Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Mapping the Swamp: What Significance in Sodom's Rebellion in Genesis 13 and 14?

via Encyclopedia Britannica
I am going to devote several posts to Sodom, because the story of Sodom is so crucial to understanding today's Swamp. I wrote a general explanation for the key importance of Sodom yesterday. I explained that an enduring challenge with the Sodom story is that it is scattered and dispersed across scripture, even though everywhere the city's name shows up, it is clear that Sodom holds a particularly powerful importance. It is easy to oversimplify Sodom, as so many people have. On the one hand there are those who view Sodom as a purely sexual portent with no larger political meaning. On the other hand many homosexualists try to remove Sodom from its sexualized context and cast the city merely as a social-justice problem, often citing Ezekiel 16 in irresponsible ways. Many people do not draw a connection, which I believe must be drawn, between the two nations that descend from the incest following Sodom. Lot and his daughters conceive Moab and Ammon in the moments after Sodom has been destroyed and their mother has turned into a pillar of salt. Ruth is a Moabitess and a direct ancestor of King David, so I would argue that these Sodom-related genealogies matter a great deal.

The Uniqueness of Sodom

As I mentioned in yesterday's essay, both Nineveh and Babylon also portend important meanings, especially Babylon since it is the looming archetype in Revelation. Yet Sodom stands alone because of the number of times it is mentioned. It is mentioned at times by itself, whereas Gomorrah and the other "cities of the plains" seem not to be mentioned as stand-alone bywords the way Sodom is. Sodom is the only conspicuous case of one people being set apart from other peoples for complete and total annihilation, through an act of God. In many cases, for instance in the Book of Joshua, whole cities are destroyed but God uses human armies to carry out such deeds. In the case of the antediluvian reprobates, God destroys the whole world in a flood and only sets apart Noah's family for survival. 

While I would not classify my hermeneutics rigidly, I would emphasize the importance of inerrancy and sufficiency. Everything in scripture is placed there, in its structure, for an important reason. If some phenomenon is unique, then the truth it reveals to us includes the meaning behind its singularity and/or superlative role in the narrative. 

Why would Sodom occupy such a unique place in scripture? The uniqueness of Sodom has puzzled me for years, but I have a few theories. The message behind it would seem to answer a few questions that are extremely pertinent today. One question is the perplexing role of homosexuality, which seemed to explode as an issue out of nowhere in the late 1980s and now occupies an alarming percentage of political news. There is no denying that homosexuality is closely linked to Sodom, another "event" filled with uniqueness and tragic mystery. I explained in the last post some of my thoughts as to why homosexuality tends to corrupt comprehensively; it is a phenomenon that can only be perpetuated through social maneuvers that become totalitarian and encompassing. This would explain why the city most associated with rampant homosexuality is also the only city wholly obliterated by the hand of God, apart from other peoples who are spared. One could raise the caveat that Gomorrah and the other cities of the plain are also destroyed by God's hand, but the story centralizes Sodom. The particular outrages committed around Lot's house precipitate the mass destruction by fire and sulfur.


If we meditate on Sodom and contemporary homosexual debates simultaneously, drawing the necessary connections between them, we begin to draw a "sexual-political" trajectory, a social sequence that is thoroughly sexual and thoroughly political at once. The combination of sex and politics in this sequence is not merely a "scandal," like breaking news of a politician's misconduct. Nor is it basic identity politics like feminism, as much as many "LGBT" activists would like to make it about identity.  Whereas feminism is a movement based on people's identity, the LGBT movement is really based on people's conduct. Feminism is political without being "sexual-political."

"Sexual-political" as a term would refer to a vast, rapid change, almost like a contagion, that transforms sex through political power and transforms politics through sexual acts. This is what appears to be happening in Sodom: the unforgettable references to the totality of the city's complicity in sexual debauchery hints that their orgiastic and animalistic sexual compulsions are linked to the city's political failure. If I am correct and this is the dynamic that the Sodom story demonstrates for us, then we have a clear understanding of what the explosion of homosexuality is doing in present-day politics. Political developments, on the whole terrible and deleterious, are causing vast changes in what people do sexually. And sex acts are shaping the political networks and structures of power in society--in our present case, by creating networks of allegiance and collusion among men who have special access to other men by sharing the same sex networks.

