Monday, July 9, 2018


Hello, readers! I took a much needed break from blogging as July 4th came along. To ease back into my routine, I am republishing, in full length, my five-part series on Sodom that ran in January. You can catch a lot of these published individually also on Culture War Resource. Here is the full-length Sodom file:


Veronese, Lot & Daughters Fleeing Sodom
The dawn of 2018 marks twenty years since a life-changing event that changed me from obnoxiously pro-gay to staunchly pro-chastity. To draw from an overused allegory, I would like to say I fled Sodom twenty years ago. You see, on January 2, 1998, I was rushed into surgery in a Bronx hospital, about a mile from the apartment I lived in. I had a cancerous tumor that was severely malignant. Rushed into emergency operative care, I experienced a level of pain greater than anything I had ever felt prior. The vicious nurses, whose faces I will never forget, hounded me until I agreed to be discharged. They threatened to prevent my father from seeing me if I did not leave the ambulatory recovery hall and go home. I do not know why they were so determined not to admit me to the hospital for recovery, but I left. It was exceedingly cold that night and my apartment was a fifth-floor walk-up I barely reached.

I was twenty-seven years old. Up until that time in my life, I had never had any strong inkling that homosexuality was wrong. I called myself homosexual though I had known since the beginning that I felt strong attractions toward women. Membership in the gay community, even back then, brought with it certain advantages: shortcuts to jobs, fabulous if not glamorous social events, easy sex, endless wit and diversion. By 1998 I had made peace with the physical act between two men, which I never came to like very much. I used poppers and got myself extremely drunk to get through it, trying wherever possible to avoid the most unpleasant act of them all. 

My radical left-wing family, full of Marxists and contrarian intellectuals, loved having gay and lesbian friends. A gay brother was somewhat challenging because there were moments when the darkness and evil in the gay community came into view through a brother's experience, in ways that would not happen through a friend's experience. I had gotten sick and hurt, once needing to beg for money from siblings because of things going wrong in my world. But for the most part, they applauded homosexuality and me as long as I spared them the details of what I was really doing in the gay life. My religious communities had never been very pious, always wholesome liberal Catholics who preached about helping the poor and fighting injustice, never about chastity or sin.

All that changed in January 1998, because I realized that in immersing myself among homosexuals, I had denied myself membership in any functional community. Many gays I met during my days in homosexuality were undoubtedly good people, but they acted horribly because that was the reality of the world in which we lived. Everyone was distracted and determined to live by unwritten rules about what gay men should and should not do. Gay men should work out, be trim and muscular, be sociable and funny, host parties, and maintain a self-sufficient prosperity so that nobody has to be troubled by anxieties or guilt. Gay men should not be needy, express loneliness, fall into envy or resentment, bother others with their problems, or voice any doubts about whether this Sodom in which we lived was really perhaps diseased and dangerous. Drugs and HIV surrounded us but we had a whole language of euphemisms to deal with overdose, death, and addiction without troubling people. Goodness existed inside these people's hearts, but it was buried under layers of fluff and silliness. Gay life was fun because it was so shallow and empty, so untroubled by the doldrums of domesticity, nagging, or judgment.

Or at least that is what I thought. Even though the paragraph above sounds vacuous, even dystopian, it held a charm to me and many long as we did not collapse. The cancer caused a collapse of sorts. I had to go on sick leave from Nickelodeon and faced months of difficult recovery. After January 2, the doctors determined that there was a 33% chance that the cancer cells had spread through my lymphatic system into my lungs and other organs. A sweeping procedure that would involve me being on life support and having massive removal of lymph tissue was one option. The only other option was waiting for the January 2 scars to heal, and going through life with a 33% chance of death.

Gay people completely abandoned me. Not just the gay men, the lesbians too. The "trannies" did too. Nobody came to visit me. My roommate moved out to stay with his boyfriend so he wouldn't be troubled by all my baggage and sorrows. Both he and his boyfriend had contracted HIV and were struggling with poor health, in addition to fighting because each claimed the other infected him. I lay alone each day in a bare apartment in the Bronx, looking up at three framed sketches that comprised the only decor: one of Aretha Franklin, one of Gloria Estefan, and one of Alanis Morissette. It was the 90s.

I decided to transfer my medical care to Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo. It was an emotional gamble for a number of reasons. I had grown up in Buffalo but left as a teenager, when my mother died. My relationship to the gay community in Buffalo was bound to be complicated because my mother, now eight years deceased, had practiced medicine and had done a lot of work with gay and lesbian patients. She herself had been in a relationship with the same woman for my entire childhood. Her partner was warm and kind but had children of her own. I knew that if I tried too hard to lean on my mother's lover, it would strain matters. But my father was in Buffalo. It made sense for me to go there.

So I went up to Buffalo. I said farewell to New York City. My next surgery was in early April, 1998, a daunting procedure that would require me to walk around with hundreds of staples in me for weeks. Brought to live with my father and grandmother, I found quiet solace talking to my "Lola" (Filipino for grandma) and looking through her carefully preserved photo albums. History came alive in the photographs she collected and collated. My grandfather had died in 1955 but Lola never remarried, still speaking of him with all the love and devotion she might have shown as a young bride. My cousins, aunts, and uncles on my father's side were not quite like my mother's relatives. They pulled together and helped one another. They did not have the cold barriers and bouts of alienation that afflicted my sibling relationships. 

They were what a family should be like. In fact, they were like families that existed everywhere based on an old, true model: a man courts a woman, marries her, makes children with her, and keeps a list of obligations to provide for his wife and offspring. As simple and unadorned as that was, it was beautiful. And it was something that would not exist where there were homosexuals.

