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Outing the Sodomites In America
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In the wake of the Supreme Court’s June decision outlawing the nation’s sodomy laws social conservatives and “pro-family” activists have ramped up their anti-gay activism and their rhetoric as well.
This hasn’t been easy for the op-ed page pundits, right-wing radio and cable news culture warriors and especially “pro-family” conservative Christian preachers and provocateurs. “Queer” and other epithets have been rendered harmless by ironic gay culture. With popular opinion crashing in on the use of most other gay slurs, they have been forced to adopt the term “sodomite” as their pejorative of choice.
As an insult and rallying cry, it’s a good choice, loaded with clear and immediate heebeejeebee-inducing us/them implications: homosexuals are deviants and deserve not only social ostracization (despite their protests otherwise, conservatives do favor “special treatment” for gays), but God’s wrath was well.
The term “sodomite,” arises from the biblical narrative in Genesis 19 detailing the destruction of the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their great "wickedness."
In the story, Lot, Abraham’s nephew and a resident of Sodom, is visited by three men (the text suggests that they are angels). His rowdy neighbors surround the house demanding Lot surrender his guests so that they can gang rape them. It’s an ugly, violent story—rape is an ugly, violent act. Over the centuries, the name of that city has come to be associated with homosexual or “unnatural” sexual behavior. Thus: the vilifying terms ‘sodomy’ and ‘sodomite,’ and the laws that bear their names.
There would be a kind of logic to this rhetorical evolution, save one thing: understanding “sodomy” as a narrowly sexual, or homosexual, sin fails to take into account both how the Scriptures use the term “sodomite” and what the rest of the Bible says the “sin of Sodom” actually was.
First, the term “sodomite” is used in the Bible just four times, thrice in I Kings and once in II Kings. In every case it describes not “homosexuals” in general, but specifically young men involved in ritualized, commercial “temple prostitution.” It’s clear that there’s no parallel between the ancient biblical usage of the term and the pejorative used by the Michael Savages, Rush Limbaugh’s and countless other bloggers and pundits.
Second, and even more telling, in Ezekiel 16: 49-50, the prophet tells us Yahweh says this: Now this was the sin of 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. (NIV)
Arrogant... overfed... unconcerned... don’t help the poor… haughty… did detestable things. Hmm. I have an idea.
Perhaps the pundits are not wrong in condemning rampant sodomy in America, but have failed to use the term holistically enough. What if they used the term as Ezekiel suggests and applied it to all America?
For example, in a history lesson we might refer to Marie (“let them eat cake”) Antoinette as “wife of Louis XVII and notorious sodomite.”
Or, on a more contemporary note, whenever we speak or write about Rupert Murdock we could say something like: “media magnate and noted sodomite Rupert Murcock bought another newspaper today.”
Or, if liberal elites are in your sights we could say something glib like: “Socialite sisters Nikki and Paris Hilton spent thousands of dollars on luminescent cocktail parties this weekend. When asked about their lavish lifestyle, the much-photographed sodomites simply laughed then looked around the room for Colin Farrell.”
Or, possibly this: “the entire audience of the final performance of Les Miserables engaged in a collective act of sodomy when, en masse, they ignored several homeless persons begging outside the theatre during intermission.”
Certainly this: “Media personality and fallen cable TV talk show screamer Michael Savage committed public sodomy today on his radio show The Savage Nation when he made cruel sport of unemployed and homeless immigrants.”
Or, finally, perhaps something like this: “While ‘compassionate conservativism’ remains the administration’s rhetorical touchstone, the reality of its actions suggest an agenda designed to gut 60 years of progressive social policy—all while funneling billions into big business, the war machine and expanding the federal government to its largest size in history. President Bush may not be the first sodomite President in U.S. history, but he certainly has earned the attribution.”
As I think about it, most of us in America can be described as sodomites. We live our lives with little concern for those around us who suffer or are poor, we are massively gluttonous and obese, and we really just don’t give a damn about much besides our own immediate needs. (How else do explain the refusal of Seattle residents to pay an extra dime for espresso in order to fund schools, or our complete lack of concern over the African HIV/AIDS pandemic, which makes the Black Death of the middle ages look like a summer cold?)
And yes, while we’re at it, we do seem to be good at deplorable acts—be they sexual, economic or military in nature.
I don’t know if that means we’re headed to the same kind of judgment that the biblical Sodom received, but it certainly suggests that a few folk who like to canoodle their own kind don’t deserve special treatment along the way.