What Does the Bible Say About Sodomy?

Rev. Paul M. Turner

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Session 4 of Homosexuality & Transgender Identity: A Bible Study

Icebreaker: Have folks share about a time they were an outsider in a new area and felt out of place.

Ask: What are some things people did that made you feel excluded or left out? That made you feel welcome?

Explain: The next Scripture you will look at is often quoted about sexuality, but, as we will see, has much more to do with hospitality and being a good neighbor.

Pass out handout about types of same-sex contact in the Old Testament. Have folks read over the handout. Explain that, as we read the Sodom story and parts of the Bible that follow, they should pay attention to the varying forms of same-sex contact that occur and whether they are expressive of same-sex marriage, same-sex rape, or what form they are, as that will be relevant to your discussion.

Have someone read Genesis 19:1-26.

Ask: How do most people use this story in reference to homosexuality? Does it sound like this story actually says what people say it does?

Explain that probably most people who have heard this story have heard that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because it was so perverse because it was a gay city. That’s what I heard growing up – that God is punishing them for homosexuality.

Is that the truth?

Well, no. The Bible tells us elsewhere why God destroys the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Have someone read Ezekiel 16:48-49. Ask: What sins does this verse say God destroyed Sodom for?

Explain that this verse and many others make it very clear that God does not destroy Sodom because it is full of homosexuals, but because of the fact that its people were greedy, arrogant, and don’t recognize God. This leads them to exploit others, especially the poor and strangers, without worrying about the consequences. The one element of this story that involves sexuality is a powerful example of how far their arrogance and un-neighborliness had gotten.

Ask: What sort of sexual conduct is described in the story in Genesis 19:1-26? Is it the sort of sex two loving, committed people such as you’d find in a gay union would have?

Explain that this is a gang rape that is described, not two men or two women who are having sex as an expression of love, faithfulness, and commitment. This is not an expression of love at all – and a far cry from what two lovers, be they bisexual, gay, or straight, would be engaged in.

Ask: Why might the people of Sodom have engaged in gang rape? What lesson might this story have been intended to teach?

This story was recorded by the Israelites in Palestine. One of the common practices of the people God was having the Israelites to expel from Palestine was to humiliate enemies and strangers. One of the signs of a good, godly city in Bible times, was its care for strangers and its ability to welcome others. For instance, in the Sodom story, God sent heavenly messengers along Lot’s path who seemed to be strangers in the town. Lot is counted as a godly person for being open to these strangers. Being godly then is being open to all people, especially those who are strangers to your community and don’t yet fit in or have enough to get by, being open them as being sent by God into your lives for some reason.

A sign of a barbaric society in Bible times was that it humiliated strangers and prisoners. The ultimate method was torture. The ultimate torture was for a straight man, often several straight men, to rape a stranger, enemy, or prisoner, anally. In fact this still goes on today in prisons, where hardened criminals will torture other inmates through gang-rape. The idea was to dehumanize the person. It was a form of psychological warfare, a type of abuse that had nothing to do with love or attraction. In it, sexuality is used as a weapon. A penis becomes a weapon of abuse.

This is what is happening in Genesis here. Sodom is so corrupt and so barbaric that when it sees seemingly helpless and harmless strangers, its straight male leaders feel the need to treat these pilgrims as enemies, to humiliate them with the worst torture imaginable in that day, simply because they come from a different land than the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Ask: Is it fair then to use this verse to condemn non-abusive same-sex intimacy that is an expression of love?

Ironically, the Bible also condemns men gang-raping women. Almost the same account as Sodom and Gomorrah is given in Judges 19-21. There God, through the leaders of the tribes of Israel, proclaims judgment on a town in Israel for becoming corrupt, giving into the dehumanizing religious philosophy of the people around them, and exploiting others. It all comes to a head when a young lady is gang-raped simply for being in a different town than she was from – for being different, in other words. The city is condemned as cursed and the armies of Israel wipe it out. Yet you don’t hear anyone condemning straight married couples for having sex because men are condemned for gang-raping a woman in Judges. It would only be fair to condemn all heterosexual love due to Judges, if you use Genesis 19:1-26 to condemn all same-gender love. The truth is, neither passages deal with love, but with sexual abuse and inhospitality.

In conclusion, the Sodom story teaches us:

  • To acknowledge God
  • To not become greedy and power-hungry
  • To welcome strangers and those not like us
  • That our sex is a tool of love, not war. Sex should not be exploitative or abusive, but in love and commitment. Don’t gang-rape people or engage in sexual abuse.

This passage does not deal with loving, faithful, committed same-sex relationships, except in so far as it teaches us not to look down on people who are different.

Close in prayer.

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