My fondness grew for the father I'd never been close to. I had no memories of his being in the house I grew up in, as a child, but now all that history seemed to be washed away. Something changed dramatically inside me as I had rare moments when my father told me I made him proud. I'd never put much stock in such patriarchal ritual, but now it mattered. I knew my brother was the apple of his eye and nothing could change that. My brother had grown up in a close relationship to my dad and had, in many ways, performed the role of son better than I could have when we were children. But I asked my father, was it true that I made him proud? Even back then, when I was a child? It meant a great deal when my father said yes, he was proud of my accomplishments in high school. Even though I was a poor athlete (which was important to my father) and never cut a presentable figure back in the 1980s, my father was happy that I had made good grades and become something of a leader to my peers.

The vice president who oversaw me at Nickelodeon was fairly surprised when I told him I was going to resign and register for graduate school at SUNY Buffalo. This too was a gamble but I assumed I had almost nothing to lose by living with my dad and grandmother and taking literature classes. I was not really set on becoming a professor but I had always loved languages and literature, so this felt like a reasonable plan. The incoming Master's students in the fall of 1998 included people I generally liked (though I have lost contact with all of them). While I hobbled about, still recovering from the cancer, I plunged into the richness of the literature I had always loved. Without the daily hustle of gay New York, just within the quiet of study in my dad's house, I enjoyed new silences. I felt something lifting from me. I began to wonder much more acutely what God wanted from me.

On Main Street, heading toward Transit Road, there was a glass chapel, open 24 hours a day, full of candles and a statue of a Catholic saint. Sometimes I wonder if it is still there. Often I would drive down there, no matter the weather, at the late hours. I would go at two in the morning, and kneel before the candles. Visions filled my head during those hours and stories came to me, which I channeled into my own unpublished creative writing. It worried me that I did not know whether it was God or a demon filling my mind, but I felt stirred and driven. The female beauty of the saint in her porcelain robes would call me to reflect on the Catholics' fascination with Mary. The thought occurred to me on one such night, women had always been there. I had been scared, nervous, tongue-tied around women, because I'd been told by everyone I was destined to be gay since I was an early teen. But that did not change the fact that women were part of the world, and most importantly, part of God's plan.

Open your heart to them, I heard. See the beauty that is there before you. In 1999, I looked up one day in a seminar and realized a beautiful woman was sitting across from me. She had come from a faraway country and knew nothing of the cultural markers that would have given away my "gay" identity before. One day, she asked if I could help her with some of her studies. We got to talking and my heart felt open to her. Her gaze revealed a sense of longing. I felt it. It made me nervous and scared, but I did not flee from it. A harsh winter descended onto Buffalo as Thanksgiving approached. Knowing she had nobody to spend Thanksgiving with, I invited her to come to my family's house for dinner.

She came with a Japanese friend, her roommate, another graduate student. My Filipina grandmother, still remembering the war she'd suffered through, made a few unkind remarks to the Japanese friend. I offered to drive the girls back to their apartment. In their apartment, filled with wine, I lost my inhibitions. I made my move. I let myself fall in love. We have been together now for nineteen years.

Not long after we first connected romantically, I became reckless and bought two airline tickets for me and her to fly to Los Angeles. We stayed with an old college friend and fell deeper in love as we saw the sights of California. Not long after that, we were engaged. And we married soon after.

When I reflect on how it all happened, I often find the sequence of events that began twenty years ago mysterious. How did it all happen? How did such a change happen in me? Later I felt the call from God that I had to bear witness to the mercy the Lord showed me in delivering me out of homosexuality into the happy life I have now. Yet even when I went public with my story, after I had already become a father, I still felt grave doubts about what my witness meant. Could I fairly advise other men to get out of homosexuality? Did it make sense for me to tell them to do what worked for me?

All these doubts darkened my witness at first once I came forward as a professor and scholar. But the darkness has gradually withdrawn for one simple reason: I know what my witness is. My witness is in the Bible, in the story of Sodom.

Everything written in scripture testifies to the glory of the Almighty God. Each letter of every word is in scripture for a reason. It is not casual coincidence that the story of Sodom stands above other tragic or doomed cities for the graphic detail and narrative intricacy, as well as the totality of God's destruction. Nineveh and Babylon carry a great deal of meaning in the Bible but neither was utterly "consumed" in fire the way Sodom was. While Joshua's accounts indicate that God directed the Israelites to eviscerate whole cities, none of those cities matches Sodom's recurring eloquence as a symbol.

In my recent devotionals, I stumbled upon something that I don't recall other people having noticed. So I share it here. Sodom is not only "mapped" into the scriptures in Genesis 19. It comes before and is constantly invoked after Genesis 19. In Genesis 14, there is a striking mention of Abram's military service to the King of Sodom during a complicated war. Abram wanted to save his nephew Lot. Many kings are warring and Abram must fight for Sodom in order to save his nephew. But after the war has been won for Sodom, the King of Sodom asks Abram what he might give him to repay him for his military service. Abram says that he does not want even one sandal strap or anything from the King of Sodom, lest anyone say that Sodom made Abram rich. 

Even before the gut-wrenching sexual drama of Genesis 19, we see that Sodom's problem is well-known and obvious to Abram even in this earlier juncture. Melchizedek has appeared just before this exchange in Genesis 14, stating that Abram was blessed by the God most high. So Abram, having received a certain blessing by God, states that he cannot be tied in any way to the King of Sodom. We know, in Genesis 18, that Abraham does not necessarily assume everyone living in Sodom is as polluted and evil as the king is. In Genesis 18, Abraham bargains with God, begging him to spare Sodom, first asking if God will spare the city should there be fifty good men. Then the minimum of good men goes down until all that is needed are ten good men, and the city of Sodom will be spared.

