Clobber Passage: Jude

The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah, a paint...

The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah, a painting by John Martin (painter), died 1854, thus 100 years. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the Clobber Passages still used occasionally is from the Book of Jude.  Jude is a short, one-chapter book, and verse 7 is sometimes quoted to argue that “unrepentant” homosexuals are doomed to hell fire.

In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 7)

What follows is patterned after dialogues like the Dialogue with Trypho and the Dialogues of Plato.

Dialogue with Charlotte

Howard:  Charlotte, do you have a minute? I want to talk about your support of homosexuals a little more. It still seems to me that you have to ignore an awful lot of scripture to keep condoning these so-called gay and lesbian “Christians.”

Charlotte:  Not a problem, Howard. I always enjoy a good conversation with you.

Howard:  Okay. We’ve never discussed the verse in Jude–Jude 7.  Let me read it to you. “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” You see? The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is specifically called sexual immorality and perversion. Now you really can’t get around that, Charlotte.

Charlotte:  Jude? I love Jude! It is absolutely one of my favorite books in the Bible–it’s so weird!

Howard:  Weird? C’mon Charlotte–the Bible is not weird.

Charlotte:  Well, Jude certainly is. You’ve heard of apocryphal books, right? Jude quotes two apocryphal books! They’re not even in the Bible. Tell me that’s not weird.

Howard:  But the apocrypha isn’t in the Bible. Only Catholics use the Apocrypha.

Charlotte:  Not the Apocrypha, but apocryphal books. Jude quotes the Book of Enoch and The Assumption of Moses. Let me see your Bible for a minute. Here it is: “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: ‘See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.'” That quote comes from the Book of Enoch.

I’ve read it. It describes the Son of Man like it’s straight out of the Bible: clothed in dazzling white coming down out of the clouds. And the book is pre-Christian! It is so cool.

Howard:  Uh, I’ll have to borrow it some time.

Charlotte:  Not to worry. It’s online.

Howard:  Some New Age site, I suppose?

Charlotte:  Actually, no. It’s a Nazarene site.

Howard:  You’ve got to be kidding me! Phineas Bresee must be turning in his grave.

Charlotte:  I wouldn’t be surprised!  You know, Jude also quotes The Assumption of Moses. It’s here: “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!'”

Howard:  Let me see that. (pause) I never heard about Satan fighting with an angel over Moses’ body before–not in Sunday school or church.

Charlotte:  Now do you understand why I love it? I said the Book of Jude was weird!

Howard:  Uh-huh. I do see. But what does that have to do with God destroying Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexuality?

Charlotte:  Well, Howard, where did Jude get that idea, that the sin of Sodom is homosexuality? Some apocryphal book? It certainly didn’t come from the Bible!

Howard:  Of course it’s in the Bible. It’s in Genesis.

Charlotte:  Okay, but if Sodom and Gomorrah is really about homosexuality, then why do Ezekiel and Jesus only mention the sin of inhospitality to strangers and the poor?

Howard:  Yes, I know about Sodom and inhospitality.

Charlotte:  Well let’s look at it anyway, okay? Look here in Ezekiel: “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.” Nothing here about homosexuality that I can see.

And remember when Jesus sent out the disciples to preach in the cities, how he told them to “search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave”? And he said if no one would welcome them or listen, that it would be “more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” Why? Because on one would welcome them and let them stay with them–no hospitality.

The sin of Sodom is not homosexuality, Howard. It’s about being inhospitable to travelers, and to the poor and needy. And that’s in the Old and New Testament.

Howard:  No. Hospitality is not that big a deal, not compared to homosexuality. It’s just not that big a deal.

Charlotte:  Maybe not to you, but it was back then. I don’t know what the hotel and motel situation was, but Jesus and Ezekiel obviously taught that not being generous and hospitable was a big deal–enough to incur God’s wrath. If someone wouldn’t let you sleep on their floor or in their stable, you could be robbed, or die in the cold. It gets pretty cold at night in the desert. Things were really different back then.

And if you don’t think so, I think you need to re-read Jesus and Ezekiel and take their word for it.

Howard:  Charlotte, that may be, but you’re ignoring Jude itself. Look at what it says: “Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion.” How much clearer can you get? The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah will suffer the punishment of eternal fire because of their sexual immorality and perversion, not because of inhospitality. You can’t pick and choose which verses to accept and which to reject, Charlotte.

