Let us begin by addressing the real sin of Sodom. But what could possibly be meant by “the real sin of Sodom?” Isn’t it obvious? The sin of homosexual behavior draws its name from Sodom. What could be more obvious? And given the corruption of the times, shouldn’t we be suspicious of any attempt to draw our attention elsewhere? As always, the answer to such questions is, “It depends.”
Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good (Ez. 16:49-50).
The prophet Ezekiel is speaking the word of the Lord against the city of Jerusalem. In the course of his prophetic rebuke, he says that the city of Samaria is Jerusalem’s older sister, and that Sodom is Jerusalem’s younger sister (v. 46). Samaria dwells at Jerusalem’s left hand and Sodom at her right. Moreover, the prophet denounces Jerusalem as far exceeding the sins of both these other sinful cities. Compared to Jerusalem, both these wicked cities seem righteous in comparison (v. 52).
In this essay, we are addressing the politics of sodomy, and consequently we are addressing the corporate nature of a certain form of sin. But it should be acknowledged at the outset that the rejection of individualism does not mean that individual sin and rebellion somehow disappear. They do not disappear at all—rather, they are placed in their proper context. But so that we may know what we are placing in context, it is true that the sin that was being attempted at Lot’s house was the sin of homosexual rape (Gen. 19:5). Lest any sophists snatch at this and say that the problem was the rape, the Bible also says that it is wrong for men to desire men sexually (Rom. 1:27), as well as for women to desire women (Rom. 1:26). The Scriptures say that individuals who live this way will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9). This includes both sodomites and catamites, the two aspects of homosexuality mentioned here. All this is to say that by addressing the root cultural problems, we are seeking to understand individual behavior, and not to excuse it.
This said, Sodom was a city. When Ezekiel mentions the sin of Sodom in an aside, many conservative Christians might be surprised at where he starts. Sodom was a degraded city, and they had gotten to the point where the rape of visitors was thought to be something that ought to be allowed in the public square. But how did they get there? This was the sin of Sodom—pride, fullness of bread, abundance of idleness, neglect of the poor, haughtiness, and abominations. At the very end of the list we find what caused Sodom to become a household word. But consider what went before, and ask yourself how America got to the place where the sexual confusion from Massachusetts is taken even halfway seriously.
To this we may add the word of the prophet Isaiah. The point here has to do with the combination of worship with iniquity, and the central point here is not liturgical form. We must guard against any form which seeks to make room for iniquity.
Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah. Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah . . . When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? . . . And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood (Is. 1:9-10, 12, 15).
In our corporate capacity as a nation, why are we dealing (very unsuccessfully) with this sin at the end of Ezekiel’s list? The answer is that we have long since given way to the sins mentioned earlier. Not only have we succumbed to these sins, some of them are our pride and glory. Consider some of the following:
Corrupt worship: across our nation, worship is not understood rightly, as holy covenant renewal with a holy God. Every Lord’s Day, millions of Americans cry out to God. Why does He not hear?
Pride: our pride can be seen very clearly, even in how traditionalists oppose these recent legal developments. We want salvation, and we want it even although we refuse to acknowledge the only Savior, Jesus Christ (Matt. 28: 17-20; Ps. 2:12). Traditionalists point to certain verses in Romans 1, verses that ignore the overarching context. Who does not honor God as God? Who does not give Him thanks?
Fullness of bread: do we really need to say anything here? But remember, the problem is not the wealth in itself, the problem is forgetting God in that wealth (Dt. 8:17-18).
Abundance of idleness: a recreational mentality, demanding entertainment in everything, has crept into everything, including worship and study.
Haughtiness: how is this different from pride? Haughtiness is pride manifested, superciliousness. Haughtiness is seen in daughters of Zion, strutting their wares at the mall (Is. 3:16).
Neglect of the poor: this is one of the areas where our wickedness is great, precisely because of the hypocritical posturing of those who defend the welfare state. Judas was concerned for the poor, because he kept the money bag (Jn. 12:4-6; 13:29). As countless government workers have discovered, the poor are a gold mine.