Both Genesis 14 and Genesis 18 reveal clues about the meaning of the Sodom story, which I fear people have missed. Taken together, the two accounts show us that Abraham, working with God's blessing and a deep relationship with God, differentiates between the leadership and the people of Sodom. The corruption depicted in the Sodom story is at first catalogued, economically, such that the depravity of the leadership might not extend to the people.

But then in Genesis 19, we see that even if only the king of Sodom was corrupted at first, now the failure of the common people of Sodom to resist the corruption has corrupted all of them. In this state of total social failure, God has no choice but to eliminate everybody touched by Sodom's sin. The need for complete dissociation is driven home, of course, by the fact that Lot's wife is turned into a pillar of salt for looking back at Sodom. The mere fact that she would feel any loyalty or affection toward people so thoroughly degraded and unholy implies that she is unfit to survive the destruction of the city. 

As I was doing my devotionals this past year, I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on the statements in Ezekiel 16, where Sodom appears plentifully as a trope. Ezekiel prophesies that a time would come when Sodom would be restored to its former power and prosperity. Why? Apparently, to shame Israel and Samaria. It would be God's way of saying, "look, even this evil people you have always used as a byword, is prosperous and rich, and I will make you see it, because I am so furious with you."

There is so much to say on Sodom and the many other references to it in the Bible, so I will spend several "Mapping the Swamp" entries on a careful examination of Sodom. But at least one important angle on Sodom revealed itself to me when I contemplated my own history with homosexuality.

There are many pro-gay heretics who wish to uncouple homosexuality from the Sodom story. Sometimes they do this by making the problem rape but not necessarily same-sex rape, or they say that the Sodomite homosexuality is not the same as homosexuality today, or they point to Ezekiel 16 and highlight that Ezekiel says explicitly, "the problem of Sodom was that it was haughty and full of surplus, she cared not for the poor and was inhospitable."

But it finally became clear to me that homosexuality is infused throughout all of these problems. I was immersed in a homosexual world, where nobody could ever doubt or question the rather preposterous supposition that men sodomizing each other was normal and even good. The sex act between two men is objectively horrendous. It is repulsive, unclean, unpleasing, and violent by nature. I loaded myself on drugs and alcohol, possibly triggering cancer (I'll never know), in order to convince myself that this sex act was good and it was who I was.

But God created men and women for each other. Male bodies cannot consummate sex with each other, no matter how visually appealing two men might find each other. When a man sees a handsome man and wants to have sex with him, this is like a person seeing a delicious food to which he is fatally allergic. The sex act, which nobody wants to talk about, is degrading. The degradation becomes all-consuming because it is a lie at the center of one's life, and more and more of one's life must be structured around maintaining this lie. Social relationships are suddenly rerouted or restructured so that the "homosexual" can avoid confronting the reality that what he does is disgusting.

This is what I saw in the gay world I was immersed in. People were not nice. People were not loving. The relationships were turbulent and often cruel. And to replace authentic kindness and mutual pleasure, people turned to other forms of status so that they could win partners and influence. They became very focused on money, looks, luxury, popularity. They became hostile to anyone from outside their world looking in and questioning or criticizing. So the various Sodom stories fit together like a puzzle.

It makes sense that Sodom became utterly degraded and irredeemable as men became more open about having sex with each other. Even someone like Lot, who was not, it seems, engaged in this activity, abetted and excused it. We know because his daughters were engaged to men who were among the crowd seeking to rape the male visitors in Lot's house. Those who say Genesis 19 is really about rape miss some of the nuances. The Sodomites surrounding Lot's house were insisting on Lot bringing his male guests out for the crowd to see. There is an invasive and totalitarian nature to their desires. They cannot brook any dissent from their culture of depravity. They ask whether the visitors have "come to play the judge." Why? They know that anyone in the city who questions what they do might unravel their entire social order simply by pointing out that their abuse of each other's bodies is revolting. Let us presume that many of the men in the crowd did not necessarily want to have sex with these two men--after all, how could they all sleep with them, logistically, in one night? Their presence in the crowd, as a crowd, does not necessarily imply that all of them wanted to engage in such sex, but it does indicate that all of them approved of such sex and wanted to virtue-signal to peers that they would not object to such things happening.

It makes sense that Abraham would insist on having no financial ties to this society at all, and would be eager to get Lot out of the city. Because their need to drag everybody into complicity with their disgusting behavior is so all-encompassing, there is no careful way to bargain or strike compromises with Sodom. Their sin is unique because it requires complete eradication after a certain point. We see in Romans 1, Paul's description of a slow descent by way of homosexuality into complete and total depravity. Perhaps in Genesis 14 Sodom was not yet totally beyond salvaging. By Genesis 19 there is no hope, for not even ten good men stand in the entire city.

This does not mean that not even ten heterosexuals lived in Sodom. It does mean that one could not find even ten heterosexuals who were not pro-homosexual. 

And that is a bad sign for today's gay community. For even between 1998 and 2018, I can see how this community has changed. I can remember when I felt unhappy in the gay life but I did not feel the need to combat the gay community. I remember a time when I was unhappy but I did not worry that everyone in the gay community was as unhappy as I was. I was certain that they could carry on, even flourishing, without dragging other people into problems.

By now, however, the gay community is not what it was for my mother's generation. It has morphed from a gay community into a pro-LGBT community, which is actually the entire country. Homosexuality has Sodom-ated the United States. And the invasive, brutal, violent, and uncharitable nature of the gay community is now the political totalitarianism that threatens to destroy the country's frail social order. Like the men of Sodom surrounding a house lest two men sleep inside the city walls without being available and approving, the LGBT community invades institution after institution to "out" new prospects, brainwash them that they must be gay, ban any counseling or means for them to veer out of homosexuality, and expel and punish anyone who disagrees.

