Recently I learned Soulforce, a gay activist group that attempts to express how Christians commit spiritual violence by adhering to thousands of years worth of Church teaching and tradition on the subject of homosexuality & sin, was coming to visit my Seminary (Southeastern Baptist, SEBTS). Being a student of Ethics, and having recently written a research paper on the subject (ETH6550 Is Sexual Identity Changeable), I decided to go to research them. The entire premise of their movement is to get the Christian community to engage in discussion with them regarding their interpretation that scripture does not condemn homosexuality as sin. Since they were visiting my campus, and in the name of exchange and discussion, I went to them via their Soulforce forums. The purpose of their forums are listed as follows:
“The Soulforce Forums are a place for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trangender people along with our heterosexual allies to engage in discussions which are both constructive and fun.”
I must also lay down this premise: I really did visit the forum to merely have open discussion about these sensitive topics. There was no ounce of negativity or spite in my approach. I have tried to have these conversations with gay friends in the past, but their reactions left much to be desired (which lead me to write the formerly mentioned paper).
On the forum, one post in particular caught my attention. It was regarding the Sodom and Gomorrah accounts, and it was made by a straight evangelical asking for arguments from the Soulforce community. They responded by arguing that the Sodom accounts are really about Hospitality laws and violent sex. I had refuted this in the above mentioned letter, and decided to address the topic (since obviously every other response listed was biased to these views).
This was the response I gave:
The rape and hospitality arguments are minorities in scholarly studies. They also fail on many accounts (especially inner biblical evidence).
One of the first major objections to the text by proponents is found within the claim that the passage merely condemns acts of rape. As defended by Walter Barnett in “Homosexuality ad the Bible”, the crowd sought to gang rape Lot’s visitors. They then argue that the act to be condemned is not homosexuality itself, but any form of rape. However, this understanding is quite lacking. Feinberg and Feinberg in their work Ethics for a Brave New World provide a clarification and refutation of this:
Nowhere does the text even slightly hint that what the men of Sodom wanted to do would be permissible if only Lot’s guests had consented. Moreover, this interpretation does not account for the fact that God’s judgment fell upon two entire cities. Was homosexual rape a common practice and thus brought the judgment of God? It could have been, but such is not stated in the text. What is more damaging is that God’s judgment on homosexuality in Sodom and Gomorrah is quite in harmony with his prohibition and denunciation of this sin in other Scriptures properly interpreted. It is not as though this is the only time homosexuality is denounced and judged. (p. 190)
In addition to the argument of rape, a second popular explanation is offered. This argument is founded upon an understanding that the Hebrew word yada is used only 10 out of the 943 times in the OT to refer to sexual relations. For a response to this argument, known as the argument of hospitality, we must remember that mere statistics of word usage cannot account for meaning. We must take the word yada, and look at it within its context and author. Of interesting note, given the earlier statistic, is that seven usages of yada in the sexual sense occur within the book of Genesis (Gen 4:1, 17, 25; 24:16, 38:26, plus those in question). Given that proponents of the hospitality argument acknowledge that, absent of the two usages of yada in question, only ten usages refer to sexual acts, and half of these occur in Genesis. We have evidence to suggest that it’s author, Moses, would have used the word stylistically to refer to sexual acts.
However, the best understanding of this text must be an evaluation in context. If we take yada to refer to some hospitable act of getting to know each other, how does Lot’s offering of his daughter make any sense? To quote the text, “Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man,” (Genesis 19:8, ESV), however if understood absent sexual relations, we must take this to mean Lot’s daughters have never become acquainted with and met men. This makes no sense, simply because their father, Lot himself, is a man. In addition, it is impractical to assume they had never before met men, and as such the sexual understanding makes more sense. Lot was offering his daughters up for the men sexually, and their rejection points in the way of homosexual desires. It would then make most sense, given the sexual understanding of yada in Genesis 19:8, that it’s usage in Genesis 19:1-11 would mean the same.
Finally, in response to this argument, we may cross-check it with other references in scripture. Jude provides commentary on the actions and judgment cast upon Sodom and Gomorrah, stating: “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire,” (Jude 1:7, ESV). The cause stated was ’sexual immorality’, and the Greek used is σαρκπσ ἐτερασ, which describes unnatural sex. As Feinberg and Feinberg explain, “Jude uses the verb porneuo with the preposition ek, which means they gave themselves up to sexual immorality completely and utterly! This is an extremely strong statement!” When we take this in combination with the fact the city was punished, and not Lot (who would have breached the hospitality code and merited punishment), we see how weak such an understanding is.
Also, since the earlier post was quite lengthy, a direct response to Stevecampsout regarding scripture interpreting scripture.Quote:
Nowhere in scripture is Homosexuality, or any other sort of sexuality even mentioned when expositing what the sin of Sodom was.
Jude 1:7 states: “In the same way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them committed sexual immorality and practices perversions, just as they did, and serve as an example by undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”
Sexual immorality stems from the word ek-porneuo, or fornication (to go a whoring). Perversions stems from the words heteros (strange) and sarx (flesh), or unnatural human flesh (unnatural in the sense of against nature and God’s designs found in Genesis).
The verse also links (1) the sexual immorality and fornication to (2) the act of punishment [this prevents the excuse that ‘sure they sinned sexually, but Gen talks about their hospitality or rape’].
In addition, to the often quoted Ezekiel verse, see 16:43, which describes the ‘abominations’ using the same Hebrew word found in Lev 18:22 (sexual sin of men sleeping with men) when referring to Sodom’s sins.
Placing Jude 1:7 and Ezekiel 16:43, as well as the clear context of the narrative itself, in addition to various other texts regarding the subject, shows the linkage between the sexual sins of Sodom (and thus the term Sodomite).
