August 7, 2013: A Pharisee in Sodom

~by Louis Templeman

I heard a commentary on Christian radio recently concerning the Supreme Court decision which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. The focus of the broadcast narrowed to the right or wrong of same sex marriage. The consensus was that America has reached a paradigm shift in moral and spiritual matters.

The speaker had the unmistakable air of an angry prophet now expecting persecution from the new barbarians. He is convinced the “good old days” were better and more wholesome. I have a pretty good memory. I assume that my childhood, by his accounting, must have represented the good old days of morality – back when the United States was a godly nation.

Well, I can recall being invited out for a fun evening with a group of white teenagers on what was called in James Island, S. C. nights of queer bashing. Even though this talk, in my experience, was always offered as an outlandish joke, it still displays an ugliness that was part of the social scene. I never met anyone who actually participated in such hatred and violence but it always hung in the air like an urban legend.

Such as this was not normal, but it was part of the social picture in the old days. Almost everyone had heard of it. Most expressed disapproval, even outrage. Nevertheless it fit within the social collage that was the American South in the 1960s. I lived in the north in the 1980s and must sadly interject the South had no proprietary hold on prejudice. Sadly, there is no area or ethnic group that is free of this.

It is problematic to generalize that today’s culture is worse that yesterday’s. That today is Sodom and Gomorrah and the good old days were so upright and righteous. Yes, there were more virgins on their wedding day. However, gays, racial minorities, the handicapped and women had very limited access to political rights, education, a decent career path and economic wellbeing.

It is pointless to baptize our patriotism and our political persuasion in Christianity. More important than making America Christian is to somehow return Christianity to the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is built on love. I heard no love in the commentator’s narrative. What I heard was a Pharisee denouncing the new Sodom.

It may be true that the Bible clearly denounces certain behaviors. Yet our government has now decided that some Biblical traditions are not in sync with modern life. What are we to do? For many of us it is not the same country we grew up in. However, love is always in sync with life.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is recounted in Genesis 19. In this story we find people who are sexually obsessed, who have an extreme sense of entitlement, no impulse control, and no respect for personal boundaries. We find there a frenzied quest for immediate gratification.

Such people exist today. Everyone is certainly not that way. There has been much bad behavior in every generation. Every reasonable person, whether Christian, Buddhist, gay, Muslim, or Jew is opposed to bad behavior, particularly of the kind in this old story.

This day has indeed been called by some the post-Christian Age in America. How do we face this paradigm shift? We can choose to be complaining self-righteous misanthropes or we can try to be good and loving and gentle. As individuals we must observe our own moral codes as presented by our faith without despising or judging those who do not share our beliefs. We must love everyone.

We are not called to be Pharisees in Sodom but “little children” intent in following the narrow path of our Father’s love. We are in sales not management. The prophet Amos told his people to seek peace, love others, do well and live humbly. Good advice for today. Let’s fill our own personal worlds with joy and peace and let God sort out the rest.

~Louis Templeman

Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D.

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