Lord, what shall we make of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey?
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah has been told in almost every church, of every denomination, in America for centuries. It is overwhelmingly presented as the story of God’s punishment for a city whose rampant lust and homosexuality. The story goes that God sent angels to visit Lot, and that while there, the men of the city surrounded the home and demanded that Lot send the angels out so they could have sex with them.
Lot refused, offering his virgin daughters instead, but the men rejected them and attempted to break down the doors of his home to get to the angels. The angels struck all the men with blindness and rescued Lot and his family from the city. Once out, God destroyed Sodom with fire and brimstone for its wickedness.
The Lord works in mysterious ways
This story is the central reason evangelicals, the Christian right, and thus the GOP are so against the gay community and against LGBT rights. They’re convinced that God will destroy America, just as he did Sodom, for accepting or normalizing homosexuality. It’s the reason GOP controlled states have tried to pass a litany of religious freedom bills, allowing residents to openly discriminate against gays.
It’s the reason states like Texas, North Carolina, Alabama, Indiana and many more have tried to ban transsexuals from bathrooms or deny spouses of gay state employees the benefits they legally deserve. It’s the reason Westboro Baptist church protests funerals and gay pride events. The reason some pastors and Christians actually rejoiced when 50 people were killed at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando. It’s the reason Pat Robinson says gays should be rounded up and imprisoned. The reason Ann Coulter said God sent Harvey and flooded Houston, because they had elected an openly gay mayor, and it will be the reason many will say God is sending Irma to Florida.
This country has accepted homosexuality, therefore we’re wicked and God will destroy us.
Now, to be perfectly clear, I don’t believe being gay is a sin, just as I don’t believe eating shellfish or wearing clothing made of synthetic fibers are sins. And I don’t typically buy into the theory that God sends natural disasters to punish people. I believe they are just what they are, natural disasters, that strike with no rhyme or reason.
However, I want to entertain people like Ann Coulter and, for the sake of argument, suppose that there is a connection between sin and natural disasters. I’d like to argue that the sin that so enrages God is NOT homosexuality but blatant rudeness for your neighbor, greed and unconcern for the poor and needy.
For starters, the Bible never says that God destroyed Sodom because of homosexuality. In fact, there are many verses and much evidence in religious texts that the destruction of Sodom had absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality. It’s easy to accept this widespread belief because it is so ingrained in Christian thought that to even question it seems absurd. However, when someone commits an axe murder, do you focus on the axe or the murder?
“Christians have focused on the gay sex for so long that they’ve completely lost sight of the attempted break-in, kidnapping, and gang rape of a visitor to their town.”
Irma and Harvey, sitting in a tree
Christians have focused on the gay sex for so long that they’ve completely lost sight of the attempted break-in, kidnapping and gang rape of a visitor to their town. The idea that God destroyed Sodom because of homosexuality is a total misconception and Ann Coulter, Pat Robertson, the Westboro Baptist Church, evangelicals, Donald Trump, Mike Pence and the rest of the GOP would be wise to search the scripture and heed the warnings it offers, because they are all offering a lot of what the Bible says God actually destroyed Sodom for.
According to the Catholic, Jewish and Orthodox religious text of Sirach, God destroyed Sodom because of her blatant rudeness. Sirach 16:8 states “[God] did not spare the neighbors of Lot, whom he loathed on account of their insolence.”
Insolence is defined as being audaciously rude or disrespectful. Can you think of anything more insolent than a group of men literally trying to break down the doors of a neighbor’s house, to get to the men visiting them, so they could gang rape them? It’s easy to think of the story as being about gay sex, but according to this text, the sin was clearly the attempted break in, kidnap and gang rape.
This seems to fit biblical passages that describe Sodom and her sins. Ezekiel 16:49-50 says: “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom, she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore, I did away with them as you have seen.” The Old Testament book of Amos, chapter 4, describes a city like Sodom who god threatens to destroy. He describes them as a people who “oppress the poor and crush the needy.” God sets multiple natural disasters and wars upon them to get them to “return to him” but when they refuse, he promises to destroy them just as he did Sodom and Gomorrah.
A similar story is told in Isaiah where god tells the people of Judah how to not be like Sodom and Gomorrah; according to Isaiah 1:16-17 he says “wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”
There, I said it.
Now, I am fully aware that this will be controversial and may not be a widely accepted view, there will be many people who don’t believe in the Bible, religion or a higher power and thus have no interest in explanations for disasters. And there will be those who do believe, but are so set in their beliefs that they simply refuse to even consider the possibility. However, I find that to be unwise. It is always useful to have an open mind and consider things from a different perspective, for we may be missing the forest for the trees and could be repeating the very sins for which God apparently destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.