We have become Sodom. I have been a witness to the gradual collapse of what might have been defensible about gay life in the 1990s. There was a time when that lifestyle was full of mutual support. People tried to be loving and identified with whoever was vulnerable and downtrodden. Those days are gone now. What we have now is a pro-LGBT political sphere that is abusive, cruel, and swollen with riches.

This is, I believe, the Lord's mercy in an unexpected way. Just as Ezekiel tells Israel and Samaria that Sodom would rise and shame them with her ill-begotten prosperity again, so we have seen all of society given a chance by God to prove themselves faithful servants to Christ. The rise of a new Sodom with worse tyrannies than the original city helps believers like me to see why we must be like Abraham and allow no compromise. There is no negotiating with homosexuality because it is utterly unsustainable and encompassing. To perpetuate itself it must create a culture full of cruelty, repression, and intimidation. 

I have seen, over the last twenty years, the stark prophecies of Sodom come true once more. I have had to abandon all my 1990s friends, not just the gay ones. All of them touched by pro-gay tolerance are insufferable now. Even when I tried to strike a balance, to say, "my story is my story," they could not accept that. Some made gestures of support on those terms, but when the vicious LGBT activists came after me and my job, none of those pro-gay friends would stand up for me or stand with me. Not one. 

I will reflect on this more in upcoming weeks. The Swamp we fight is vast and extends beyond "Sodom," but Sodom is a huge part of it and needs a lot of careful analysis of its own.


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.


The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by John Hamilton Mortimer, via

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.


Lot und Seine Tochter Fliehen aus Sodom by Albert Durer, 1498

A Question Rarely Asked: Why was Sodom's Punishment So Severe?

A young Hebrew Bible scholar responded generously with his time when I asked if I could consult him on the Sodom question. He agreed with me about the uniqueness of Sodom. Sodom is not like Jericho or Ai because God saw fit to wipe out the city with His own actions, as if He could not trust any human--even someone as faithful as Abraham--to spill Sodomite blood on himself in the process of blotting it out. Sodom is not like Nineveh, for Nineveh repented. Sodom is not like Babylon, for even the wicked Babylon is still presented as a realm with some people worth saving, as late as Peter's letters in the New Testament. Consider this line from 1 Peter:

Writing around 63 AD from Rome, Peter calls Rome "Babylon" with an understanding that the term signifies a place with a great deal of sin but great opportunities for salvation. Paul himself said, where there is much sin, grace abounds. The lengthy letter to the Romans, arguably one of Paul's most important, drove home the notion that Rome, for all its horrors, was redeemable. It was not merely that some people in Rome could be saved by being brought out of Rome. There was rather the hope that the city and the land on which it was built could be a redeemed Babylon. 

Lots of oracles in the prophetic books militate against Babylon as well as other cities--Edom in Obadiah, Nineveh in Nahum, etc.--but these oracles depict such peoples as being destroyed in tandem with a global judgment for a host of sins by mankind.

Sodom stands out because of its complete erasure, directly caused by God, as a case distinct from the rest of the world.

My friend, the Hebrew scholar, acknowledged that a rich hermeneutical exercise beckons here. "Why was Sodom's punishment so severe? That is a hermeneutical question that's worth asking." He seemed to imply that this was the question with which one ought to start, rather than starting with debates over sexual ethics.

So let's start over-Why was Sodom punished so severely?

After meditating intensively on this question for two weeks, I have come to a theory as to why Sodom was singled out for both extreme punishment and extreme stigma. My conclusion strengthens my belief that homosexuality is not like other sins despite the fact that so many Christians repeat the cliché that sodomites are equal in guilt to all sinners. Homosexuality and Sodom are both exceptional in the punishment and stigma heaped on them by the Bible.

My theory is based on Sodom's unique inability to self-correct.

The Unique Inability to Self-Correct

Extreme punishments--total obliteration and uncompromising denunciation--are really reserved for the stubborn criminal. In an ethical system defined by mercy and justice, we cannot mete out such total measures when there is any possibility that a person could change. Two groups that receive no leniency today, for instance, are terrorists and child molesters. 

Why? Terrorists are so firmly committed to their ideology that there is no way to convince them to abandon it. Child molesters have such a proven track record of recidivism. Murderers, rapists, thieves, drug addicts, gang members, and embezzlers are also hated, but not as thoroughly reviled by society largely because many people can conceive of them being delivered of their wrongdoing and living out reformed lives. There are many examples of people emerging from jail time and getting past their evil ways in those cases. With terrorists and child molesters we do not have enough narratives of people changing and being reformed to feel confident that any rehabilitation stands as a possibility. As a result, in the eyes of many, the best course of action is to abominate them and destroy them to the greatest extent possible.

As it turns out, homosexuality shares with terrorists and child molesters a widespread image of stubbornness. The very slogans "born this way" and "I didn't choose" reinforce the almost universal opinion that homosexuality is so entrenched that reversing it is hopeless. My story, like so many ex-gays' stories, defies this stereotype. Yet in cultural discourse one finds a widespread conception that homosexuality is nigh impossible to eradicate in a person. The only reason homosexuals are not grouped with child molesters and terrorists in our present day is that postmodern people do not generally see homosexuality as a sin or even a problem. Like being left-handed, so the bromide goes, homosexuality can be accepted and society can spare everyone the fuss of trying to change something that won't ever be changed.

But what if the ancient world--and the people who knew eternal truths of which we have become ignorant today--agreed with us that homosexuality was deeply resistant to change, but disagreed with us about the notion that homosexuality is no big deal? In other words, they would treat it similarly to terrorism and child abuse.

