Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor

Competitiveness and the "True Sin of Sodom"

Rustum Roy
Director, Materials Research Laboratory
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, Pennsylvania 16802

From: JASA 34 (June 1982): 124-125.

I must compliment you and ASA on the consistently high quality of the Journal ASA. Your always balanced treatment of controversy (abortion, nuclear power, etc.) and your tolerance of ambiguity rather than certainty really deserve the warmest commendation. This is true even though I probably tend to track with that part of the Christian community that leans to the prophetic (rather than the priestly), with those who are against religious (and secular) institutionalism (Jesus rather than Peter?).

In your December '81 issue, there is a strange connection which can be drawn between Flynn's outstanding article on competition and Christian ethics, and McCauley's article on sexual abuse. The gross abuse of the competitive "instinct" in American culture, and the heretical attempt to link this abuse to a Christian root was well documented but perhaps understated by Flynn. It is an old doctrine that Christians are "reborn into a community" whose welfare along with the welfare of the poor, starving and lonely, must take precedence over self-advancement. The Dominican, Sebastian Moore, has put the proper reason for Christian's striving for excellence in a poetic expression: Christians, he writes, may strive "to be somebody for somebody." Flynn, in his fine critique of American sports competitiveness did not mention the much older Western tradition as I was taught it in a British public school: Chairman, Science, Technology & Society Program. "It matters not whether you win or lose, but how you played the game."

This ludicrous, sinful, culture-destroying competitiveness (the "Number One" syndrome) in America, even with respect to nuclear war will literally achieve that self-destruction soon, unless headed off by dramatic acts by dedicated Christians and others. It has led directly to the Reagan Administration's economics: "Sur vival of the fittest" economic Darwinism in absolute and direct contravention of biblical concern for the poor. Yet it has been sup ported by many who abhor biological Darwinism.

Now for the connection between the articles. McCauley's article on incest shows a misreading of the Bible's views on sex that is primitive. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the sin of Sodom has something to do with male homosexuality. The reference to Gen. 19:5 refers vaguely only to what some of its citizens wanted
to do in a visit to the big city. Elsewhere the Bible explicitly and unambiguously tells us what the sin of Sodom is, but 99.9% of the Bible-quoters are so personally obsessed with sexual "sins" which their Lord never bothered even to mention during his entire ministry (e.g., homosexuality, pre-marital intercourse, abortion,
polygamy, etc.), that they ignore the sin He clearly focused on (neglect of poor, hurting, helpless). The sin of Sodom is in Ezekiel 16:49: "This was your sister Sodom's crime-pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and her daughter, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And
they were haughty. . . ."

Flynn has rightly connected American competitiveness with an economic life style and ethos which in at least one manifestation directly to the glorification of Sodomy.

Now a passing word on "incest." The undifferentiated use of this word to include say, totally coercive, physically pain-inflicting, parent-child sexual acts on the one hand, and the totally consentual (even legalized  Pharaonic marriage) sexual congress among adult brothers is pitifully naive. What the data from history and present studies are showing is that it is coercion which is morally wrong and psychologically damaging. "Sexual acts between consenting adults is not intrinsically (unless other issues are involved (unless other issues such as lying or cheating) of sufficient importance to even have claimed Jesus attention. It is a fifth order effect on the
moral fiber of the country compared to the first order effect of neglect of the poor (worldwide), the vicious hate-mongering now in process against the Soviets. etc.

The irony of McCaskys own "Conclusions" was lost on him. "The moral standards (sic) that help form the foundation of our Christian faith are crumbling before our very eyes. . . . Are we in fact quickly approaching the situation that Lot escaped in Genesis 19? Escaped indeed! By fleeing Sodom which committed the sin
of piling up riches while ignoring the poor, Lot escapes to commit incest twice!! (Gen. 19:33, ff)

My Christian (not Jewish) faith has the moral standards I find Jesus stressing, and by which I fail miserably: Loving others, even enemies (professional, USSR, etc.), concern for justice (in Nicaragua and EI Salvador where Christian priests and nuns, thank God, fight against the U.S. government's excesses), sharing my worldly goods (tithing is a miserable cop-out), feeding hungry, housing homeless, etc. I thank God for the remnants of Christians and Jews and others who via their committed lives are shoring up these moral standards, the only ones the New Testament explicitly and unambiguously says really count.