Charlotte:  I don’t reject that, Howard. What did the men of Sodom want to do?

Howard:  They wanted to rape the angels staying with Lot.

Charlotte:  Did they know that the visitors were angels?

Howard:  Well, I don’t know.

Charlotte:  They didn’t know, Howard. As far as they knew, the angels were just impressive-looking strangers in town, and Lot was being hospitable to them. And the men wanted to rape the strangers to establish their territory and dominance.

Howard:  Okay.

Charlotte:  Howard, is rape sexually immoral?

Howard:  Well, of course it is.

Charlotte:  Is rape a perversion?

Howard:  Raping a man would be perverted, but I don’t know about raping a woman. That’s different.

Charlotte:  Really? So you think raping a woman isn’t perverted? You think it’s normal?

Howard:  Well, when you put it that way, then, yes. Rape is perverted, whether you’re raping a man or a woman.

Charlotte:  So, based on Jude, you really can’t know for sure whether the sexual immorality and perversion he talks about is related to homosexuality or rape, can you? Rape is sexually immoral and perverted.

Howard:  (pause) I still think you’re wrong.

Charlotte:  That’s okay, I didn’t think I’d change your mind with one conversation. I just hope you won’t keep quoting Jude to people to try to prove that gay and lesbian Christians are going to hell. You know better. And when somebody else quotes it? Remember that quoting it really isn’t right.

Howard:  You know Charlotte, I’ll think twice before I bring this up with you again!

Charlotte:  Oh no, Howard. I enjoy our little chats! Still friends?

Howard:  Yeah, still friends. You’re so mean!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

[For more posts on the Clobber Passages, click here.]

About Ron Goetz

My first wife used to say, "There's nothing so sacred that Ron won't pick it apart." My desire to be a pastor -- that was a temperamental mismatch. She was so patient. If my birth mother had lived somewhere else, maybe I would've become a cold case detective. But I would have had to be J instead of a P, I think. And that mid-life reevaluation, starting adolescence as a GARB fundamentalist and transitioning to a non-theist, that gave me an unusual skill set.
This entry was posted in Clobber Passages, Gay Christians, Gay Marriage, Homosexual Marriage, Homosexuality, Homosexuality and the Bible, Marriage Equality, Methodist and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Clobber Passage: Jude

  1. Russell King says:

    Brilliant. As always.


  2. nightprayers says:

    I love your reading of Jude 7. And there is also another way to read it while not accepting its value as a clobber passage:

    In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

    This passage says nothing about the Sodomites and Gomorrahites being punished by God from outside themselves. The Genesis story’s fire and brimstone certainly was far from eternal. Rather, Jude sets as a parallel the giving of themselves to immorality and the punishment of eternal fire. That is, the burning is something that happens in this life inside the psyche of the individual who gives him or herself over to immorality. Everyone reads a parallel that just isn’t there. Jude does NOT make a parallel between fire and brimstone and eternal fire but between unrestrained unnatural lust and eternal fire. The pain/ “punishment” is not in the afterlife but in what the Buddhists warn us about – desire and attachment.


    • Ron Goetz says:

      It cuts both ways, that word “eternal.” It’s common to hear Christian ministers say that the word eternal isn’t so much a matter of time as of a quality of life. We have the phrase “eternal life” on one hand, and “eternal fire” on the other.

      Paul wrote, “But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn.” Most modern translations supplement the words “with passion” there. But when Paul talks about burning with unsatisfied desire, he often gets slammed for being prudish, which I don’t remember hearing in the context of Buddhism. (I just googled prudish and Buddhism, and it seems that Drukpa Kunley thought certain Buddhist teachers were prudish.)


  3. Lana says:

    It does not specify in any of the verses that the ‘sin and perversion’ and/or sexual immorality being referred to had anything to do with homosexuality in the first place, does it? Am I missing something here, or is it simply a pre-disposition to assume that is the topic that leads people to read it into the verses? I imagine there was quite a lot of sexual as well as other forms of immorality going on — as there is now in present times. There is nothing there, in my understanding, to suggest that someone’s sexual orientation is the cause (or result) of it.


    • Ron Goetz says:

      You’re right, there is no specific connection between sexual orientation and Sodom. The problem is that people have assumed that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality for a long time, and it’s gone unchallenged.

