Halfway There

The first of July has arrived and I have so many things to say after quite a vacation. Where should I begin? Let me start with today.

This morning dawned bright, clear and cool for July 1. Last night during the early a.m. hours I awoke to the sounds of fire crackers exploding somewhere in the general area, although the sounds could have carried for blocks and blocks. For a moment I thought I heard gunshots, but, after some consideration, I concluded the sounds represented fireworks set off by someone practicing for this Thursday, July 4.

The noise could have come from gunfire and is entirely possible in the ‘hood, but why not frame it in a more positive light? Someone loves the sounds of firecrackers exploding, a freedom-loving American, not a midtown thug packing heat. There, I feel better already.

The nights and days have been so cool that the roar of air-conditioning units vanished for a time. The evenings and mornings pass in quiet except for the occasional car that rushes down the street. It is a peaceful time outside these days.

Last night at 2:15 I arose from my bed and walked outside to sit on the porch. A slight breeze made the wind chimes ring softly. The quiet of the night enfolded me as I watched the dark world. No signs of life except for the occasional car that turned the corner to cruise over to the avenue where the sex workers ply their trade.

That’s an assumption I made. Several times, the same, silver Volvo station wagon cruised down the street and turned east, a pattern that said, “I’m looking for sex.” The person could have been house hunting in the early hours of the morning, but past experience tells me otherwise. After four passes, the car never showed up again. Maybe he got lucky or maybe he went home to his house in the suburbs, to his spouse who has no clue what her husband is doing at 3 a.m. on a Monday morning.

At this moment, the leaves of the sweet gum tree shudder in the light breeze, the dreaded yard rat has discovered he can crawl down the wire to the feeder filled with peanuts, an occasional bark comes from down the street and all returns to the silence of a cool morning.

July has arrived. We are halfway through 2013.

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The Worst Christian Myth of All: Sodom & Gomorrah

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Fire and brimstone appeals to lots of people. The idea of an angry God who wreaks death and destruction on evildoers (and anyone else within range of His often over-the-top displays of judgment) makes some fundamentalist Christians whoop with joy. The idea that non-believers, secular humanists, liberals, women’s libbers and other “perverts” will suffer horrible deaths brings joy to their cold, dead hearts. A peculiar and unpleasant group of people for sure, but they have biblical precedent to expect bad things to happen to “bad” people.

Sodom and Gomorrah sat on a plain somewhere in the Middle East. Abraham’s brother, Lot, lived in Sodom with his wife and two daughters. He had other children who also lived in the city, but not with him. He was a good man unlike many, if not all, of his neighbors as we shall see later in the story.

Shortly after Abraham had all the males in his family and all the servants and slaves circumcised according to instructions from God (not a happy time for the guys), the Lord appeared to him and had a little supper.

Suddenly (I know the word is forbidden, but, hey, this is my post) the visitors arose and headed to Sodom with Abraham tagging along. God told Abraham He planned to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because their sin was very grievous; however, He does not say what the sin is.

Two of God’s hit-angels (similar to hit-men) continued to Sodom while Abraham bargained with God. “What if I found fifty righteous men in the city? Would you spare it?”

“I would.”

Abraham pursued the negotiations. “What if there are only forty righteous men? Will you not destroy the city?”

“Okay, if you can find forty, I won’t destroy the city.”

Abraham obviously had no faith in the men of Sodom so he asked, “What if I can only find thirty?”

God, who was being exceptionally patient, answered, “I will not destroy the city.”

In a show of extremely poor judgment, Abraham pressed on. “What if I only find ten righteous men? Will that satisfy you?” 

God, who knew He was already going to destroy Sodom (and Gomorrah) because He was omniscient (all-knowing), laughed to Himself as He said, “I will not destroy if for ten’s sake.”

With the agreement reached, Abraham turned and walked back to his home while the two hit-angels traveled on to Sodom where Lot was waiting at the gate to greet them. Someone had obviously phoned ahead to warn Lot (well, the old timey version of phoning ahead because they didn’t have phone then). Scripture does not tell us what exactly happened to God except “he went his way.” I guess that means he went back to Heaven.

Lot welcomed the visitors and took them to his house for a meal. (Who knew angels ate?) They had a nice time which was interrupted by all the men of Sodom surrounding Lot’s house and demanding to see the visitors so they might “know” them.

Lot went out to face the mob. “Settle down.”

When that failed to work, he offered to the crown his two daughters, who had never known a man. “Do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for came they under the shadow of my roof.” Wow, what a good father Lot was. He offered his daughters to be raped to save two strangers.

The crowd refused and attacked Lot, but the angels blinded them so no one could find the door. Huh? Yes, that’s what the scripture says. All these blind Sodomites couldn’t find the door. After awhile they grew tired of searching for it and left.

That’s when the angels tell Lot to gather up his household and the households of his sons-in-law and leave the city because God planned to destroy Sodom. Lot tried, but they laughed at him and he returned home to find the angels waiting for him.

