Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Sins of Sodom----and Gomorrah

A friend of mine pointed out, years ago, that in Dante's Inferno, the homosexuals and the usurers (people who lend money at interest), are in adjoining parts of hell. The sin of Sodom is homosexuality, the sin of Gomorrah is usury. Homosexuality is unproductive sex, usury is unproductive money.

What this would mean is that the foaming-at-the-mouth preachers who say that "The Sins of Sodom and Gomorrah put America in Danger of Destruction" are, well, half right.

More seriously, the people who want to weaken the wall of separation between church and state also think that somehow this will result in capitalists being left alone. But in the Middle Ages, the Church had state-like powers, and prohibited Christians from lending money at interest. The idea that God is about to zap us because of our gay bars, but has no problem with the likes of Goldman Sachs, it an perspective that strikes me as incomprehensible.
I love that story in the Bible where Jesus drove the homosexuals out of the temple. 

21 comments:

Blue Devil Knight said...

"I love that story in the Bible where Jesus drove the homosexuals out of the temple."

LOL

Wow, nice one Victor.

finney said...

"think that somehow this will result in capitalists being left alone."

But even though yours is a theologically correct view, if the wall between church and state were realistically weakened, this probably would still leave capitalists alone to do what they want.

B. Prokop said...

It is extremely important to keep in mind that Dante did not "consign homosexuals to Hell". Indeed, many of the persons whom the character Dante meets in his journey through Death's Three Kingdoms were homosexual, not only in Hell, but also in Purgatory and Paradise. (And even in Hell, homosexuals could be found in various circles, and not just in one particular place reserved for them specifically.

No, the Seventh Circle was the circle of the Violent, and in the third Ring of that circle we find the Violent against Nature. (In the the First and Second Rings we encounter the violent against others and self.) The reason that homosexuals and usurers were confined together was that, in the first case, the sinners made sterile was God had intended to be fertile. In the second case, they made fertile what God had intended to be sterile.

I would imagine that, were Dante writing today, rather than using homosexuals as his allegorical example of the first sin, he might well have used polluters, despoilers of the wilderness, and global warming deniers.

I take Dante quite seriously. I still believe in this day that taking interest on a loan is a sin, and that is why I have not one dime in any sort of "investment". Like Dante, I regard it as violence against nature, and I have no wish to put my immortal soul at risk for the sake of a few dollars.

Brenda said...

I was unaware that the works of Dante represent the word of God. When did that happen?

B. Prokop said...
Like Dante, I regard it (usury) as violence against nature

There is nothing naturalistic about money or charging interest on it. Money is just a human convention. We created money, not God.

JS Allen said...

Great post, and great comments from Bob too.

Charles Williams "Descent Into Hell" centers around the descent of a few of the characters into Gomorrah, which for Williams was a symbol for self-love.

B. Prokop said...

Dante most certainly does NOT represent the word of God. but he is probably Mankind's greatest artistic representation of its significance and application to individual and corporate response to it.

The attitude towards taking interest on a debt as allegorized in the Divine Comedy is in perfect sync with orthodox Christian thought until extremely recently, historically speaking.

If you want to restrict yourself to the Word of God, then consider these passages:

Exodus 22:25
If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor, you shall not exact interest from them.

Leviticus 25:37
You shall not lend [persons in need] your money at interest.

Deuteronomy 23:19
You shall not charge interest on loans to your fellow countrymen, interest on money, interest on provisions, interest on anything that is lent.

Nehemiah 5:10
Let us stop this taking of interest.

Psalms 15:1,5
O LORD, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill? Those who do not lend money at interest.

Ezekiel 18:5,8-9
If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right [and] does not take advanced or accrued interest, he shall surely live, says the LORD God.

Luke 6:34-35
If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But ... lend, expecting nothing in return.

Crude said...

More seriously, the people who want to weaken the wall of separation between church and state also think that somehow this will result in capitalists being left alone.

What makes you think that? I get the impression you mean "conservatives" here, but conservatives are all over the place on questions like that.