And then we come to homosexual abominations: and so, here we are. But basic point is this — how is it possible for us to indulge ourselves with the first six sins, and not have to reckon with the seventh? What does God think of partial repentance? What does God think of men who want to reap something other than what they have sown?
In many respects, we are like a man who lives in a house that is increasingly cluttered and trashed. When the day finally arrives when it becomes obvious that he must do something, it is equally obvious at the same time, that he has no idea what to do, or where to start. He is overwhelmed at the magnitude of the problem. It is the same with us as we consider the politics of sodomy. We want to put things right. Where do we go to begin? Do we go back to the sixties? The New Deal? The War Between the States? The Enlightenment? And the answer is yes.
And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad (Matt. 12:25-30).
Jesus is speaking in the first place about the kingdoms of God and Satan respectively. He had been accused of fighting Satan even though His accusers said He was on Satan’s side. Jesus responds by saying that a house divided cannot stand, and so Satan would not be so foolish (vv.25-26). Jesus goes on to say if His power over Beelzebub was a demonic power, then what power was being used by His adversaries’ children (v. 27)? But if Jesus is empowered by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God really had come to them (v. 28). And, continuing the argument, if the kingdom of God has come, why should anyone be surprised that the strong man’s house was being pillaged? The strong man was bound, wasn’t he? And then Jesus says what we all need to hear—one who is not with Christ is against Christ. One who does not gather with Christ is attempting to scatter (v. 30).
The claims of Christ are therefore total. There is no way to read through the New Testament and miss this. The claims of Christ are total. He is the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, and over any creature that can be named. Christ is King. Jesus is Lord. This is the basic Christian confession (Rom. 10:9-10). And here, if you are not with Him, you are therefore against Him. There is no spiritual equivalent of Switzerland. In the cosmic war between in light and darkness, there are no neutral parties, and there is no third way. There are only two activities in every realm of human existence, and those two activities are obedient gathering and disobedient scattering. Only two.
Obviously, for modern and momentary man, these total claims on the part of Christ just won’t do. We need to have our personal space. We need to protect our favorite forms of autonomy. But at the same time, those of us who are religious, particularly in the Christian Lite Community of Faith, need to give some sort of lip service to the language of totality that comes up so often in Scripture. We should want to bring every thought captive, the apostle Paul says (2 Cor. 10: 5). Obviously, we have to figure out a way to use this kind of total language while ensuring that it remains partial in effect. God calls this sort of thing by the name of hypocrisy.
But we have developed various intellectual tricks for doing this, and we may describe these tricks as forms of American individualism, gnosticism, constitutionalism, or rationalism. A man can pick one of the following, or mix up his own combinations. Disobedience is protean and can take many forms.
Individualism: in this view, Jesus is Lord of my heart, and not that which is outside the realm of my heart. This is not thought of as partialism because the heart is what counts, right? But Jesus is Lord of your toes as well as your heart, and your world as well as your heart.
Gnosticism: in this perspective, Jesus is Lord of all spiritual things, not thought of as the Lord over foreign policy, sewage disposal, botany, law, and weed control. But Jesus is Lord of both heaven and earth, and every manifestation of culture.
Constitutionalism: this excuse points to the non-establishment clause of the First Amendment, misunderstanding that amendment in a grotesque fashion. But even if the amendment said what its distorters claim, that just makes it laughable instead of being bad constitutional interpretation. Regardless of what we, Congress, or the Supreme Courth may think about it, Jesus is still the King of the United States.
Rationalism: this is the approach that appeals to natural law, but to a natural law that is sure to exclude the revelation of God in Christ. But natural law is fulfilled in Christ.
These evasions will not work. All culture is religious, and the only question to consider is whether it is faithfully religious or idolatrously religious. It has been said that all culture is religion externalized, but even this helpful insight can be interpreted in too weak a fashion. All culture is religion. Turning Henry Van Til’s insight around, we should say that all religion is culture internalized. So the question is not whether our culture has a god, but rather which god it has. The question is not whether we will impose morality, but rather which morality it will be. The question is not whether we will restrict blasphemy, but rather which blasphemy. And it is not whether we will embrace sexual politics, but rather which sexual polis it will be.
