Torture and Abuse at Abu Ghraib Prison

abu-ghraib-leash

The Sodom Series, #8

Why did American soldiers—both men and women—abuse, torture, molest, and rape Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad in 2003?

As you ponder this question, follow these links with discretion:

Perhaps the people of Sodom had the same attitude and objectives as the U.S. soldiers at Baghdad Central Prison:

  • Primary: Interrogation—knowledge
  • Secondary: Sexual abuse—degradation

The kind of sex the inhabitants of Sodom wanted was not for sensual pleasure, but for domination, control, cruelty, humiliation, debasement, and abuse.

This kind of treatment isn’t about sex; it’s about racial and imperialistic arrogance that revels in the degradation of foreigners, outsiders, and strangers. It’s xenophobia. It’s the attitude fueling Trump’s Mexico border wall.

Sex as a weapon

In ancient cultures, forcing sex on other men was a way of besting them, of humiliating them and showing them who’s boss.

For instance, during war, besides raping the women and sometimes slaughtering children, victors cut off the garments of the defeated men, exposing their buttocks, and then chained them and paraded them through the streets to debase and humiliate them.

See:

In Ancient Athens, “male rape was employed to signify the victory over foreign enemies in war” (Michael Carden, Sodomy, 35).

Rather than representing sexual desire and erotic expression, rape is best understood as sexual violence intended to assert power or express anger…. [M]ale rapists are primarily heterosexual men…. … In Western society, then, male rape reinforces the heterosexuality of the rapist while casting that of the victim in doubt (Carden 33, emphasis mine).

Sometimes conquerors would rape the men—not because the perpetrators were gay or took passionate pleasure in homosexual acts—but because it was the ultimate humiliation to treat the enemy as women, who in that day were considered little more than property. In essence, it was a way of treating the abused men like slaves.

Among some macho heterosexual men today (as well as school children), the ultimate putdown is to call another guy a “fag.” In ancient times, it was to call a man a “woman” and to treat him like one sexually.

Rape, a tactic of degradation

Did the abusive soldiers at Abu Ghraib do what they did because they all had a homosexual orientation?

Did they strip and molest prisoners of both sexes because they were otherwise incapable of healthy sexual relations with a person they cared about?

abu_ghraib_thumbs_up
Lynndie England and fiance Charles Graner posing behind a pyramid of naked Iraqi prisoners, giving the “thumbs up” sign.

In both Sodom and Baghdad, the horrible acts that took place were not expressions of a gay orientation.

In ancient Babylonian sex-divination texts, anal sex is regarded as a power relationship by which the penetrator is either advanced or diminished according to the status of the men he penetrates. … [I]n the ancient Mediterranean world, the act of penetrating other males did not stigmatize the penetrator and that male-male anal sex was considered an act of aggression by which the penetrated male is feminized by the penetrator. … [H]e also notes that male rape was employed as a form of punishment (Carden 31, emphasis mine).

The people of Sodom weren’t looking for recreational sex with the angels. They wanted to perpetrate a violent act of humiliation and abuse visiting strangers who, as a class, they had no respect for. Rape was only the means to degradation.

Ostensibly, this was Sodom’s common practice, and the cities of the Plain had structured their entire society around it. Their degrading behavior was the opposite of the righteous hospitality that Abraham and Lot showed these outsiders.

[T]he incident clearly indicates that strangers may not be welcome, or have no rights, in Sodom. Attempted rape here is illustrative of the evils of inhospitality and abuse of outsiders that are typical of Sodom (Carden 21).

Like the misguided soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison, the crime of the people of Sodom wasn’t their sexual orientation, but their xenophobic prejudice and shameless contempt for human rights and debasement of outsiders—individuals unlike themselves. (See Sodom’s Hatred of Strangers.)

When children are taken from their parents simply because they’ve crossed our national border, is the U.S. in danger of committing the sins of Sodom?

God commanded Israel, “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt” (Ex. 22:21 NIV). The people of Sodom flagrantly violated a value dear to the heart of God.

The Sodom and Gomorrah account is not the only one that deals with such ungodly mistreatment. To get to the ultimate meaning of the Genesis 19 account, we must study a similar passage in Judges 19. 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

Sodom’s Hatred of Strangers

Sodom

The Sodom Series, #7

Even if the citizens of Sodom did want to have sex with Lot’s mysterious visitors, what kind of sex is in question? The attitude of the mob gives us a clue.

