Intersex Torture Must Cease

Intersex Series

The Intersex Series, #2

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein at the 30th session of the Human Rights Council on 14 September 2015 highlighted rights violations perpetrated on those who are intersex. (See What Is Intersex?)

Al Hussein’s findings are reported in an article by Arvind Narrain: “The Right Not To Be Mutilated: Intersex People and the Quest for Justice.” I’ll include a few quotes here, but it was so good, you should read the original article.

Far too few of us are aware of the specific human rights violations faced by millions of intersex people. Because their bodies do not comply with typical definitions of male or female, intersex children and adults are frequently subjected to forced sterilization and other unnecessary and irreversible surgery, and suffer discrimination in schools, workplaces and other settings.

During a meeting focused on ending human rights violations against intersex people, the office of the High Commissioner determined that intersex issues are unique, specific, and not simply add-ons to existing LGBT issues.

While variations of sex characteristics are natural, human cultures treat this natural diversity as a problem. Within human society, this natural diversity of sex characteristics is forced into the gender binary of male and female. It is this imperative of human society, to treat sexual diversity as a problem, which becomes the root cause of the great suffering imposed by society on those whose sex characteristics do not conform to rigid notions of male and female.

Those who don’t fit into the strict categories of male or female are classified as “suffering from a form of pathology.” Once classified, they’re game for surgical modification—often promoted by doctors so that children “fit into a specific sex.” Although such surgery is medically unnecessary, parents often consent to have their child operated on for “psycho-social reasons.”

This amounts to mutilating infants and children simply to make the parents more comfortable because the doctor said it would.

Intersex activists make the point, that to subject children to genital mutilation—which the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture [PDF] considers a form of torture—so that society is not discomfited, is an unconscionable suffering, which is inflicted on children born with the intersex condition.

Narrain points out that “intersex mutilation is not even acknowledged as a rights violation in almost all parts of the world.”

This torture must stop.

God the Creator makes infinite variety, and it’s all beautiful. No children should be forced to undergo the scalpel before they’re able to make their own decision about what, if anything, they want to do with their own bodies.

It’s time for us to refrain from such categorical judgments and accept those who are born toward the middle of the sex spectrum. There are more than two colors in the rainbow of human sexuality. We must ensure that everyone’s light can shine.

More information:
What Is Intersex?

Source: Arvind Narrain: “The Right Not To Be Mutilated: Intersex People and the Quest for Justice” at JURIST – Professional Commentary, Oct. 14, 2015, http://jurist.org/hotline/2015/10/arvind-narrain-intersex-justice.php. Accessed Dec. 13, 2018

What Is Intersex?

Intersex Series

The Intersex Series, #1

Intersex is a general term used for a variety of physical conditions affecting a person’s reproductive or sexual anatomy and chromosomal makeup. The result is that intersex individuals are born with internal or external reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit typical male/female categories.

Examples of intersex

Here are just a few examples of how intersex could manifest itself physiologically:

  • Someone could be born with atypical genetics, some cells having XX chromosomes and some having XY.
  • An individual could be born that looks male externally but with internal female anatomy.
  • A person could be born with genitals that are partially male and partially female:
    • A boy could be born with a conspicuously small penis.
    • A girl could be born with a larger than average clitoris.
    • A boy could be born with a scrotum that is split like labia.
    • A girl could be born without a vaginal opening.

To complicate matters, intersex conditions don’t always show up at birth. Sometimes they’re discovered at puberty, sometimes during adulthood when a reproductive issue crops up, and sometimes they’re never known.

Sex, oversimplified

Intersex is kind of a “kitchen sink” term, covering many conditions. It’s not a “discreet or natural category.” Rather, according to the Intersex Society of North America, “Intersex is a socially constructed category that reflects real biological variation.” The ISNA likens the biological sex spectrum to the color spectrum:

Intersex Spectrum, female to male

Where does pink end and blue begin? How many shades lie between?

Trying to pin down biologic variation in human sex is likewise problematic. Nature doesn’t impose rigid rules on what’s male and what’s female—it produces a wide variety.

However, with our need to categorize and control, we slot nature’s infinite diversity into male and female (and perhaps intersex if we’re magnanimous) to simplify social interactions. To fill out a job application. Or to reduce the threat to our perceived worldview that too often has room for only pink and blue, just another version of black and white.

With our tendency to classify and label, we do injustice to real individuals. There are people out there not quite like the rest of us. They need God’s grace as much as anybody. Christ accepts them as they are. Can we?