If you think conservatives are united in their love for the banks, all I can say is my anecdotal experience is otherwise. That's like saying all conservatives are in favor of free trade and open borders. Or, among Catholics, assuming that anyone who is pro-life is also against universal health care initiatives.

Politics is complicated.

Victor Reppert said...

It isn't clear what a conservative is. That's what makes it tricky. However people who think of themselves as conservatives often think that the Republican party reflects their values more than does the Democratic party, but in real, actual, practice, in terms of what gets done, I think the Republican party is more corporatist than conservative. That is, the people and corporations who fund Republican campaigns want them to be as conservative as is needed to help their cause, but not so conservative as to hinder it in the name of conservative principles. Take the matter of oil company subsidies as an example. The tough-minded fiscal conservative (at least on this issue) Barack Obama wanted the welfare queens, otherwise known as oil companies, to fend for themselves, and not live off the government breast, but the bleeding-heart liberal Republicans in congress would have none of it, and voted to a man not to end welfare as we know it for oil companies. I guess they thought that if you spread the wealth around, everybody benefits.

In some moods, I think that I vote Democratic because I am an anti-corporatist conservative, who thinks the Democratic party now reflects conservative values better than does the Republican party.

cl said...

Great point. Odd how usury is basically promoted by Christians, and you're right: so many are so hung up on gay people that they don't even question the greed our culture is immersed in. Thanks for this.

Crude said...

Take the matter of oil company subsidies as an example. The tough-minded fiscal conservative (at least on this issue) Barack Obama wanted the welfare queens, otherwise known as oil companies, to fend for themselves, and not live off the government breast, but the bleeding-heart liberal Republicans in congress would have none of it, and voted to a man not to end welfare as we know it for oil companies.

See, this is where a problem kicks in for me. The idea that THIS party represents corporate interests, therefore THAT party does not, just strikes me as very hard to sustain. It's akin to suggesting the Republicans are all in favor of the Patriot Act, but the Democrats want to be rid of it. That didn't exactly play out.

I'm not a fan of either party. I admit the Republican rhetoric appeals more to me, but I'm well past the stage of thinking it's very sincere. And again, a good example is 'limited government'. Which party is the party of limited government? Tell me the Republicans, and I'll point at 8 years of Bush. Granted, Obama's been even more over the top with spending, but at that point the question has become "Kirstie Alley or Louie Anderson: Who's the thin one?"

Victor Reppert said...

It's quite true that corporations put money on both sides of the aisle.

When you talk about limited government, you are talking about getting people in government to limit their own power. People are happy talking about limiting govern the other guys are doing the governing. But when you are doing the governing, you don't want to limit yourself. It's human nature.

Crude said...

When you talk about limited government, you are talking about getting people in government to limit their own power. People are happy talking about limiting govern the other guys are doing the governing. But when you are doing the governing, you don't want to limit yourself. It's human nature.

Right. Which is at least part of the reason why I think casting this as 'Republicans v Democrats' is ill-advised. Come to think of it, as far as banks go, I don't recall the Tea Party being very happy with bank bailouts and such. Nor do I recall Obama being very much against said bailouts. Granted, Bush was a big fan of the things.

Victor Reppert said...

Obama compared the bank bailouts to a root canal. I still fear what would have happened if we hadn't done the bailouts, but it was a moral disaster. The tea party started in opposition to those bailouts, but corporate figures like the Koch brothers got control of the movement by massively funding it.

Victor Reppert said...

But let me go back to what the original post was getting at. Some people believe in tearing down the wall of separation between church and state sufficiently to, say, allow teacher-led school prayer in public schools, or requiring the government impose a religiously-defined conception of marriage, but yet think that such a church-state coalition would leave capitalism alone. I argued that when the church had government-like powers, it prohibited Christians from lending money at interest, something that would interfere with our economic life to a much larger degree than would the complete socialization of medicine in America.

I always found it somewhat ironic that Michael Moore, in his movie about capitalism, used as an example of the fruits of capitalism the bank bailouts. By contrast, it's the central tenet of capitalist theory that the economy is maintained because companies that screw up end up feeding the fish. But, apparently that applies unless you get too big to fail.