But they replied [to Lot], “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow [Lot] came here as an alien, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near the door to break it down.
–GENESIS 19:9 NRSV

They cry, “Get out of our way!” These people are pushy, demanding. They accuse Lot of being an outsider, an alien, a foreigner.

Lot was an alien, an outsider

Alien is the Hebrew gûr, meaning “to turn aside from the road (for a lodging or for any other purpose), i.e., sojourn (as a guest); also to shrink, fear (as in a strange place); also to gather for hostility (as afraid)” (Strong’s, H1481).

The root word means to live among people who are not blood relatives; thus, rather than enjoying native civil rights, the ger was dependent on the hospitality that played an important role in the ancient near east; someone who did not enjoy the rights usually possessed by the resident(TWOT, 330, emphasis mine).

Remember what we originally learned from Abraham in episode 1?

  • Being hospitable to strangers is one way to demonstrate righteousness.
  • If you want to be righteous, make it your duty to establish rights for those who don’t have them.

Lot played the judge

The people of Sodom criticized Lot for “playing the judge.” Judge is shapat, meaning, “to pronounce sentence; by extension to govern” (Strong’s, H8199), and “to exercise the processes of government; to act as ruler; to decide cases of controversy as judge” (TWOT, 2443).

It seems the citizens of Sodom resent Lot because he is making decisions, taking authority where he has none. He is showing hospitality to and protecting sojourning strangers—AGAINST THE CUSTOMS OF THE CITY. The people of Sodom don’t like this.

Lot’s insistence on protecting his visitors according to the divine code of hospitality angers the residents of Sodom. Their values are obviously at odds.

They point out that he came to their city as a sojourner—someone who has no rights in their estimation—but who is now putting on airs to act as a judge and ruler by setting policy concerning how visitors are treated (by preventing them from being mistreated).

Note well their mistrust, hostility, and disrespect of foreigners and their prejudice against outsiders—the antithesis of Abraham’s and Lot’s behavior toward strangers. It seems the people plan to treat these visitors as violently as they have treated all other visitors, perhaps those whose anguished outcry God had heard.

A possible scenario

Lot whisked two visiting strangers from the city gate to his home. He refuses to turn them over to the mob.

The people of Sodom perhaps perceive the visitors as hostile, consider them to be spies. Maybe they think Lot is trying to subvert their city. (They appear to have been at odds with Lot about the subject before this.) They want to learn who the visitors are and examine their credentials.

They are highly disturbed upon hearing the rumors that apparently spread like wildfire through the city. Because of this, they become violent and threaten to “deal worse” (ra‘a, evil) with Lot than with his visitors.

What do the people do?

The mob “pressed hard”—with exceeding vehemence—against Lot, attacking him to break down the door.

What do the citizens want? If they are simply lusting for recreational sex, why are they so menacing?

Why do they threaten to harm Lot? If he has lived there for some time, why haven’t they harmed him before this? (Or have they?)

These people are angry, abusive, and violent. But for what reason?

The crucial questions to ask about this passage are:

  • Why do the inhabitants of Sodom threaten to harm Lot and abuse his guests?
  • What is their motivation?

We can discover answers by looking closer to home, at least in time.

If only we could say the answer to Sodom’s behavior is a thing of the ancient past. Unfortunately, it is still happening today. We’ll learn more next episode.

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

The Value of Lot’s Daughters

Lot's Daughters

The Sodom Series, #6

People demanding to see the two visitors pound at Lot’s door in Sodom. Lot confronts them and offers something else of value to them.

“Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”
–GENESIS 19:8 NRSV

Present-day followers of Jesus may wonder about the propriety of Lot exposing his virgin daughters to potential violence and abuse. This is obviously another area where the values of ancient cultures differ drastically from ours today.

Near Eastern societies of 4000 years ago valued men and their honor much more highly than that of women. Even St. Augustine, born in the fourth century A.D., wrote, “The body of a man is as superior to that of a woman as the soul is to the body” (De Mend. 7.10).

As shocking as this sounds, we must realize that the equality of females is only a recent development in the history of humankind. Thank God. See Gal. 3:28.