The defilement attending homosexuality would render it untouchable by human hands so justice would have to come from God, ostensibly through a supernatural or natural disaster. Ergo, Sodom.

The "Tests" Leading Up to Sodom

Scripture goes out of its way to demonstrate that the Sodomites cannot change. This is significant.

The lead-up to the obliteration of Sodom reveals a series of what seem like tests or warning. One could call them "chances" for the Sodomites to escape severe punishment. 

Consider the first chance, which happens early in the narrative. Through the Lord's providence, Lot ends up settling in Sodom and is captured by Sodom's enemies during the revolt against Chaderloamer in Genesis 13-14. As a result, Lot's uncle, the famous patriarch Abram, raises an army to defeat Sodom's enemies, thereby rescuing the city from being forever enslaved.

This is the first chance for Sodom. Having been brought close to destruction, will they change?

Test #2 involves more subtlety. Toward the end of Genesis 14, Melchizedek, the king of Salem, performs a ritual honoring God. When Abram meets Bera, the king of Sodom, he and Bera see Melchizedek's sacrifice to God and declaration that Abram is blessed by God. The book of Hebrews underscores this passage as a presage of Christ's arrival and the beginning of a priesthood of the believer; this inference rests upon the fact that Melchizedek acted as a priest before the law came down from Moses.

The wording of Melchizedek's blessing is powerful: "I give praise to the God Most High who has handed your enemies over to you." Melchizedek states these words and performs this rite as the king of Sodom and Abram are both in his presence. 

The "enemies" whom Abram defeated, though, were Sodom's enemies more than Abram's. Melchizedek's blessing leaves open the possibility that Sodom had a chance, at this critical moment, to praise God and submit to God. Yet Bera merely offers to pay Abram for his military assistance. Abram refuses, which implies that Abram sensed, even at this early stage, that Sodom was not going to change even after having narrowly escaped complete annihilation in war.

Test #3 happens in Genesis 18. Three visitors come to see Abraham. These include, apparently, God and two angels. They come to announce that Sarah will give birth to a son in her old age, Abraham will father a great nation, and Sodom and Gomorrah are going to be destroyed. As the three visitors walk away from Abraham, Abraham begs for them to relent in their plan to obliterate Sodom, asking, "shall you sweep away the righteous and the wicked together?"
Abraham then bargains with God. First he asks if God will spare Sodom in the event that 50 good men exist in the city. Gradually, to play it safe, Abraham keeps asking God to set the threshold lower and lower, until all that he needs is to find 10 good men in Sodom in order to spare the whole city.

Why did the announcement of Sodom's doom come alongside the announcement of soon-to-be-conceived Isaac, the father of the Jews and brother to Ishmael, the father of the Arabs? One could argue that Genesis 18 offers a coherent thread that matches what happens before and after it. God is narrowing down his chosen people in a twofold way: first by separating Isaac's patrimony from Ishmael's patrimony, and second by eliminating Lot's connection to the covenant. The obliteration of Sodom means that Lot's city and wife will be destroyed; moreover, the result of this destruction is Lot's incest with his daughters leading to the cursed lines of Moab and Ammon. 

In Deuteronomy 23:1-8, happening long after the events of Genesis 18, Moses clarifies to the Israelites that God does not want the Israelites to despise the Edomites (descendants of Jacob's brother Esau) or the Egyptians, but they must single out the Moabites and Ammonites for longer and harsher exclusion. Moab and Ammon, Moses points out, were worse than Edom and Egypt because the Moabites and Ammonites denied the wandering Jews water and drink during the exodus. 

Genesis 18 involves, therefore, multiple strains of separation and bloodline discernment. Isaac's line is being distinguished from Ishmael's, just as his son Jacob's line will be distinguished from Esau's. Lot's line could have been distinguished in a similar matter, were it not for Sodom's depravity. Even among legacies that are kept out of the covenant, Sodom is singled out for the most severe punishment, total annihilation. Yet in this critical chapter signs point to God's testing of Sodom to see if the ultimate disaster can be avoided. If Sodom were preserved, one might arguably assert that Lot's daughters would marry their fiancés, have children, and have a legacy similar to Esau's and Ishmael's. That is, a legacy not chosen the way Isaac's was, but still not entirely turned into a byword and wasteland like Lot's.

In Genesis 18:20-21 God says, "the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great. I will go down and see if what they do justifies the cry that reaches Me." 

Immediately following this statement, Abraham begs God to set the bar low enough to give the city a chance. Even if the vast majority of Sodom is depraved beyond all reason, at least if 10 decent men live there, some chance of rehabilitation gives the rest the right to continue living.

Test #4 comes in Genesis 19, when the angels arrive in Sodom. Lot greets them and pleads with them to come and stay inside his house. The angels at first say no, because they would rather sleep in the town square. This would go along with the intent in Genesis 18 of observation. God said that He would observe if Sodom was as bad as people said, something He could do more obviously if his angels are spending the night in the open air of the city's main hub. Presumably because he knows the men will be raped in the public square, Lot insists that they come and stay safely inside his house.

This small detail represents the fourth chance the Sodomites had to save themselves from destruction. It is clear by now that Lot knows them to be so shameless that homosexuals in the city would molest and rape any man sleeping somewhere public. But if they could simply respect private spaces, cut off from public view, as inviolate, then maybe there would be hope of redemption for the city. If they had any limits at all, the angels might make the case for sparing the whole city its doom.

But the next lines run, "Before the guests went to bed, the men of Sodom, young and old, everyone in the city, surrounded the house. They called out to Lot, 'where are the men who came to your house tonight? Send them out so we may have sex with them!'" (19:4-5). 

