The sin of Sodom (& Gomorrah)? In Ezekiel it was that of the rejection of hospitality and lack of care for the poor and needy:
Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it (Ezek. 16:49,50).
Whatever we make of the commonly highlighted sexual issues, this aspect of social contempt for the stranger is highlighted. Recently it came to my attention that Jesus statement over the cities of Israel:
I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town (Luke 10:12).
is in the context of looking for the cities to give hospitality to the travelling disciples. I had never seen that before and it again underlines the need for hospitality, care, looking after the stranger. Judgement on cities of Israel, and historically a judgement on a non-covenant city (Sodom), hence these aspects stand as an indictment on any city or community.
A few notes that reflect some on Western society, and the statistics referred to could be multiplied many times over:
- David Cameron (UK Prime Minister) has stepped aside – who would want a role such as that? It is easy to criticise from the side. During his time in office the Trussel Trust provides us with this statistic that illustrates a huge shift: those relying on food banks to supply them has moved from 61,468 to 1,109,309 people in the UK. There is a political divide over whether this is the responsibility of government or not, but the statistic remains as an indictment on society. That 1.8% of the population should be in that situation cannot be something that escapes the eyes of God.
- In the nation that is perhaps viewed as the most-advanced of Western nations apparently 50% of food goes to waste (Guardian article). Contrast that with the command of God to allow the poor and needy to glean what is left.
- 1 out of every 3 children in Spain are are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, according to latest EU figures (Reuters).
- Spain faces major issues as it has failed to meet the figures set by the EU and to pay for debts has ‘borrowed’ on more than one occasion from the social security pot. Latest figures suggest that by 2018 that pot will be empty. While at the same time those assessed to have ‘large fortunes’ has grown by 40% since the crisis of 08.
Coming back to Sodom the kind of homosexuality in view cannot be separated from that of power abuse. Control and domination was certainly part of what is going on and this might be why the sexual activity itself is not commented on in Ezekiel or Luke but the response to and care for the stranger, the poor and the needy is the centre of focus. Power, control, maintaining power; pro-life but pro-war and the death penalty; following a redemptive God and yet having huge populations within non-redemptive-prison-systems…
There will always be solutions suggested, a reviving of an -ism, the repackaging of an old one, or the proclamation of a new one. How different are the two big ones, capitalism (and now in its predominant ugly face of neo-liberalism) or hard-line left socialism? One has the god of the free-market, the other the god of the state. They both promise to reward those who comply but only ‘reward’ a few. Enough have to be rewarded to maintain the status quo and enough can be consumed to keep the machine functioning. And neither escape the eyes of the Lord. That is the imperial spirit. In the old days one of my points on the kingdom and church was that ‘the kingdom produces the church’. If we are to know something by the fruit it produces we have to look long and hard at what is often produced.
I am sure we are headed to another manifestation of the crisis we are in. It is not a new crisis coming, but a fresh manifestation of that crisis. The institutions will be opened again for us to see inside. The outcome? Probably dependent on how like / unlike Sodom we are at the core.