In the wake of the possible discovery of the city of Sodom, which I will talk about in the second part of this little dossier, let me address the main question you ask when you come to the city of Sodom: the practice of homosexuality.
In fact, chapter 19 of Genesis is usually mentioned when people speak about “against nature’s sexual practices”. From the name “Sodom” was even derived the english term “sodomy”, i.e. the so-called “anal intercourse”. But let us see the verses of chapter 19 where we would be talking of such a practice.
Verse 5: [The inhabitants of Sodom] called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.” “To know” is the English translation of the Hebrew word “yada'” which means two things: “to know” and, as in this case, “having sex.” Since in the preceding verse – verse 4 – it is said that they were “men” who came to Lot’s house, then the reference is inevitable: they wanted to have sex with the two men who were with Lot , ie with the two angels (cf. Gen 19:1-3).
Verses 6-8: Lot implores the men of Sodom not to take the wrong action and offers them, in exchange, his two daughters. Lot then says: “Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.”(v.8). The proposal of Lot seems brutal and primitive. He wants to offer his two daughters in exchange of the two men (angels) who had entered his house. But in the social context of Biblical times, the story was devoid of natural shame that today we would try faced with the decision of a father to rape his daughters.
In fact, for the ancient Israelites the practice of hospitality was sacred and inviolable. The “foreigner” belonged to that class of people – “widows, orphans and aliens” – that God loves most. To imitate God the pious Israelite loves them accordingly (cf. Gen 19 and Deut 10:18-19). Lot implores the sodomites not to do evil to the two men, because they have come under his roof.
The evil that sodomites were going to do was therefore twofold: having sex with two men, violating the rights of hospitality. But the “desecration” more serious in the eyes of Lot, was not having sex with two people who were sleeping rough in the square (cf. Gen 19:2). Rather they want to have sex with two people (angels) who lived as guests in his house. A similar incident is also narrated in the Book of Judges (chap. 19, 22 ff.).
We have to read the text in depth, to understand what is truly at stake. Certainly, homosexuality was severely condemned by the Bible (cf. Lv 18:22; 20:13). But it was not that why God decided to destroy the city.
The real reason is that the city was TOTALLY (cf. Gen 19.4 – “all the people”) devoted to evil; the city was TOTALLY folded in on itself and closed to God; they idolized sexual pleasure, practicing in this case homosexuality.
God does not punish humanity because of homosexuality or any other sin. Indeed God does not punish at all destroying the world that he himself created! In my book I grandi misteri irrisolti della Chiesa, I spoke of the possible natural causes that led to the destruction of Sodom. It was then the Bible’s authors that interpreted the Sodom’s destruction as caused by the “evil” that sodomites were committing.
This “evil” was their complete and total closure to God, even replacing it with sexual activity that had become a real obsession for the Sodomites. This total closure, this total elimination of God from their lives can only have tragic consequences … caused by us, however, and not by God!