In response to New York marriage equality, post-mortem televangelist Pat Robertson has come out strong with a warning: America is defying God, and it could be facing his wrath, much like the ancient city of Sodom that the Bible alleges God destroyed with “fire and brimstone.”
This isn’t the first time that Robertson has made such claims. Only two days after 9/11, Robertson conducted an interview with the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, in which Robertson agreed with Falwell that America got “probably what we deserved” and that “God was mad” at America because of its tolerance for the ACLU, abortion, and, of course, gays and lesbians (video).
In making his current case, Robertson continues to make the biblically erroneous argument that have been used for years against homosexuals; the idea that homosexuality was the factor that led God to destroy the city of Sodom:
“I think we need to remember the term sodomy came from a town known as Sodom and Sodom was destroyed by God Almighty and the thing that they practiced was homosexual activity and even they tried to rape angels who came down there, so that’s the kind of people they were. But beyond that, Jesus when He spoke of Sodom He didn’t say anything about the homosexuality he talked about just the fact that business was as usual until God decided to destroy it.”
It’s funny how Robertson even recognizes the fact that Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality in reference to Sodom (in fact, Jesus never mentioned or condemned homosexuality at all). Of course, he fails to see how this helps to refute his own argument. Robertson continues:
“In history there’s never been a civilization ever in history that has embraced homosexuality and turned away from traditional fidelity, traditional marriage, traditional child-rearing, and has survived. There isn’t one single civilization that has survived that openly embraced homosexuality. So you say, ‘what’s going to happen to America?’ Well if history is any guide, the same thing’s going to happen to us.”
Robertson bases all of this on the tradition that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality. In fact, the Bible never cites homosexuality as the reason God destroyed it. According to the Bible, homosexuality was not the sin of Sodom.
Now, let me be clear: It doesn’t really matter to me what an ancient manuscript like the Old Testament says about homosexuals; I don’t believe that the written oral traditions of a people from thousands of years ago should have any bearing on how modern humans lives their lives. But if Robertson is going to use the Bible as the basis for his bigotry, he should at least use it accurately.
The idea that homosexuality has any relevance to the destruction of Sodom is a relatively new one that became popularized mostly in the last century, perhaps as a means to counteract the dismantling of the social taboo that once surrounded homosexuality. Proponents of this myth cite Genesis 19 for evidence. In one passage, Lot, who is supposedly the only righteous man in the city, is visited by male angels from God. Hordes of men from Sodom come to Lot’s house demanding that Lot turn the angels over to be raped.
This small passage is the only one in the Bible cited to “prove” the myth of Sodom. Yet in the 48 passages that mention Sodom, neither that event nor homosexuality is ever mentioned in connection with Sodom’s destruction.
Even if they were, that would offer no commentary on the morality of consensual same-sex relations. Religion professor Dr. Chris Heard points out:
“The ‘sin of Sodom’ per Genesis 19 has to do with using sexual cruelty and violence to oppress and demean outsiders. It has nothing to do with homosexuality in the modern sense of sexual desire oriented toward members of one’s own biological sex, and certainly has nothing to say about the appropriateness or inappropriateness of loving, committed, sexual relationships between members of the same biological sex.”
If we are to subscribe to the notion that, because God was angry that some men wanted to rape other men, all homosexual conduct must be worthy of fire and brimstone, we must also assume that God is okay with heterosexual rape. Despite the rapes of numerous women through the Bible, heterosexuality is never cited as the harbinger of God’s wrath (of course, if we are to take the Bible literally, perhaps heterosexual rape is okay; In verse 8, Lot, the “only righteous man in the city,” offers his daughters to the horny horde in place of the angels).
Prior to the neo-traditional idea that homosexuality was the sin of Sodom and that ‘sodomite’ is synonymous with ‘homosexual,’ Christians believed that the sin of Sodom was inhospitality. This older interpretation is consistent with other passages in the Bible that speak of Sodom, including this passage from Ezekiel, which clearly lays out the biblical reason that God destroyed the city:
Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it. (Ezekiel 16:49-50, ESV)
I don’t see homosexuality — or any form of sexuality — mentioned in that passage. But if Robertson fears that America could suffer the wrath of God à la Sodom, perhaps he should look at the man in the mirror. He is, after all, an evangelist who has made a fortune preying upon the poor and the ignorant, while espousing the very conservative politics that keep them so.
So if God rains fire and brimstone down upon America, don’t blame the gays. Instead, blame the haughty pulpit pimps. Blame the politicians who oppress the poor at the whims of their corporate masters. But don’t blame the gays.