If you’re one of the many who was born with neat biology at the far ends of the spectrum, be aware there are many who fall somewhere between the poles. They’re just as precious and unique in the eyes of the Creator as you. Christ died for them and longs for them to come to him. Will you help to bring them—or will you drive them away?

More information:
Intersex Torture Must Cease

Conclusion of the Sodom Series and Challenge

God Hates Fags

Sodom Series, #16

We see from a study of the Scriptures—all the passages which mention Sodom—that the sins of the cities of the Plain are idolatry, pride, gluttony, violence, hatred of strangers, and inhospitality to outsiders—not same-sex coupling.

When we compare Genesis 19 with the Judges 19 account of Gibeah, we understand that rape—the dehumanization of one human being by another—is the ultimate expression of their hostility and violence toward strangers, whether male or female.

We must study the Scriptures thoroughly before forming doctrine

A thorough study of the Scriptures, as this series has provided, should suffice to determine what the sins of Sodom were. This is especially important when we use the Bible to form doctrine about Christian living while we ignorantly flirt with the danger of condemning entire classes of people.

Christian teaching should speak only what the Scriptures teach. It should conform its logic and argument to that contained in the Scriptures. Most importantly, it should remain silent when the Scriptures are silent. Mark Jordan asks:

Do we meet these tests when we invoke the history of Christian moral teaching to speak about what we call homosexuality? Our readings in medieval texts have suggested that we do not meet them. Indeed, we fail much lesser tests. We typically disregard the most basic rules of respectful reading when arguing about same-sex love. We rip words out of context; we magnify what is microscopic and ignore what is enormous; we refuse to examine the rifts that divide our languages, our discourses, from the patristic or medieval discourses we want to invoke. (The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology, 160)

The Apostle Peter admits that some things in Scripture are hard to understand, “which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Pet. 3:16b NKJV). We therefore must be diligent to correctly interpret and apply its teachings.

This wrenching of the Scriptures leads to the dangerous process of demonization.

Demonization of sodomy

The crimes of the destroyed ancient cities changed from the original scriptural understanding to focus solely on one type of sexual behavior. From there, the term sodomy was coined and abstracted to refer to homosexual behavior and then to homosexuality in general.

“The last thing we should do is to translate ‘Sodomy’ as ‘homosexuality.’ ‘Homosexuality’ is a term from late nineteenth-century forensic medicine, a diagnostic term for regulating the behavior of the patients or prisoners it presumes to classify. If you ask, What does medieval moral theology have to say about homosexuality? the only precise answer is, absolutely nothing. ‘Homosexuality’ is no more discussed by medieval theology than are phlogiston, Newton’s inertia, quarks or any of the other entities hypothesized by one or another modern science. ‘Sodomy’ is not ‘homosexuality’(Jordan 161, emphasis mine).

“There are two separate mistakes here,” Jordan points out. “The first is to think that the story of Sodom is centrally about same-sex pleasure—or even a particular kind of same-sex copulation. It is not” (162). Yet, a great segment of the Church believes that all homosexuals are sodomites, worthy of a fiery death sentence.

The citizens of Sodom lumped together all outsiders as strangers, suspicious as a class and worthy to be abused and violated. They condemned visiting travelers to certain victimhood in every case. Just as nothing good could come from Nazareth, nothing good could come from outside the walls of Sodom.

Tom Horner discusses this process of demonization:

It is doubly unfortunate that a great portion of the public identifies all homosexuality with the conduct of the men of Sodom and says, “The men of Sodom were bad; therefore all homosexuality is bad.” Well, the men of Sodom were bad, but they were bad not because of their homosexuality but because they had allowed themselves to become so callous in their dealings with other human beings that they had turned themselves into brutes. (Jonathan Loved David, 47, emphasis mine)

Those who name Jesus Christ as their Savior and claim to live according to the Bible must see that such disregard and mistreatment of people, even if they’re considered “sinners,” is unquestionably unchristian and bring reproach upon not only the gospel message, but the Lord himself.

When we, in our own relationships, disregard other human beings as persons, we kill them little by little.

Who are the real sodomites?

It is ironic that for almost two thousand years in Western culture this is how people have been treated who’ve been honest enough with themselves to accept homosexuality as a given fact of their existence. They’ve been treated as less than human for no other reason than because they have expressed a sexual preference for members of their own sex.

