficial literary award in Russia. Mogutin took up photography shortly after emigrating. Since 1999, he has been showing his work internationally and has contributed to a wide range of publications.
Monday, September 11, 2006
An old seaside resort town on an island that has seen better days. At one time the spas and hot springs of Dante’s Cove were destinations for the best European and New England families. But society changed, the hot springs grew over and were forgotten, and the former colony fell into obscurity. The current inhabitants are a mix of long-time inhabitants (both native populations and the descendants of once-fine European families), tourists (come for scuba, surf, and Spring Break), and the growing young, polysexual crowd who’ve take up residence in the once-grand, now ramshackle hotels and residences. The island’s reputation for tolerance and welcome has made it a destination for people who are tired of being judged or threatened for their unconventional lives.
To begin with, please read Genesis chapters 18 and 19. I'll be using the Authorized King James Version throughout. As editions do vary, I'd recommend using the KJV now. Later you can check the newer paraphrases if you'd like.
Setting the Stage
Genesis 13:1 tells us that Abram (he was not yet renamed Abraham) and his family, including his nephew Lot, left Egypt and went into the Ne'gev. As time passed both men became very successful. In time, Abram's servants and Lot's servants began having arguments over the ownership of their respective master's cattle (13:7). In order to resolve this growing conflict, the two men separated (13:5-13). Lot chose the Jordan Valley while Abram and his company settled in the Land of Canaan.
The description of the people of the Jordan Valley as "wicked," ra' in Hebrew, tells us nothing more than our English equivalent. The word translated as "sinners" is chatta' and more accurately translated as "criminals." In either case, these were bad people whose towns were populated by outlaws and gangsters.
Thus far nothing in the text suggests the presence of homosexuality. People who use this account as a proof-text to condemn the homosexual orientation usually refer to "the men of Sodom" as if it were the males who were evil. One must ask however, what about the females of the towns? No one ever mentions them. Please note for now that it was the 'enowsh or "mortals" of Sodom who were criminals or sinners; gender is not specified but we can correctly imagine a place of equal opportunity sin. In other words, the abominable actions of the people of the towns, not just the men but the women also, are being discussed. Enowsh includes men, women and even children. It is only logical then to try and understand what it was about these people was so sinful and how they came to be this way. This will be made clear shortly.
So it was among these wicked outlaws that Lot "pitched his tent." He did so because the land was fertile "like the Garden of Eden" before the cities of the plain were destroyed. Shortly after Lot and Abram separated, God instituted the Abrahamic Covenant (by which Jews throughout history have claimed their rightful possession of the Jewish homeland known as Palestine or Israel). After this, Abram moved his company to the Oaks of Mamre in Hebron. (13:10).
Some indefinite time later, a bitter war broke out in the plains (14:1-). This was a long and bloody series of attacks and counterattacks. When it was over, Sodom had been overthrown and Lot, among others, was taken prisoner. One of Lot's servants managed to escape however and fled to Abram seeking military aid.
Abram was outraged by the report and quickly gathered an army and went to Lot's rescue. Note what happened next!
As Abram was approaching Sodom after winning the war, Sodom's king came out to meet him. This was an act of showing respect and gratitude for the aid. It was the least he could have done. This is not surprising, but along with the king went Melchizedek, the high priest of God (El Elyon). I must resist the urge to go into a study of Melchizedek here, but suffice it to say that he is one of the most mysterious and spiritually powerful figures in the Bible (consider Ps. 110:4; Heb 5:5,6; Heb 6:20; Heb 7:23,24 etc). What is of note here, is that he came out of Sodom along with the king to greet the hero. Now please consider this: If Sodom was such an evil place at this point, its hard to understand why this great personage would have gone there from (Jeru)salem to welcome Abram and his victorious troops. It would seem obvious that Melchizedek did not consider Sodom such a horrid den of iniquity. Doesn't prove anything, but it is an interesting question. I think we can infer from this that Sodom and the other towns of the plains were not, at this point, evil places.