      That’s really strange, since the King James Version says what the sin of Sodom is: “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.”

      The New Living Testament is a lot clearer: three sins, period. “Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door.”

      No mention of homosexuality, men lusting after men, or any such thing.


  4. Thank you for imparting so much information in a delightful and intellectually rigorous way. Fabulous stuff!


    • Ron Goetz says:

      Well, I’ve been living with the Jude passage for a long time (years). When it finally came time to write, it worked. You let things percolate long enough and you get a good cup of coffee. Your appreciation is gratifying, James.


  5. Jim Hennigan says:

    These conversations, Ron, are all arguments for affirmation from a deity that we barely understand. If Howard wants affirmation from his deity and wants to interpret scripture to comport with his choices and values, he’s not going to be persuaded by logic. Let’s realize that Howard did not come to his position through careful reading, beginning his quest for wisdom with a tabula rasa and open mind. He came to his Bible with preconceived ideas about what he wanted to take from it. He finds new meanings and striking revelations, but they’re all within a very narrow orbit that extends (barely) outward and inward from that confined space.

    Charlotte’s telemetry is different but I expect that’s simply because she was launched with a different trajectory, not because she’s more reasonable or smarter or more skilled at deciphering the Bible than Howard. In other words, no amount of logic will loose either of them from their positions because it’s not logic that first propelled them into their positions. The only thing that this conversation does is concede to Howard his delusional notion that his view of the world is drawn from scripture when — let’s face it — people’s views of scripture are based on their pre-established views of the world.

    I think I’d tell both of those people that they’ve invested way too much of their energy into minutiae and not enough energy into all the passages and spiritual wisdom on love. Frankly, I don’t give a crap whether some mortal being thinks that their preferred Creator-being believes I’m going to be damned to some sort of barbaric, vengeful perdition based on one aspect of my life (or even numerous aspects). If I cared what the well-read-but-curiously-obsessed-with-homosexuality Howard thinks, then I’d have to come up with counterpoints to all the religious texts and teachings for all the people who have different deities (and different ideas about those deities) out there that have a mean streak in them. And given the propensity for humans to imagine-up deities who are all-too-willing to toss their creations into torture chambers and dustbins, that’s no small undertaking. By the time I’m done doing that, I’ll have gotten so mired in refuting evil, I’ll have missed out on some great opportunities to spread some love.

    And I think that — spreading love — is the key to removing the blinders and opening up the hearts of others so that the next time they open up whatever text they read for personal affirmation, they will find the affirmation they are seeking…but, hopefully, it will be affirming something different from the affirmation that Howard finds and something closer to the affirmation that Charlotte finds.


    • Ron Goetz says:

      Jim, thanks for taking the time to unravel and analyze the dynamics of what’s going on in the dialogue. You’re absolutely right, their conversation is taking place within a particular, relatively well-defined worldview. Charlotte and Howard share many, possibly most, of the same presuppositions.

      Howard is not alone in living with “delusional notions.” I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that every human being alive lives with delusional notions. And it is always easier to see someone else’s delusions than one’s own. The factors are complex, obviously, but different people’s capacity for moving past their delusions and cherished notions differ. And most of us change slowly. And I strongly believe that when any of us feels competent to pinpoint where and how someone else needs to change, that there’s a strong chance we’re mistaken. That would require omniscience.

      I appreciate that you see that Howard has a hope of moving incrementally in the right direction towards Charlotte. I don’t believe that most change is instantaneous. Even if it shows itself suddenly, I assume there has been a lot going on under the surface for a long time. I believe Howard’s “pause” before voicing continued disagreement is significant–he’s thinking. And Charlotte graciously lets him walk away without totally humiliating him.

      I’d just say that Howard is not unchanged. But we need to be gracious, like Charlotte, and give him space to do this soulwork on his own.


  6. Fred Conwell says:

    I hate to break from such lofty theologicals, but have we considered that Lot offered his daughters up to the rapists at the door. But they weren’t after sexual release but domination. Any comments?


    • Ron Goetz says:

      That’s how I understand it, Fred. That kind of humiliation rape or domination rape is not unusual, especially in wartime. And the men of Sodom could easily have viewed these visitors as “advance scouts” with hostile intent. There are ancient examples of it and contemporary accounts as well. But it’s not something we hear about in our typical history classes, so most people don’t know a thing about it. Good point.


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