If we would begin to judge people as individual persons, instead of prejudging them on the basis of their sexual prefer¬ence, maybe we would begin to see where the real propensity for violence and lawbreaking in our society lies. (Horner 57)

McNeill aptly states an irony: for 1000 years in the Christian West, homosexuals have been the recipients of inhospitable treatment. “Condemned by the Church, they have been the victims of persecution, torture, and even death” (Taking a Chance on God, 42).

There’s a sad irony about the story of Sodom when understood in its own historical setting. People oppose and abuse homosexual men and women for being different, odd, strange or, as they say, “queer.”

Lesbian women and gay men are simply not allowed to fit in. They are made to be outsiders, foreigners in their own society.

They are disowned by their families, separated from their children, fired from their jobs, evicted from apartments and neighborhoods, insulted by public figures, denounced from the pulpit, vilified on religious radio and TV, and then beaten in the schools and killed on the streets and in the backwoods of our “great,” “freedom-loving” nation. And all this is done in the name of Christ.

Such wickedness is the very sin of which the people of Sodom were guilty. Such cruelty is what the Bible truly condemns over and over again. So those who oppress homosexuals because of the supposed “sin of Sodom” may themselves be the real “sodomites,” as the Bible understands it. (Helminiak 49–50, emphasis mine)

Being gay is not the unpardonable sin

In some parts of the Church, there is neither mercy nor forgiveness for those who identify themselves as homosexual. “Sodomy,” says Jordan, “seems to be an unrepentable sin… an exception to divine grace…” (Jordan 162). However, there is only one unpardonable sin: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:29; Luke 12:11).

Yet God’s promise to those who are hospitable to strangers, those who accept the outsider and the gospel messenger remains:

I will restore their fortunes, the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters, and I will restore your own fortunes along with theirs…
–Ezekiel 16:53 NRSV

What will you do?

Two final questions:

  • What will you do to combat the ignorance and misinformation of the Church toward LGBTQ people?
  • How will you treat the stranger in our midst?

The Judge of All the Earth awaits your answer. Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

More information:

The Sin of Sodom coverTo read the full story, get my book, The Sin of Sodom: What the Bible Really Says About Why God Destroyed the Cities of the Plain, for Kindle and in trade paperback.

All the Sins of Sodom

Sins of Sodom

Where does the story of Sodom and Gomorrah leave us? We see that inhospitality, violence, and abuse toward strangers was their primary sin—not homosexuality.

But what about the rest of the Scriptures that mention the cities of the Plain?

In all of the biblical passages, we find the following sins and crimes delineated:

Bible Book Sins akin to Sodom’s
Genesis 13:13; 19 Wickedness and sin
Inhospitality
Forcefulness
Prejudice against outsiders
Disrespect
Cruelty
Violence and physical/sexual abusiveness
Intent to degrade, debase, dominate and humiliate
Deuteronomy 29:17-28; 32:32-35 Detestable practices
Idolatry
Apostasy
Spiritual adultery
Abandoning God
Scoffing the Rock of their salvation
Following after strange gods
Sacrificing to demons
Isaiah 1:4, 7-11, 15-17; 3:8-9; 13:19-20 Unfaithfulness
Hypocrisy
Iniquity
Violence
Bloodshed
Evildoing
Oppressing the helpless
Haughtiness
Pride in sinfulness
Jeremiah 23:14-15; 49:16-18; 50:39-40 Adultery
Walking in lies
Strengthening the hands of evildoers
Promoting ungodliness
Inspiring terror
Pride
Idolatry
Sinning against the Lord
Challenging the Lord
Defying the Lord
Arrogance
Lamentations 3:34-36; 4:6 Transgressions
Grievous sin
Uncleanness
Rebelliousness
Iniquity
Becoming cruel
Injustice that exploits human rights
Ezekiel 16:46-51 Abominations
Whorings with heathen nations
Idolatry
Child sacrifice
Wickedness
Lewd behavior
Spiritual adultery
Lust
Shedding blood
Pride
Greed
Gluttony
No concern for the poor and needy
Amos 4:11 Ruthless oppression and enslavement of the poor
Fathers and sons sexually using the same girl
Interfering with the Nazirites and prophets
Oppression
Wrongdoing, looting, hoarding plunder
Idle luxury
Oppressing the poor and crushing the needy
Drunkenness
Making sacrifices without turning from sin and then boasting about it
Zephaniah 2:8-11 Idolatry
Complacency
Sinning against the Lord
Pride
Scoffing
Boasting
Matthew 10:14-15; 11:20-24 Hardheartedness
Unrepentance
Luke 10:5-12; 17:28-33 Inhospitality
Romans 9:29 Unbelief
2 Peter 2:4-9 NIV Ungodliness
Depravity
Lawlessness
Jude 5-7 NASB Gross immorality
Going after “strange flesh” (angelic)—violating God’s created order
Revelation 11:7-8 Rejecting God’s messengers
3 Maccabees 2:2-5 CEB Violence
Arrogance
Wicked deeds
2 Esdras 2:8-9 CEB; 5:7 CEB; 7:106 CEB Ignoring the Lord and his advice
Disobedience
Idolatry
Sexual immorality
Sirach 16:8 CEB Disobedience
Rebellion
Pride
Arrogance
Wisdom 19:13-17 CEB Failing to welcome sojourning strangers
Making guests and benefactors slaves
Treating people unlike themselves as enemies
Forcing strangers to do hard labor

