Sodom, Gomorrah, Incest, & Fantasy
(Printed in the Towanda Daily Review on May 30, 1999 as a guest opinion.)
Norman Darling wrote (Review, May 23) that his daughter-in-law, Jill, "is a good person who tries to be nice, while still telling the truth." Mr. Darling referred to Mrs. Darling's headline article in the April 27 Review, "From Gay to Straight," about "reparative therapy", a scientifically discounted treatment that is claimed to "cure" homosexuality.
Mr. Darling sites Genesis 19:1-29 (Sodom & Gomorrah, S&G) as proof of a homophobic God and the message of the Bible against homosexuality. However, in addition to the unjust and vengeful nature of the majority of the accounts in the OT Bible, Genesis 19 adds "preposterous" to the list.
Before my analysis of S&G, I point out Mr. Darling's comments that God has "foreknowledge", that "God and His Word never change," and that "He never makes a mistake." This is consistent with Christianity's assignment of attributes to their deity that include omniscience (all-knowing), omnipotence (all-powerful), immutability (unchangeable), and infinite goodness.
In Genesis 18:26-33, an unchangeable and all-knowing God negotiates with Lot's uncle, Abraham, about the fate of Sodom. God originally specified the finding of fifty righteous people to spare Sodom, but Abraham negotiated him down to ten. Now if God is all-knowing, why didn't He already know the number of righteous people in Sodom? And if He is unchangeable, why did he change his requirement from fifty to ten?
The logical conclusions are either: (1) God created Sodom knowing that He would destroy it, hence showing that He is not good; or (2) He didn't know that He would have to destroy Sodom, and as such, is not all-knowing and did, in fact, change His mind to resolve a mistake.
Next, God sent two angels to Sodom on a reconnaissance mission. If He is all-knowing, what could the angels possibly find that He shouldn't have already known? And if the angels were vulnerable, why put them unnecessarily in harms way. If the angels were sent to destroy Sodom, then God's prior negotiation with Abraham was a lie. And why would an all-powerful God require angels to destroy a city? Theatrics?
Lot met the angels, and invited them to his home for dinner. Afterward, all the men of the town gathered outside of Lot's house and demanded that the angels be released to them for either sex or interrogation -- the exact interpretations are unclear even to Biblical scholars. Rather than give up the angels, who are supposedly non-corporeal and beyond physical harm, Lot offered the crowd his two virgin daughters to be raped at their discretion.
At this point, the mob – somehow knowing that God had other plans for the virginity of Lot's daughters – refused Lot's offer and rushed the house. The angels blinded the men at the door and instructed Lot to flee with his family to the mountains because Sodom and surrounding areas were soon to be destroyed. While in flight, Lot's wife, defying the angels' instructions, glanced back at the destruction – probably in concern for family and friends -- and was murdered by being turned into a pillar of salt. Lot and his daughters lived temporarily in a cave where Lot became drunk and had incestuous sex with them.
In summary: An all-knowing God didn't know about the situation at S&G until He received reports of it. He then dispatched two angels to count the number of righteous people there even though He should have already known. The supernatural angels were threatened by an angry mob of mere men who displayed more sense than Lot by refusing to rape his daughters. God destroyed S&G yet saved Lot and his daughters knowing that they would later commit incest.
There is no mention in the Bible of S&G being destroyed because of homosexuality. Even if the intent of the crowd was to have sex with the angels, it couldn't be considered homosexual because angels are androgynous -- unless the angels had sex with each other. The conclusion that must be reached with S&G is that God, once again, resorted to mass murder to correct a mistake that an omniscient deity should not have made. Perhaps the moral of the tale is that adolescent women are expendable for the sake of patriarchal hospitality. If there is a God, the literal interpretation of the Bible degrades and humiliates Him.
Rather than the Bible, I suggest another text, by Father Leo Booth, "When God Becomes A Drug: Breaking the Chains of Religious Addiction & Abuse" (Putnam, 1991). A few of the symptoms: (1) Inability to think, doubt, or question information or authority, (2) Black-and-white simplistic thinking, (3) Magical thinking that God will fix you, (4) Uncompromising, judgmental attitude, (5) Compulsive praying, (6) Conflict with science, medicine, and education, (7) Manipulating scripture or texts, feeling chosen, and (8) Trance-like state or religious high, wearing a glazed happy face.
Later in the same article Mr. Darling wrote, "Darwin himself stated that evolution was only a theory with serious flaws." As much as creationists want to believe that the Genesis tale is true, fantasy must succumb to reality. The facts do not support creationism.
"The theory of evolution has become the central unifying concept of biology and is a critical component of many related scientific disciplines. In contrast, the claims of creation science lack empirical support and cannot be meaningfully tested. These observations lead to two fundamental conclusions: the teaching of evolution should be an integral part of science instruction, and creation science is in fact not science and should not be presented as such in science classes." (Science and Creationism: a View from the National Academy of Sciences, 2nd edition).
The Darlings are probably nice people. However, nice people are sometimes misinformed, wrong, and harmful regardless of their good intentions, particularly if their intentions are to debase a class of people for no reason other than what is commanded in an outdated, internally inconsistent text that has no proof of accuracy or authorship.
John L. Ferri