Often we confront problems in our individual lives, or in our families, and after we have exhausted all the possibilities in our hunt for a solution, we ask others to pray for us. “Oh,” some might be tempted to think. “Has it come to that?” We must learn to begin where we are sometimes tempted to end.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
We walk in the flesh, Paul says. We have bodies. But our warfare is not pursued after the flesh (v. 3). We do not war after the flesh. The reason for this is that our weapons are not carnal (sarkikos, fleshly), but rather are mighty through God in the pulling down of strongholds (v. 4). Empowered by God in this way, our weapons are capable of accomplishing three things. First, they cast down imaginations. Second, they cast down every high thing that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. And third, our weapons capture every thought in order to make them obedient to Christ (v. 5).
We have seen thus far that our cultural degradation is following the pattern described in the Scriptures, and it is following that pattern exactly. We have refused to honor God as God, and refused to give Him thanks. Therefore, the wrath of God is being exhibited against us. The end result of this is necessarily sodomy in the public square. We have also learned that there is no neutrality in the war between light and darkness. Either one is with Christ or one is against Him. You must either gather or scatter. But one of the devices noted earlier for evading the total claims of Christ was the device of creating a two-tier universe, spiritual and material. We then crown Jesus the Lord of all that is spiritual, and think we have given Him great glory. But this is just disobedience simpliciter, and we come now to see how this skews a right understanding of the text before us here.
What does it mean to be carnal? In the grip of unbiblical assumptions, we tend to think that spiritual means ethereal, rather than empowered by the Spirit. And we think that unspiritual means physical, instead of disobedient to the Spirit. Now there is a divide, right down the middle of human history, but it is not a divide between physical and ethereal. It is the divide between Spirit-empowered obedience and Spirit-resistant disobedience. Now test yourself. When Paul says here that our weapons are not carnal, what do we immediately tend to think? We translate this to “not physical” and we retreat further into our gnostic fortress.
But what does the Bible tell us? “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (Heb. 11: 32-34). The point here is not one of shallow triumphalism; we read in the same context of those who were martyred and (in the eyes of some) defeated, and they also lived by faith. They also died very physical deaths. Faith always has an incarnate form.
King David was one of those who, according to this passage, turned the armies of aliens to flight. And he gives the glory to God. “Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight” (Ps. 144:1). This means that David’s weapons were not carnal either. He did what he did through faith. Physicality is inescapable—it is not whether, but which. And when you have selected your physical weapon, the question of faith is before you. Will you be carnal in your use of physical means or not?
“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God (Ps. 20:7). The issue is trust—David, who wrote this psalm, did not go out onto the battle field to perform the martial arts equivalent of air guitar. He had material weapons, just as his enemies did. But he also had faith in God and they did not. But because we are so prone to place our trust in the means God has provided (which is idolatry), there are times when God does require an amputation. The rich young ruler is told to give away his wealth (Mk. 10:21)—but his life after doing so would have been just as material as it was before. He was told to give away money, not to evaporate into a cloud. Jehoshaphat decided to send the choir out in the vanguard of the army (2 Chron. 20:21), but the choir was every bit as physical as the army was.
This means we must remember the name of the Lord. The question before us is not whether we will oppose the current corruption, or whether we will use physical means in order to oppose the advancing politics of Sodom. We are material creatures; we must do so. Our worship here is just as physical as writing our congressman. And moreover, unlike members of Congress, the one to whom we pray is not on the take.
Why do we not throw ourselves into what is called “activism?” Our view is that American Christians are idolatrously addicted to politics—and not as ordinary physical means which they by faith ask the triune God to bless. Rather, the common approach to politics as a secular activity positively excludes the Lord Jesus Christ—and this is normal for most activist Christians. We test for this idolatry by noting how our potent opposition of the current corruptions is interpreted by some Christians. “But you are doing nothing!” Worship and prayer are treated as though they were the civil equivalent of a Hail Mary pass. But God answers prayer. God is our Savior. We need salvation from the current culture of sexual corruption, and the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ has taught us in the gospel that Jesus is the only possible Savior. And so we worship Him, crying out to Him.
