Daniel Helminiak’s What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality The True Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah

Daniel Helminiak’s What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality The True Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is one of those Bible stories people have heard off, even if they’ve never read the Bible. Early in this project’s timeline, I was primed for what this story actually said, given how often anti-gay individuals trot it out to support their bias. I was looking for details that would dismantle the often-used argument against homosexuality: the Old Testament makes clear, as evidenced by the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, which was brought on by God’s supposed dissatisfaction with the men practicing sodomy, that homosexuality is wrong.

So I knew the people of S&G were apparently sexual hedonists who through their actions sodombrought about the destruction of their city. The details of this story are significant, however, for the wrath of God is brought about when the men of the city demand that Lot, who has been harboring two foreigners (angels, actually), send out the two men so they can have sex with them.

See, this is how gays act! And clearly God was having none of it—or so the way this story has been handled suggests.

However, reading it for the first time, I understood this lesson to be about rape, not helminiakcondemning homosexual acts. Daniel Helminiak’s What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality chapter devoted to this Bible story clarifies: This famously misinterpreted Bible story is really about the sin of inhospitality.

Those who interpret this story as being clear evidence of anti-homosexual Bible content point to the language used by the village men as they demanded the visiting angels: they wanted “to know” them. Taken sexually, this term clearly points to wanting to have sex with these men. But they were not interested in romance, as Helminiak makes clear: they were interested in rape, and as such, this action was about humiliating the men by penetrating them as they would women—a popular and disturbing tactic used against conquered peoples.

This demonstrates the village’s wickedness, not the fact that they liked to have sex with men—nowhere does the story contain information about homosexual relationships as we understand them today. Therefore, the men were just jerks (to put it mildly). Furthermore, their sin is grounded in the context of where they lived: the harsh desert climate called for compassion to strangers passing through. Strangers needed shelter to protect against the harsh climate, as sleeping outdoors was dangerous. Since they were not showing compassion to strangers, this is the main problem. Helminiak mentions that Lot’s giving of his daughters was not being condemned (47), which further supports the issue is inhospitality and not sexual—they would have raped the daughter.

A version of this story also appears in Judges (book 19). In both, sexual assault highlights the “wickedness” so often mis-attributed to homosexuality (47). In the Judges version, there is no mention (or hint) of homosexuality, further supporting the idea that the lesson was so important it bore repeating: meanness, cruelty, abuse, and hard-heartedness (all couched in inhospitality) are the true sins here; therefore, the story should not be used to support anti-gay rhetoric (47).

Helminiak sees evidence elsewhere in the Bible to support his stance. Ezekiel—later in the Bible—mentions the heart of Sodom’s story: pride and not aiding needy travelers brought about their downfall (48). This is the “abomination” so often referred to, not homosexual sex. Even Jesus weighs in (Matthew 10:5-15): the lesson of S&G was the rejection of God’s messengers (49).

Bringing his point here to a close, he mentions several Bible references to Sodom and the associated sins (Isaiah 1:10-17; Jeremiah 23:14, Zephaniah 2:8-11): “injustice, oppression, partiality, adultery, lies, and encouraging evildoers” (49).

Helminiak mentions how none of these sins relate to sex (or even sexuality). For those that feel adultery relates, Helminiak clarifies: since women were considered property of their husbands, adultery with a married woman was considered an abuse of another man’s property (48). So again, our modern understanding of an issue—adultery—affects how we understand an ancient one.

As Helminiak’s book makes clear, the over-used version of Sodom and Gomorrah needs to be reconsidered. Ironically, those who choose to use the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to support their anti-gay agenda are actually committing the true sin of Sodom. People who disagree with homosexuality (as if it were something with which you could disagree) need to realize that a person who lives differently than they do needs compassion and attempts at understanding, not attacks.

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About virgowriter

Brad Windhauser has a Master's in English from Rutgers University (Camden campus) and an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching/Instruction) in the English Department at Temple University. His short stories have appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Santa Fe Writer's Project Journal, Ray's Road Review, Philadelphia Review of Books, Northern Liberty Review, and Jonathan. His first novel, Regret (a gay-themed thriller set in Philadelphia) was published in 2007. You can read more about (and buy) it here: http://goo.gl/yvT24K His second novel, The Intersection, is being published by Black Rose Writing September 2016. He is one of five regular contributors to 5Writer.com. On his solo blog, he is chronicling his experience as a gay writer reading the Bible for the first time: www.BibleProjectBlog.com Follow his work at: www.BradWindhauser.com VirgoWriter@gmail.com
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