America is Sodom

Abraham and his nephew Lot had grown wealthy. Their herds were so large that the herdsmen quarreled over land and feeding grounds for their animals. Abraham gave the choice to Lot where to go, and he would go in the opposite direction. 

Lot looked down at the plains of the Jordan river and saw how lush and ideal that area would be for him. So off he went and into Sodom where he became one of the top tier among their city leaders. He married and had two daughters who were promised to men in marriage.

The ancient city of Sodom existed some 7,000 years ago—reaching its height during the Bronze Age around 3,000 BCE—in what is now the Jordan Valley. Although described as a fertile and lush “garden of Hashem,” Sodom was a notoriously nasty place fraught with sins like pride, gluttony, and laziness. Wealth had turned the people into moral reprobates. It was so heinous and morally bankrupt, God had no choice but to completely incinerate it.

Two angels were sent to see how bad Sodom was and they were welcomed into Lot’s home where they had dinner. A group of men, young and old, banged on the door and demanded Lot send those “men” out to them. Lot refused but they began to press their demands so the angels struck them with blindness and they groped their way back to their homes.

Proof of Sodom’s historical existence and fiery end have been supported by extensive archeological findings. Researchers even believe they have located the exact cave where Lot fled. It would seem both Abraham from the Bible and the recent Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project would agree— the fortified city of Sodom was clearly devastated by hellfire or the modern equivalent of a massive conflagration. According to archeologists digging at the site since 2005, a monstrous civilization from around 2,000 BCE has been uncovered, revealing scorched foundations and floors buried under three feet of dark ash. 

In its heyday, Sodom was believed to be a tiered city with massive mud brick ramparts which protected the wealthier residents, including the king’s palace and related temples. This discovery has suggested a sudden, inexplicable end to Sodom which lingered as a wasteland for 700 years before being rebuilt. While theories on its destruction have ranged from earthquake to asteroid, there was no denying the scorched earth of Sodom left behind an ominous message for evil.

The city of Sodom was mentioned over ten times in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament: sexual violence, oppression of the poor, neglect of the desperate, and ethical weaknesses plagued the culture to the point where everyone, save Lot, was beyond redemption. Evil prevailed everywhere.

Ezekiel compared Jerusalem to Sodom, saying “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters. Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom: pride, fulness of bread, and careless ease was in her and in her daughters; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before Me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.”

In Luke 17:28–30, Jesus says: “Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded, but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even thus will it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.”

Fast forward millennia and take an honest look at the culture of the United States today. Just a few examples to highlight our degradation and descent into depravity, these would never have occurred even just a generation ago:

  1. Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar shared an altered video Monday of himself killing New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and threatening to kill the president. 
  2. While homicides account for much of the carnage and terror associated with gun violence, the most recent data from health officials shows that suicides account for the bulk — over 60% — of gun deaths in America. And gun injuries, while they rarely make the news, put a tremendous burden on both American families and the health care system, according to health researchers.
  3. About 1,000 civilians are killed each year by law-enforcement officers in the United States. By one estimate, Black men are 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police during their lifetime.
  4. According to the NISVS, almost 1 in 5 women in the United States (19.3%) has been raped at least once in her life, including completed and attempted forced penetration. Additionally, almost 1 in 2 women (43.9%) reported experiencing at least 1 episode of sexual violence other than rape or attempted rape at some point in her life.
  5. Wealthy Americans are using their money to buy their children places at elite colleges. An FBI investigation, appropriately named Operation Varsity Blues, has exposed a $25 million cash-for-admissions scandal. Coaches were allegedly bribed to declare candidates as athletic recruits; test administrators to change their scores, or allow someone else to take the test for them.
  6. Gordon Conwell, Theological Seminary in Hamilton, MA has conducted research on all aspects of finance related to Christian churches around the world through its Center For The Study Of Global Christianity.  The Director of the center, Todd M. Johnson, PhD, said “there is a lack of research on fraud within the church,” but that is something he has been trying to change. Johnson teamed with David B. Barrett to write a book World Christian Trends, which represented a statistical view of the Christian churches of the world.  Barrett was a pioneer in collecting data on churches and noticed a significant increase in embezzlement fraud during the 1980’s.  In one of Johnson’s recent studies, Status of Global Mission 2013, there is a line item for “Ecclesiastical Crime,” which is projected to be $37 billion worldwide, or nearly 6% of the total $594 billion given to churches.  Losses due to mismanagement of funds is also a line item totaling $8 billion.  
  7. Over 249 priests molested & raped over 1000 victims in Boston alone. Cases were brought about in almost every state in America and countries all over the world against Catholic priests. But what about the many, many others in churches all over the world? I’ve heard multiple stories of molestation & rape within the Church, amongst Believers in Jesus Christ. Children exposed to pornography, homosexuality, and demons of all sorts. Many have committed suicide or turned to drugs to escape the pain & guilt, voices we will never hear again. Others have been exposed to unnatural sexual relationships that now have them questioning their identities.
  8. The wealthiest families are also the only ones to have experienced gains in wealth in the years after the start of the Great Recession in 2007. From 2007 to 2016, the median net worth of the richest 20% increased 13%, to $1.2 million. For the top 5%, it increased by 4%, to $4.8 million. In contrast, the net worth of families in lower tiers of wealth decreased by at least 20% from 2007 to 2016.
    As a result, the wealth gap between America’s richest and poorer families more than doubled from 1989 to 2016. In 1989, the richest 5% of families had 114 times as much wealth as families in the second quintile, $2.3 million compared with $20,300. By 2016, this ratio had increased to 248, a much sharper rise than the widening gap in income.
  9. Since World War II, American has fought in Korea to a stalemate, while being defeated in Vietnam and Afghanistan. Hollowing out the government of Iraq on bogus claim of Weapons of Mass Destruction enabled ISIS and for Iran to assume the role of regional superpower.
  10. The Covid virus sickened and killed millions all over the world, and the most vulnerable are the aged and those with compromised immune systems. But the obesity epidemic and poor diets and lack of exercise have contributed to a decrease in longevity in America. People are getting fatter, food more toxic and drugs like heroin and fentanyl have become epidemic.

