Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Pastor Dwight Gosser of the New Life Christian Center, east of Bristol, left; and Pastor Amy DeBeck of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Elkhart. They offer divergent views on the lessons to be learned from the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah. (J. Tyler Klassen and Jen Shephard/The Elkhart Truth)
Elkhart County pastors offer contrasting views on Sodom, Gomorrah and same-sex marriage
Posted on March 19, 2014 at 1:10 p.m.

Wednesday March 19, 2014

Sodom and Gomorrah figure big in the discussion about same-sex marriage, recently a focus in the state with the debate over House Joint Resolution 3 by Indiana lawmakers.

But there's a definite split, I've come to learn, in the interpretation of the destruction of the two biblical cities. Lawmakers debating HJR-3, which would prohibit same-sex marriage, didn't delve too deeply into hellfire and brimstone, but the biblical roots of the issue have surfaced among pastors here in the local discussion over the matter.

Here's Pastor Dwight Gosser of New Life Christian Center east of Bristol, a foe of same-sex marriage:

If you allow same-sex unions, it's a step down the path to social anarchy — polygamy, marriage between adults and children and more. Ultimately, it would lead to the sort of chaos that enveloped Sodom and Gomorrah, ultimately destroyed by God.

He hints, not so subtly, that societal destruction is the ultimate end-game here in the United States if same-sex marriage is tolerated, pointing to 2 Peter 2:6-8 (which also alludes to the sparing of Lot, who had tried to stand up to the chaos of Sodom and Gomorrah):

"And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly. And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked..."

Sex, homosexual sex and otherwise, was rampant and uncontrolled in Sodom and Gomorrah and God destroyed the two cities as a result, Gosser maintains. I spoke to him for an article meant to spell out some of the arguments for a ban on same-sex marriage (look here).

Now here's Amy DeBeck, pastor at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Elkhart and an advocate for LGBTQ rights:

Writing in a People's Forum letter (look here) penned in response to the Gosser article, she takes a different view. She takes the story of Sodom and Gomorrah as a lesson of "what happens when we are not hospitable and when we do not recognize the presence of God in our midst."

Sodomite men "were not gay — they were rapists," DeBeck continues. She goes on: "It is not a surprise that Sodom was destroyed for being unredeemable, but not because of homosexuality; the people were so brutal they did not understand hospitality to each other nor recognize God’s presence amongst them."

She turns the Sodom and Gomorrah-based argument around, warning of not extending "hospitality" to gay and lesbian people. "(W)hen we do not offer hospitality to our gay and lesbian neighbors, when we do not recognize their God-given dignity and worth, then woe to us!" she wrote.

HJR-3 would amend the Indiana Constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, precluding the possibility of same-sex marriage. Indiana lawmakers gave the measure preliminary approval in the recently concluded legislative session and it'll come back for further consideration, per the amendment process, in 2015 or 2016.

Follow reporter Tim Vandenack on Twitter at @timvandenack or visit him on Facebook.