I’ll be honest with you, I think my argument about how the gay marriage debate is really a much simpler debate over the nature and purpose of contracts is pretty smart. In the 5 years I’ve been making it, I don’t think I’ve found anyone who can sensibly answer it. Someone did make a comment, specifically claiming that gay marriage hurts liberty, and linked to their blog post making a bunch of rather incoherent arguments that have that tinge of absurdity to them. But this post isn’t about any of those arguments; rather, it was prompted by a mention of the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah in an article written by a pastor from Sarah Palin’s hometown. The article is worth a read, or at least the headline is: Will the Antichrist be a homosexual?
By and large, this is what passes for serious intellectual exercise in the nation’s churches. Or at least every church I’ve been to. I stopped attending church because I couldn’t deal with the blatant hypocrisy and anti-intellectual tone of the discussions regarding everything from gays to Iraq.
I think this is going to be my last post on the subject. I think for the next few days I’m going to be talking about more micro-economic stuff, like Cournot theory or auction theory (Google seems to have designed the perfect auction!).
In any case, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is an enlightening one, not because of what happens (Sodom and Gomorrah have the bad fortune to have a couple days of extremely bad weather, with sulphur and brimstone raining down and destroying everything). The really interesting part is what happens before; specifically, God sends two angels to the house of a man named Lot. They stay the night with him, during which time the inhabitants of the town surround the house, demanding that the two angels (in human form) be sent out to them, ostensibly to be raped. There is some debate over the meaning of the ancient texts; you can find the wiki here. But what is most interesting (and least discussed) is this line:
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…—Genesis 19:8
That’s right, instead of sending out the angels (who can presumably fend for themselves, being divine beings) Lot offers the mob his virgin daughters for their pleasure. Later, Lot leaves with his family and escapes the destruction of the twin cities. The wiki on Lot is here. Lot is later described in 2nd Peter (a book written by Paul the Apostle in the New Testament) as a righteous man surrounded by evildoers.
There is really nothing about this story that is appealing to me. But as someone who’s very familiar with Biblical text and religious interpretations, there is a bit of cognitive dissonance in this story because it appears that there is no one in the entire story who does anything that I can call righteous. The angels don’t intervene to protect themselves and they reward Lot with the information that he needs to survive, presumably with God’s divine sanction. Lot bargains for the lives and integrity of the angels using his virgin (and presumably very young) daughters. And the mob, whether or not they were trying to rape anyone, is obviously not on the right side of the moral equation. Yet this story (and the explicit belief in Lot’s righteousness) is a major part of the narrative that is used to justify discrimination and hate. You understand why I have trouble assigning credibility to the pastors and churchgoers who refuse to engage this story in its totality and instead cherrypick the parts of it that fit their narrative of intolerance.