“You must take everyone and leave immediately for the mountains.”

“The mountains? But, I’ll never make it in time. Besides, there’s danger there.”

 God agreed to Lot going to a nearby town instead of the mountains.

 As Lot entered the small town, God poured forth fire and brimstone from heaven upon ALL the cities on the plain, not just Sodom and Gomorrah, and destroyed everything. Lot’s wife turned to look and ZAP! she turned to a pillar of salt.

Usually the story ends here for good reason. It’s about to become a little uncomfortable and ugly and too difficult to explain to small children and adults with morals.

What’s the lesson the faithful learn from the story of Lot? Sunday school teachers tell children to obey the commands of God. He will do what he says:  destroy every living thing, turn people into pillars of salt and save the people he likes.

The lesson for adults follows that taught to children, with the addition of a critical element which haunts us to the present day:  God hates fags (to quote the Phelpsians) and we should too. He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and all the living things on the plain because of the homosexuals who wanted “to know” the strangers. That’s biblical code for have sexual relations with.

Some biblical scholars question the “homosexual” aspect of the case. If all the men of Sodom showed up at the door as stated and we know the city had many women and children, how could all of the men been homosexuals? It seems unlikely that they were.

If Lot knew the crowd was composed of homosexuals, why did he think offering his virgin daughters to the crowd would work? Surely he understood his neighbors better than that. Then there’s the matter of the destruction of ALL living things on the plain. Wasn’t that overkill?

Why was Gomorrah and all the other cities nearby suffer the same punishment as the wicked people in Sodom? Is it an example of what the U.S. military likes to call “collateral damage”—the death of innocents? Is it yet another example of God’s overreaction to situations and his lack of good aim?

The homosexual element of the myth has become ingrained in the story to such an extent that it’s now a given. Homosexuals caused the destruction of Sodom and that’s the “Truth.” Sorry, believers, I’m not buying it.

The Bible has been used to justify everything from slavery, to segregation, to homicide, genocide, subjugation of women, sexual abuse of children and whatever else “true believers” want to believe. It’s a sin, but let’s not get mired down in what a book that allows so much misinterpretation has to say about anything important. The worst part of the Lot story slips by because no one wants to continue with the tale, but I will.

Lot and his two daughters achieved immediate notoriety because they alone had escaped from the plain. The people of the small town failed to see how these new people could bring anything but evil with them. In response to their concerns, Lot hightailed it into the mountains where he found a cave to live in.

He settled in that cave, alone with his two virgin daughters. His oldest daughter said to her younger sister, “Let’s get Pops drunk and have sex with him so that we may preserve his seed.” And, that’s what they did, not once, but twice. Both girls got knocked up by their father who was too drunk to know what had happened. Does that sound familiar, the old, “I was too drunk to remember doing that with you?” line?

And, since no other men shared their living space, did Lot not know what happened when both daughters started to show and then gave birth to two boys, Moab and Benammi? Unlikely.

What pisses me off is that God didn’t do anything to Lot or his daughters. Surely incest is a horrible crime punishable by a personal fire-and-brimstone session. How about turning Lot and his daughters into pillars of salt for their abomination? Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

The three wander off into Biblical anonymity never darkening any more pages of the Bible.

I can see why Sunday school teachers stop at the point where Lot’s nameless wife turns into a salt pillar. How would they explain God-approved incest to children? How do they explain it to responsible adults? Are we to believe that “God hates fags” but approves of drunken fathers who have sex with their own daughters? I don’t think so.

Other Christian myths told in Sunday schools and churches all over the country undergo the same sanitization for mass consumption. It’s natural and normal not to tell the whole story if it contains unsettling elements, but it’s unnatural and abnormal to use those sanitized stories to abuse, punish and discriminate against other groups or people. Even worse, is the use of myths to make laws criminalizing certain behaviors. Hmmm. I wonder why incest became illegal since God condoned it? Probably those damned secular humanists.

We have arrived at the end of the Chapter 20 of Genesis, not even halfway through. Already the Judeo-Christian god has created the universe, created Adam and first woman, run first woman off, driven Adam and his second wife out of Eden, populated the world in a questionable manner, killed off one of the two original sons of Adam & Eve, flooded the earth destroying everything on the planet, repopulated the world, destroyed the Tower of Babel, allowed the patriarch Abraham to destroy his adversaries and then destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and every living thing on the plain and allowed Lot to screw his two daughters. This is beginning to sound like one of Harold Robbins’ naughty novels. Hey, maybe he took his inspiration from Genesis.

Well, enough religious myth for a day. Next, I think I’ll backtrack and tell the story of the Tower of Babel before moving on to the bad behavior of Sarah and Abraham. Abraham is the first example of one man plus one woman plus another woman equals marriage. Maybe the polygamists have scriptural support.