On the Sordid Tale of Lot in Sodom, or Why I Want the Supreme Court to Strike Down DOMA, Part 1

In case you were ever curious, this is a short summary of one of the parts of the Bible (Genesis, chapter 19) that our Christian friends and neighbors are citing in order to continue to pass judgment about homosexuality: 

The apparently sex-crazed men of Sodom try to break down Lot's door to get access to the new-in-town male visitors Lot is putting up for the night. I'm quoting here. Lot says, "I beg you my brothers, not to do this wicked thing. I have two daughters who have never had intercourse with men. Let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you please. But don't do anything to these men, for you know they have come under the shelter of my roof."

The wicked men refuse Lot's (c'mon, VERY generous) offer, and God's spokesmen reveal that the town will be smote in short order.

God offers to save Lot, his wife and daughters. Lot's wife looks back toward the town as it is being destroyed, and in what appears to be punishment for this action, she is turned into a pillar of salt. Reasonable.

Lot's daughters realize there are no men left to reproduce with (not that the men of Sodom seemed all that interested in the first place), so in turn and over the course of two nights, they get Lot drunk--SO drunk in fact, he doesn't even notice when his own daughters "lie with him" (ahem, *rape* him), causing them each to become pregnant with their father's child.

What the hell?! I read this in my Grandmother's Bible (Nelson's New American Version, 1971), not some goofy Jon Stewart version of the Bible meant to poke fun at the idea that this is the family at the center of much of our nation's stance on a very prominent and controversial question on morality. (And please, don't anybody bother to tell me it's a translation problem or that Catholic publishers have it all wrong. I read two other versions as well.)

I am aghast. 

I can't believe it's taken me this long to go directly to the source to read just EXACTLY HOW INSANE this story is. I must have read it back when I was a teenager...back when I was trying to figure out just how I felt about the religion in which I was raised. But somehow the details were lost.

In my memories of those sorting-out times, this is what stuck:

When I was in high school I had two close friends who were gay (two that I knew of anyway--I've since learned I had a number of other gay friends whose sexual preferences were unknown to me at the time). Both of my gay friends were out of the proverbial closet with close friends, but not necessarily at large. This was the 1990's in Arizona, after all; they weren't naming too many monuments after Harvey Milk in those parts.

At the same time, I was getting very involved in my church in advance of my Confirmation. I was studying and being lectured to and confessing and asking and preaching and wearing a big-ass crucifix around my neck to school because some woman who ministered to the youth at my church told me if I was too embarrassed to do so, I was a bad Christian.

I kept trying to reconcile the church's stance on homosexuality with my own love for my gay friends, my knowledge of and belief in their good characters, and just the absolute unfairness of life, if God created them only to suffer in guilt and in shame.

I decided I didn't believe it. I didn't believe that homosexuality was a sin, or that, excuse me, *acting on homosexual desires* was a sin. And then I thought, 'well I can't just pick and choose. If I don't believe that part of the doctrine, I can't believe that Christianity is the One Truth and Way. Who am I, this 17-year-old, to take a red pen to the WORD OF GOD?!'

Gone: baby, bathwater.

I never looked back. I will never ever believe that God judges unfavorably those who are attracted to members of their same sex. I will never believe that God thinks less of love or even just sexual attraction between two consenting men or women.

And I'll go further than that. With every part of my being, I think if you still believe homosexuals should be denied rights to an institution central to most Americans' idea of the pursuit of happiness? You are wrong.

You are wrong.
You are wrong.
You are wrong.

You are especially wrong if you are basing this belief upon the ridiculous story of Lot in Sodom. Really. With a straight face?

An overwhelming majority of people one generation younger than mine already agree that you are wrong, and soon we will scarcely remember a time when people were so close-minded and singularly exclusive.

We will think of our country's former policies on the matter as novel and quaint, the way we think of elderly people who continue to use the word "colored."

We will wonder what the big deal was, what the fuss was about, who cared? We will think of the authors of DOMA like we now think of the producers of Reefer Madness: fear mongers who don't seem to have ever met a human involved in the activities being railed against.

You don't have to take my word for it, though. Time will certainly tell.

Out of curiosity, I opened the Bible to the Old Testament again to see what else I could glean (from Leviticus):
"This is the ritual for guilt offerings, which are most sacred: At the place where holocausts are slaughtered, there also, before the Lord, shall the guilt offering be slaughtered. Its blood shall be splashed on the sides of the altar. All of its fat shall be taken from it and offered up: the fatty tail, the fatty membrane over the inner organs, as well as the two kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the lobe of the liver, which must be severed above the kidneys. All this the priest shall burn on the altar as an oblation to the Lord."
I know a lot is made of this. People ask: who is to say what from the Old Testament was just for the time, and what was meant to be observed from then on? I've never heard a satisfactory response, which is why I'm bringing it up again.

