As promised: this is the rather punchy piece that’s been simmering for a few weeks. Some of you out there may love it, some may hate it — if you think I’m right or wrong, tell me so. I’d love some feedback.
Chapter 19. 1. Two angels arrived at Sodom early in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed low before them.
2. “My lords,” he said, “please come this night to your servant’s house. There you may wash, and spend the night, and then go on your way early in the morning.”
“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the market square.”
3. But he was in such earnest that they did go with him and came to his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast in his haste, and they ate.
4. Before they had gone to bed, however, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house.
5. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”
6. Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him,
7 and said, “No, my friends. Do not do this evil.
8. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you may do with them as you please. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof, and I must be hospitable.”
9. The men said, “That is fair,” and Lot sent his daughters out to them. The men raped them and did what they liked with them, and though his daughters cried out to him all through the night, Lot shut his ears and did not listen.
10. In the morning the angels thanked him and went on their way.
11. And the LORD met them as they came up from the city, and asked them, “Well? What have you seen?”
12. And they told him, “Lord, there is no crime in Sodom, for the men there only rape women.”
13. And the LORD said, “Well, that’s all right then, women don’t count. No harm in that.” And thus Sodom was spared.
Chapter 20. 1. And the LORD then turned to us in the audience, and said, “Now, do you understand the lesson in this? Do you see Sodom’s true crime?”
2. And most of us hemmed and hawed, a bit thrown by this alteration of the story,
3. and a few of us said, “No, Lord. We do not understand.”
4. Then the LORD sighed, and ran his fingers through his hair, and said in exasperation, “This is because you do not see the rape that surrounds you to this very day. You do not see the crimes committed against women because you commit them yourselves. You say to the gays and the lesbians, and say, ‘There is an speck in your eye, let us use pliers and pull it out,’ but you do not see the beam in your own eye…
5. …beam, nothing. You do not see the entire tree trunk lodged in your eye, and the whole forest besides.”
6. And a few of us said, “Lord, we still don’t understand. Are you angry at us because we no longer beat our wives? Are you angry at us because we don’t stone faggots any more? What will appease you, oh Lord?
7. Shall we come to you with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of gold?”
8. And the LORD said, “Enough! There are none so deaf as those who refuse to hear me. Paul, see what you can do with them, I made you a teacher for a reason.” With that he went off and sat on the mountain.
Chapter 21. 1. “All right,” I said, feeling very inadequate to the task, “first thing we’re going to do is ditch these stupid verse marks.
That’s better. Look, folks,” I went on, “I’m not God and I don’t claim to understand Him, but I think this is what’s happening. The sin of Sodom was rape. The city would have gotten firebombed whether they were raping men or raping women. So homosexuality doesn’t enter into it at all.”
“But the men in the crowd refused Lot when he tried to send out his daughters,” said many of us in the crowd.
“Right,” I said, drawing on what I knew of the theory. “Because rape isn’t about gender, either. Lots of men are raped, too. Male, female, or in between, rape isn’t about what the victim did or didn’t do, and never has been; it’s about the rapist’s act, which is fundamentally an act of power. And in the days of Sodom, women were already under the power of men; the men could rape a woman like blowing their noses. There’s no real demonstration of power there. But to rape a man? That shows how powerful they really were — or so ran their thinking.”
“So why the special treatment?” some of us asked. “Why did Sodom and Gomorrah get the fire, if rape is so horrible?”
“Perhaps because there was a meteor strike and the story got invented to explain it,” I said, floundering a bit. “Or maybe the whole story was invented to prove a point. After all, remember that before all this happens, Abraham talks God into sparing the city if the angels can find just ten righteous men. In short, God’s saying here that even the evilist city in the world won’t get his wrath if there are any innocents who’d be caught in the line of fire. Of course, He then immediately cheated by sending the angels to get the righteous people out of town.”
This provoked some rumbles, and some thoughtful looks. But then one person spoke up: “So what was God on about with that bit about the trees in our eyes? Also, I kinda liked the verse marks.”
“Again, I’m not sure what that tree bit meant,” I said. “I could be making this all up.”
“Spit it out,” several voices said at once.
“Look. Vast effort has been spent in trying to keep gays and lesbians repressed. All the money that’s gone into the anti-gay marriage campaigns, for one. ‘To preserve the sanctity of marriage,’ they usually say. Well, what about abuse? What about domestic violence? Those destroy far, far more marriages than all the gay couples in the world. One in four women will be assaulted by their partners sometime in their lives. One in four women will be sexually assaulted. Rape and domestic violence are everywhere in our culture, and these crimes shatter millions of lives.
“So where’s the outcry from the Mormons, from the Catholics, from the Evangelicals? There is none that I have heard, compared to the enormous breath those self-same religious leaders have spent decrying gays. Am I missing something? These churches would sweat blood to see that two men who love each other never get the chance to make their love official; are they lifting one finger to help the women raped and abused and battered all through this nation?
