Contrary to popular belief, the scandal of the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah had nothing to do with gay men; it had to do with the sin of inhospitality. The traditional belief that the judgment against the city of Sodom concerned gay sex is so widespread, however, that a word was coined for it: sodomy. But even a casual reading of the text shows the error of such an interpretation. A better interpretation suggests that it’s more relevant to the revocation of the Dream Act than to marriage equality.
By now, I imagine, some of the more pious readers are reaching for their blood pressure cuffs. “Here’s another progressive pastor twisting Scripture for his own demonic ends.”
Look, I didn’t write the book; I’m just telling you what’s in it.
In Genesis 19, Lot, Abraham’s nephew, was out for his afternoon constitutional in the city of Sodom when he sat down on a bench and saw two angels. He didn’t know they were angels; he just figured they were foreigners who needed some help. So, Lot invited them to his home, knowing his wife had a roast in the oven, a new bottle of bourbon in the liquor cabinet, and fresh sheets in the guest room.
Unfortunately, the men of Sodom decided to throw their own welcome party for the strangers. A mob surrounded Lot’s house and told him to send the foreigners out so the mob could rape them. Lot refused, offering his two virgin daughters instead—a point about which I’m sure his daughters were quick to remind him at every family reunion till the end of time. In the end, however, the angels saved Lot and his family by striking all the would-be rapists blind.
But the reason Lot refused to turn over the two strangers to an angry mob wasn’t because he was afraid the mob was going to try to gay marry them. The reason Lot gave for rejecting the mob’s request was because the strangers had “come under the shelter of my roof” (19:8).
Hospitality, the welcome and protection of strangers and foreigners, was sacrosanct in the ancient Near East. If someone stayed in your home, they were your guest. You made an implicit vow to feed and shelter them, to protect them against harm. Consequently, failing to safeguard guests was a grievous sin. (Think Walder Frey and the “red wedding.”)
That Lot offered his two daughters in the strangers’ place—which I think we can all agree is pretty horrid from the point of view of good parenting—offers proof of the sacred nature of hospitality. Essentially, Lot said, “I would rather give up my own children than to let guests in my house be turned out to face hunger, homelessness, and violence.”
On this reading, those who refuse hospitality to strangers and foreigners are the true “Sodomites”—which brings me to the rescinding of DACA (Delayed Action for Child Arrivals). The Dreamers, or DACA recipients, are young people who were under the age of 31 in June 2012; came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday; have continuously resided in the U.S since June, 2007; are currently in school, have graduated or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or Armed Forces; and haven’t been convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor. In other words, model “citizens”—or at least (their countries of birth notwithstanding) what we’d like our actual citizens to look like.
Ending DACA, then, is like turning out guests from our home—and not the lousy, never-puts-the-ketchup-back-in-the-refrigerator guests either. Wonderful guests. Strike that. The Dreamers have been here so long we should stop thinking of them as guests at all, but as family—since this is now their home too.
Not protecting these young people would be a grievous sin. Just ask Sodom and Gomorrah.