During ancient times, women were considered to be property—see Exodus 22:16–17; Deuteronomy 22:28–29. Daniel Helminiak points out:

In the mind of the Hebrew Testament, adultery is not an offense against a woman nor against the intimacy of marriage nor against the inherent requirements of sex. Adultery is an offense against justice. Adultery offends the man to whom the woman belongs. Adultery is the misuse of another man’s property (What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality, 49, emphasis mine).

The perceived worth and honor of men trumped that of women in the ancient world, but the honor of guests trumped both.

The laws of hospitality demanded that Lot protect the male honor of his guests; in that age it was better that women be raped than men. Lot protected his visitors, offering his own daughters to appease the mob.

Yet, are the citizens of Sodom simply demanding some new flesh for their sexual pleasure?

The only consideration that points to any sexual desire on the part of Sodom’s citizens is Lot’s offering them his daughters, which they refuse. But it is the most valuable bribe he could make to appease the hostile crowd.

Such an action is unthinkable in modern Western society, but females, and especially female children, held low status in the ancient world. “[E]ven in the more ‘civilized’ Roman world: Ammianus Marcellinus recounts… where the Roman consul Tertullus offers his children to an angry crowd to save himself. There is no sexual interest of any sort in the incident” (Boswell, 95).

Why did the people of Sodom hate strangers so much that they wanted to abuse them? We’ll learn why 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

Lot Answers the Door

Lot Answers the Door

The Sodom Series, #5

The inhabitants of Sodom are banging on Lot’s door, demanding that he bring out the mysterious visitors he is hosting.

6 Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him,
7 and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly.”
–GENESIS 19:6–7 NRSV

Lot goes out to them, shutting the door behind himself, thus denying the citizens access to his visitors.

Because of the Eastern code of hospitality, Lot is duty-bound to protect his guests. This code of hospitality among ancient Arab and Semitic peoples was so strict—considered sacred—that no one was permitted to harm even an enemy who had been offered shelter for the night (NIV Study Bible).

(See Deuteronomy 23:3-4 for an indication of how God feels about those who refuse to offer hospitality.)

Lot appeals to them as brothers, in Hebrew, ah, meaning “brother, relative, fellow countrymen, friend, neighbor” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 62a).

He begs them not to “act so wickedly.” The Hebrew ra‘a means “to spoil; to be good for nothing; to be bad physically, socially, or morally; to afflict; to do harm” (Strong’s, H7489).

We can understand the essential meaning of ra‘a by its frequent juxtaposition with the word tob, meaning “good.” Moses said, “‘See, I have set before you today life and good [tob], death and evil [ra‘a]’” (Deut. 30:15 NKJV).

Lot apparently recognizes what the people are really there for. How would he know this, if not by previous experience?

What do the citizens really want?

Apparently, word has spread that two foreign visitors—strangers—have come to their city.

We can’t be sure whether the people of Sodom merely want to know more about the guests, but we learn they are unhappy about the visit and about Lot’s behavior toward the sojourners.

From previous experience, Lot seems to know what the citizens of Sodom want with the strangers in their midst, and he realizes he must appease the people. He says,

“Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”
–GENESIS 19:8 NRSV

Instead of his visitors, Lot offers to send out his two daughters “who have not known [yada] a man [îsh].” In this context the meaning of yada indicates the knowledge of intimacy that leads to sexual relations; Lot’s daughters were unmarried virgins, although they were betrothed (Gen. 19:14).

The word for man here is îsh, meaning “a man as an individual or a male” (Strong’s, H376). (Note that this word îsh was not used previously to describe the “men” of Sodom, because the writer was referring to people in general, enôsh.)

Lot says the people of Sodom could do with his daughters what “is good [tob] in your eyes.” Of these people it could be said, “Woe to those who call evil [ra‘a] good [tob] and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness…” (Isa. 5:20 HCSB).

Lot begs, “Only do nothing to these men,” enôsh (people), referring to the angelic visitors, “for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” For means because. It is translated in the REB as “on this account.”

Because these visitors have taken shelter under his roof, they are protected by the divine code of hospitality by which Lot and Abraham lived.

The Lord was already inclined to punish Sodom before the angels arrived (see Gen. 13:13; 18:20–23). He considered inhospitality toward strangers a serious sin. (See Deut. 23:3–4; Job 29:16; 31:32; Matt. 25:35; Heb. 13:2). Boswell states,

It should be remembered, moreover, that in the ancient world inns were rare outside of urban centers, and travelers were dependent on the hospitality and goodwill of strangers not just for comfort but for physical survival. Ethical codes almost invariably enjoined hospitality on their adherents as a sacred obligation (96).