Crude said...

Obama compared the bank bailouts to a root canal. I still fear what would have happened if we hadn't done the bailouts, but it was a moral disaster.

If Bush compared the bank bailouts to a root canal, would it have struck you as very sincere? In fact, I seem to recall a similar line out of some Republicans, casting the whole thing in terms of necessary evils and so on. Those bank bailouts weren't exactly popular.

The tea party started in opposition to those bailouts, but corporate figures like the Koch brothers got control of the movement by massively funding it.

Even assuming the funding part is true - if massive funding means corruption, who exactly is left that's not corrupt? Obama's and most politicians' election campaigns aren't powered by the fervent hopes of sickly orphans and the dreams of destitute single mothers. Those teleprompters are bought and rented with money, lots of it.

Crude said...

Some people believe in tearing down the wall of separation between church and state sufficiently to, say, allow teacher-led school prayer in public schools, or requiring the government impose a religiously-defined conception of marriage, but yet think that such a church-state coalition would leave capitalism alone.

Well, I think many conservatives would agree that bank bailouts can hardly be considered an example of adhering to capitalist principles. And I also wonder who is making the claim you're suggesting here - that if religious beliefs can play a role in policy, that economic policy won't be touched.

It certainly can't be that most religious people don't think there are religious considerations when it comes to economic questions, right? I mean, I appreciate one thing I could take you to be saying here - "There's more to morality than gay marriage and abortion." A good point, but I don't think it's a new one. In fact, just about any expansion of the welfare state seems to come along with a 'Christ said to help people, so you should support this without question!' line from somewhere.

Brenda said...

B. Prokop said...
Dante most certainly does NOT represent the word of God. but he is probably Mankind's greatest artistic representation of its significance...

That's nice. Even if I were a Christian I would think that Dante's "artistic interpretation" of heaven or hell and how one gets there would have absolutely ZERO to do with the facts.

If God and heaven and hell are all real objectively existing persons and places then what some ignorant medieval Italian said cannot possibly have anything to do with their real character.

Unless of course Dante's works are FanFic, fictional accounts that operate within a fictional world. Like how Star Trek fans create "canonical" fiction derivative of the official account. I am sure there are even Star Trek scholastic schools complete with internecine conflicts and heretical vs orthodox feuds.

consider these passages

Nice to know that the Bible is as ignorant of economics as it is of just about every other subject it claims superior knowledge about.

toddes said...

@Brenda,

Considering that the verses are discussing moral behavior and not economic policies, you might want to rethink you criticism of where the ignorance in regards to this issue lies.

Anonymous said...

Brenda: what some ignorant medieval Italian said cannot possibly have anything to do with their real character.

You only think that because you're an idiot.



Nice to know that the Bible is as ignorant of economics as it is of just about every other subject

Aw, crap — you're not a philistine, just a troll. Never mind then, carry on.

Karl Grant said...

Brenda,

what some ignorant medieval Italian said cannot possibly have anything to do with their real character.

One, Dante was among the educated elite of his time and was, amongst other things, a language theorist. Ignorance or lack of brain power are not typical character traits of poets either.

Now if you want to call him ignorant based on the fact that he lived in the Middle Ages we can call you ignorant because odds are good people two hundred years from now are going to be more knowledgeable than you ever were. So what does an ignorant internet skeptic know about theology, economics or poetry?

Nice to know that the Bible is as ignorant of economics as it is of just about every other subject it claims superior knowledge about.

Considering that there are many finical institutions that do well for themselves without charging interest, I would say it is more of you being ignorant of world economic systems. Especially since several of the world's great mercantile empires operated under said interest-free system (The Ottoman Empire, The Persian Empire, The Mughal Empire, etc...)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_banking

frharry said...

"The sin of Sodom is homosexuality"

Poor scholarship, doctor. The sin of Sodom is no more homosexuality than the Serbian rape camps evidence the sin of heterosexuality. This is both intellectually dishonest and theologically irresponsible.