Recall, for instance, two twofold incidents that happened in recent years. In December 2010, Don't Ask Don't Tell was repealed at the same time that the DREAM Act was shot down in the Senate. At that time the Senate was comprised of a supermajority of Democrats. As a result, gays found a way to identify and compromise people at escalating ranks in one of the most powerful institutions in the country-the military-while the daunting problem of children raised in America without residency or citizenship has been deferred and still dogs us eight years later! Not soon after that, the same governor, Jan Brewer of Arizona, found herself stuck in a similar double-issue bind. Her state sought to pass two laws: one allowing for the detention of people based on their likely immigration status, and the other a religious liberty bill that would allow Christians to avoid servicing same-sex weddings. In a similar forked action, Brewer swept aside the objection of immigrants' advocates but vetoed the religious liberty bill in order to please the gay lobby. Brewer was a Republican.

In these two cases, whether it was Democrats or Republicans, the gay lobby could obtain access where much larger groups, such as the Latino lobby, could not get traction. Homosexuals got what they wanted and struck fear in anyone whom they might target for reprisal. No other group seems to have anywhere near this kind of reach and power. There is something undeniable going on here. Homosexuality transforms the political sphere. Something about it tends to redirect power and allegiances, giving motives to people to protect the central lie of homosexuality--i.e., the lie that it is a normal expression of love rather than a brutal act of degradation by one man to another man's body--from being exposed, criticized, or treated honestly in policy. 

A big part of this has to do with money. With enough money, a small group of people can really do anything it wants, even crushing masses of people many times their numbers. If anything such a conundrum is proved by the ability of the LGBT lobby to gain massive concessions from politicians who fear them more than the 15% of the nation that's Latino. On some level it boils down to cold hard cash. The gay lobby has enormous cash reserves that it does not spend on services; it does not spend its money housing, feeding, or clothing needy people. It does not even, for the most part, spend its money to help needy LGBT people. The gay lobby gets pre-existing social structures to do that, such as Child and Family Services, the Department of Health and Human Services, or now, increasingly, religious bodies like Catholic Charities or the U.S. military, whose Tri-Care program will be swamped with claims for expensive transgender treatments. This is not a quirk only limited to the US system. It has something to do with the way homosexuality operates.

Homosexuality plays out in social networks. In order for its acts to be consummated, there must be some means for people of the same sex to find partners of the same sex who are either reciprocally interested or subordinate and have no choice (this might explain why homosexuality flourishes where there are slavery, prisons, or war camps.) These networks will take different contours depending on their societies, but generally they will instill its members with a survival instinct that is rather brutal. Knowing that anal sex is repulsive to most people and contrary to God's design, people in gay sex networks have to find ways to make their homosexuality visible enough for others to note their availability but still secretive enough that the population at large does not know exactly what is going on. If people knew that all their adorable gay brothers, neighbors, co-workers, and friends, with their gentle faces and heartwarming stories of just wanting to be accepted, were involved in filthy acts of sexual perversion at orgies and in sex dungeons, they would stop seeing these gay people in their lives as "adorable" and would start wondering what on earth was wrong with them. So this is the game that homosexuals have to play in any cultural context. They have to create a culture or social milieu that is conspicuous but inconspicuous at the same time; they have to flaunt their status as homosexuals, but through euphemisms that camouflage or elide the truth of their sex act. 

A mental strain results from this contradictory game. The strain affects not only homosexuals but the people around them. Inevitably there are people like me who get swept up in these sex networks but really should not be involved. Such people, corresponding to today's "ex-gays," have to be dealt with harshly. Since we know the dark truth, we have to live in constant fear of humiliation and embarrassment or else we will blow the whole community's cover. But we are not the only ones who might blow the community's cover. Other people are bound to figure out what is happening. What about the doctor who has to lance the homosexuals' anal fissures? (Believe it or not, Juvenal's second satire includes a line precisely about this problem faced by homosexual men in Rome.) What about the family members and friends who have to deal with helping homosexuals with the host of health problems that always seem to arise from engaging in large amounts of anal sex? What about the judges or policemen who end up being dragged in to settle quarrels and disputes that arise in this community, especially because they are often drunk or otherwise drugged to get through their painful sex acts?

It is inevitable that such social networks go haywire. They either fail to protect the homosexuals in the networks from exposure and collapse, as has happened in most cultures, or they become so effective at maintaining a high profile lie and silencing informants that they become a massive machine of blackmail, corruption, and cronyism. That's where we are at today. What started as a need to connect homosexuals with other homosexuals in ways that would not derail their social status became a massive behemoth of pressure points, whisper campaigns, slush funds, bribery, and political horse-trading. Did the gay boy who was called names in 1987 and just dreamt of running off with another gay boy want his dreams to contribute to a gigantic superstructure of political brinksmanship that could sway the Senate and steamroll Republican governors in Arizona or the synod of the Church of England? I am betting no. I would hazard a guess that nobody really wanted anything like the Human Rights Campaign or GLAAD to exist. But it is inevitable. The distorted sexual desire, once indulged on individual levels, causes chain reactions that have massive collective consequences.