Church father Origen points out Lot’s only righteous act:

Hear this, you who close your homes to guests! Hear this, you who shun the traveler as an enemy! Lot lived among the Sodomites. We do not read of any other good deeds of his: …he escaped the flames, escaped the fire, on account of one thing only. He opened his home to guests. The angels entered the hospitable household; the flames entered those homes closed to guests. (Homilia V in Genesim [PG, 12:188–189]).

Lot offers hospitality and protection for his guests but offers the brutish Sodomites his daughters. We’ll discover why 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

Sodom’s Welcome Committee

Sodom's welcome committee

The Sodom Series, #4

Two angels are invited to Lot’s home for a feast and to spend the night. But there’s a knock at the front door…

4 But before [Lot and his visitors] lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, ALL THE PEOPLE to the last man, surrounded the house;
5 and they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.”
GENESIS 19:4–5 NRSV

Before Lot, his family, and his honored guests lie down for sleep, “the men of the city” came.

Although the word men is used, in ancient cultures women, when present, were often not counted. For example, Matthew 14:21 mentions that, when Jesus fed the multitude with loaves and fishes, “The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children” (NIV).

Men in Genesis 19:4 is enôsh, which means “a mortal,” not a male individual (Strong’s H582), “‘man’ in the sense of ‘mankind’” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 136a).

Both old (zaqan), referring to men and women (Strong’s H2205), and young (naar), referring to boys, girls, and servants (Strong’s, H5288) show up.

All the people” means “people (as a congregated unit), collective troops or attendants” (Strong’s, H5971); “from the common Semitic root amam, meaning… people in general” (TWOT, 1640a). See Genesis 14:21.

The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates the phrase as “the whole population.” The KJV adds, “all the people from every quarter.” Quarter (qâtseh) means “extremity, border, edge, outmost coast” (Strong’s, H7097).

The citizens who showed up at Lot’s house were not only men. EVERYONE was included—the young and old, both males and females. They came from every part of the city, even from its outermost borders and extremities. Whatever reason they came for, it was something that every citizen of the city participated in.

Women and young people, as well men, gathered from the farthest parts of the city surrounded the house. All the people called out to Lot through the door, asking, “Where are the individuals who came to you tonight?”

Why?

So that we may “know” them

The New International Version and other translations use the phrase “so that we can have sex with them.” This is NOT found in other translations, nor is it in the Hebrew.

The correct translation is “so that we may know them,” as is translated in the New Revised Standard Version. See also Num. 31:17,35; Judg. 11:39; 1 Kings 1:4; 1 Sam. 1:19.

The Hebrew word yada, “to know” (Strong’s H3045) is used of knowledge in the vast majority of instances where some form of the word appears in the Old Testament. It “expresses a multitude of shades of knowledge gained by the senses” (TWOT, 848).

It is rarely used to refer to the act of intercourse, and in many of these instances where it is used in this sense, it pertains to intimacy of which sexual relations are only a part.

Knowledge, not sex

The word yada occurs 944 times in the Old Testament. Only ten times—1% of the occurrences—could it be said to refer to intercourse, and only heterosexual intercourse. It means to be acquainted with, to understand. For example, “The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not understand” (Isa. 1:3 NRSV).

In some Bible versions, yada is translated in Genesis 19:5 as “sex” because of the predetermined bias of biblical translation committees. Such bias can be determined by how yada is translated in its other uses, which more clearly refer to intimacy leading to sexual relations.

One such instance is Genesis 4:1: “Now Adam knew [yada] Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain” (NKJV). Most other English translations also use “knew” instead of “sex” in this verse.

Why is yada translated as “sex” in Genesis 19:5 where such a meaning is questionable, but translated as “knew” in its remaining its uses where sexual relations are obvious (Gen. 4:1)?

The Living Bible paraphrases this verse as, “Bring out those men to us so we can rape them.” This perhaps is closer to the intent of the citizens of Sodom, but it is a poor translation for yada.

Why wasn’t shakab used? Shakab means “to lie down for rest or sexual connection” (Strong’s, H7901). Whenever shakab is used in a sexual sense, it refers to illicit relations (TWOT, 2381). (See Gen. 19:32ff; 34:2,7; 35:22; Ex. 22:16; Deut. 22:22; 27:21; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; 1 Sam. 2:22; 2 Sam. 11:4.) But shakab was not used in connection to the citizens of Sodom; yada was used.

