… and so are you. Now that I’ve got your attention, what arcane point am I trying to make? I’ve been ruminating on the use of “sodomite” in certain conservative Christian circles. The motive seems to be Christians not wanting to compromise on this important issue and wanting to call a spade a spade. Since so many Christians have prevaricated and danced around the issue of same-sex attraction, we want to boldly call a sin a sin, and so some men that I respect deeply have taken to using the term “sodomy” and “sodomite.” I believe the main target of this epithet is militant, politically-aggressive homosexuals. In reaction, some Christians adopt the visage and manner of a desert prophet in order to meet this challenge head on. I agree with my brothers in their concerns to be bold and courageous in these perilous times. I believe Christianity and Biblical morality is under severe attack, and I support their desire to fight the good fight. However, if they want to talk like Ezekiel-the-sexually-explicit, I hope they can also talk more like Ezekiel in chapter 16 of his magnificent book.
In Ezekiel 16, God pronounces judgment on Jerusalem through Ezekiel, and connections between sexual sin and idolatry are rampant. But, in the midst of this grim sermon, God compares Jerusalem to Sodom. Ezekiel says that Jerusalem has become “more corrupt than they [the Sodomites] in all your ways. As I live, declares the Lord GOD, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done” (Ezek. 16:47-48). What did Jerusalem do that was so wicked? “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it” (Ezek. 16:49-50).
What is interesting is the almost total silence on the issue of homosexuality.
I don’t know Hebrew (one of my many failings), but I suppose one could argue that homosexuality is implied, or referenced, by “abomination.” I’m not arguing that the Sodomites were not homosexual perverts–Genesis clearly shows us men who are slaves to their idolatrous lusts, wanting to gang-rape the strangers in town. But, homosexuality is not the sin of Sodom. The Sodomites were arrogant, proud, wealthy, had too much food, took long vacations, and didn’t take care of the poor. Sounds suspiciously like most Americans. If we want to throw the term “sodomy” around, let’s also start to really preach against the “sins of Sodom,” and not just pick one of them. When was the last time you heard a hell-fire sermon against the deceitfulness of riches? No, we just spiritualize James 5 and argue that Jesus’ words to the rich young ruler don’t apply to us. He obviously had a problem with covetousness. We don’t. We Americans, where most of us are fantastically wealthy compared to most of the world, we’ve got the sin of covetousness licked.
Jesus said some strange things about this, but they obviously don’t apply to us … or I’m sure we can explain them away through a Greek word study: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy” (Lk. 12:32-33). “So, then, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:33). And what did St. Paul know, that crazy ex-Jew?! “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Tim. 8-10; see also 1 Tim. 6:17-19). We are bold to confront and condemn “sodomites,” but I wonder how many homosexuals some pastors have actually counseled and helped to bring back into the church? We are very good and condemning sin in the abstract, but perhaps not so effective in sharing the love of Christ with actual lost and hurting men and women who are sinning sexually in their pursuit of love and meaning. And, again, how often do we boldly condemn the rich and covetous in our midst? How often do we preach against the other sins of Sodom–neglect of the poor, pride, prosperous ease?
Russell Moore is helpful here, and applies a similar train of thought in another area of sexual morality. As usual, he pulls no punches: “We have become the people Jesus warned about–fat, upwardly mobile, and politically influential. In the meantime we’ve become accommodated in almost every way to the culture that surrounds us. We must recognize that one of the roots of the family crisis around us–in the pews we sit in or preach to every week–is the wallet in our own back pocket.
“Too many of our churches, too many of us, have made peace with the sexual revolution and the familial chaos left in its wake precisely because we made peace, long before, with the love of money. We wish to live with the same standard of living as the culture around us (there is no sin in that), but we are willing to get there by any means necessary …
“Why do our pastors and church leaders speak bluntly about homosexuality but not about divorce, despite the fact that evangelical Christian divorce rates are the same or higher than those in the world we consider ‘unchurched’? It is because in many cases church leaders know the faces of the divorced people in the pews before them, and they fear losing the membership statistics or the revenue those faces represent. To put it bluntly, we have many more out-of-the-closet multiple divorcees than out-of-the-closet homosexuals in our churches. John the Baptist put his head on a platter to speak the truth that not even a king can claim another man’s wife. John the Modern Evangelical isn’t willing to put his retirement benefits on the table to say the same thing to a congregational business meeting” (Russell Moore, Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ, 87-89). [This book is a must-read!]
To conclude–I wish my brave and bold brothers Gospel success as they confront ALL the “sins of Sodom,” and not just sodomy. We are living in Sodom … we are all Sodomites, some more than others. Repentance starts with us. Repentance starts with the Church–as we repent of all the sins of Sodom.