By now the Sodomites have failed four tests. They have rejected four chances to save themselves. Their minds are so debased and their arrogance so stubborn that they will "not take yes for an answer." They cannot be saved, it seems. No hope exists that they will ever be anything different from the perverts they are now.

Yet there are still more chances. 

Test #5 comes quickly and is twofold. If any of the men in the crowd stood up to the rapists and rallied to Lot's defense, disaster might be deferred. None breaks with the mob. Then, Lot offers to cast his virgin daughters to the crowd but the crowd refuses. They refuse to engage in any discussion with Lot at this point, mocking him for having "come as a foreigner, now trying to play the judge." They threaten to rape Lot even worse than the two men inside. 

Test #6 also comes quickly and Sodom fails it. The angels now tell Lot that the city's going to be utterly devastated. They ask him if there are any people he loves in Sodom. If so, he has a chance to lead them out of the city before it is destroyed. Lot asks the men who are supposed to marry his daughters to come with him, but the men think it is a joke and apparently refuse. Since Lot is technically a foreigner, not a single Sodomite male is capable of being saved.

Test #7, the last, comes at daybreak. The text states that Lot is hesitant but God had mercy on him, even then, prompting the angels to grab Lot's hand and his wife's hand. The angels pull Lot forcefully and finally tell him to run for the hills with his family and not turn back. His wife, a Sodomite at heart, fails the test on behalf of the last remnant of Sodom. She looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt. One can surmise that in the cave of Zoar, the disastrous incest between Lot and his daughters would not have happened if Lot's wife had not been dead.  Hence, the failure of the seventh and last test makes Sodom's extreme punishment extend to the tribal descendants of the incest act: Moab and Ammon, two peoples whom Moses targets for exceptional exclusion in Deuteronomy.

Why is homosexuality so entrenched?

When we consider that at least seven chances were extended to Sodom, all resulting in the refusal to change, it becomes clear that the Lord was not exceptionally harsh but rather, exceptionally merciful to the city. All the means of averting catastrophe were so easy and obvious. All Bera had to do was join Melchizedek in praising God for having saved Sodom from war. If only they had left the angels alone in Lot's house... If only ten men had stood against the crowd... If only two Sodomite men, those engaged to Lot's daughters, had gained composure and fled with Lot, married his girls, and had a normal lineage with them... In all these cases, Sodom would not have been laid waste.

But the Sodomites refused at each term. Sadly, the same self-destructive tendency appears in the postmodern LGBT movement. At so many points, the gay activists could have decided to stop and at least limit the scope of their behavior. They could have stopped at ending the classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder and not encouraged the orgy culture that led to AIDS. They could have turned away from it all when AIDS made it clear that homosexuality was going to come with an enormous cost not only to themselves but to all of society. They could have turned inward and tried to reform their culture's obsession with youth, beauty, and muscles, which may have left youth safe and not placed the gay movement in the terrible position of recruiting and corrupting vulnerable kids. They could have stood up and cried out against their leaders' brutal behavior: "Stop the blacklists! Leave the churches alone! Leave the schools alone! Stop calling people names! Stop getting people fired!"

On a basic level, they could have stopped organizing the horrifying gay pride festivals, boycotted pornography, or at least come out against drag queens reading "queer" books to little kids in public libraries.

But even more importantly, at some point homosexuals could have looked at what they were doing, listened to people around them who loved them, and stopped harming themselves and others with dangerous sex acts. They have had over forty years of prominence and visibility to make these choices.

Perhaps the deeper personality trait that leads men to call themselves homosexual also leads to stubbornness. If one commits oneself to a life of sex based on pain--either you cause it or you show affection by accepting it--such a person must possess a strong will and somewhat of a morbid eros. Not every man who finds good looks in other men takes this appreciation to the next step and seeks to consummate unclean sex acts based on such appreciation. The ones who do are people who have decided to ignore their internal hesitations and disregard the voices of worry around them.

When they say, "I didn't choose," what they mean to say is, "I refuse." They refuse to choose. They refuse to say they can choose. They refuse to give anyone else a choice. They are stubborn, unwilling to compromise, and dismissive of warning signs and reasonable caveats. While "I didn't choose" might not be fully true, at a certain point they are not lying when they say, "I cannot change." They do not want to change. They cannot want to change.

Sodom is back in our world, as Ezekiel predicted she would be. Remember what Ezekiel's prophecy ends with though: "She will return to her formal state." God would give homosexuality one more chance, and the Sodomites would have the same response they showed to Lot's guests. No compromise. No change. 

The Sodom story in Genesis tells us that we have to give chances to Sodomites to prove us and the track record wrong. Remember that Lot did not kill the Sodomites. Nor even did the armies against which Sodom rebelled. "Justice is mine, says the Lord." It is God's call to decide the fate of the homosexuals who are up to their same old tricks. Perhaps they are on their thousandth chance by now. God will keep giving them chances until one of two things happen: (1) They take a chance and change, or (2) Pride goes before the fall, on God's timetable.

But this reflection, however morbid, makes one thing clear. It is not unreasonable that God punished Sodom more harshly than other cities. He showed them more grace and mercy. They were not aliens but beloved people to God, more like a cheating wife than an adversarial army. When people engage in corrupting evil and show that they will never change, God's justice follows suit.


Rembrandt, Lot & His Daughters
In this series on Sodom we have been open about our interest in applying the lessons of this doomed city to our own time. All the posts in the series have proceeded with confidence that Sodom holds wisdom that we must interpret for the benefit of our needs today. 

Some would object to such application of scripture, particularly from the Old Testament. But several scriptures are important to remember:

Jesus stated himself in Matthew 5 that not even one stroke of one letter of the law can fall, until heaven and earth have passed away.

