Short Story – The Sodomite
by MW Cook
This is a new one. I’ve been wanting to write it for a while but was never really able to make it work until just now. And I think it works now. It’s a bit of an exercise in trying to understand myself and my thoughts about life, Jesus and everything good. I was raised in a very conservative religious environment and have been moving toward something different over the past few years. The Sodomite is a bit of a parody of some very popular modern Christian parables linking the idea of substitutional atonement with a judge condemning a guilty crook and then serving his sentence. Anyway, enjoy it and pass it alone!
Matt, your story is creative and gives lots to think about. I’m curious how you think the person in your story does get out of their predicament. It appears that they just need to clean up their life, but that seems rather hopeless in the story.
I also wonder why the sins of the daughters of Sodom are being focused on. Ezekiel definitely says how the women were sinning (pride, not caring for the poor etc), but the men were the ones whose sins came to light when the angels visited the city. And their sin was most definitely sexual. It wasn’t merely that they weren’t being hospitable to the angels…hopefully I don’t have to elaborate more than that!! Jude 1:7 says “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” Your verses from Ezekiel are part of the reason for judgment but surely they can’t be considered the whole reason, unless you are only willing to use one verse and not the rest of Scripture.
Having said all that, I know you are sorting out many things as you write, so thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really liked the part about taking God’s name in vain. Dishonouring God’s name by wearing it poorly is a serious thing and this was a good reminder.
I don’t know if he does get out of it. He’s me, after all :) It’s a little postmodern so it doesn’t have much of a conclusion.
As to Sodom, well I always figured Ezekiel was listing the sins of those nations by personifying them as three sisters. Never really thought about it referring to the women living there.
Ya, it’s definitely personifying the sins (agree with you there), but what I’m saying is that we can’t take the sins of these “women” (personified or not) and say that nullifies the sin of the men of Sodom (ie. sodomy). That is still what they were judged for. Sexual immorality/perversion was a huge part of it and the whole reason Israel is condemned in Ez. 16 is because she is MORE perverted than Sodom. (The chapter is pretty nasty, to be honest.)
Anyway, Todd is right…it’s a good story and we want you to ‘bring ‘er home’. :)
“Sexual immorality/perversion was a huge part of it and the whole reason Israel is condemned in Ez. 16 is because she is MORE perverted than Sodom. (The chapter is pretty nasty, to be honest.)”
I could be wrong, but I think the sexual sins are a metaphor in Ezekiel 16, kind of like Israel being a bloody baby, or a naked chick, or married to God.
Good effort here, but I have to agree with Steph. Sodomy refers to homosexuality – that is, the extent and consistency of the practice of “butt-sex” by men in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah was such that the name became a by-word.
On a more literary level, I think your ending could use some work. To say “it doesn’t have much of a conclusion” and defend this lack with the label post-modern is rather glib. You wrote compelling stuff about the nature of Christianity and managed to put into fresh word our misunderstanding of many facets. Bring it home for us.
The etymology seems to show that sodomy didn’t begin to mean homosexuality until ~1000 years ago, yet you seem to be arguing that the Bible prescribes the use of the word “Sodomy” for homosexuality. The Bible does not prescribe such a usage any more than it prescribes the use of the word “Christian” to label a disciple of Jesus. What you seem to be doing is taking the descriptive passage in Genesis and using it to trump the clear words of Ezekiel in diagnosing the main problems of Sodom.
Also, I don’t think this does need any more of an ending. We must write the ending of the story with our lives. Do we continue to live as Sodomites? Or do we actually sacrifice something to help the poor?
What about Jude 1:7, though? “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” That is clearly a “prescriptive” verse. Sodom is an example for us!
Genesis seems on first glance to be descriptive, but the story clearly condemns what went on in the city because God sent such severe judgment on all but Lot’s family (they were only saved because of Abraham’s intercession). When the Bible condemns something that a person or a people group does in that way, the story is more than just descriptive; it becomes prescriptive. You could say the same for the flood, Israel being invaded and many other similar stories. When a story is descriptive, it means that no commentary is offered about God’s opinion on the behaviour of the people in the story, so we shouldn’t make assumptions and either follow or avoid their behaviour. However, this isn’t the case for Sodom. It’s clearly more than just a description of behaviour that God isn’t commenting on.
The Ezekiel verse is one verse in a chapter that is filled with references to perversity and unfaithfulness. This is probably referencing Israel’s adoption of pagan worship. They weren’t just unfaithful to God-there was a very perverse “style” of worship that the pagans used and it usually involved sex. So it’s a metaphor, but it’s more than that, because just as Israel as a whole is unfaithful, the people one by one are unfaithful and perverse too. That’s what I was trying to get at earlier, Nate.
There are 47 references to Sodom in the Bible and that is the only one that references how we treat the poor. Not that it isn’t important, but a Sodomite has never been understood to have anything to do with that. Not in the days of Genesis, and not today. Regardless of the etymology of the word in English (which can only be as old as the English language itself, of course), the city of Sodom has always been linked to sexual sin, not to their lack of compassion for the poor. So why change the term? I”m just not sure what is gained by doing this in the story, other than shock value and a title that begs to be noticed.
In your closing line you write off Matt as someone who just wants to be noticed. Seriously? He`s just in it for the shock value? That`s a serious charge. What if Matt just wants people to value things the way God values things? In God`s economy, it seems like pride and selfishness weigh up a whole lot heavier than sexual deviancy.
