Mapping the Swamp: Sodom and Immigration
|The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by John Hamilton Mortimer, via Wikigallery.org|
In my continuing examination of Sodom's meaning to us in the 21st century, we must now turn to the very difficult convergence of immigration and sexuality as two cases both thoroughly involved with the Sodom history.
Anyone who has been involved in Biblical debates about homosexuality is likely aware of a common rebuttal to concerns about Sodom and homosexuality, relating to some lines in the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel. Consider that Ezekiel wrote long after Sodom's obliteration. During the last days of Judah's embattled monarchy, he had this to say:
44 “Behold, everyone uwho uses proverbs will use this proverb about you: ‘Like mother, like daughter.’ 45 You are the daughter of your mother, who loathed her husband and her children; and you are the sister of vyour sisters, who loathed their husbands and their children. wYour mother was a Hittite and wyour father an Amorite. 46 And xyour elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and yyour younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters. 47 zNot only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time ayou were more corrupt than they in all your ways. 48 bAs I live, declares the Lord God, your sister cSodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. 49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, dexcess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and edid an abomination before me. So fI removed them, when I saw it. 51 gSamaria has not committed half your sins. You have committed more abominations than they, and hhave made your sisters appear righteous by all the abominations that you have committed. 52 iBear your disgrace, you also, for you have intervened on behalf of your sisters. Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. So be ashamed, you also, and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.
53 j“I will restore their fortunes, both the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters, and I will restore your own fortunes in their midst, 54 that you may bear your disgrace kand be ashamed of all that you have done, lbecoming a consolation to them. 55 As for your sisters, Sodom and her daughters shall return to their former state, jand Samaria and her daughters shall return mto their former state, jand you and your daughters shall return mto your former state. 56 Was not your sister Sodom a byword in your mouth nin the day of your pride, 57 before your wickedness was uncovered? Now you have become oan object of reproach for the daughters of Syria8 and all those around her, and for pthe daughters of the Philistines, qthose all around who despise you. 58 rYou bear the penalty of your lewdness and your abominations, declares the Lord.
If you find yourself engaging in debate with someone on social media who has a bizarre avatar and you do not know them in real life, there are a few Biblical passages that are red flags. Once the person cites these passages, you know that you are dealing with a troll (possibly a paid troll) hiding behind a pseudonym to push pro-gay rhetoric against orthodox Christians. Here are some common ones:
--References to "David and Jonathan's love" that casts this love as explicitly homosexual or else somehow intense spiritual friendship equal in value to heterosexual marriage
--References to Naomi and Ruth as lesbians
--Questions about whether the Bible justifies slavery if it justifies denouncing homosexuality
--Allusions to a gay Roman centurion and his gay lover being called his "slave" in code when Jesus visits them
--Referring to Mary's pregnancy as surrogacy or to Jesus as someone raised with two fathers
--Long objections that in the ancient world there were no monogamous homosexual pairings, only rape of slaves and child abuse, so any Biblical reference to these things must be inapplicable today
--Sudden fixations with shellfish and clothing with mixed fabrics in order to discredit Jesus Christ's famous citation of Leviticus with the "love your neighbor as yourself" line
--and of course, the whopper of them all, the lines from Ezekiel that seem to explain away the homosexuality in the Sodom story with the lines, "your sister Sodom's crimes were these: she had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease. But they did not help the poor and needy."
Before proceeding I should point out that this line from Ezekiel is quite irresponsibly misquoted when people flag it as a way of eliminating the homosexual content of Genesis 19. It is true that Ezekiel said Sodom was prideful, gluttonous, and complacent, as well as contemptuous to those who were poor and needy. But Ezekiel also followed this with the statement that Sodom "was haughty and committed an abomination before me." The "abomination" language parallels the description of homosexuality in Leviticus and certainly cannot be thrown out in a rush to say that Sodom's homosexual behavior was not part of the Lord's vengeance against it.
The description of Sodom in Genesis does have some economic indications: for instance, it seems that Bera, the king of Sodom, believes he can buy off Abram with the city's wealth and is rebuffed by Abram's virtuous response. (I dealt with this in my exploration of Genesis 13 & 14 yesterday.) The imagery we get from Genesis 13, which describes Lot's decision to settle in Sodom, does indicate that Sodom enjoys prosperity because of its proximity to water and trade routes. And we know from the description of Sodom's involvement in the war against Chaderlaomer that the city's leaders are inept and cowardly when it comes to war. Some of this hints vaguely at the sins of excess, gluttony, and laziness implied in these lines from Ezekiel. For the most part, however, Ezekiel reveals new information about Sodom. The issue of surplus and lack of concern for the poor can in no way erase or replace the other issues about Sodom raised in Genesis: namely, the cowardice in war, tendency toward bribery, rampant homosexuality, and aggression toward foreigners.