Ergo, Sodom.

Sodom Was Traumatized by Rebellion and War

It is interesting to note that when Sodom is first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 13, the text tells us they were already "evil, sinning greatly against the Lord" (Gen 13:13). This description appears when we are learning what happened to Abram (soon to become Abraham) and Lot, his nephew. Both men were part of a mission handed down to Abram in Genesis 12; God told Abram that he had to leave the land he knew and migrate to the holy land. Lot came with him, but along the way they decided to divvy the land between them. Abram took to Canaan, the land that would later be Israel. Lot took to "the Jordan Valley as far as Zoar," a land with plentiful water. The latter land included Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 13:10).
Genesis describes this bifurcation between Abram and Lot as "separation," emphasizing that wherever Sodom was, it was not within easy reach of Abram's chosen land. This matters because it illustrates that Sodom was a particularly valuable city in a region that was geographically distinct enough that God could destroy it with complete obliteration, without killing all the people in neighboring territories.

The region in which Sodom existed was afflicted by persistent military conflict, as we discover in Genesis 14. In Genesis 14:1, we hear the following description of a convoluted war that will eventually threaten Lot's life:


In those days Amraphel king of Shanar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim waged war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, as well as the king of Bela.. All these came as allies to the Valley of Siddim, the Dead Sea. They were subject to Chedorlaomer for 12 years but in the 13th year they rebelled. In the 14th year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, and the Horites in the mountains of Seir, as far as El-paran by the wilderness. Then they came back to invade En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh) and they defeated all the territory of the Amalekites as well as the Amorites who lives in Hazazon-tamar.  

We find out that the Sodomites are not good fighters. Though they are part of this uprising against the overlord, Chedorlaomer, they end up fleeing with Gomorrah during the battle. Genesis 14:10 says, "Now, the Valley of Siddim contained many asphalt pits and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them but the rest fled to the mountains."

In the fog of war, the Sodomites were essentially routed and then looted, apparently by many parties on all sides of the conflicts. Their goods and food are seized by other kingdoms and many Sodomites are taken away as prisoners, as a miniature presage to what will happen to the Israelites in the Babylonian captivity. Among the prisoners taken away was Lot, because he was living in the city when it was raided and left defenseless by the cowardly leaders.

This occasions the first interaction between Abram and Bera, the King of Sodom. When Abram hears word that his nephew has been taken prisoner, he gathers 318 soldiers and they go all the way to Hobah, north of Damascus, to raid the captors and rescue Lot. They engage in a night raid, setting the enemy to pursuit as far north as Hobah. Once they rout the enemy, Abram then finds Lot and his goods as well as "the women and the other people" and he returns all these stolen people and possessions to Sodom. (Genesis 14:14-16)

We find some clues about what is plaguing Sodom because of this story. The men are bad fighters and cowards, but they are also ambitious. They partook in the rebellion against the overlord but apparently left women and sojourners like Lot, living in Sodom, defenseless. Abram saves Sodom, but only because he wanted to rescue his nephew.

What ensues provides us more interesting information. The king of Salem, rather than the king of Sodom, ends up performing a blessing to Abram in God's name. It is Melchizedek, the king of Salem, who tells Abram he "is blessed by God Most High, Creator of Heaven and Earth, and I give praise to God Most High who has handed your enemies to you." (Genesis 14:19-20)

Abram gives a tenth of all the possessions to Melchizedek, perhaps as a tribute to the latter's eloquent praise of God. In the Book of Hebrews, this interaction would be cited as grounds to recognize a priesthood that predated the Mosaic law and seems ordained directly from heaven.

Following Abram's generous payment to Melchizedek, an unusual exchange then ensues between Abram and Bera, the king of Sodom. Bera tells Abram that he wants only the Sodomite people to be returned to Sodom, but he invites Abram to take all the possessions as booty for himself. This is an extremely generous gift, for it would mean giving Abram the city's lavish treasury as gratitude for Abram's service in the war.