Perhaps the Lord was disgusted by Sodom because EVERY LAST SEX-CRAZED MAN OF THE TOWN was ready to beat down Lot's door to get to the fresh meat. It sounds like a scene from The Wicker Man. Yes, I'd be disgusted by a mob of rapists as well. But what do we make of Lot's offer to give up his own daughters to this crazed mob in order to protect a few men he just met?  (Let's not even touch on the irony of Christians criticizing Islam's approach toward women, given this action on Lot's part and so many other sexist Biblical scenes). These were no ordinary homosexuals and this was no ordinary father.

I can't be convinced there's a widely relate-able, healthy life message to be learned there.

And I want to say this to all the Christians I've surely offended: I understand that the vast majority of you are not disgusted by, hurtling insults at, wishing ill upon, or deliberately trying to trample upon the rights of homosexuals. Most of you know some homosexuals by now and you understand that they are just normal humans, walking around, doing their thing.

Because of your belief in the Christian God and the book that accompanies that belief, you feel compelled to stand up for a "traditional" version of marriage; it would be going against your moral code to do otherwise. I really do understand that.

But I do want to say this: it is offensive to the logic and the humanity of the rest of us to base any part of a stance against homosexuality upon this tale. It is insulting, and now that I've actually read the story, I'm appalled that it would ever be cited. Yes, I realize that the book of Leviticus also quotes God as saying that two men lying together are an abomination. It also says they "shall surely be put to death." Are we really going to continue with these guidelines while ignoring so much of the rest of what the Bible has to say about what people should and should not be doing?!

If we must base our morals upon the Bible, why not look to the loving messages of Jesus in the New Testament? Love your neighbor as yourself. He that is without sin among you...let him first cast a stone. These are messages worthy of holding onto. These are the peaceful messages that will bring us together as brothers and sisters. THIS is what our shared humanity calls us to do.

But again, don't take my word for it. We have the Supreme Court to take care of the legal aspect. My hope is that the rulings to come this week will start us on the right path. Maybe change will come through the back door; change the laws and eventually the hearts and minds will follow.

I have absolute confidence the day will come.


The One-Day Wish

I know a 12-year-old boy who talks in that way that 6th graders, not yet all the way jilted or closed off, are sometimes given to: un-self consciously, without filters. The week before Valentine's Day (in response to my queries about his crushes and what he was planning to do about them) he explained to me, in a very serious and educational manner, how these things work. He told me what you do and what you don't just go and DO (duh.). Ultimately, he conveyed that it's complicated.


I could listen to him for days. Not when he's talking about video games probably. Maybe not when he's talking about LEGO kits. But when he's talking about life and his thoughts on it and how he sees things? I could let him go on and on.

While I can remember the events--the traumas and the minor victories of the middle school years, it is very difficult to put myself back in the mindset. It's hard to remember there was a time when running out of hair gel in the morning was enough to visibly dishearten and dismay; it's hard to remember that such simple troubles could ever have loomed so large.

So in a way, listening to and talking with the "tween" in question borders on therapy for me. The incredibly transitory nature of some of the problems that concern him most remind me that all problems and stages and heartaches are, indeed, transitory--even at my age. And he reminds me of the time when I had no idea that 95% of my limitations were self-inflicted.

He is still totally open to the experience of it--to the absolute possibility of life.

The other day, this boy asked me what I would wish for if I knew the wish, when granted, would only last for one single day. He's good at this: these hypothetical scenario or Would You Rather-type questions. And this was a difficult one. No single experience I could imagine seemed worthy of the wish's potential promise.

After some thought, I told him that I would wish to live a day in the experience of my actualized self. I explained to him a simplified version of the concept of an "actualized" self: the person you would be if you were doing everything you were born to do--utilizing and sharing your talents, thriving, living in absolute accord with your heart's desires and within your moral code, being your full, fierce, fearless self.

I said I felt if I could see what I was engaged in on that day--what I was doing for work and how I was spending my time--maybe I'd have an idea how to get there from where I am now. I would stop in the middle of that day and likely say to myself, "Of course. Of course this is what I was born to do." The thought of getting to that point is exhilarating. But the short cut aspect of getting there via One Day Wish, while appealing, feels like cheating.

I will get there, though.

I asked my young friend what he thinks his actualized self would be doing. He said he had no idea. I asked him what he's good at and what he loves to do most. He said he doesn't think he really knows yet. Good for him. That just means that ALL the doors are still all the way open for him. He will try some things and love them, some for all of 12 seconds, some for years. And all along the way he will get to know himself better, and he will decide who and what he is here to offer this world.

His asking the question reminded me that the same remains true for me, and for you, too.