Certainly not gay sex

Considering that both male and female, young and old are among those making the request, translating yada in a sexual sense—and primarily as homosexual sex—is puzzling if not ludicrous. John Boswell admits, “[T]he sexual overtones to the story are minor, if present” (Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, 93).

Interpreting the citizens’ request as a demand for homosexual relations is not found in any pre-Christian Judaistic writings for the previous 2000 years; the first recorded instance of homosexual sex being connected to the Hebrew word yada is in the Jewish philosopher Philo’s Quaest. Et Salut. in Genesis IV.31–37, and Philo wrote during Jesus’ lifetime.

Since about the twelfth century A.D., this biblical story has been used to condemn homosexuality. The word sodomy was coined after the name of this city and the behavior of its inhabitants.

Today, biblical traditionalists claim and defend that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexual activity. But we must continue to examine this passage carefully as well as look at ALL the verses about Sodom in the Bible, which I do in The Sin of Sodom: What the Bible Really Says About Why God Destroyed the Cities of the Plain.

How does Lot respond to the threatening mob at his door? 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

Be Righteous, Do Justice, Show Hospitality

Abraham

The Sodom Series, #1

Abraham is the father of three faiths: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity (see Rom. 4:16; Gal. 3:7-9). The root of Abraham’s faith is belief in one God—a God who speaks.

The expression of this faith is hearing, believing, and doing God’s word, personally revealed.

22 You see that [Abraham’s] faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.
24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
–James 2:22-24 NIV

To be God’s friend, we must believe what God speaks to us. And then follow this faith with actions that befit the revelation. This is righteousness.

The Bible provides an example of this in Abraham’s reception of the three divine messengers in Genesis 18.

Entertaining angels

The Lord arrives at Abraham’s tent with two angels in the heat of the day. Abraham runs to them, bows low, and prepares a feast in a lavish show of hospitality (18:1-8).

The elaborate and generous hospitality of the Near and Middle East is known the world over, according to the Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler: “For the guest, nothing is too good and nothing too bothersome or difficult.” John Calvin wrote, this is “the hospitality of the holy man.”

Being hospitable to strangers is one way to demonstrate righteousness.

Hebrews 13:2 admonishes us, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (NRSV). It specifically says strangers—not family or relatives or friends or other believers.

Promoting righteousness and justice ensures blessings

Abraham did in fact entertain divine messengers.

Because of Abraham’s righteous ministry of hospitality, one of the visitors promises Abraham that his barren wife Sarah—now far past menopause at age 90—will bear him a son, the start of a nation of descendants. This one, called the Lord, takes Abraham into His confidence as a friend.

17 The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do,
18 seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
19 No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice; so that the Lord may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
–Genesis 18:16-19 ESV

To ensure we may receive what God promises, we must promote righteousness and justice.

The blessings of God—prosperity, growth, and expansion—are for those who promote righteousness and justice for everyone else, especially strangers*.

* For further study about strangers, see 1 Chronicles 29:15; Job 29:16, 31:32; Matthew 25:35.

Hospitality, righteousness, justice defined

Let’s define these words.

Hospitality: Webster defines hospitality as “Reception and entertainment of strangers or guests without reward, or with kind and generous liberality.” We see this in Abraham’s treatment of his divine visitors.

Righteousness: Being in right relationship to God by faith. (See Rom. 3:22; 4:5,9,11,13,22; 9:30; 10:6.) It means believing what God communicates to you and acting on it. Abraham believed what God told him and obeyed, and God counted this as righteousness: see Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:9; Gal. 3:6; Jas. 2:21–22.

Justice: Easton’s Bible Dictionary briefly defines justice as “rendering to every one that which is his due.” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia explains it like this: “Justice has primarily to do with conduct in relation to others, especially with regard to the rights of others. In a larger sense justice is not only giving to others their rights, but involves the active duty of establishing their rights.”

If you want to be righteous, make it your duty to establish rights for those who don’t have them.

Righteousness and justice are closely related* and are summed up in what Jesus calls the two greatest commandments: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt. 22:37–39 NIV).

