Monday, January 17, 2011

Read The Text.

Last week the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled that proposals that Saskatchewan civil marriage commissioners should be allowed to opt out of marrying same sex couples would be unconstitutional.  Not surprisingly some people were not happy with the ruling.  One was Ray Noble of Saskatoon, whose letter was published in today's Saskatoon Star Phoenix.  It's short enough to quote in full

RE: Proposals 'a step backward'(SP, Jan. 11)
I say the Court of Appeals ruling was a step backward-about 4000 years-to Sodom and Gomorrah.

As yes, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.  One of the few "proofs" that gets dragged out of the Bible that God doesn't approve of gay people.  But have some of the people who use it actually read the story?

Genesis 18 tells us that Abraham has visitors, minions of God who warn him Sodom and Gomorrah will soon be destroyed because of their supposed wickedness, with Abraham trying to convince them and God that there are enough righteous men for the cities to be spared.  The minions soon set off to Sodom to visit Abraham's nephew Lot.  Lot welcomes them in, but the men of Sodom soon appear, demanding the strangers come out so they "may know them."  This is generally taken by Christians to mean that the locals want to have sex with the visitors.  Lot offers his virgin daughters instead.

Let's repeat that:  Lot offers to let the men of Sodom do as they please with his daughters.  In other words he offers to let the men rape them instead.  This is acceptable, but raping the male visitors isn't?   One assumes that most modern people would be appalled at the idea that raping women is somehow more acceptable than raping men.  Given this it's not hard to assume many Christians haven't read the story, or they wouldn't be so quick to use it as evidence against homosexuality.

It gets worse.  When the visitors warn Lot they are about to smite the city and that he must gather up all those close to him we learn that his virgin daughters are engaged to be married.  The text indicates that his future sons-in-law don't take the warning seriously, and so the next day are left behind when the visitors force Lot, his wife, and his daughters to flee Sodom.  So not only was Lot willing to betray his daughters by letting them be raped, he was willing to betray his future kinfolk as well. 

As Lot and his family flee the messengers of God warn them not to look back as they prepare to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.  The cities are destroyed by fire and brimstone, and Lot's wife makes the mistake of looking back, resulting in her being turned into a pillar of salt.

Note that Genesis doesn't name any of these women.  Whoever wrote this part of the text apparently thought they were as unimportant as some modern readers seem to.  After  all their focus is all on the supposed homosexual angle.

This is of course the typical cherry picking that goes on with religious texts.  People use the story of Lot to attack gay people, ignoring the details of the story that show by our standards Lot is in no way a righteous man and seems little better than those who were killed in Sodom, yet doesn't suffer their fate.  They also feel free to use this story to claim that God prohibits homosexuality, yet don't see the need to follow things like the dietary restrictions laid out in the Old Testament, claiming Jesus brought about a "new covenant" that superceeds the requirements of Leviticus.  But if that's the case why not the supposed prohibition against homosexuality as well?

Interestingly other Jewish scriptures indicate that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for their general nastiness, that they were uncharitable, inhospitable to strangers, and often cruelly violent.  This includes the story of one of Lot's daughters, Paltith, being burned after giving bread to a poor visitor to Sodom, while another girl who did the same thing was smeared with honey and hung from the city wall, to be killed by bees.

And while we're on dubious uses of ancient texts the Sodom and Gomorrah saga is one of those Biblical sagas that are claimed by some to be evidence of ancient alien encouters, with some sort of alien nuclear device destroying the cities.  I doubt whoever first wrote the Lot story would be amused at such speculation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised no one has made a comment on this post. I guess the kind of visitors that come here don't get riled up about religious criticisms.