If God rained down death to Sodom and everyone in it through torrents of burning sulfur—literally hell-fire and brimstone—in wrath-filled judgement of a perverted society as Genesis 19 tells it, then we better watch out, because we may be next… but it’s not because of legalizing gay marriage, as you may have been told.
We explore this more in our latest Bible resource on Sodom & Gomorrah from Soulforce. But in the meantime, here’s what you need to know:
Sodom was a place with abundant resources, yet they were selfish and greedy—“overfed and unconcerned”—reports the prophet Ezekiel. They did not care for the sick and the poor, even though there was enough infrastructure to provide good accessible healthcare for all and enough food and money to provide for the basic needs of all the people. They actually encouraged discrimination against immigrants and refugees. Moreover, they were arrogant and those in power thought themselves untouchable and unaccountable for the conditions of violence, domination, and rape culture that were pervasive in their land.
Needless to say, God was not happy. In fact, God was outraged. What a slap in the face when so many blessings had been given to the people of Sodom! Abraham had family there, and stepped in to talk God down from blowing the whole place to pieces.
Instead of certain death for everyone, Abraham negotiated a deal that God would let everyone live if there were even 10 people in Sodom who were living into God’s covenant with the Hebrew people to care for others just as they had been cared for when God delivered them out of enslavement in Egypt.
To put it another way, out of an entire metropolis, if there had been even 10 people who were brave enough to go against the tide of violence and fear, to do the right thing in spite the risks, to empower the marginalized, to take care of those who need support, to protect the vulnerable, and provide for the basic needs of all the people regardless of country of origin, sexual orientation, sex, gender expression, age, ability, class or race, then all the people of Sodom would have lived.
Alas, Genesis says there were not even 10, and everyone perished at the hands of a very angry God.
There are many questionable events in the 19th chapter of Genesis, both on the part of the people and on the part of God, and I don’t know how many readers will take the narrative as a viable parable or historical fact.
But one thing is clear: the crimes of Sodom (which you can find explicitly described in Ezekiel 16:49-50) mirror the conditions of our own nation, and I pray and labor to live in such a way as to be counted among the righteous when God comes to call.
P.S. The story of Sodom & Gomorrah is NOT actually about homosexuality. There is actually no homosexual love or reports of prior occurrences of homosexual sex in the entire narrative. There may be some lessons to glean from this passage, but the morality of consensual sex acts or loving same-sex relationships between willing partners is not one of them. Rape and xenophobia, on the other hand, are both relevant and applicable to Sodom back in the day and to us right here and now.