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The Truth about Sodom and Gomorrah

There was an interesting article that came out in the news about a month ago. It was the release of some academic papers within the circles of the American Society of Oriental Research that explained how Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.

Now a couple things:

1) I studied Biblical Archaeology at Harvard Divinity School. 2) The area in the study is a place called Tall El-Hammam which many believe is actually where Sodom was located.

There is something important here.

Many people hate to hear about Sodom and Gomorrah because they believe that the sinfulness mentioned there leads others to condemn those who engage in the same sinful practices, mostly different forms of sexual immorality, which obviously they do not consider sinful. So they get upset when anyone discusses Sodom and Gomorrah. In fact, some of what I read also indicated the same idea in trying to discredit the Sodom and Gomorrah story so that people will not consider such actions sinful. But scientifically, there is a study that says that a major cataclysmic event happened in Tall El-Hamman that matches a similar cataclysmic event stated in the Bible.

What biblical archaeologists found is that a meteorite exploded above the area. The altitude and the nature of the explosion caused total destruction the likes of which cannot be fully imagined. Evidence indicates that within seconds we are talking about over 4000 degrees. It is fascinating because and this is my military background talking, the event they describe is the worst case scenario possible for the most amount of destruction. The meteorite they cited, exploded at an altitude that caused the most amount of damage 1.

Now, I am going to tell you that what people teach about Sodom and Gomorrah is partially incorrect. I am going by literally what the Bible teaches. According to the Bible why were the two cities destroyed? Many will name one sin or another as the cause again, the most common is homosexuality. People were practicing this sin, therefore, God punished them. That is actually partially incorrect. If you read the Genesis account, you will see that the cities were destroyed actually not strictly because of the sinfulness of the people, but the lack of righteous people. It was not the nature of the sin that led God to destroy the cities, it was the lack of righteous people in those cities. The number cited specifically is ten and you can read it in Genesis 18.

If you read it further, you can understand that what you really had was a total social breakdown that turned the cities into places where people were lost in their own passionate anarchy and remember there were no righteous people there, none. So there was no one standing up and pointing to a sign of goodness. Imagine Lord of the Flies. That is Sodom and Gomorrah.

But remember, it is right in the Book of Genesis that the real reason why the cities were destroyed is that there were no righteous people there, none. There is an important lesson there. Our faith tells us that humans have a natural inclination because of the fall to choose a form of selfishness that is self-destructive, we call that sin. The first temptation is that “You will be like gods.” Which leads us to live in such a way as we believe we are smart enough to run our own world our way. We are not however. Once we understand our weakness and look to the Lord as the source of our peace and wisdom, then we find the truth that sets us free.

We saw an example of that this week with a breakdown on social media again, in this country, in which people tweeted and spoke death threats against a group of teen boys who got caught in this storm. Even the local bishop and metropolitan archbishop got caught up in the storm and apologized for students actions without hearing the whole story. That is what Sodom and Gomorrah looks like, today. I want my world my way, I want people to die who offend me, who stand for things I don’t believe in, etc.

Remember, according to the Bible those cities were destroyed for a lack of righteous people. By your baptism, you have a calling to be those righteous people.

In the second reading today, we see Paul writing to the people of Corinth, which was a city not much different than what we see today. It was a port city, which today we also call a sailors’ town and had all the activities common in such places. You had the Christians who were trying to live their Christian life despite the surrounding atmosphere. Paul is teaching them that each one has an active role in living as the Body of Christ as the signs and symbols of the presence of God in the world. He says the same to us. Each of us have gifts that we bring to our faith that enable us to live as the light to the world and the Salt of the Earth we are called to be.

We join those gifts with others in the community to become the prophetic community we have a calling to be.

How do we do this? Pope St. John Paul II wrote that we must be people of prayer. Not just an Our Father every morning, but we are even invited to what is known as contemplative prayer. Interestingly enough, he wrote this in a letter to the Church in America. So he literally wrote this to us.

In this sense, contemplation is not a privilege reserved to the few; on the contrary, in parishes, in communities and movements there is a need to foster a spirituality clearly oriented to contemplation of the fundamental truths of faith: the mysteries of the Trinity, the Incarnation of the Word, the Redemption of humanity, and the other great saving works of God. I am reminded of Thomas Merton’s book New Seeds of Contemplation, which is still available.

Through this contemplative prayer, we discover our gifts and how we are to live in the world as the people Christ called us to be at our Baptism. You and I have the calling to be God’s people. We become the righteous people by fostering in our lives an intense prayer life with God that transforms us into being his witnesses every day in a powerful way. If the events of the last week are an indication, that role Jesus invites all of us to, is even more important now than it was twenty years ago.

TV news will say that your role is to pay, pray and obey. Nothing could be further from the truth as our reading from St. Paul today clearly indicates.

Photo credit:

John Martin: Sodom and Gomorrah, Public Domain

[1] Gough, Evan A meteor may have exploded in the air 3,700 years ago, obliterating communities near the Dead Sea, December 5, 2018,;;

For the record, the Bishop of Covington has apologized for his previous statement.

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