Indeed, the holy master Melchizedek says at Genesis 14:20 that it was God who delivered the enemies into Abram's hands.
See this? God destroyed the enemies of Sodom and even restored everything they had lost! Where in Holy Scripture do we find God defending people who are deemed an "abomination" ? God not only defeated Sodom's enemies, through Abram and his armies, and restored what they had lost, but even sent High Priest Melchizedek to sanctify the event! Whatever it was that turned the folks of Sodom into people so evil that God Himself felt the need to personally intervene and destroy them is not yet clear as we make our through the text. That they were not such criminals prior to this event is however certain, and so we look to later events for the source of their evil ways.
After his victory, Abram returned home and God promised to give him children (15:1-6). In context it is clear that one of the reasons why God gave this blessing to Abram (which resulted in the birth of Judaism, Christianity and Islam), was because of his willingness to fight the enemies of Sodom. At 15:1 God specifically says "fear not... I am thy shield and thy exceedingly great reward."
Chapters 15-17 deals with the births of Isaac and Ishmael and does not directly concern our current interests, so I'll leave these important chapters for another study.
The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
Beginning with 18:1 the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah begins. Abram was still living in Hebron (by the great oaks of Mamre), when the "Lord" (YHVH) appeared to him. Again, I will resist the urge to delve into how it was that "the Lord" (singular) appeared and Abram saw "three men" (difficult is the work of a biblical expositor!). The important point for our current purposes is what happened next.
After welcoming the "men" and acknowledging his unworthiness for their visit, Abram gives them water to drink, offers to wash their feet and invites the mysteriously holy guests to rest under his shade tree (18:4). Abram himself then rushes off to get them a bite to eat (18:5, 6). Now, a person in Abram's position had plenty of servants, but he showed his respect to these important visitors by personally getting them some food; he even "rushed" to do so. He gave Sarah his wife detailed instructions on preparing the best possible cakes for their guests. He next "ran" into the herds and took the best calf he could find and had it killed and dressed (18:7,8). When all was ready, he took some butter and milk and served the calf to his honored guests. As a humble servant, this powerful man stood by them as they ate in case they should want something more (18:8). It was partially a result of this hospitality that they informed Abram that Sarah his wife would have a child even though she was very old and believed to be incapable of it conceiving. This promise of course led to the births of Ishmael (by Sara's maid Hagar) and Issac (by Sara), both fathered by Abram, and gave rise to the three great religions (Judaism through Sara and later Moses, Christianity through Issac and later Jesus, and Islam through Hagar and later Muhammad).
Later in the day, the "angels" revealed their mission of destroying the towns of the valley, including Sodom and Gomorrah, to Abram saying it would happen "because their sin is very grievous." The word translated here as "sin" is chatta'ah and simply means "offense." Chatta'ah refers to anything which is offensive. Again, no reference to homosexuality is even implied in this word. There is however the first hint of why the cities were destroyed and the events that led to their abominable ways.
At 18:19 the "Lord" says:
"For I know him [Abraham], that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him."
The word translated as "justice" is tsedaqah and it means more specifically "righteousness. " This righteousness is more concerned with inner goodness than outer behavior, though of course they are two sides of the same coin, righteousness being recognized through external conduct. The "Lord" is saying that unlike the people of the towns in the valley, Abraham is a righteous person who acts from that quality. This is a trait the Holy One approves of.
Note that the word translated as "judgment" ( mishpat -- Scofield #4941 --) however does refer to outward deeds and 38 times specifically to manners and customs. What does this tell us? A lot! What did Father Abraham do that demonstrated to the "men" or "angels" that he was a righteous person who would do justice? This question is the key to understanding what happened next!
The Law of Hospitality or Good Manners
21 Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
22 Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.