This is fundamental. But in the meantime, how do we as individuals respond to the situation we find ourselves in? How can we be faithful in our generation? These very practical questions, and they require answers that are equally practical. What are we to do? How are we to live?
And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly (Gen. 13:10-13).
And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways (Gen. 19:1-2).
Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt (Gen. 19:24-26).
Remember Lot’s wife (Luke 17:32).
The outline of the story goes this way, and it is a story that the Lord Jesus commanded us to remember. When Abraham and Lot came into conflict through their herdsmen, Abraham gave Lot the first choice on which land he could have. Lot made that choice on carnal principles (seeing the main chance), and he took up residence near Sodom. The men there were already renowned for their wickedness. In our next passage, Lot is living in Sodom, and he knows what a foul place it is. First it was near Sodom, and then it was in Sodom. He tries to get the angels to stay with him for the night, and be on their way first thing in the morning. When the judgment finally fell, even that was inadequate evidence for Lot’s wife, and she looked longingly back at all the malls and restaurants, and she was destroyed. Remember her, Jesus said.
Cultures fall apart in the pattern described in the Scriptures, and they do so exactly as God describes it. Because we have rejected God, He is rejecting us, and the latter issue is a far more important one than the former. The end of this process is sodomy in the public square. And in the conflict that surrounds this, neutrality is an impossibility. All of us must either gather or scatter, and we cannot evade the force of this by making Christ the Lord of an invisible “spiritual” world. Thinking rightly about this means that we will avoid carnality in our motives for the fight—but we can never avoid obedience (or disobedience) in the material realm. Moreover, all of the physical realm is involved. But with all this as a foundation, we do need direction.
Worship is always central. Every Lord’s Day, we have the privilege of entering into the heavenlies, and we there glorify the name of Jesus Christ (Heb. 12: 22, 28-29). We do this in Christ, in the heavenlies (Eph. 1: 18-21). We then ask God to glorify the name of Jesus Christ on earth as it has been glorified in heaven (Matt. 6:10). And what this means is that that corporate worship, offered in evangelical faith, biblically ordered, is a battering ram in the hands of the saints of God. Moreover, this is our only battering ram, and we must not put it down to throw our wadded up paper balls at the fortress turrets. There are many consequences to the overthrow of the unbelieving fortress—economic, political, cultural, artistic, and so on. But the spoils of battle are not our weapons of battle. That is what we are fighting over, not what we are fight with. Specifically, we are fighting over politics, but we ought not to be fighting with politics. Politics is no savior, but politics will be saved. But also remember that “faith” and “trust” don’t mean air guitar.
The 115th Psalm is full of glorious encouragement on this subject. Among other things is the assurance that God will bless us, He will bless us and our children, and He promises to do this whether we are “small or great.” “He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great” (Ps. 115: 13). This means that in the eyes of God there is no such thing as an “out of the way” place. And this means that in order to “do something” constructive you do not have to wait. Every worshipping communicant Christian has a weekly audience now with the Most High King. His eyes are on the sons of men. And what does He see?
Husbands and fathers living sacrificially? Unmarried Christians faithfully serving in their communities? Children learning the meaning of loyalty and obedience? Wives respecting and honoring their husbands? A community of Christians characterized by sharing meals in one another’s homes, because they love one another? God will bless this, whether small or great, and whether or not the Supreme Court ever heard of it.
Precisely because we are not gnostic, we must have multiple loyalties, and no two of us can have exactly the same ones. But these must be hierarchical loyalties, biblically ordered and ranked. If they are lined up side-by-side, then the name for this is “divided loyalties” or “idolatry” for short. The only loyalty that we all may hold in common absolutely is our loyalty to the triune God, and every other loyalty must self-consciously be subordinated to it. Currently, the open competitor to this is the State that would be God. Because things aren’t what they used to be, we need to deal with all our liturgical idols (including the civic ones). This means saying the Apostles’ Creed instead of the Pledge of Allegiance. Or altering the Pledge to say “the triune God” or the “Lord Jesus Christ” instead of the current generic “God.” This is just an example, but if we do not commit ourselves to our Trinitarian loyalties, we are not remembering Lot’s wife, and we are slowly being conformed to the world around us, just as she was (Rom. 12:1-2).