In referring to the "Torah," Jesus invokes the Jewish principle that the first five books of the Bible, including Genesis and the Sodom story, are part of the law. It is this complete law that we see being read in the times of Ezra and Nehemiah, night and day, as the Jews rebuild Jerusalem.

Also, Sodom repeats as an "example" throughout the Bible. In Jude 7, Jude states, "in a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire." The appearance of "similarity" calls for us to connect Sodom to other phenomena, and the word "example" underscores its relevance. Sodom is something that should be spoken of, and should be considered when we consider the problems facing us today.

The Problem of Contagion

Up until now this series has not contemplated the problem of contagion in the Sodom story. In the most recent post, I did discuss the enigma of God's severity in obliterating the city. A thorough reading of the scripture makes clear that God's punishment was extreme only because His mercy was extreme. He had given the city at least seven chances, including the first chance when Abram raised an army to free the Sodomites from slavery. The Sodomites' refusal to change was the extremism. They were, because of the Lord's mercies, a free people neither enslaved nor kept ignorant by the time they failed all their tests and faced the brimstone. So we have discussed the mysteries of Sodom's extreme justice and the plausible reasons for Sodom's ineluctability (her inability to self-correct), but we have not considered the question of contagion.

How did the sin of Sodom come to pollute the body, mind, and soul of an entire city so thoroughly? Consider the unforgettable image of Lot's wife turning back and becoming a pillar of salt. Even in Lot's closest quarters, indeed in his bed, lay someone who sympathized with Sodom's sin rather than with Sodom's need to repent. The rot in Sodom's character had spread so far that every Sodomite male and female had fallen prey to it.

The precise definition of Sodom's sin remains contested. A careful examination of the story leads one to concede that homosexuality is a principal sin, accompanying and intextricably linked to a host of others: as Ezekiel mentions haughtiness, indifference to suffering, and incontinence; as Paul implies in Romans, the laundry list of evils ranging from gossip to murder; and as Genesis presents, damning flaws ranging from cowardice in war to violent rape. 

Contagion follows both horizontally and vertically in the Sodom case: horizontally, from person to person; and vertically, from a person's head to toe, corrupting their thoughts, actions, feelings, "bowels," and general conduct. 

The collective memory of Sodom strikes the Bible reader so powerfully because of the nightmarish scenario of an entire society falling prey to an evil. While one could choose generosity toward homosexuals and reject the claim that homosexuality is itself the main evil driving all the others, it is a false reading to say that homosexuality has no role in Sodom's sin. If it is the source (as I tend to believe) gradually compromising every part of a person's life as the person strains to hide and justify his damaging actions, then homosexuality is a problem. If it is the vehicle by which one evil leads to another--for instance, the means by which pride turns to rape--then homosexuality is still deadly, because it compounds human errors and turns them into fatal abominations. Even if, in the most charitable reading, homosexuality is merely the symptom of other evils, we must acknowledge that in a society that cures its own evils, there will be no homosexuality; hence we must fight against corruption until we see no more homosexuality, which is arguably just as harsh toward homosexuality as simply calling it the problem. No matter how we read the Sodom story, the presence of homosexuality is a warning sign that something has doomed a society.

Cause, effect, symptom--the three-ring circus of Sodom

The contagion of sin in Sodom seems to overpower the city because of its multivalence and its ambiguity. We debate so much about where to chart homosexuality among Sodom's evils precisely because even when Sodom still existed, homosexuality's role in the city's problems was unclear. The Sodomites have lost awareness of their own corruption because homosexuality has either distracted them (causing them not to notice their doom) or obsessed them (causing them to see any doom as worse than being denied homosexual exertion). To self-correct or to hold off the spread of dysfunction, the Sodomites would have to be able to figure out whether they sodomized because they were depraved, or they were depraved because they sodomized. It seems that because they could not figure this out, they had no way of focusing or regimenting themselves; they could not stop this sin from spreading, and it eventually polluted the whole city.

When we debate homosexuality in 2018, we confront a similar conundrum. Years on Twitter, Facebook, and Disqus have schooled me in the myriad obfuscations and manipulations by which people deflect counterarguments against homosexuality. If we bring up the damages of anal sex, someone will mention that lesbians do not engage in it, while others will claim that most heterosexuals engage in anal sex as well (this is partly a lurid myth that comes from pornography, which is the means by which many gays learn about what heterosexuals do privately.) If we bring up the pain that children feel when deprived of a mother or father, someone will bring up divorce, orphans, heterosexual abusers, or single people who adopt. If we bring up the testimonials of ex-gays, people will counter that anecdotes do not equal generalizations. If we bring up statistics, people will bring up testimonials of happy gays who insist they remember being gay when they were toddlers. Ethos, pathos, and logos all collapse into an unintelligible puddle when homosexuality becomes the topic of debate. Emotions run high at the same time that dissenters who reject homosexuality meet with utter callousness from pro-gay people. Statistics abound, as long as they support gay people; if they do not, statistics disappear.

If people do not know whether a problem is a cause, effect, or symptom, then they often become paralyzed and endlessly uncertain. They suffer from a Hamlet complex. Amid their paralysis, the corruption spreads because nobody is resisting its diffusion. 

But what if a corruption is cause, effect, and symptom all at the same time? Is not greed like that? One's greed will lead one to cheat and exploit others. Yet greed could also be the end result of a society's vanity or lack of true love for people, or its idolatry. There might be a sin of wrath (the cause) leading to a sin of hatefulness (the effect), but as one causes the other, angry people seek to amass money to prove themselves better than people they hate. If we fail to counter greed because we are told it is only an effect or symptom, then we may find that even after combatting the ills of pride, vanity, covetousness, wrath, and concupiscence, we still see rampant greed and we have not changed anything. We failed to note that it was a cause and effect simultaneously.  