23 If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry;
24 And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.
18 He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.
19 Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
There are scores of such commands. I've taken two at random. In the first quote above, note the phrase: "I will surely hear their cry; And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword..." Now consider the amount of sacred writ devoted to showing how Abram offered hospitality to his divine guests. God heard the cries of Sodom's victims and responded accordingly. These victims were not locals of the city however, but strangers. The sins of Sodom were not activities carried out among themselves such as homosexuality but sins done against "strangers." Which strangers? Let's continue with the story.
After Abraham's unsuccessful attempt at negotiating an amnesty for the people of the cities, two of the three "men" go on down into the city where they met Lot.
The two remaining "angels" arrived in Sodom about sunset. Scripture says that Lot "sat in the gate" as they entered. This doesn't mean he was hanging out around some literal gate, but that he had become a person of some importance in the town (compare Dt. 21:19-21). Lot's friendship with Abraham had saved the town and everyone knew that Lot was a very wealthy and powerful individual. He had become at the very least a city elder, perhaps something more.
Recall how Abraham greeted the "men" when they arrived at his home. Now consider Lot's attitude. When Lot first saw the "strangers" he also offered his respects to them by bowing low before them and welcoming them to his city. This was the proper form of showing respect and was commanded by the God of Abraham and Lot as we saw in the above cited verses (i.e. Exodus 22 and Deuteronomy 10).
As an elder of the city, Lot would be responsible for offering the noble visitors an official welcome. Under normal circumstances, he would have welcomed them in the name of the city, washed their feet, fed them, introduced them to the leading citizens and politicians etc. He did not do this however. Rather, Lot immediately warned them of the peril of their situation and urged them to enter his own home, stay the night, and leave early the next morning, presumably before anyone caught wind of their presence. Why should they "...rise up early, and go on [their] ways"? Because from the instant Lot saw them, he knew there would be trouble, but if he could quickly get them indoors and then rush them out of Sodom by daybreak, maybe no one would discover their presence. Lot would thus have performed his duty as an elder of the city under the laws of God. Now we are beginning to understand the underlying sin of the cities of the plains!
The Plot Thickens!
Little does Lot know however that trouble has only just begun! He had no idea at this point of the "angel's" mission to bring judgment upon the wicked city. He does know however that because of this wickedness the two "men" will not be safe until they are far away from Sodom!
The "angels" reject his proposal, explaining that they would prefer to sleep in the streets! Now, doesn't this sound a bit odd? Not when you consider why they had come. Lot's city had broken the Hebrew laws of hospitality:
"Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother: thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian; because thou wast a stranger in his land
"Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor of the fatherless; nor take a widow's raiment to pledge."
This "judgment" (again Mishpat, manner or custom) which was not to be perverted is the righteous welcoming and protection of strangers. The people of Sodom not only failed to offer the visitors a proper welcome as commanded by God (and as exemplified in the way Abram had honored them and Lot sought to protect them), they even threatened them with brutal torture and death! That this was the sin of Sodom and that its penalty was in harmony with what happened throughout the Jordan Valley when God's wrath was revealed is abundantly clear from Scripture. Conversely there is no biblical reference to homosexuality existing in Sodom nor to it being a factor in the city's destruction.
II Chronicles 6:
32 Moreover concerning the stranger, which is not of thy people Israel, but is come from a far country for thy great name's sake, and thy mighty hand, and thy stretched out arm; if they come and pray in this house;
33 Then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for; that all people of the earth may know thy name, and fear thee, as doth thy people Israel, and may know that this house which I have built is called by thy name.
This biblically required custom, this law of hospitality, was not observed in Sodom! The inhabitants of the Jordan Valley in these days utterly violated the judgment or Mishpat of God. By so doing they slandered God's reputation. The penalty for such offenses was death and Sodom and Gomorrah paid this sin dearly (Exodus 22:21-24).
Lot insisted that the two "men" spend the night in his house. As an elder of the city and a righteous man it may be safely assumed that he knew the hospitality laws of God and feared that Sodom might be judged and punished for the way its people treated their guests with foolish secrecy and paranoid isolationism. The two strangers reluctantly agreed, and went into his house where they were fed and shown proper courtesies according to custom. But again, this honor should have been shown by the entire city, not just one of its elders in the secrecy of his own home.