Many pro-gay exegetes who use Ezekiel fail to cite the sentence that immediately follows the references to luxurious excess, gluttony, and lack of charity. Ezekiel's next line is quite clear: Sodom was haughty and committed an abomination before me. The reference to a singular abomination apart from the list of other sins links Ezekiel's invocation of Sodom to the characterization of Sodom in Genesis. As a result, rather than exonerating homosexuality in the ancient world, Ezekiel 16 yokes homosexuality to a host of other sins and issues a warning to us that where homosexuality flourishes, so will gluttony, laziness, pride, and contempt for the poor and needy. My previous posts have meditated on this connection, in so far as I have witnessed many of these problems all converging in the homosexual lobby that sprang forth from the gay community in which I grew up. As I stated in a previous post, earlier generations of homosexuals did not have arrogant organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD hunting down humble Christians and destroying their careers, but now such abhorrent attacks are common from gay activists and the LGBT community as a whole abets or encourages it. Certainly I have not seen more than three or four homosexuals (like Stefano Gabbana) come forth and courageously denounce the homosexual movement at large. Ex-gays have but have been roundly and viciously attacked.
While the gay lobby has become unconscionable in the last fifteen years, even in the 1990s the tendencies toward the sins described by Ezekiel were extensive in the gay community. As I mentioned in a January 1 post, there was an overall silliness, pettiness, dissipation, and flakiness that made gay life at once fantasist and also emotionally vapid. My experience being left to rot in a Bronx apartment after my father flew out of town, recovering from painful cancer surgery, was certainly not extraordinary. Many gay people who died of AIDS, overdoses, or other illness ended up having to return to their estranged parents, churches, or heterosexual friends for support because other gays offered little help during convalescence.
As one Christian pastor once remarked to me, "no act is as haughty and brutal and contemptuous toward someone else as lacerating their anus with one's erect genitals just to get some physical pleasure." The act is not the same as the sins of concupiscence catalogued by Ezekiel, but the act certainly has an affinity for generally undisciplined, insensitive, and inconsiderate behavior. This is why so many people who brush against gay subculture walk away remarking how nasty and catty the interactions seem. And anyone who has gone to a gay "pride" parade can probably understand the interlacing of people who engage in dangerous forms of sex and people who partake in kaleidoscopic decadence.
The point here is that Ezekiel's catalogue beginning at 16:49 enhances and supplements the Biblical case against homosexuality. It certainly does not justify homosexuality or override the seriousness of Sodom's sexual sins in Genesis. A brutally honest exegesis of Ezekiel 16 would have to contemplate why Sodom is defined as "daughters" by Ezekiel when Genesis focuses so much more on the crimes by Sodom's men. We will address that in a later post in this series. But suffice it to say that the pro-gay people who cite Ezekiel 16 have not, in my memory, commented on the fact that Ezekiel's passage refers explicitly to the faults in Sodom's women, thereby making it even harder to use Ezekiel 16 to override the diabolical nature of Sodom's men as depicted in Genesis.
From weak to completely crazy: Using Sodom to support open immigration policy
But even more troubling is a more recent tendency among liberal evangelicals to cast Sodom's misbehavior as "inhospitality" toward refugees, foreigners, or immigrants. Some translations of Ezekiel 16 choose to name Sodom's sin as "inhospitality" rather than "uncharity" which would be much closer to the general gist of Ezekiel's prophecy about the city.
I remember the inhospitality theorem from the 1980s, so it is hardly new. Gay people have often cited that in order to deflect criticism based on Genesis 19. Recently, the framing of Sodom as a city mean to immigrants has been put to more cynical use in a bold attempt to push evangelicals away from socially conservative policies toward the more "social-justice" gospel work championed by sundry Christians who in 2018 want desperately to avoid talking about homosexuality: NeverTrumps, haters of Roy Moore, progressive Christians, prosperity preachers, endorses of LGBT-friendly religion, etc.
To turn Sodom's crime from homosexuality to bashing immigrants kills two birds with one stone for many of the latter self-styled reformers: they do not have to irritate the powerful gay lobby and they can simultaneously appeal to millions of Third World immigrants. To some this makes them also more appealing to young people and non-Republicans.
Hence in recent months I have come across many interlocutors who cite Sodom when they push for amnesty, open borders, and everything from driver's licenses to in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.
There is a huge problem with painting Sodom inside a pro-immigration argument.
Stop, and think about it. Who is the migrant in the Sodom story? Lot is.
Who else is a foreigner in the Sodom story? The angels, who come as visitors.
Does Sodom try to expel these foreigners? No, actually. Lot has been living there for a while and has raised his daughters there, both of whom have fiancés in Sodom. Lot's wife has developed such affection for the place that she turns to look back and God turns her into a pillar of salt.
The visitors who come to see Lot are targeted by "all the men of Sodom," from the oldest to the youngest, not because they want those men to be cast out from the city. Not at all! The Sodomites are doing none of the things that amnesty advocates consider "anti-immigrant" or "xenophobic" in the United States today. The Sodomites want Lot to send the men out to them so they can either (1) get to know them, or (2) have sex with them the way they have sex with each other. The difference between #1 and #2 depends upon the translation of the Hebrew word for "know."
In other words, what is Sodom doing wrong with non-Sodomites who come to Sodom? Their wrong is not to treat them as untouchable foreigners. Their wrong is not to bar them from living in Sodom. Their wrong is not to "other" them or hate them.