But Abram tells Bera no. He states, "I have raised my hand in an oath to Yahweh, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or sandal strap or anything that belongs to you, so you can never say, 'I made Abram rich.' I will take nothing except for the what the servants have eaten. As for the share of the men who came with me - Aner, Eschcol, and Mamre-they can take their share." (Genesis 14:22-24).

Abram's Response to Bera Is a Clue on How to Deal with Homosexuality

Abram's response to Bera is a defiant insult, but it comes after Abram's blessing from God and his oath to God. He explains to the king of Sodom that he never wants anybody to perceive that the king of Sodom made him rich. At this stage he is not yet condemning all Sodomites (I noted this in my first post on Sodom). One might conjecture that at this point the rot in Sodom has not reached every resident yet. But it is so severe that Abram wants nobody to perceive that he owes Bera, the king of Sodom, anything.
The goal of Abram's response to Bera seems to be public disavowal, total disavowal, and complete separation. While Abram allows some of his servants to take some of the booty for themselves, he wants to make clear that as a man with others under his authority, he will never acknowledge any reciprocity or mutuality with the king of Sodom. It is to be clear that he engaged in the war only because his nephew was in danger.

Why such an absolute response? Why such a rebuke just after someone offered the whole city's treasury to him?

The later depictions of Sodom probably provide more context to understand this. But one clear takeaway is that a society suffering from sexual rot, and especially rampant homosexuality, is given to a particular kind of political corruption that requires absolute defiance. Any kind of obligation or reciprocity with the king of Sodom would make Abram beholden to the homosexual machine in charge of the city.

Having seen the growth and viciousness of the gay lobby in the United States in the 1990s, we can understand what might have otherwise appeared a mystery in Genesis 14. Blessed by God and Melchizedek with insight far beyond most people's capabilities, Abram could see the long-term political deterioration of Sodom because of the leaders' unmanly behaviors. The homosexuality would be a major driving force, probably because for homosexuality to be as rampant as it became in Sodom, a system of obligations and favors must have been blossoming, similar to the corruption that could bring Jan Brewer to serve the LGBT lobby even as she intransigently rebuffs the much larger Latino lobby.

In debating LGBT issues, I have come to realize that the "gay brother" problem is a huge obstacle for godly Christians. Almost every organization or press outlet we need to engage with is run by someone who has a beloved gay person somewhere in their life. Many press outlets -- Buzzfeed, Gawker, Townhall, Drudge Report, etc.-- on left and right are either owned or edited by homosexuals. You don't need to have homosexuals everywhere in an organization or even anywhere in an organization. But if you have them close to a gatekeeper or key player, you can keep the whole system constantly beholden to people who are trying to protect the dark secret at the heart of the homosexual community. Any story, statement, or policy, that draws attention to the disgusting things homosexuals do, sexually, must be censored, distorted, deflected, edited, or discredited. People who feel they are protecting their loved ones will do all sorts of things to protect their charade. The LGBT community knows this and has ways of finding out where gay people are situated in or close to power structures so they can pull these strings. With money, the strings get pulled faster and harder. And how do they find where these gay people are? Very easily. They ask around and find out who's been sleeping with each other. Sooner or later they get a map of all the gay people who can pull those strings and push those buttons to protect their network.

This is how judges hand down insane rulings to help the gay lobby. This is how scholarly associations issue pro-gay dictates that fly in the face of their own disciplines' accuracy standards. This is how congressmen promise Christians one thing and then suddenly vote for crazy pro-gay bills or let pro-Christian bills rot in committee. This is how Sodom works.

Abram knew. He said he would not take even the strap of a sandal. It is hard--I know it is--to defend God's vision of sexuality when people you love and care about feel hurt by Biblical truth. Imagine all the people Lot's family knew in Sodom, people they loved and felt indebted to. It is not hard to picture what led Lot's wife to look back. It is also not hard to understand why God had to turn her to salt when she did. Homosexuality is not like other sins. It leads to political failure on a scale like Sodom's. Sodom was a city so corrupted and warped in its thinking, it could not defend itself in war, it could not get decent people to respect it, and it could not protect its own people from the wrath of God.

Having contemplated these passages, I would give people this harsh but basic advice: Do not negotiate with Sodom's descendants today. Even if it hurts you, even if you love them, even if you fear them, even if they have money and social connections that can help or destroy you. Honor your oath to God the Most High, like Abram did. Not even a sandal strap. Let nobody say that gay people made you rich. If gay people make you rich, you will end up having to shut out and censor and lash out at people like me, who are innocent Christians just trying to tell the truth.

I will look at other aspects of the Sodom story in later posts.