Sat | Nov 25, 2017

Sean Major-Campbell | Misunderstanding Sodom and Gomorrah

Published:Monday | October 16, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Sean Major-Campbell

It is to be noted that His Grace, the Most Rev Dr John Walder Holder, was invited to Jamaica on behalf of wider civil society. He did not come at the invitation of the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. He was attending an international conference that was being held in Jamaica. His was, therefore, not a call to address the Church in the Province of the West Indies. He was invited in his own right as an Old Testament scholar!

It will take an intellectually honest leap to appreciate that the much-abused Genesis 19 really has nothing to do with laws concerning sodomy and cannot properly be used to speak to such.

The text very early states, "Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom, both young and old, surrounded the house." All the men!

Whoever appeals to Genesis 19 for moral integrity must seriously explore whether in 2017, it is okay to remain silent on the matter of the man of God, Lot, being quick to state, "Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don't do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof."

Who sees the problem here? Is it really acceptable, and does it make any sense, that a loving father would readily give up his two daughters in an effort to protect two men who (since they were angels, according to the story) could save themselves anyway?

Does it matter that Lot's daughters had no say in the declared offer? Gender-based violence has been with humanity for ages!

The Sodom and Gomorrah story has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Even if one wanted to take the expression "all the men" literally, does it make sense that all the men of the city were 'homosexual' (a term not known in the biblical world)? The truth is, there is no evidence to suggest that the men in Lot's house were homosexuals. There is also no evidence to suggest that the men outside were homosexuals. The 'sodomy' here was being proposed by heterosexuals!

 

SHOW POWER AND DOMINANCE

 

Heterosexual men arrived at Lot's house to do what heterosexual men have done for centuries. Violate other men (especially the enemy in war) to show power and dominance over the dominated! They were going to disregard the obligation to show hospitality to the stranger, a much-revered value in Middle Eastern society. This is most certainly not what human-rights advocates are seeking to protect in a postmodern world!

Most Jamaicans are probably more familiar with the Sunday-school-sanitised version of the story that safely stays with Lot's wife becoming a pillar of salt. However, the cultural preoccupation is with a summary that says: Men came to Lot's house to get two men. So God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.

Many persons are not aware that in two glorious acts of heterosexual intercourse, Lot impregnated his two daughters. This is still in Genesis 19. However, as expected in a patriarchal culture, the women get the blame. The text, therefore, states, "That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and lay with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up." If you believe this, you are likely to believe that there is a place with a lot of fire where some people will burn forever.

Lot was so drunk that he did not know what was happening. However, he was able to hold an erection and accomplish pregnancy over two successive nights. He had a grand time executing his incestuous play with impunity, while his daughters got the blame. This is not used as an argument against heterosexuality, since this is not a story about sexual orientation!

There is, frankly speaking, more biblical support for stoning versus anti-sodomy laws! Who realises the tremendous economic potential of a stoning industry in Jamaica? My main concern here would be the high number of church members who would be lost to this national intervention for more biblical practices concerning premarital sex and adultery.

There is plenty of cultural baggage informing our hermeneutics. However, there is an abundance of exegetical material. Maybe after all the condemnation in churches on the Sunday after Intimate Conviction Conference, more persons might pause and do some critical thinking and reflection.

- Sean Major-Campbell, an Anglican rector, is an advocate for human rights. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and seanmajorcampbell@yahoo.com.