Before they were ready for sleep the people of Sodom surrounded Lot's house.
Why is this important?
As there is no indication that it was only the men of the city out side the house, it seems quite likely that the mob would have included many of the town's women as well. Surely these women would not have supported their husband's sexual frenzy (if indeed that is what this was), be it homo or hetero sexual. Also, if the women of Sodom were also demanding to "know these men" sexually we would have to assume that the so-called sin of Sodom was bisexuality or perhaps sexual hedonism rather than homosexuality (an idea I am NOT suggesting!) . That it was not only the men who surrounded the house is said directly in this verse, "...both old and young, all the people from every quarter." Some people argue that the offenders were from a homosexual district or ghetto and not necessarily representative of the entire populous. Were this the case, then the strangers could surely have found more than the required ten righteous persons which, they promised Abraham, would have caused them to spare the city (18:23-33). And besides, this verse says specifically that they were a broad cross section of the populous.
So then, what was this angry mob shouting? Did they yell, "You've got a couple of hot studs in there, let us join your party?" No, they cried out: "Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them." They were asking to interrogate the strangers that Lot had sought to hide from them.
The single phrase "that we may know them" is were the entire argument is based. The word translated "to know" is yada. Its primary meaning is "to ascertain some information, " just as we use it today. There is a very rare usage of the word where it refers to "knowing someone in the Biblical sense" as the saying goes, but of the approximately 953 times this word is used in the Bible, less that a half dozen uses refers to sexual congress. In virtually every instance it simply means "to know something." As there is no evidence that it means anything else here, there is no justification for reading anything else into this account.
We discussed the war that had recently decimated Sodom above (chapter 14 of Genesis). Taken in its literal biblical context, we see here that two strangers arrived in war scarred Sodom under the cover of night. Lot, a person who was a town elder but who himself was not a native of Sodom, hurried them into his house attempting to conceal their presence from the local authorities. Given the paranoid nature of locals following such a war, the people of Sodom were understandably concerned about who these men might be. Were they spies? They didn't know. When the context is considered, it makes far more sense to take the word yada in its normal and almost universal application. They wanted to know who these two men were and whether or not the posed a threat to their town.
Someone had obviously seen Lot sneaking the strangers into his house, reported it to the authorities, and the people of the town, suspecting the worst, demanded to question the strangers: "to know them." Lot, knowing the townfolk, knew that the strangers would not receive a fair hearing and so sought to rescue them from certain death. This was a righteous thing for Lot to do, one that was in keeping with what we know about him as a person. This literal interpretation of the story makes far more contextual sense than assuming, with no scriptural support, that the entire Jordan Valley had been overrun by homosexual rapists who, men, women and children, could not bear the thought of missing the opportunity to rape these two men who had taken shelter of the town elder! It is also what the vast majority of Church authorities throughout the ages have taught.
This also makes the most sense when considering that Lot, the moment he first saw the strangers, executed a plan to save their lives. In such an air of paranoia there would be no hope of the strangers convincing the city folk of their innocence. Lot had doubtless seen other visitors to Sodom in this situation before and determined to rescue the "men." Their questioning would be comparable to a modern day Jewish pilot showing up unannounced in Mecca! Hence, due to his innate sense of justice, Lot sought to conceal their presence, thus making himself suspect.
Lot next seeks to bribe the citizens for their freedom. He offers his own daughters in exchange for the safety of the strangers. If this mob had gathered out of a 'male homosexual frenzy' this would have been stupid! Why would sexually crazed gay men want to have sex with two women they already knew when a pair of such handsome studs were there? The offer of Lot's daughters itself tells us that this story has nothing to do with homosexuality. It does, however, have interesting reflection elsewhere in scripture. See the account at Judges 19:17-30
Judges 19:17-30 describes an oddly similar account. Here a stranger arrives in need of help, but the law of hospitality is again broken. An old man invites the stranger into his home (Judges 19:20). The kindly man offers him food, fodder for his animals, washes his feet and so on. In other words, he observes the laws of hospitality.