“Look,” I said, warming to my work, “I’m worried that I know why the great conservative religious voices in this country are silent on the issue. I’m very much afraid this is because they are so rooted in it themselves. The fundamental truth is that women are not property, nor second-class citizens, nor simply empty vessels — but when you look at the history, all the major churches and faiths of this country began with those notions in their hearts, that women can be treated as the men wish to treat them. Some have definitely moved away from that idea. I’m not sure about the others. Do they truly endorse women’s rights, women’s power, women’s equality? Or do they still believe women are inferior, so domestic violence and rape are simply natural to them?”
“We’ve never said that rape is natural,” came a voice from the crowd (it sounded a bit like James Dobson). “Men must be to their wives as Jesus is to the church, true, but that’s not oppressive.”
“And Jesus is better than the church, yes?” I said.
“I belive you just proved my point. As well as making clear how highly the men of your church think of themselves. So that’s what I’m driving at, all right? Or what I think God is driving at. I’m not convinced that the more conservative faiths — Catholics, evangelicals, Baptists, Mormons, name ’em — have really gotten on board with women being just as good as men. Individuals, of course, are exceptions, but as a group, do they really love women as much as men?
“Then along come the gay couples. Two men getting married? You see how that would screw with their conservative heads? As they’d see it, one of the men is voluntarily taking the place of the woman. And wouldn’t that just kick the legs out from underneath their whole system? It shows men don’t have to be dominant. And then there’s the lesbians, where one of the women (again, as they’d see it) is taking the place of a man. Isn’t this also destructive to their worldview? Or the two people — gays or lesbians, it’s irrelevant here — are completely equal… and that’s the most destructive idea of all. Such marriages show that the standard conservative Christian model of marriage where the man dominates and the woman submits isn’t how it has to be. They remove the power imbalance and the inherent violence from the equation, and they reveal the men who insist on such dominance to be nothing but power-seekers.
“So anyone trying to keep the old ways, where the men called the shots and the women bowed down, would hate gays and lesbians with a passion unmatched. Gays and lesbians and powerful women and supportive men all prove that the old system is flawed beyond repair.
“The speck in the eyes of the lesbians and the gays and all the others who don’t follow the good old rules is that they are undermining traditional marriage. And this, as it turns out, after all the kerfuffle, turns out to be true.
“The beam in the eyes of all the straight folks is that traditional marriage is a pretty horrible thing. It is rooted in a desire for dominance, to say nothing of its longstanding connection with wealth and property, both of which God has small regard for. It practically legitimizes rape and abuse. And anyone who believes that cannot stand that the gays are pulling down the house of cards. Gays and lesbians are destroying traditional marriage, and God is helping them do it.
I looked up to the mountain. “How am I doing, boss?”
“Keep going,” he said. “You’ve missed a step.”
I paused for a second, then nodded and went on. “All it takes to get back on track is to love all as you love your own kin, with no hint of superiority or dominance. Men aren’t better than women, straight folks aren’t better than gays, pastors aren’t better than anyone else. We all have our different strengths and talents, but that does not entitle us to dominate. All it takes is to remember that God loves us all equally, and we must love each other the same way.
“Listen to your consciences. Everyone out there knows that treating women as inferior, or gays, or anyone else, is very wrong. That’s because the voice of God is whispering in every heart, telling them so. Those who oppress women, however, can’t accept that voice. If they did it would mean they’ve been wrong all these years, and that is an admission almost no one can make. So they beat the women in their lives all the harder to make them scream all the louder and drown out the small voice telling them to love instead.
“Look. Notice how God doesn’t throw his weight around any more? Notice how he does not try to dominate us? He easily could; he could snap his fingers and everyone would fall in line. He doesn’t; he’s gone practically invisible. It’s the only way he can work with us and not dominate us, since his power is so vast. That’s a clue to how we ought to treat each other, without dominance. And yet into that vacuum he’s left, into that silence where he holds his peace to let us have our turn, others have stepped forward to try and usurp his place. Their tools are tradition, and coercion, and fear. And God, unless I miss my bet, isn’t going to put up with it. Not any more.”
I let out a long breath. “Did I miss anything?”
“You always do,” God said, getting up from his mountaintop and rejoining the crowd. “But that’ll do for now.”
He looked around, and his gaze was unbearable… save by those who could not understand what had been said, and did not see God’s gaze because they never saw anything in the world except what they thought should be there. It is possible, of course, that I was among them.
“Before you is a choice,” he said in a voice barely above a whisper — but rising. “Balance, justice, respect, and love; or coercion, manipulation, and dominating power. I have told you which I prefer, and what will befall you however you choose. But I will not compel you either way. The choice is yours. The choice is always yours.
“Here ends the lesson!”