So, just for a moment, let’s be open-minded and try to at least consider how the election of Donald Trump, the most insolent politician and campaign in history, might explain the recent outbreak of extreme natural disasters.
Donald Trump ran for president on a platform of hate and division. It was a campaign with blatant disregard for the poor and needy, chalk full of unbelievable rudeness and insolence. He painted immigrants as rapist, murderers, drug dealers and criminals. He advocated rounding up and deporting 11 million people, including people who came here as children and know no other country than this one.
He ran on building a wall to keep the poor and needy who would come here seeking a better life, safety and prosperity out. He ran on a platform of banning all Muslims from entering our country simply because of their religion and painted all of them as terrorists and threats to our safety. He ran on the idea of law and order, which was a guise for simply arresting and locking up people of color, breaking up their families, destroying their lives and keeping them in their “place.” He ran on a platform of defunding Planned Parenthood and repealing Obamacare which would strip away healthcare from millions who desperately need it.
He ran on a platform of religious freedom which meant appointing judges who would allow Christians to openly discriminate and deny service to gay people and those who didn’t agree with their religious views. He ran on the platform of cutting welfare, food stamps and public assistance to the poor all while promising to increase spending on war and destruction. He ran on a platform of cutting taxes for the wealthy while cutting funding on education, environmental protections and social services that the working poor desperately need. He ran on a platform of cutting science funding and regulations for corporations, allowing them to pollute the environment and destroy whole communities without repercussion.
What’s more, it wasn’t just the campaign that was insolent, it was the man himself. Donald Trump is the man who made his fortune through gambling, fraud and exploiting workers, who had 5 children with 3 different wives, who bragged about sexually assaulting women, cheating on his wives, sexually ogling his own daughter and not paying taxes, who openly attacked and insulted the disabled, veterans, women’s weight and looks, and judges doing their jobs, who refused to denounce white supremacists and hate and who openly encouraged violence.
The list of horrible things goes on and on, but that was the man who was gleefully embraced and supported by religious leaders and self-proclaimed Christians. To anyone who followed the teachings of the Bible, it was unfathomable, and yet 81% of white evangelicals voted for him. They completely cast the Bible and the teaching of Jesus aside and voted for wickedness. The day Trump was elected, I have to believe that Jesus truly wept.
Judas, thy name is Trump
Trump was a politician that pitted neighbor against neighbor, Christians against Muslims, Jews and non-believers, man against woman, healthy versus sick, rich versus poor, rural versus urban, native versus foreign, straight versus gay, white versus black and Hispanic and we supported it. He appealed to the worst in this country and somehow won. He was the very definition of insolence, arrogance, gluttony and unconcern. His government has turned its back on the poor and needy like none other. They have forsaken the orphan and the widow in favor of corruption and corporate greed.
We have turned our backs on our allies and embraced our enemies. We have given up on foreign aid and diplomacy and instead embraced war and destruction. We as a people have turned our backs on refugees desperately seeking to escape from war, famine and disease and essentially said there’s no room at the inn. If Jesus were alive today, we’d deny him entry to our country. We chant America first and proudly turn our backs on science.
To hell with climate change and the poor around the world drowning or starving. We’ve turned our backs on education and embrace ignorance like a badge of honor, if we don’t like the news, we call it fake and attack the messenger. We believe that we are our own gods. To hell with civility and the public good, all that matters is what’s best for me. We have truly become the people of Sodom and the election of Trump has proven it.
Now, I’m not some uber-religious person. I grew up in a fundamentalist church, but left as soon as I turned 18. I believe in a higher power, but I don’t subscribe to a specific church or religion. I’m not one who typically buys into the idea that god’s sending us a message. I simply try to live my best life, help those in need, advocate for those without a voice and simply try to love everyone.
The Lord’s Warning Shot
I am not perfect, I make mistakes, but as I read and explore the bible more I have to ask myself, what if there are parallels to the old testament messages to Israel and America today? What if God is sending natural disasters and wars to the United States today to wake us up, just as he tried to do to Israel in the book of Amos? What if the election of Donald Trump was truly a breaking point for god and he is retaliating against us for endorsing such a vile campaign?
The west is burning with massive fires in California, Oregon, Washington and Montana. Texas is under water. Florida and our Caribbean territories are being pummeled by an unprecedented storm. Guam and Hawaii are under the threat of nuclear attack from North Korea. Could God truly be trying to send us a message? Will we put our differences aside and come together like Texans did after Harvey or will we continue to be at each other’s throats, enraged with hatred and fear? Will we put an end to corruption and greed and truly look after our poor and needy? Will we embrace foreign aid and diplomacy or will we continue to drop bombs and wage war?
This could be a wake-up call. Are we listening?