As the two men sat speaking with one another, drinking and having a nice time, the people of the town came and began beating on the door and shouting: "Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him."
As in the Sodom account, the good householder goes out to the crowd and beseeches them: "Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly." But the town folk would not accept it. So the house holder says: "Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing."
There is a vital point to be made here. Note that it says, "...and humble ye them ..."
This matter of "humbling" is essential to understanding both these passages. Even if one insists on translating "to know" as to have sex with, still there is no indication of homosexuality. It was common practice in ancient times, and still is in jails and prisons worldwide, to anally rape someone in order to establish dominance. It is indeed possible that this would be part or all of the punishment inflicted on someone suspected of spying. If this is the case here, and I see no indication that it is, then it is still not about sex but about power and dominance, as in the case of all rapes. But again, nothing in the context of the Genesis account even suggests what the mob proposed to do to the strangers. It is certain however that they did not intend to engage in mutually consensual sex!
Unlike the Sodom account, in this case, while the people of the town again refuse to accept the trade, they took the concubine and brutally raped her. When the householder and his guest awoke the next morning they opened the door to find the poor woman badly abused, bleeding, on her hands and knees on the porch.
The traveler took the unfortunate woman back to his home and:
"...when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her remains into all the coasts of Israel."
Now, to my knowledge no one has ever suggested that these attackers were homosexuals. Are we to therefore understand that God condemns heterosexuality because a group of straight men did this almost identical crime? Of course not! Nor does the Sodom account imply anything about homosexuals, even if there were some present!
How could such horrible crimes happen? In both instances it was because of the fear which the people of these cities lived with due to the brutal nature of war and the harsh realities of their daily lives. In Sodom it appears this paranoia had gotten so far out of hand that God decided to intervene. Another difference in the Sodom account is that the cities and towns of the Jordan Valley had be the recipients of divine protection and blessings. When they therefore gave in to their paranoia and began abusing those in need of their help, their crimes were all the more abhorrent. Consider Jesus' parable of the king that forgave his servant's debt (Matt 18:21-30). Sodom had been greatly blessed by God's servant Abram, but failed to bless others in need. In Sodom anyone could be a spy and so no one was trusted, especially strangers. As scripture teaches, its easy to love those who love us, but loving people we don't know, showing kindness to "angels unawares" is one of the marks of true spirituality. This quality was utterly lacking in Sodom.
Using this account to further our understanding of the sin of Sodom, it is obvious that in both cases the people in question failed to demonstrate godly compassion and to show hospitality to those in need. They wanted to harshly interrogate the "others" rather than give aid and comfort. This interrogation process, the householder in both accounts believed, would be the death or at least torture of their guests. As godly people they could not accept this.
Back to Sodom
As explained above, Genesis 19 tells us that the people of Sodom distrusted Lot's loyalty. They said: "This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door."
"...now we will deal worse with thee..." We now suspect you of being a spy also and will give you the same punishment, and then some! If the sin here is understood as homosexuality, what does this verse even mean? No, the clear meaning is that the sin of Sodom was their habitual violation of the hospitality laws of God.
The "angels" then pulled Lot back into the relative safety of the house and explained their mission and their willingness to spare Lot and his family. Understanding this passage to be referring to homosexuality simply makes no sense in context.
This Isn't What My Pastor Says!
Too bad, then your pastor is mistaken! We have this interpretation from no less an authority than Jesus of Nazareth himself. As Jesus was explaining to his disciples how they were to live as they preached the Gospel throughout Israel, we read the following:
11 And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence.
12 And when ye come into an house, salute it.
13 And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.
14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.
15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.
According to both the context of the Torah and to Jesus himself, Sodom and Gomorrah failed to offer hospitality to strangers to an extreme degree. So great was their offense that they were used as examples of how not to treat strangers. Their hard-hearted paranoia was in clear violation of the laws of hospitality and for this they were destroyed.
