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5 reasons why Sodom and Gomorrah has nothing to do with homosexuality

Rev. Fr. JP Heath recalls how he was brought up understanding that homosexuality was the great sin in the bible. And every time homosexuality was mentioned, Sodom and Gomorrah was quoted. Here are five reasons, he says, why Sodom and Gomorrah has nothing to do with homosexuality.

Sodom and Gomorrah

I was brought up understanding that homosexuality was the great sin in the bible. Every time homosexuality was mentioned, Sodom and Gomorrah was quoted, not verse by verse, but rather in name. As a result, the ongoing association with “homosexual sin” and Sodom and Gomorrah were firmly fixed in my mind. This was further confirmed when I learned about “sodomy laws”, and Sodomites. It had to do with anal penetration, and the name came very firmly from the biblical narrative of Sodom and Gomorrah. The problem is…….. IT’S JUST NOT BIBLICAL! What I mean by that is not that you cannot find the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in bible, but rather that the biblical narrative never mentions homosexuality. No serious biblical scholar or theologian can justify using the Genesis 19 story of Sodom and Gomorrah to attack homosexuality.

Why?

Here’s my top 5.

  1. Instead of speaking about Sodom and Gomorrah, why not take the plunge, read the passage. You will find amazing things. I will give you a brief summary:
    1. Gen 19:1-3 Respect and hospitality for the stranger;
    2. Gen 19:4-5 Interrogation or gang rape;
    3. Gen 19:6-8 Lot offering his daughters to be gang raped by the men and the protection of the code of hospitality;
    4. Gen19:9 Bullying and assault;
    5. Gen 19:24-29 The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
    6. Gen 19:30-38 Incest
  2. Rape is not an expression of sexuality, neither heterosexual nor homosexual. Rape is about power. I do not think anyone would condone gang raping either men or women as an acceptable practice. This passage speaks about both, but that is never talked about;
  3. There is a huge debate about the interpretation of the Hebrew word “yeda”; while it is commonly interpreted as knowing someone carnally (having sex), it is not always translated in this way. So the “knowing” spoken of my very well simply be a desire to interrogate these strangers and find out what they want to do in the city;
  4. This passage is found in the Old Testament, or the Jewish bible also known as the Torah. As such, we could safely assume that being written in Hebrew, the people best placed to interpret this passage would be Jewish Theologians and Hebrew scholars. Interestingly, there are many schools of Jewish thought, and only the Ultra-Orthodox Jews still believe this passage may in some oblique way refer to homosexuality;
  5. Sodom and Gomorrah are discussed in two other places in the bible, in the book of the prophet Ezekiel (Ezek 16:49-50) and the gospel of Matthew ( Matt 10:14-15). Reading both of these passages it is very clear that what is under discussion is the ancient code of hospitality, and in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah the breach of that code. This is the only word we have from Jesus on the topic, if people reject you it will be worse for them than it was for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

In short, the sin of Sodomy has nothing to do with anal sex and neither is a sodomite a man who engages in anal sex. Rather, if we look to what the bible is really saying, the sin of sodomy is the refuse to accept people, to deny them inclusion, to act in an uncharitable way. Today’s sodomites are not gay men or men who have anal sex, but those who reject them.

Written By

Rev. Fr. Johannes Petrus (JP) Heath was born in Windhoek, Namibia in 1964, the middle son of three children. He experienced his call to the priesthood while working in a bank. He moved to St George's Home for Boys as part of his formation. After two years of study at St. John the Baptist Seminary in Johannesburg, he was moved to St. Paul's Seminary in Grahamstown where he first finished his Diploma in Theology (with Merit), and then moved to complete a B.Th. (Honors) at Rhodes University. Fr. JP was ordained in the Diocese of Johannesburg in 1994 and served his curacy at St. Michael's, Bryanston. While serving at the Cathedral Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Johannesburg, he started a ministry for streetchildren – an outreach to people on the margins of society that continued when he was appointed as Rector of Christ Church, Mayfair, a parish placed in the middle of a predominantly Muslim and Hindu suburb of Johannesburg. In 2000, after testing HIV-positive, JP started exploring ways of initiating a ministry on HIV within the diocese of Johannesburg. Eventually, he confounded the International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV (INERELA+) in 2001. He was the founding coordinator and then executive director of INERELA+ until December 2012. Fr. JP helped grow the network from an initial membership of eight, to a global network with more than 10,000 members from all faiths. In January 2013, he moved to Sweden, where he is now actively working as Policy Advisor on HIV, Human Sexuality and Theology for the International Department of the Church of Sweden. He continues to serve internationally on a number of Boards and advisory bodies, including the UNAIDS HIV and Human Rights Reference Group, the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance HIV strategy group, the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative in Action International Reference Group, and the Global Interfaith Network on All Sexes, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (GIN-SSOGIE) steering committee.

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