The chief sins are inhospitality, idolatry, hatred of strangers, and abuses against human rights. Sexual sins are in the minority, most are metaphorical of spiritual adultery, and homosexuality is not mentioned. Instead, pride and arrogance are primary.

Next time, we’ll make some conclusions about the teaching of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

More information:

The Sin of Sodom coverTo read the full story, get my book, The Sin of Sodom: What the Bible Really Says About Why God Destroyed the Cities of the Plain, for Kindle and in trade paperback.

Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

The Sodom Series, #14

When Lot and his daughters reach the safety of Zoar, destruction comes. How were the cities of the Plain destroyed?

24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven;
25 and he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.
26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
–Genesis 19:24–26 NRSV

In nearly forty instances of the word rain in the Bible, it “is never to be taken for granted by mankind; it comes from the hand of God… in amounts proportionate to the spiritual condition of the inhabitants of that land” (TWOT, 1187).

In this instance, the Lord rained down not water, but “sulfur and fire… out of heaven.”

Upon the wicked He will rain coals; fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup.
–Psalm 11:6 NKJV

The word sulfur (brimstone in the KJV) is the Hebrew goprît (Strong’s, H1614), which occurs seven times in the Old Testament. (See Deuteronomy 29:23; Job 18:15; Psalm 11:6; Isaiah 30:33; 34:9; Ezekiel 38:22.)

The word goprît is a foreign loan word, most likely derived from Akkadian ki/ubritu, which means sulfurous oil (black sulfur) (Gentry 1999). The word accompanying goprît, wc es, simply means “and fire.” In other words, the material that fell on Sodom and Gomorrah and the Cities of the Plain (except Zoar) was a burning petroleum product. (Wood, Bryant G. “Discovery of the Sin Cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, The.” 16 Apr. 2008. Associates for Biblical Research (biblearchaeology.org). Web. 05 July 2015. .).

What was the fire? The word esh is used in Job 1:16, where it may indicate lightning: “While he was still speaking, another came and said, ‘The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; I alone have escaped to tell you.’” Lightning alone seems unlikely in the Genesis 19 account.

The sulfur, or brimstone, was a burning petroleum product. Genesis 14:10 mentions pits of bitumen, a petroleum product similar to asphalt that “was commonly found in the shallow southern basin of the Dead Sea in antiquity” (Wood).

Natural gas and sulfur, which normally accompany bitumen and petroleum, are also present. These combustible materials could have been forced from the earth by subterranean pressure brought about by an earthquake resulting from the shifting of the bounding faults (Clapp 1936a: 906; 1936b: 40). Geologists who have studied the area in recent times agree with Clapp’s reconstruction (Harris and Beardow 1995: 360; Neev and Emery 1995: 13–14; 33, 37). If lightning or surface fires ignited these combustibles as they came spewing forth from the ground, it would indeed result in a holocaust such as described in Genesis 19. It is significant to note that both Bab edh-Dhra [Sodom] and Numeira [Gomorrah] lie at the edge of the plain, exactly on the eastern fault line! (Wood, emphasis mine)

Abraham, who interceded before the Lord for the deliverance of the cities of the Plain, witnessed the disappointing destruction.

27 Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord;
28 and he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the Plain and saw the smoke of the land going up like the smoke of a furnace.
29 So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the Plain, God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had settled.
–Genesis 19:27–29 NRSV

Abraham saw smoke rising from the Plain, keqitor hakkibsan, like smoke jetting from a kibsan, a pottery kiln (Wood).