21 Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
22 Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.
23 If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry;
24 And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.
This was precisely the penalty paid by the cities of the plains of the Jordan Valley. God's wrath waxed hot and they were utterly destroyed.
The Prophet Isaiah sheds even more light on the sin of Sodom:
9 Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.
[note: Had God not left a remnant the Israelites would have become homosexuals? ]
10 Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.
11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?
13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.
15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
[note: The sin of Sodom was failure to show compassion to those who needed it, including strangers, orphans and widows.]
And again, we read at:
"Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
Could it possibly any clearer? "This was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom..." Moses says it, Isaiah says it, Jesus says it... but seemingly some people are so filled with prejudice that they don't care. If they can twist such verses to their malicious intents that's good enough for them!
This Has Been Done Before!
"And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.
Not so many years ago this verse was widely interpreted by many Caucasian Christians as "proof" that the skin tones of Africans was the 'mark of Cain'. As a child I well remember our Missionary Baptist preacher teaching this from his pulpit. Based upon this faulty interpretation such Christians (including the Southern Baptist Convention) justified slavery and the denial of civil rights to African Americans. When this verse was interpreted in conjunction with verses like I Corinthians 7:21-24 it was firmly believed that God blessed the institution of slavery. In view of their interpretation of Genesis 4:11-15, the African race seemed like the ideal people to enslave. Indeed, among such people being a slave owner was often deemed to a righteous act, a visible symbol of God's blessings!
This misinterpretation of Scripture based on social prejudice and greed is what gave birth to the Southern Baptist Convention, the second largest religious body in the United States!
I Corinthians 7:21-24:
21 Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.
22 For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant.
23 Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.
24 Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.
Is this what these verses mean? Of course not! One would be hard pressed to find any Christian who still supports slavery or believes the Bible does (at least one hopes!), but for hundreds of years this was viewed as the correct scriptural understanding by a large segment of the Christian Church. To have denied the Scriptural basis of slavery would have been considered liberal bias. It is for this reason, though this is not the best place to go into it, that the literalistic interpretation of Scripture must be tempered by the overall flow of the Scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit (compare Acts 10:9-21).
I Timothy 2:
11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
Are modern Christian women really supposed to view themselves as subordinate to men? Is it really sinful for women to hold positions of authority over men? To be pastors and teachers? Does any Christian literally accept the Genesis 3:16 statement that the only reason childbirth is painful is because of the "Fall" and/or this verse which promises women who submit to their husband's authority will have pain free deliveries?
Friend, it just doesn't happen!
How many Christians believe that women can not be ministers? Several still do! That one is on its way out but still has a ways to go. But wait! Notice that according to scriptures like these, women are not even allowed to speak in church, let alone preach! Before casting stones ask yourself whether your church requires women to maintain total silence in the church! I seriously doubt it does! Often women like Beverley Lahey of Concerned Women for America are among the most vocal in condemning gays and lesbians, and yet they "shamelessly" violate verses like I Timothy 2:12-15 regularly! To people like Beverley Lahey I say in love: What Jesus did condemn, and in the strongest of terms, was religious hypocrisy! Don't condemn other people for not obeying your interpretation of a handful of verses when you do not obey far clearer commands! That is called hypocrisy.
Or how about this one?
And he [Jesus] saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.
Well yeah, but that doesn't mean... hmm?
According to this very clear scripture over half of all Christians are living in an adulterous relationships with their wives! Welcome to the club! How does it feel to be shown from the Bible that your so-called marriage is illegitimate and that your children are bastards!
"Yeah, but that's different... ."
I've heard remarriage justified by using Matt. 5:32, however this verse merely says that the only justifiable reason to divorce is adultery. It doesn't discuss remarriage. Where Jesus does discuss it, he says, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her" (Mark 10:11). That's it. For the cause of adultery one is allowed to divorce, but not to remarry.