Quick comment: in Jude 7 it says “Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities…serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire“. So that was eternal fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah? Which fire do they use in hell then, because that eternal fire seems to have gone out – I mean, it killed the people and then it stopped, right? It`s just that I`m a bit confused about how eternal punishment crowd justifies the use of the term “eternal fire“`in this location, when the fire didn`t actually last forever. We can leave that for another day though.
Another confusing part of Jude: If God is keeping “the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority…in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day“, then what`s with all the demons freakin out in the New Testament? Who are they?
All that to say, Jude is far from a cut and dried, easily understandable book, in the light of other scriptures, and especially in the light of theologies that men have built up. Were Sodom and Gomorrah sexually perverse: sure. Was that what God was the most mad about? I`m not so sure about that.
Why should we change the definition? Because it better fits the things God actually cares about. Jesus didn`t spend any time railing against sexual sin, except that going on among the religious elite. Does that mean sexual sin isn`t a problem? No, it means helping the poor is more on God`s heart than smiting the sexually perverse.
Why should we change the meaning of “sodomy“? Many reasons, all of them rooted in how Jesus talked about sex in the gospels, and how it didn`t seem to be as big a deal to him compared to other things, like pride and selfishness.
There only seems to me to be three times in the gospels that Jesus addresses sexual sin. In the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5), when he is addressing divorce (Matthew 19, Mark 10, Luke 16), and when he tells the woman caught in adultery to “go and sin no more“ (John 8).
In the Matthew 5 example, interestingly enough, Jesus does the same thing Matt did; he redefines the meaning of adultery. Previously adultery had meant physical sexual infidelity (except when used metaphorically for Israels spiritual infidelity). Now Jesus is not using it metaphorically, nor is he using it traditionally. Jesus gives a new meaning to the word adultery. It is the act of lust in the heart. He does the same thing with murder – “murder is anger“. Everyone is getting all fussed up about Matt changing sodomy`s definition, as if that is a central part of our faith, but they don`t really realize what they are accepting when they say that they accept everything Jesus said.
Let`s move on to the divorce situation. What Jesus is addressing in Luke 16 and Mark 10 is the sin of religious people. It is easy to take this out of context as a bludgeon for the single mothers, prostitutes, and gay people of our time, but what Jesus is referring to is religious people sinning, not people in the world. The only proper application of these passages is to clean house in the church, rather than tolerating sin in the name of “loving the church“.
Finally, most scholars agree that the `woman caught in adultery scene probably wasn`t in the original`, but we keep it because we like it. Whether or not it`s actually scripture in the way that the rest of the texts surrounding it are, Jesus condemnation sounds a little on the soft side to me. “Don`t sin anymore“. Of course, some people might say those words in their mind in an angry and harsh tone, but knowing Jesus as I do, I imagine they were spoken (if they were spoken at all) in a gentle and loving tone.
All in all, the above is hardly the litany of details and haranguing what we would expect if Jesus had anything like the viewpoint of most evangelicals. It seems like God`s mind is not like our mind, and his thoughts are not like our thoughts.
Oh, I just realized that you might bring up John 4, the story of the Samaritan woman, as an example of Jesus condemning promiscuity. Please read the story again. Jesus does not condemn the women, he doesn`t even refer to her actions as sins, he just points them out. That can in no way be extrapolated to the present day practice of telling non-Christians what their sins are. The SPIRIT tells people what their sins are, and we can have our own personal convictions, but unless we are calling out OTHER CHRISTIANS (like Paul clearly says in 1st Corinthians 5), we aren`t allowed to point out sin.
Nate, it would probably take several long posts to address all that you’ve said here and the way you’ve used various Bible passages to make your point (all ones that I’ve studied in years past). I’m not really in the mood for a discussion about areas where you’ve already made up your mind, or going into issues that are not related to Matt’s post. I appreciate the time you’ve taken to reply, but my questions are for Matt.
Matt, you’re totally free to redefine words any way you want (that’s what a post-modern story is all about, after all). However, I am still not sure what is to be gained. Does calling us all sodomites change our hearts? (Afterall, who can’t identify with at least buying things at Walmart? :))) Are people more inspired to help the poor by being branded with a label usually reserved for a totally different sin? I don’t know. I can only speak personally, but for me, seeing others give sacrificially is what inspires me. Hearing that a church in Haiti gave to help churches in Japan (out of their extreme poverty) is extremely motivating. http://churcheshelpingchurches.com/2011/05/10/when-little-goes-a-long-way/ Hearing a woman pray last night that we would not just read the Word but take our resources and provide the word to people in other countries motivates me because I know she has very little. Stories in the Bible like the widow’s mite or the boy’s loaves and fishes..they motivate me and soften my heart.
Matt, I know your heart is in the right place and you want people to have soft hearts towards the poor. That is such an amazing goal. Examine everything in light of that goal and if I’m wrong and this fits with your goals, just ignore all that I’ve said. But if it doesn’t fit with your goals, maybe there’s a way to re-write it and still accomplish some of what you want to do. Just thinking out loud.
Not actually trying to do do anything here. The story is an expression of myself and the way I find the world looking today. Not trying to sway or convince people of how I see the world. Just showing people how I see the world.
Fair enough, Matt. I can’t see myself posting a story that redefines a commonly used word without having expectations that my story will have some influence on people’s perception of that word. But that’s your call, for sure.
[…] The Sodomite – May 26. Another short story. […]