In A Nutshell
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah has been used to justify homophobia for centuries. A brief aside in Genesis that involves God burning four cities to the ground for crimes of immorality, it’s brought up anytime someone mentions gay rights as way of showing just how much God hates homosexuals. Too bad then that other parts of the Bible specifically state the Sodomites were firebombed for being arrogant rich windbags who hated the poor.
The Whole Bushel
In a book that’s almost overflowing with controversy, perhaps no other biblical text is as controversial as Genesis 18–19. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah, it recounts how God annihilated four of the ancient Cities of the Plain in a fit of divine wrath for the presumed crime of homosexuality. “Presumed” because God never actually states why he’s blowing up thousands of people; but the last act of the Sodomites before their fiery death is to try and rape three male angels, so the assumption is that homosexuality is the trigger. At least, it is if you’ve never bothered to read the rest of the Bible.
See, if you flip forward to Ezekiel 16:49–50, God suddenly makes it very clear why he chose to raze Sodom to the ground. In full, this little baby reads:
“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.”
Now, clearly “detestable things” could well include some man-on-man action, but it comes pretty far down the list, remains ambiguous, and is a bit overshadowed by the unequivocal hatred of arrogant rich people radiating like nuclear fire from the text. Then there’s Jeremiah 23:14, which strongly suggests that the “detestable thing” was committing adultery. By the time we get to Amos 4:1–11, the sin is once again being rich and refusing to help the poor and needy.
In fact, the only Biblical reference which seems to directly support the “God hates gays” theory is Jude 1:7, which says the Sodomites were destroyed for “sexual immorality and perversion.” But even that could mean adultery, or sex before marriage, or masturbation, or any of the other million and one things the Bible condemns elsewhere. As Jay Michaelson once amusingly wrote, “Reading the story of Sodom as being about homosexuality is like reading the story of an axe-murderer and saying it’s about an axe.” Except in this case it should be about an axe murderer who really hates the uncharitable rich.