Now, I'm not judging my adulterous sisters and brothers here, but talk about twisting Scripture and hypocrisy! A generation ago this was the almost universal understanding among Christians. "Divorcees" were considered fallen Christians and generally avoided by the more devout. Now that most Christians have been divorced and remarried at least once, the biblical teachings are being re-interpreted!
I've had Christians respond to this point by saying that they knew I was right, that the Bible does condemn remarriage, but that they and their second (third, fourth...) spouse had prayed and repented of the sin so it was alright! By this logic, a gay couple can marry, repent, and stay together as a legitimate couple right?
To this blatant hypocrisy Jesus cries out loud and clear: "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye" (Matthew 7:5).
"Well, yeah, but that's different... ."
Of course it is, this time its you!
In love I say to you,Why beholdest thou the mote that is NOT in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that IS in thine own eye?
Its time we stop using the Bible as a weapon of hate!
13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
Christian friend, when you tell lesbians and gay men that they are an abomination to God, when you tell them that they are destined for eternal damnation due to what is an integral part of their basic natures, as innately a part of who they are as your own heterosexuality is of who you are, you are placing a huge stumbling block in their path and pushing precious souls farther farther away from the One who said, "My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
Some gay and lesbian Christians know the Bible well. They know that such accusations are unscriptural lies out of the pits of Hell and they reject them. However most gays, Christian or not, as most heterosexuals, Christians or not, do not know the Bible very well at all. They have never discovered the depths of its loving assurances, the profound nature of its soul refreshing teachings. What they know is that "everybody says God hates me, so forget God! If I'm going to Hell anyway I might as well enjoy my time here!"
Dear Christian sister or brother, I know this is not what you intend to do. The vast majority of Christians who believe this lie do so in all sincerity not knowing the Bible, but merely taking the word of others. They don't know any lesbians or gay men, or at least don't know that they do, and their understandings come from news clips of leather clad men dancing down San Francisco's Market street during the Gay Pride parades, from the hype used by hate groups like Concerned Women for America, the Christian Coalition, the American Family Association, GodHatesFags. com and so on to raise millions of dollars on the backs of the oppressed. Again, nothing new with this! Most Christians don't know that the largest gay organization on earth is the Christian denomination the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. They don't realize that there are hundreds of mainly LGBT churches and ministries working tirelessly to reach this battered community with God's love and that hurtful words make it ever more difficult for these people to come to Jesus. They don't know that the vast majority of lesbians and gay men hold down regular jobs where they pay, on average, higher taxes than anyone else due the rejection of GLBT marriages and family units. Most don't understand that it is a contradiction to criticize gays and lesbians for being promiscuous, and then block them from the important legal protections of marriage. Most people don't know that even a couple who have been together for many many years, and there are many more of these than most would expect, when illness strikes are often told that the most important person in their life can not enter their hospital rooms as they are not "next of kin" while blood relatives who have rejected them since they "came out" walk freely in and out, making life and death medical decisions.
Most people don't seem to understand that by far the vast majority of child molesters and pedophiles are heterosexual males. They don't know what its like to be stared at, ridiculed, and at times beaten severely or even to death because of a good bye kiss at an airport, a simple holding of the hands at a theater. Most people just don't know that one can not be "converted" to homosexuality. Sure, one could be seduced into an act, if the proclivity is already there, but being gay in the straight world is hard work! Gays must constantly come out to people unless they are content to remain in the closet. They must always keep in mind that they are second class citizens due to who they are as individuals. At the office, when co-workers talk about their families, vacations, etc. lesbians and gays often must be careful to remain silent or speak in gender neutral terms lest they be discovered and hence fired, excluded or worse.
My Christian friend, I urge you to seek God in this matter. God does not condemn gays and lesbians and as Christians we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. If you insist on maintaining your unbiblical prejudice against this community, at least turn down the hateful rhetoric!
23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.
28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous,
30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.
32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
1 John 4:
7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.
14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.
16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
19 We love him, because he first loved us.
20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.