Fil-A Hate or Phileo Love?

“‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.’” –Ezekiel 16:49,50

In the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel, the LORD takes his people to task for their idolatrous polytheism. He had blessed them in the Promised Land, and they had used their prosperity to build pagan shrines, idols of silver and gold, and to engage in degrading acts of ritual prostitution and even child sacrifice. So detestable were their actions, he says, they made even Sodom appear righteous by comparison—a potent condemnation, since the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had long symbolized the nadir of moral corruption.

The LORD goes on to list the sins of Sodom, but he does not mention the ones we would expect, at least not specifically. Instead, he tells a similar story of prosperity, leading to pride and moral declension. They were “…arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” Their haughtiness led them to do “detestable things before me.” The “detestable things” may include acts of idolatry as well as the concomitant sexual immorality or perversion (the Hebrew word is often applied to both).

Yet note that, as in the case of Jerusalem, God had blessed Sodom, a large and rich city, and instead of humbling themselves before the Giver of all good gifts, they became proud, as though their prosperity came from their own hands. They became intoxicated with wealth, and reckless, blind, and deaf toward the needs of the less fortunate.

Why is this significant? The passage shows us that the sins we traditionally associate with Sodom, while serious enough, were merely the tip of the iceberg.

In truth, we know very little about Sodom apart from the biblical accounts. Archaeology and other historical texts have produced little of substance. Other Jewish writings imply that the sin described in Genesis 19 was not only the threat of homosexual rape, but more generally, a lack of hospitality to strangers, a very serious transgression in ancient cultures and evidence of godless depravity.  And still others state that the sins of Sodom were economic as well as sexual.

Yet Ezekiel makes it clear that the city’s overweening arrogance and reckless indifference toward the poor contributed greatly to her destruction.

I bring this up since the media, in its unceasing efforts to promote hostilities, has us now engaged in anathematizing one another over some comment made by the president of a well-known fast food chain. Does this man have the right to express his views? Of course. Have the mayors of Boston and Chicago overstepped their authority in trying to punish free speech? I think so. Did Rev. Huckabee overstep common sense by taking what is already a divisive issue to a new level of demagoguery? Yup.

Yet I find it deeply disturbing that so many thousands of my fellow well-fed Christians would go out of their way to lend their support to Chick-fil-A’s wealthy but beleaguered president, while perhaps few would spend an equal amount of breath to speak on behalf of the poor in this country.

If we want to be consistent, biblically consistent, we cannot cherry-pick sins. If we oppose gay marriage, then we must also oppose the oppression of the poor and our overreaching arrogance as a nation. But wait, that would cost us something, wouldn’t it? That would force us to recognize our own complicity in an unjust system, not to mention seriously denting our national ego. It might also cause us to lose our appetite. No, it is much easier to point the condemning finger at other people groups, ironically, those who are most in need of Christ’s love and healing.

Perhaps it is fitting, and typically American, that so many waited in line to fill their stomachs as a sign of solidarity.

What is so bewitching about these so-called “culture wars”? They enable a person to express hatred and intolerance while giving a vaguely satisfying and self-righteous sense of having done one’s religious duty, sort of like casting the first stone. If we really wanted to bring Christ’s hope and healing to homosexuals, we could not have picked a more offensive approach. But alas, I fear that bringing hope and healing has probably never occurred to us. No, much easier to reject, ostracize, eliminate, condemn. Sadly our message is not, “Come, Christ loves you and can heal you.” It’s “Don’t touch me. You’re unclean. I’m too holy for you.”

If Christian values are under attack in this nation, if we feel marginalized and irrelevant, we have only ourselves to blame. Of course, these culture wars provide the ruling class with just another diversionary tactic to distract us from those who are really responsible for destroying this nation. And we fall for it every time, like lambs led to slaughter.

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