*For further study about righteousness and justice, see 1 Kings 10:9; 2 Chronicles 9:8; Job 29:14; 37:23; Psalm 33:5; 72:2; 97:2; 106:3; Proverbs 2:9; 8:20; 21:3; Isaiah 1:27; 5:16; 9:7; 28:17; 32:1,16; 33:5; Jeremiah 9:24; 22:3,15; 23:5; 33:15; Hosea 2:19; Amos 5:24; Wisdom 5:18; 8:7.

Abraham’s lesson to us

What have we learned from Abraham in this encounter?

  • The importance of hospitality to strangers
  • The requirement of being righteous and doing justice to ensure the blessing of a family, nation, city, or any group of people

Who are the strangers in your midst? Look around; they could be the people you never really see.

Strangers could include your enemies. Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? … But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Luke 6:32a; Matt. 5:44-45 NIV).

Pick somebody you consider to be a stranger—outside your circle of friends and family—someone unlike you in social status, intelligence, faith, sexual orientation, political beliefs.

Then show them some love through a friendly smile, a word of encouragement, an expression of acceptance and understanding. For, in showing them righteous hospitality, you are being a friend to God.

Jesus said, “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me'” (Matt. 25:40 NIV).

More information:

This post was adapted from a portion of 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

When You Don’t Fit in at Church

Outcast

Ever feel like you don’t fit in at church? I did.

I was raised in conservative evangelicalism. My father was a pastor, and I spent a lot of time at church.

As an adolescent, I struggled with my faith because I expected it to “deliver” me from same-sex attraction, something that some religions consider to be aberrant and sinful—especially conservative Christianity.

I strayed from God during my college years but returned with a vengeance, committing my life to the Lord and Christian morality and service. I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. I was determined to conquer same-sex attraction with God’s grace.

I married a woman and started a Christian ministry and a publishing company. I continued to do everything in my power to allow God to work in me to “cure” me of same-sex attraction. I tried for nearly twenty years.

Prayer didn’t work. Fasting didn’t work. Deliverance didn’t work. A stint in reparative therapy left me hopeless and suicidal. I was still gay.

With the help of my wife, I realized I could no longer deny who I was just because the spiritual community I was part of held narrowly prescribed notions of what was acceptable, moral, and holy.

God hadn’t cured me because I wasn’t sick. Instead, I needed to come out of the closet.

Man in closet

As a result, we disbanded the ministry, divorced amicably, sold our house, and started over again. It was hard but ultimately freeing for both of us. (We’re still good friends.)

After I came out, I thought I had failed God and that God had abandoned me. But I experienced a sovereign visitation of the Holy Spirit, unexpected and powerful, and I received a new calling to leave the ninety-nine and find the one.

This led to another crisis: I needed to come out of the closet about my newfound spirituality.

You see, even while I was in the evangelical/charismatic Christian community, some of my spiritual gifts did not fit with their ideas of orthodoxy. For example, I saw visions of each of my grandparents after they had died. In my religious circle at the time, this was considered to be “of the devil.”

I heard God speaking to me in my heart and wrote down the messages but kept quiet about it. (“You hear voices?! Hmmm…”) I saw visions.

I had prophetic gifts. But I was gay and out.

I concluded that conservative Christianity as I had experienced it would not draw those seeking unconditional acceptance, especially LGBT people. I didn’t feel safe in those churches anymore. I knew I didn’t belong.

So, where could I turn to find genuine fellowship and be released to use my gifts? I had no idea where I would fit in.

I tried a number of churches but felt I was always denying myself or my unique gifts to belong to a particular group.

Either I needed to hide that I was Pentecostal and prophetic to fit in a church that accepted me as gay, or I had to pretend I was straight so that I could enjoy Pentecostal worship and an environment where the gifts of the Spirit operated.

I also wanted to teach and speak inspirationally but didn’t feel called to go to seminary (although I have a masters in biblical studies). I longed to use my spiritual gifts to minister to others instead of simply sitting and listening to endless sermons or participating in scripted religious activities.

Who would understand that I experienced dreams and visions, and heard the voice of the Holy Spirit, whose words I faithfully transcribed? Naturally, I also wanted to be open about and be accepted as a gay man.

I haven’t found the perfect church for me—yet.

I feel the Lord has called me to reach out to the marginalized, those who’ve been rejected by the Church or who simply feel like they don’t belong in an orthodox spiritual community. Let me ask you:

  • The Creator loves you and has a unique purpose for your life. Have you found it?
  • Are you disenchanted with organized religion but still want to cultivate a connection with God through Jesus Christ?
  • Are you hungry for more of the Holy Spirit and desire to be trained in spiritual ministry to others?

