Here’s a question for everyone to ponder. If you were absolutely convinced that another interpretation of the Sodom and Gomorrah story might have nothing to do with homosexuality but rather was a scathing condemnation of poor hospitality shown to resident aliens, would you preach it that way?
Firstly, I cannot find the place in any scriptural reference to the destruction of Sodom where loving, faithful, homosexual relationships are mentioned. The story that I read is about the attempted gang rape of a couple of visitors by an unruly mob (Genesis 19:5), and the mob’s subsequent ire at being thwarted by Lot (19:9), because he is a recent immigrant to the city (13:12). Ezekiel 16:49 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.” Jude 1:7 says, “Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion,” a statement obviously open to different interpretations. The other references are pretty generalized. I understand that many people hold to a different interpretation of the story than mine, but nonetheless, my study has led me to this one. We could go back and forth about “right” or “wrong,” but let’s agree that it is different at least.
Another thing to mention: I often like to preach sermons based on non-traditional interpretations of scripture, in the hope that looking at the passage from a different perspective will help people deepen our understandings of God’s word and of our own faith journeys. So for example I will preach the story of the Exodus, focusing on the drowning of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, seeing it from the perspective of the wife of a regular old chariot driver in the Egyptian military. So we look at a familiar story from a new angle, and see a bit more of it, which in turn enriches our faith.
Finally, I understand that mentioning hot-button social issues from the pulpit is risky business, and immigration is one of the hottest right now. Just introducing the subject drives people immediately behind their barricades on all sides of the issue. It is the same with homosexuality, which has the added bonus of an association, maybe unfair, with the word “Sodom.” The merest mention of either of these topics must be done very carefully if anything helpful is going to come of it.
So one, I am convinced that the Sodom story could be interpreted as a story about hospitality to strangers / resident aliens / immigration issues. Two, I like to offer alternate interpretations of scripture from the pulpit. And three, I understand how many walls will go up as soon as hot-button social issues are mentioned.
And my question remains: Would you preach it if you were me?