Eamonn McCann - It’s biblical collateral damage with a vengeance

Junior Minister Jonathan Bell
Junior Minister Jonathan Bell

On the Nolan Show last week, Junior Minister Jonathan Bell explained why the DUP is against gay marriage: they are a Christian party and the bible forbids it.

He didn’t go as far as some of his colleagues in the past - didn’t repeat Iris Robinson’s outburst: “What I say I base on Biblical pronouncements, based on God’s word. I cannot think of anything more sickening than a child being abused. It is comparable to the act of homosexuality.”

The notion of a mortal equivalence between gay sex and child abuse will strike most people as grotesque. But, upsetting as it might be for believers in the Bible, Mrs. Robinson was right that the Good Book provides a basis for her attitude.

Leviticus 18:22 - “Homosexual acts are an abomination to God.” Or 20:13 - “If a man has sex with another man, kill them both.” The Bible features scores of such remarks.

The passage that’s best known has to do with Sodom and Gomorrah.

Lot was the only righteous person in Sodom. So when the Lord resolved to destroy the town and all who lived therein on account of the incidence of homosexuality, he sent two angels to warn Lot to get his family out asap. Genesis 19 tells the tale.

“Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. And he said, ‘Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into your servant’s house, and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.’”

So the angels went in and sat down to dinner with Lot’s family. Then, suddenly, a mob of Sodomite men converged on the house, shouting: “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.”

Lot refused. “(Then) he went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him and said, ‘Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof.’”

But such was the Sodomites’ determination to get their hands on the angelic visitors that they tried to storm the house. At which point the angels intervened and “smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great.” Chastened, they stumbled away in the dark.

In the morning, the angels led Lot and his family out of town. As soon as they’d cleared the area, “The Lord rained upon Sodom and Gororrah brimstone and fire”. All of the inhabitants were consumed in the conflagration. (Lot’s wife famously defied the angels’ instructions and looked back at the fearsome spectacle, for which disobedience she

was instantly turned into a pillar of salt.)

If we take the bible as gospel, so to speak, Iris Robinson, Jonathan Bell and the rest of the DUP would appear to be on solid ground when they say that God hates homosexuals. But if we believe this, do we not also have to believe that not only is it acceptable to slaughter people deemed to be sinners, it’s acceptable to slaughter their families and all associated with them and everyone unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity? Collateral damage with a vengeance.

And would we not also have to accept that there are circumstances in which a man might hand his daughters over to a raging mob to be raped?

It is argued, of course, that we are not meant to take the bible literally, that its stories are to be understood as parable, allegory, metaphor, intended not to relate facts but imaginatively to illuminate God’s Truth.

But what is the ineffable Truth contained within the story of Lot?

In the absence of an answer to that question, it’s tempting to conclude that the story from start to finish is a sick yarn

told to a primitive people and that it’s ridiculous now to argue over what it might mean.

That is to say, it’s a load, or even a lot, of baloney.