Similarly, since the 1950s and the rise of groups like the Mattachine Society, homosexuality has spread rapidly throughout communities and corrupted virtually ever major institution in the United States. Partly this is because people thought, at certain times, that it could be cured by healing people from childhood trauma at one point; while at other points people felt it was only a symptom of the larger Sexual Revolution sullying heterosexuals; while at other times people acknowledged that homosexuality caused many social tensions but they decided that homosexuality, the primal cause, was caused by nothing and merely appeared as a deus ex machina, so the most appropriate course of action was to root out the negative byproducts of homosexuality (bullying, inequality, social conflict, sexual diseases) through ameliorations or interventions (condoms, anti-discrimination law, educational campaigns) while leaving homosexuality itself unchallenged. No wonder it spread like wildfire--society did, by and large, nothing to prevent it from spreading.

In Sodom, too, homosexuality is at once cause, effect, and symptom. It caused the violation of the ancient code of hospitality toward foreigners; desire to have sex with sojourners in Lot's home prompted the menfolk to attempt an invasion of Lot's home. Yet homosexuality also seems to have resulted from a general disregard for the sovereignty of God, which explains the lines in Ezekiel that emphasize Sodom's arrogance, selfish wealth, and dissipation. We know from Genesis 14 that even after Abram liberates Sodom and guarantees her freedom, Melchizedek invokes God's blessing while the king of Sodom does not. The king of Sodom, instead, tries to buy Abram's service by offering him wealth. Without a reverence to God, the Sodomites lay vulnerable to sundry corruptions including homosexuality. Lastly, homosexuality was also a symptom of everything going wrong in the city: the men were unmanly which is why Abram had to save them from slavery, the women unprincipled which is why Lot's wife cannot help looking back to her doom, and so little security exists that two angels cannot sleep in the town square without being gang raped.

To find ten good men in Sodom, as Abraham had bargained with God, the angels would have needed signs that the contagion had stopped short of the whole population. They found, instead, that every man in the whole city called together for the guests to be thrown to a mob of homosexual rapists. Homosexuality had spread to every man in the city. Whether that is because it caused the other sins or resulted from them almost seems irrelevant. Certainly, though, in such a confusing type of social breakdown, the sharing of a deleterious sex act spurs new problems while spreading ones that already exist. And where one set of problems causes another set of problems, neither of these sets of problems related to homosexuality, homosexuality still proliferates as a byproduct of both.

Is it sin, crime, or sickness?

How do we stop a behavioral problem from spreading? 

To stop something from spreading, we have to know what we are stopping, because our countermeasures are based on the essence of the problem.

Is homosexuality a sin? We combat sin, usually, with virtue and discipline. We teach people that sin is wrong and instill virtues in them that counteract sins: prudence rather than rashness, charity rather than rudeness, courage rather than cowardice. But it seems always difficult to define what the sin of homosexuality is. Is it merely desire or is it the act? If we let the desire blossom in people's hears and tell them not to act on it, we cannot be shocked if it "spreads" from the imagination to lived experience. We were unrealistic to believe that people could give their hearts and minds to sin and then stop them from concluding that the act about which they've freely imagined is doable.

Is homosexuality a crime? We usually combat crime by administering a system of justice, based on the harm caused to a victim. But how do you apply "an eye for an eye" in a case of homosexuality? What punishment is appropriate for engaging in this act if both people wanted to do it, and consented? It is much harder to quantify the harm done to society at large, though that harm is much more severe. Because our notion of crime is so thoroughly embedded in perpetrator and victim, a sex act that people do willingly and long for individually is difficult to define, and hard to adjudicate.

Is homosexuality an illness? For a long time in the West this was the most humane way to deal with the problem of homosexuality. People who have fallen to a virus, infection, injury, or palsy are not entirely in command of themselves. It is plausible to help such people heal from what drive their problem, without condemning them as sinners or punishing them as criminals.

In Sodom, homosexuality appears to be at once a sin, a crime, and an illness. At one point the men are literally blinded. Lot's son-in-laws are so skewed in their perceptions that they fail to read his warnings as authentic. Lot's wife cannot keep herself from looking back. Yet there are many details that imply deliberation and free will in the city's sexual debauchery. Even if they were ill, they were free after being rescued from slavery, so they chose their actions with full responsibility for the consequences. And their actions were classifiable as crimes since they became violent and tried to break down Lot's door.

The problem of identifying what homosexuality is leads to the bigger problem of suggesting a countermeasure. You cannot offer only healing to someone who is intent on committing a crime against your loved ones who are vulnerable. You cannot offer only healing to someone who needs to be disciplined toward virtue. You can offer some healing to criminals and sinners, but you must also have a way of deterring and disciplining them.

You cannot only punish someone who is ill, because they have not been in control of themselves. You cannot only punish someone who is a sinner, because they may internalize their "bad person" status if they have no sense of what virtue looks like. Some punishment might help people who engage in an activity like homosexuality, but it would seem that healing and virtues would have to be equal or greater in priority.

Lastly, you cannot only preach to a criminal, because those who commit crimes tend to have masterminded ways to commit them despite obstacles thrown in their way. The preaching will fall on deaf ears. You cannot only preach to someone who is sick, because their sickness is out of their control.

Discipline, preaching, punishment, and healing all need to work together to stop a complex, ambiguous evil from spreading through society. Sodom is a telling case study because it shows how thoroughly a contagious evil spreads when people are unsure of what to do, afflicted by fear, unmotivated to act righteously, and lacking in the empathy and charity to know that the problem is really harming people whom God loves.