What can say if we were to compare Sodom to present day America? The cultures are different and the material side of the equation has changed markedly, of course, over a period of thousands of years.

But the core virtues versus vice, morality versus immorality, infidelity versus fidelity, honesty versus corruption, and self-love with its narcissistic component has all but replaced humility, empathy and compassion.

The only question remaining is not will the Lord judge America as he judged Sodom, no the question is when and how will the judgment he has set against America be carried out. Yet almost no one seems the least bit scared or concerned…just as the citizens of Sodom had no idea.

The Joy of Running

My running is getting smoother now, I am finding the cadence is becoming efficient, with a strong stride. I look to my right and see the angel. To the left the Holy Spirit. In front of the three of us is the strongest runner setting the pace. It is Jesus.

Jesus came to me when I was a little boy, at a time when I was filled with grief. Afraid of my dad, a man who was physically abusive, I sat in my sandbox feeling very much afraid of just about everything around me. It was at that moment Jesus came to me and spoke. He first assured me that what was happening to me was not my fault, I had done nothing to deserve such brutal treatment, but that I deserved instead to be loved, cared for, protected and helped in this life. Then he told me He was going to be with me to take care of me from now on.

That was where my strength, that I now know to be faith, started. Later I would stand against my dad’s brutality and even protect myself, while my three brothers never overcame their fear, and that fear turned to hatred, hatred to bitterness, and their lives were impacted as they struggled to overcome dad’s terrible rule and reign and recover their own lives to live out as best they knew how.

The angel came later when I wasn’t even expecting her. I had several close calls, near death misses, and I sensed her moving in closer each time in order to protect me. Many times in my life I faced tragedy and even death, and each time she was there, strong in her power and diligent in her job of looking out for and protecting me. 

As I grew older I never forgot Jesus nor the angel. But school, a career, marriage and children took me deep into the world system where all of us human beings operate, where we live, move, and have our being. It is a world of corruption. A world of lying and betrayal. A world of grief and suffering. We begin to lose the spark and the innocence that existed when we thought we could do anything that we set our minds to do, and that people and the world would welcome us with open arms and celebrate our success along with us, just as we would celebrate theirs.

Life dragged on and became increasingly dreary and mundane. Each day was full of disappointments, setbacks and problems. I questioned my career choice…wondered about the purpose of life, and why happiness seemed always just out of reach for me. Then Jesus came again to me, this time seemed almost as fresh and new as the first time I met him in my sandbox as a child. He didn’t say much but it was his presence that almost knocked me off my feet. He said only, “follow me.”

I immediately said, “yes Lord, I will follow you.” So I’m thinking about my life and all these things as the four of us are running. Jesus knows the trail, his face is fixed like stone staring straight toward where he wanted to go. The angel is close enough on my right to make sure I don’t fall and get hurt. Likewise the Holy Spirit is bringing into remembrance all of my Lord’s Words as I am better understanding just what the heck we are doing right now, where we are going, why this is the right way and what will it be like when we reach the finish line.

This Jesus looks strong, and he is strong. But he had a lot of the same weaknesses of my own that he suffered in his short life, living only a bit more than 30 years. He suffered hunger and thirst, he would get weak and tired, he felt the pangs of betrayal, grief and rejection. He didn’t have any loyal friends, everyone over time finally just took off as they found other things they wanted to do.

Yet here he was doing this for me. I was overwhelmed with the combination of gratefulness, love, hope, faith in Him and the promise of where we would be soon. So I kept my pace, I kept my stride, I didn’t look back. The four of us rounded the final bend and I could see in the distance the beautiful bright but soft glow of a city. Jesus whispered, but just loud enough for me to hear him, “there is a crown waiting for you there, your Father loves you, we love you. There you will be welcomed and realize where you were intended to be, where you feel you have purpose, joy, peace and are surrounded by many who love you and take you just as you are…let’s pick up the pace…we’re almost home.”

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us runwith perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”