Smoke rising from the Plain below the Dead Sea would have been visible from Hebron. Abraham’s description “fits the theory of a conflagration of petroleum products, for such a conflagration would result in a thick black smoke being forced into the sky by the heat and pressure of the burning materials shooting out of the fissure in the earth” (Wood).

This ends the Genesis 19 account of the destruction of the cities of the Plain.

But we cannot form conclusions about the meaning of this account and the reason God overthrew these cities from this passage alone, for Sodom, Gomorrah, and the other cities are mentioned throughout the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments.

Let’s explore those passages and discover more—next time.

More information:

The Sin of Sodom coverTo read the full story, get my book, The Sin of Sodom: What the Bible Really Says About Why God Destroyed the Cities of the Plain, for Kindle and in trade paperback.

Lot and Family Rescued from Sodom

Lot Flees Sodom

The Sodom Series, #13

We left Lot standing outside his door in Sodom, arguing with a violent mob that’s trying to break down the door.

What happens next?

10 But the men [angels] inside reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door.
11 And they struck with blindness the men who were at the door of the house, both small and great, so that they were unable to find the door.
–Genesis 19:10–11 NRSV

The angels rescue Lot and strike the mob with sudden blindness.

Again, the word for men here is enôsh, “a mortal, people in general” (Strong’s, H582), both small, qâtân, “little, young” (Strong’s, H6996), and great, gadôl, “older” (Strong’s, H1419)—all the citizens who had gathered from every part of the city (Gen. 19:4 KJV).

Lot’s future sons-in-laws left behind

12 Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city—bring them out of the place.
13 For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.”
14 So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up, get out of this place; for the Lord is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.
–Genesis 19:12–14 NRSV

There is no record of Lot having sons, but his virgin daughters were both betrothed.

Lot “went out,” meaning he left the house and went to the homes of his sons-in-law. Note that they were not part of the mob outside his door that was struck blind.

Although he told them plainly what was about to happen, they unfortunately did not believe him (righteousness believes in faith) and failed to heed his warning to flee the city.

15 When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Get up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or else you will be consumed in the punishment of the city.”
16 But he lingered; so the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and left him outside the city.
17 When they had brought them outside, they said, “Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, or else you will be consumed.”
–Genesis 19:15–17 NRSV

Some hours have passed since the beginning of the trouble, for dawn comes. The angels must urge Lot to take his wife and daughters away.

Yet they hesitate, so the angels seize them by the hand and lead them outside the city walls. They advise Lot to flee to the mountains without looking back.

Lot and family flee south to Zoar instead

18 And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords;
19 your servant has found favor with you, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life; but I cannot flee to the hills, for fear the disaster will overtake me and I die.
20 Look, that city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!”
21 He said to him, “Very well, I grant you this favor too, and will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken.
22 Hurry, escape there, for I can do nothing until you arrive there.” Therefore the city was called Zoar.
23 The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar.
–Genesis 19:18–23 NRSV

Although ten righteous people in Sodom could not be found (see Gen. 18:32), the Lord nonetheless delivers Lot and his wife and daughters before destroying the cities of the Plain.

Lot fears fleeing to the hills, so he is permitted to escape to Zoar instead. When they reach this little town south of Sodom and Gomorrah, destruction comes.

More next time.

More information:

To read the full story, get my book, The Sin of Sodom: What the Bible Really Says About Why God Destroyed the Cities of the Plain, for Kindle and in trade paperback.
The Sin of Sodom cover

Xenophobia Leads to Abuse

Xenophobia

The Sodom Series, #12

What’s the moral of the story in Judges 19?

Boswell points out that “Jews and Christians have overwhelmingly failed to interpret [the Gibeah story] as one of homosexuality, correctly assessing it as a moral about inhospitality” (Boswell 95–96).

Why is this account not treated the same as the Sodom story in the eyes of believers today?

The Judges 19 passage isn’t considered an indictment of homosexuality because it focuses on the fate of the concubine, a woman.

Her fate shows that the men of Gibeah were not animated by overwhelming homosexual desire. … The men of Gibeah did not turn up to invite the Levite to an orgy, and the concubine had no power over what befell her. There can be no doubt that this story is one about attempted pack rape of a man, which is diverted into the successful pack rape of a woman.

Pack rape of a defenceless stranger is a particularly apt symbol of injustice and abuse of the helpless, which I would argue are the real sins of Sodom and Gibeah—not same-sex desire…. It is not the gender of the victims that is crucial, but their status, that of defenceless aliens. (Carden 25–26, emphasis mine).

