In our story today, Abraham tries to save Sodom from the wrath of God. He fails, but he does try. His bargaining with God over the fate of a city he doesn’t live in, is his personal moral high point. This one act easily outshines his earlier life. It is,in fact,the sole high point of this entire myth, for there is little other mercy, care or love. It’s all downhill, baby. The annihilation of Sodom and Gomorrah is another of those biblical passages so difficult to take with modern moral sensibilities. With this atrocity, God continues his fall from whatever grace man created him with. His reputation, severely tarnished by the genocide of the flood, dropped yet another notch. Divinity or not, this was murder most foul. Damn that righteous bastard. If I get up there he has a lot to answer for.
Anyway, let’s get literal!
One day Abraham was lounging in the shade of his tent when he spied three men. His finely honed sycophantic instincts told him that these boys were important, damned important. Sure enough, it was God and two angels on their way to Sodom to see what the hell was actually going on there. Apparently, Abraham’s tent lay on the way and they decided to stop by. The servants killed a steer, baked some bread and rounded up a bit of cheese, and Abraham waited on the three as they relaxed under a tree.
Yahweh debated with himself over whether he should tell Abraham that as God he was going to check out Sodom and probably obliterate it. Deciding in the affirmative, he says to Abraham “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave,that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out.” To put it succinctly, they are screwed!
I still find it fascinating when God doesn’t just know stuff. Evangelicals strenuously teach (and I know, for I used to be one) God’s perfection, omnipotence, and omniscience . Yet, here is another case where God doesn’t know what any all-knowing being should. He heard an outcry about the city on the prayer hotline and had to go and check on it? WTF? In addition, he even debates with himself about whether to tell Abraham his intentions. He’s not even sure what he himself thinks? Come on dude! All-knowing means you know shit, all the shit, all the time. It’s in the definition. There is a frightfully large amount of not knowing here. My suspicion grows.
Then Abraham starts bargaining for Sodom saying “Would you destroy the city if there were just fifty good men there. What about forty-five? ” All the way down to just ten people. At every question God answers “No, for the sake of X number of innocent people I would not destroy it.” At ten good men God quickly leaves before old Abraham could get it down to a single decent dog.
Now, the way I understand this passage is that God and Abraham have an agreement here. If there are ten innocent people the city will not be destroyed. But I ask, who really looked? Abraham isn’t mentioned any further in relation to Sodom and Gomorrah, The two angels don’t look when they get into the city, and Lot doesn’t have a chance. Did anyone? Was that covenant ignored?
A common answer to this is that since all the townspeople turned out to rape the angels there could have been no innocents left. Really? None at all? As with the genocide of the flood, were there no children? No babes in arms? No unborn? Anywhere in the entire city? Did these people spring fully grown and sinful right from the ground like the orcs or cylons. In a time when children were born at tremendous rates to make up for all who died (yet, another difficulty I have with the old man upstairs) even a small city should have been packed with them. How could anyone include them with the guilty? Oh, I am well aware of the potential for divine punishment to the seventh generation. But is this truly right? In emulating God’s law should we kill the grandchildren of murderers, rape the grandchildren of rapists. Fornicate with the grandchildren of fornicators? Uh… Well, if they’re of age, that one’s not too bad. But the rest, I think not. Seriously though, this very notion of Biblical justice makes me shudder in horror. This is not a moral example because all things considered, we can safely infer two facts here. There were innocents in Sodom, and God murdered them with the rest.
Which of course brings us to the next point. Why does a supposedly all-powerful god have to use such grandiose weapons of mass destruction? A world-wide flood? City razing beams of light? A god who cares for every hair on my head should not have to use the equivalent of a thermonuclear weapon. It’s like using a howitzer to target jaywalkers, effective, but hell on the guiltless, and a bit of an over reaction. Doesn’t he have anything a little more selective. Couldn’t he just stop the hearts of the guilty, sparing the others. Obviously, these divine extravaganzas are more about putting on a show than protecting the innocent. But even if he wanted a gruesome show why destroy the innocent? Why not have the guilty burst into flame or explode. Oooh! Oooh! How about having them implode, pulling into themselves by degrees until all that is left is a rather large bloodshot blinking eye. Now that would teach a real lesson… and, of course, be cool!
Hell, we could blow up an entire city 65 years ago. Big deal! Today, we have smart weapons that are far more selective. Where are God’s smart weapons? Where are his laser guided sin destroyers? Is it simply that he’s a shitty aim? Can’t hit the broad side of a sinner with a lightning bolt? Or does he not care? Precisely targeting the guiltiest would have the added benefit of warning those on the edge of sinning. You’d straighten your act up a bit if a booming voice spoke out from the clouds and the guy next to you turned inside out. But did God do anything like that ? Nope! Just slaughtered them all, and it’s a little understood fact that when you kill everyone there’s no one left to learn any lessons.
So what’s the lesson we are supposed to learn here? Damn! Again, I don’t know. How about this. All you innocents out there better remember that if you happen to be in the same city as guilty people when that big old invisible guy in the sky decides to whack ‘em. He’s probably going to get you too. Your mom always warned you that the people you hung out with would get you in trouble. Now it’s biblical!
God’s definitely into collateral damage. Hmm. I almost called it friendly fire, but friendly, it certainly isn’t.