If what I’m saying resonates with you, and you want to connect, feel free to comment here or contact me.

In the meantime, you can connect with others like you through social media. Search for people using the hashtags #exvangelical and #FaithfullyLGBT on Facebook or Twitter. There are also organizations such as The Reformation Project and the Q Christian Fellowship where you can connect with others of faith who are LGBT.

“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherewith he hath made us freely accepted in his beloved” (Eph. 1:6 GNV).

Misfit toys

More information:
Check out my booklet, Response to a Concerned Heterosexual Christian, available on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle.

Zelophehad’s Daughters Were Right

Zelophehads Daughters

Did God account for every gender situation in the Bible?

No.

Does God make new rules?

Yes. Let’s learn why from Zelophehad’s daughters.

Moses counts the Israelites

Through Moses, God delivered the Israelite people from slavery in Egypt—you know, the whole Charlton Heston Ten Commandments thing: stubborn Pharaoh, ten plagues, the Passover, crossing the Red Sea, and traveling around the mountain for forty years.

In Numbers chapter 26, God directs Moses to take a census of the Israelites so that land could be divided among the sons of those who escaped from slavery in Egypt.

Did you get that?

SONS. Males, men, guys.

Then a peculiar situation arose.

Zelophehad’s daughters

1 The daughters of Zelophehad son of Hepher…, belonged to the clans of Manasseh son of Joseph. The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. They came forward
2 and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly at the entrance to the tent of meeting and said,
3 “Our father died in the wilderness. He… left no sons.
4 Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.”
–Numbers 27:1–4 NIV

Zelophehad, who died in the desert, had sired only daughters.

These four women approached Moses at the Tent of Meeting, the place where Moses met with God. This was a few thousand years before the 1970s and the Women’s Lib movement; in an ancient Middle Eastern culture, it was a bold act.

The women presented their situation to Moses: “Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.”

5 So Moses brought their case before the Lord,
6 and the Lord said to him,
7 “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them.
8 “Say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies and leaves no son, give his inheritance to his daughter.
9 If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers.
10 If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers.
11 If his father had no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative in his clan, that he may possess it. This is to have the force of law for the Israelites, as the Lord commanded Moses.’”
–Numbers 27:5-11 NIV

God makes new rules

Ponder these intriguing points:

  • When God told Moses that land was to be divided among the sons of the Israelites, didn’t God know that Zelophehad had only daughters?

    If not, then God is not omniscient—a biggie among divine attributes, along with omnipotence and omnipresence.

  • If the situation where a couple bore only daughters was inherently wrong in God’s plan, then why did God not design genetics to work so that a son was always born—so that all God’s rules of inheritance could be followed?

    This is silly, of course; we know it’s not inherently wrong that a couple bears only daughters—it’s merely one possible outcome because of how genetics do work.

  • If God knew there was a family in Israel that had only daughters and God had not misdesigned genetics to break the rules of property inheritance, then why did God not mention this special case in the first place when initially handing down the laws of property inheritance?

    Did God forget, make an oversight, was the fine print too small to chisel in stone?

Consider this:

When a class of people with a special circumstance brought their case before the Lord, God confirmed that they were right, and added a special exception to account for it (see vv. 8–11). God said this decision, previously unaccounted for, was to become a new legal requirement.

Based on God’s own fairness and unchanging nature, God still does this today. GOD MAKES NEW RULES!

Exceptional situations occur because of how genetics work. This includes 3.5% or more of the population being born gay, lesbian, or bisexual. This possibility happens through genetics, which the Creator designed.

Why? Because God doesn’t know about these situations, or doesn’t care about the people they affect?

Of course not.

Predicated on our understanding of God’s goodness, fairness, and character, we must make our own decisions concerning such situations that arise in the course of human development based on the love and acceptance of God.

Will you accept like God accepts?

Should LGBTQ+ people be denied an inheritance in God’s kingdom? Zelophehad’s daughters weren’t. God accepted them and gave them an inheritance among God’s people.

Acceptance is what LGBTQ+ people need today—not continued judgment and rejection by those who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ, the only One who never turned anybody away.

to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
–Ephesians 1:5 NKJV

More information:
This post is taken from Response to a Concerned Heterosexual Christian