The wicked Gibeahites accept only the Levite’s concubine and not the host’s virgin daughter. “To the mob, the Levite is clearly outsider, and the concubine is his woman and shares his outsider status. She is therefore a suitable substitute while the old man’s daughter is not” (Carden 37).

Comparing Genesis 19 with Judges 19

In comparison, the Judges 19 narrative is quite similar to the Genesis 19 account, but includes two serious crimes, one of which is brutal murder.

Both accounts:

  • Begin with a description of sojourners, two outsiders who dwell in the midst of immoral cultures
  • Two sets of visitors
  • Two hospitable households
  • Two confrontations by the local people
  • Two threats of violence
  • Two devastating conclusions

In both accounts, the violent demands of the local people are a way to denigrate the strangers in their midst, outsiders they did not like.

Neither Lot nor the old man of Gibeah defends his visitors to safeguard them from same-sex relations. “Instead,” says Matthew Vines, “they both expressed the concern that their visitors had come under the protection of their homes” (Vines 66–67). Both shielded their guests because of the sacred code of hospitality.

Those who are righteous make it their duty to establish rights for those who don’t have them, especially strangers and aliens.

Why protect guests?

Both accounts include hospitable hosts who believe it is more important to protect their guests over their own flesh and blood (daughters). But why?

Some have argued that Lot’s action revealed his belief that opposite-sex behavior was preferable to same-sex behavior. [It is true] that the gender of Lot’s guests played a role—not because of Lot’s concerns about the bodily “sameness” involved in same-sex behavior, but because of the greater honor men held in ancient times. …[M]en in the ancient world were considered to be of greater value than women, which made raping a man a more serious violation. … The issue in both instances is patriarchy, not the anatomical complementarity of men and women (Vines 67, emphasis mine).

What was their sin?

The sexual sin in Judges, although heterosexual in nature, isn’t fornication. It’s violent abuse and rape. They abuse and rape a woman until she eventually dies.

The accounts differ, however, in their result. Both hosts offer women, in their day considered to be of lesser honor and value than men. The people of Sodom refuse; the people of Gibeah accept, resulting in the sexual abuse and death of the concubine.

Another important difference is how present-day Bible believers interpret the stories and continue to use them to make moral arguments today.

Why are the stories interpreted differently?

In both accounts the locals demand the handing-over of male visitors and threaten violence.

Although actual violence to the visiting men happens in neither story, only the Sodom account is remembered and rehearsed as representing the evils of homosexuality. The Gibeah account, if mentioned at all, is never interpreted this way.

The word Sodomites refers to the inhabitants of the city Sodom. But their crimes, inaccurately interpreted as an indictment against homosexuality, have taken on such proportion that Sodomites is now used to refer to those who practice homosexual acts—sodomy.

Why hasn’t the same process of abstraction happened for the word Benjamites or Gibeahites?

Christian theology did not become preoccupied with a “sin of the Benjamites” (as the inhabitants of Gibeah were called), nor did European countries adopt penal statutes against “Benjamy.”

This is more striking because the incidents at Gibeah are more horrible than the events surrounding Lot’s hospitality to the angelic messengers in Sodom.

The citizens of Sodom do nothing in the end. They are blinded by the angels, who then instruct Lot to hurry his family out of the city in view of its impending destruction.

At Gibeah, there are no angels to rescue the sacrificed woman during the dark night of her torture. Nor does God punish Gibeah with a fiery storm. The Israelite armies must do it themselves, after sustaining heavy casualties.

Why is Sodom so infamous yet so misunderstood?

Why is it then that the story of Sodom had such a long afterlife? How does it come to be misread so systematically and for so many centuries?

The beginning of an answer lies precisely in the dramatic and total divine judgment executed on the city and its neighbors.

The sin of Sodom wasn’t men having sex with other men.

Their sin was xenophobia: the abuse, degradation, and violation of others, STRANGERS—the same sin as the men of Gibeah committed—although the Gibeahites raped a woman.

The Sodom story has taken on a life of its own because of the fiery judgment it ends with. This makes it imperative that it be interpreted correctly and not misread as it has been and continues to be to this day.

So we must get back to Sodom, where we left Lot in the lurch with wicked citizens banging on the door.

What happens when the angels pronounce judgment? We’ll find out next time.

More information:

To read the full story, get my book, The Sin of Sodom: What the Bible Really Says About Why God Destroyed the Cities of the Plain, for Kindle and in trade paperback.
The Sin of Sodom cover