Taken from Is the Homosexual my Neighbor, by Letha Scanzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott (pp 54-59):

... The men of Sodom could not have been exclusively homosexual in their orientation in the sense that the term is used today. Quite likely, they were primarily heterosexual, out for novelty, and seeking to humiliate the strangers... Every last one of the city's males is said to have taken part in this attempted gang rape! Sodom certainly was not a 'gay city'...

Rape is not so much a sexual act as it is an act of violence. In.. rape... the emphasis is on displaying force and demonstrating power over someone who is perceived as weak and vulnerable... Among some ancient peoples, it was not unusual to flaunt one's triumph over enemies by treating them with the greatest possible contempt. Such contempt was demonstrated by forcing captive men to 'take the part of a woman' and be passive recipients in anal intercourse...

If the modern prison's version of a gang rape was in the minds of the men of Sodom, it is understandable that they did not accept Lot's offer of his daughters. Women already had a low place in the society of Sodom... Humiliating actual women would not have provided the sense of conquest they had anticipated in degrading the male strangers and 'dragging them down' to the level of women... In the ancient Middle East, writes John McKenzie, 'that the woman should be sacrificed for the man was simply taken for granted.' No wonder that a man would dread the disgrace and punishment of being treated 'like a woman,' which is what male gang rape signified.

... Rather than concentrating on homosexuality, the Sodom story seems to be focusing on two specific evils: (1) violent gang rape and (2) inhospitality to the stranger. Surely, none of us would be prepared to say that if the men of Sodom had accepted the offer of Lot's daughters... then God would have withheld judgement... Violence... is the real part of this story. To put it another way: even if the angels had taken on the form of women in their earthly visitation, the desire of the men of Sodom to rape them would have been every bit as evil in the sight of God...

Concerning the inhospitality described in the Sodom story, John McNeil reminds Christians of the irony that no group has been treated less hospitably by the church than the homosexual community, and that the biblical passage used to justify such treatment has been the very one that condemns uncharitable behavior. 'In the name of a mistaken understanding of the true crime of Sodom and Gomorrah, the true crime of Sodom and Gomorrah has been and continues to be repeated every day,' argues McNeil.

This brings us to a second factor to keep in mind when examining the story of Sodom: the Bible is its own best commentary on many issues. And the Bible provides explanations for Sodom's destruction that have nothing at all to do with homosexuality. In the first chapter of Isaiah, the nation of Judah is rebuked through a comparison with Sodom and Gomorrah. The specific sins mentioned are greed, rebellion against God, empty religious ritual without true devotion to God, failure to plead the cause of orphans and widows, failure to pursue justice, and failure to champion the oppressed. There is no mention of homosexuality...

In the New Testament... Jesus refers to Sodom, not in the context of sexual acts, but in the context of inhospitality (Luke 10:10) Jude 7 does refer to the sexual sins of Sodom: 'They committed fornication and followed unnatural lusts.' The emphasis here is on heterosexual intercourse outside of marriage (fornication) and on 'going after alien or other or strange flesh,' as the original Greek reads in literal translation. These 'unnatural lusts' thus could, in this context, and in view of the apocryphal texts to which Jude made an allusion, refer to a desire for sexual contact between human and heavenly beings. The Jerusalem Bible footnote for Jude 7 reads 'They lusted not after human beings, but after the strangers who were angels.'

If, then, we decide to follow the time-honored principles of allowing the Bible to provide its own commentary and of interpreting cloudy passages in the light of clearer ones, we are forced to admit that the Sodom story says nothing at all about the homosexual condition. The only real application to homosexuals would have to be a general one: homosexuals, like everybody else, should show hospitality to strangers, should deal justly with the poor and vulnerable, and should not force their sexual attentions upon those unwilling to receive them.

And, according to 'The New Testament and Homosexuality', by Robin Scroggs (p 73):

Any claim.... that the story [of Sodom] is a blanket condemnation of homosexuality in general is unjustified. The attempt on the bodies of the guests is but an example of the general evil, which has already caught God's attention. It is, furthermore, an attempt at rape. The most that can be said is that the story judges... rape to be evil and worthy of condemnation.

Scholars have noted that virtually none of the other references to this story in the Hebrew Bible explicitly interpret the sin as sexual... later Biblical authors thus had no apparent interest in the homosexual dimension of this story.


Date: Tue, 12 Mar 1990 21:01:30 EST
From: Bill Sklar <86730@LAWRENCE.BITNET>
Subject: References on Homosexuality and the Bible