Their wrong is to want outsiders like Lot to come and become like Sodomites too. They want people who are not Sodomites to adapt to and internalize the degraded and filthy values of their depraved city. They desire the foreigners. In fact, when Lot refuses to send out the male visitors, the crowd presses against Lot as if they are going to molest him.
If anything, the crowd outside Lot's house feels rejected when Lot refuses to send them out to the crowd. They ask whether the outsiders have "come to play the judge." It seems their biggest negative feeling toward the immigrants is fear that they will disapprove of their homosexuality and cause the Sodomites to feel stigmatized. If their concern is whether outsiders are coming to play the judge, what does it seem that an outsider would judge?
What if Sodom's crime is inhospitality but that is a result of Sodom's homosexuality?
Let us play along with the pro-immigrant reading of the Sodom story and concede that Sodom's crime is inhospitality or some kind of generally contemptuous behavior toward those seen as outsiders. "Contempt" is probably a better descriptor because it captures the haughtiness and lack of action for the poor and needy. Even though Ezekiel 16's references to Sodom do not seem to imply these negative behaviors are directed toward outsiders, one could legitimately extrapolate from the Ezekiel 16 lines that there are haughty, heartless acts toward the poor and needy that would most likely transfer to the way they treated foreigners who visit Sodom. So let us run with this idea.
What collective action -- policy, if you will -- incorporates their contempt? A lack of care for foreigners in their city who are poor and needy is explicitly part of this, gleaning those lines from Ezekiel. We know from Genesis that the political leadership of Sodom is incompetent and cowardly during the war against Chaderlaomer. The leaders not only flee the battle but do so such that the women and sojourners like Lot, who lives in Sodom, are completely defenseless. They are captured and brought as slaves all the way to the north of Damascus until Abram saves them. If they are that irresponsible and pusillanimous when it comes to providing foreign residents with basic security, we can imagine how heartless they would be with providing for immigrants who are poor and needy.
But more important in the story is the fact that all the men of Sodom expect newcomers to be initiated into the city's decadent ways and available for ogling and sexual exploitation (#MeToo harassment, as Alyssa Milano might say.) Immigrants are welcome if they absorb Sodom's perverted morals as their own.
Are there any parallels in the United States today? Yes, there are! The same party that seeks to extend residency and economic perks for foreign residents--the liberal Democrats--also allies with the LGBT lobby to impose its morality on schools, courts, businesses, media, culture, and churches. Obviously the Democrats see tremendous advantages in naturalizing millions of foreign residents who would certainly vote for their party. But are Democrats willing to sacrifice their allegiance with the sexual revolutionaries who seek to impose pro-homosexual views on everyone in the country?
During the extensive open records investigation that MassResistance Texas undertook to find out the extent of the Human Rights Campaign's involvement with Texas schools, Caryl Ayala discovered one email from a Human Rights Campaign employee to someone in Austin warning about going to districts with "too many Hispanics." There was apparently some concern that heavily Hispanic districts might not be open yet to the HRC's militant homosexual propaganda. Yet this is not for lack of long-term efforts by the HRC to impose its agenda on immigrants as well as other countries. The HRC received millions from Paul Singer to push "global equality," part of which entailed attacking many Christian leaders as "exporters of hate" because they were invited to speak on pro-chastity topics in foreign countries. My identity as a Latino did not protect me from being viciously attacked by gay activists because I did not want to support homosexuality being taught to children in Texas public schools--the very schools where immigrants too poor to home-school would be forced to send their children.
If we are Sodom (and I think we are!) then we should not be encouraging people to come and live in the United States. Lot did not benefit from being acculturated to the homosexuality and rampant perversity of Sodom. His wife's reward for feeling welcomed by Sodom was turning into a pillar of salt. The fruit of Lot's daughters' embracing Sodom's laissez-faire was their reckless disregard for propriety and their decision to seduce their own father.
If Sodom is to be a warning about immigration, it is a warning for Americans not to conflate pro-foreigner policy with pro-immigration policy. Loving immigrants means wanting the best for the individuals who are living as migrants. The best thing for most of these people in the United States is not to assimilate into the current sexual anomie of America's decadent moment. For most of them, the best long-term place for them to raise families is in the traditional, grounded cultures of their home countries, most of which are nowhere near the depraved excesses that are currently prevailing in the United States.
Sodom had foreigners welcomed into their city but this did not stop them from leaving such sojourners totally defenseless during the war in Genesis 14. The foreigners were taken prisoner and whisked away. This might explain or illuminate the part of Ezekiel 16 that refers to contempt for the poor and needy. Is the United States in a position to protect immigrants who come to live in America long-term? Can we protect their children from the predators marinating in American pornography? Can we protect their children from the mind-numbing decadence and sexual chaos of our schools and colleges? Can we protect them from harassment at work, crime in their neighborhoods, or instability caused by other people who exploit our open borders and then move into their neighborhoods?
No. The first step to avoiding the crimes Sodom committed against foreigners is understanding that we are Sodom and our culture is as bad as Sodom's was. If the metaphor is to be raised, it should be considered justly.