About an hour after I placed my post up, I went to check to see if any responses were given, and I found the following:
The post was moved. When I clicked on it, I received the following:
Lenny, you do not have permission to access this page. This could be due to one of several reasons:
- Your user account may not have sufficient privileges to access this page. Are you trying to edit someone else’s post, access administrative features or some other privileged system?
- If you are trying to post, the administrator may have disabled your account, or it may be awaiting activation.
I thought my account may have been deleted, so I double checked. It was still there. I began to wonder why the post was moved, and contacted an administrator to find out (1) why it was moved, and (2) where it was moved. It was rather suspicious that such movement occurred 1 hour after my response.
I sent the following message to Keltic63:
I was going to post something to the Genesis post, yet I noticed it was recently moved. It doesn’t list where it was moved to, and when I clicked it, I was given a message that I do not have access.
Which forum location did the location go to?
He gave me the following response:
I moved that thread to the Foyer. here are the instructions on how to access that part of the forum: http://www.soulforce.org/forums/show…3338#post43338
I went to that link and found the following definition of ‘Foyer’.
By default, the foyer forum is not viewable by regular members or the public. Members have to specifically join this forum in their User CP.
The foyer is an entrance hall in a house. We bring to the foyer those guests who have posted messages which violate the Soulforce guidelines on anti-gay comments. The foyer is also a place for threads that the moderator team believes are not appropriate for the public forums where they can be viewed by all visitors.
Of course, what I did next was review the Soulforce Forum Guidelines (it must be the Chief Justice in me). It lists three areas to adhere to (1) Posting Message, (2) Respect your Fellow Members, (3) Inappropriate Content. As you yourself can observe, I was clearly adhering to (1) and (2). In addition, my post was directly responding to the topic of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible, and how it is to be understood (as you yourself can observe above). Nothing in it contains inappropriate content. They list inappropriate as follows:
- Links to sites containing adult images
- Sexual harassment
- Anti-Gay comments
We welcome people who are on the journey to understanding and accepting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people. However obvious anti-gay comments will not be allowed in the public forums. Such comments are not merely opinions, but rather a way to demean and oppress GLBT people. Any posts deemed by the Soulforce staff or moderator team to be anti-gay will be responded to with a warning and, in most instances, the removal of the offending post. Members who continue to post anti-gay comments will lose their right to post messages on any of the Soulforce Public Forums and also their right to send private messages to other members.
- Materials promoting “ex-gay ministries” or “reparative therapy”
Some homosexual persons claim to have experienced a change in their sexual orientation. Their stories are their stories and we should not try to change them if they are sincerely happy. With that said, however, the vast majority of these brothers and sisters entered “ex-gay ministries” or “reparative therapy” under the belief of a homosexual orientation being morally inferior and a heterosexual orientation being morally superior. Such a belief is a falsehood that is used by many to deny GLBT people equality in society and full membership in our churches. Thus the promotion of “ex-gay ministries” or “reparative therapy” is not permitted on the forums and will be handled as anti-gay comments.
- Anti-gay material of our adversaries
Neither links to, nor quotes taken from, the anti-gay material of our adversaries will be allowed in the public forums unless the member making the post also invests the time to confront the untruth in the material. For a good example, see this thread. Posts that do not follow this guideline will either be moved to the Foyer or removed entirely at the moderator’s discretion. The purpose of this guideline is to prevent casual postings of anti-gay material (i.e. a couple of sentences followed by a link to offensive writings.)
- Posts that are excessively hostile to Soulforce
We certainly make room for forum members to disagree with Soulforce and post constructive criticism. However we don’t permit excessive hostility towards the organization on our own website. Such posts will be removed and offenders will lose their privilege to post messages.
Off topic messages, irrelevant advertisements, and “copy and paste” mass postings not dealing with the thread’s topic will be considered spam and promptly removed. First time offenders will always receive a warning via private message. Repeat offenders will lose both their right to post messages on any of the Soulforce Public Forums and also their right to send private messages to other members.
In addition, the moderator admits that
You haven’t broken the letter of our guidelines. However, I do see the potential for that, and as such, I reserve the right, as MODERATOR, to move the thread to the Foyer. That is where those types of potentially adversarial conversations are allowed to take place.
The potential..? Again, I clearly didn’t violate any of the inappropriate content provisions.
“A forum for conversations about Faith, God, Theology, Religion, Spirituality, the Bible, etc.” Obviously that conversation works one way.”
We didn’t come here to try to get people to agree with us necessarily, but to have a conversation, to get to know you,
I don’t understand, you’re moving it on a presumption that is may break the policies? The standards for sending posts to the foyer appears to me to be a breaking of the terms policy (not merely a presumption that a breakage may occur). I was under the impression that the section of the forum was intended for ‘conversation’, given a respectful tone (which I carry).
“We bring to the foyer those guests who have posted messages which violate the Soulforce guidelines on anti-gay comments. ”
The post obviously did not violate this sentence.
“The foyer is also a place for threads that the moderator team believes are not appropriate for the public forums where they can be viewed by all visitors.”
I’m guessing you refer to this, however there is nothing there at the moment which is inappropriate (unless you believing studying the text from rivaling perspectives to be inappropriate). It is wholly appropriate, given it’s a study of Sodom in Genesis, and the responses target specifically that.
You’ve moved it because you have assumed it may be offensive at some point (and from my points, it will not, given I’m really only interested in respectful discussion, unless someone from the forum will desire harassing me). In all honesty, it tastes like censorship. No disrespect meant.
I’m sorry you don’t like my decision.