The concept of the sacred is something that is seemingly irrelevant in the modern secular age. I think however that an account of the sacred is still important, because even if modern secular society won’t admit it, it is still haunted by the concept of the sacred. I read recently a paper by conservative (in the old school Tory sense) philosopher Roger Scruton touching on the Sacred, it’s a good article; however I think there is a conceptual problem in it. The problem I notice is the notion of the sacred as something pointing towards the transcendental. The definition sounds like a natural fit, however a clear example of why it may be problematic is that of sex and sexuality.
This is a continuation from the previous post which went over part of the story of Sodom and looked at some Jewish literature on the subject. In this post we’ll finish the story of Sodom, and also look at some early Christian writings about the sin of Sodom. The rest of the story leading up to the destruction is the part of the story that makes the story memorable, and really what brings this story into the American culture wars. The rest of the story (skipping over Abraham’s discussion with God) is recorded in Genesis 19:
The question of why Sodom and Gomorrah got destroyed is a question that has been brought to the public sphere in the debate going on within Christian circles about homosexuality. There are a few stances, one being the punishment was about the treatment of strangers, the poor, or some other group, another stance is that the punishment was about sexual sin, another that it was about rape, and there are other stances that combine the causes for punishment or add some other cause. We all know the story, but let’s look at the beginning of the story in Exodus 18 (using the NRSV):
20 Then the Lord said, ‘How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! 21 I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.’
The question of homosexuality and Christianity is one that has been opened up and looks like it will not be closed any time soon. This is a serious question; it has to do with how we read scripture, the nature of man, the nature of marriage and sex, and the nature of righteousness and sin. Unfortunately many people do not approach this subject with the seriousness it deserves, and rather turn to emotional, political, or personal arguments rather than serious theological thought, a clear example of this is an article written by Susan Russell, an Episcopalian Pastor. Of course this is a short popular article, a “top 10” FAQ, but even so, she is positing serious theological questions, and giving answers, and one must be accountable for the answers one gives.
I’m not going to go over each of the FAQ answers, although they all have problems with them, rather I’ll just focus on two of them. Here is the first one: