Tuesday, November 20, 2012

NYC Another Sodom? Food For Thought

“Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter…” Isaiah 58:7

If you ask the average Christian why Sodom was destroyed they will likely cite the story of Lot and his visitors found in Genesis nineteen. Is that biblically correct? For sure, Sodom’s version of the “Welcome Wagon” wasn’t a chorus line of cheerful citizens singing “Getting to Know You” from The King and I. Forcible gang rape was the welcome mat laid out for poor strangers (verse 5). Lot’s offer of his two virgin daughters, another story in itself, demonstrates the mob’s true intent. The girls were wealthy women, the type of people Sodom wanted to attract. Their uncle, Abraham, was exceedingly rich. Along with three hundred of his household servants, Abraham defeated the king of Sodom (Genesis fourteen). Mess with his family, and Abraham was a force to be reckoned with. Sodom’s sexual immorality was infamous and labeled the reason for the city’s downfall. This didn’t help their cause, but it wasn’t the primary problem. Ezekiel, the prophet, brought this correction to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom; she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable thing before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.” Ezekiel 16: 49-50
Historical background from Josephus and the Chumash shed light on Sodom’s dark side. Plain and simple, they were greedy. Sodom was a prosperous city that welcomed those who added to the bottom line not take from it.
“To discourage newcomers, however, the Sodomites institutionalized state cruelty, so that it became a crime to feed a starving person or offer alms to a beggar. Even the sexual perversion for which Sodom is notorious was employed to keep visitors away.” Chumash
How does NYC fit into this picture? As a closet urbanite living in the rural South let me state for the record, I love New York and other major metro areas. Big cities for me are exciting and energizing. I’ve highlighted NYC but it, including others like my hometown Philadelphia, are falling prey to Sodom’s mistakes. In March of this year www. newyork.cbslocal.com posted this story. Over a twenty year period, Glenn Richter collected and distributed two tons of food to shelters throughout the city. One morning Glenn received surplus bagels from Ohav Zedek synagogue. To his surprise the shelters refused the food. Why? Glenn couldn’t provide the salt, fat and fiber content of the bagels. NYC passed a law prohibiting food donations in an attempt to “monitor salt, fat and fiber eaten by the homeless”. Food suitable for purchase and consumption by those who could afford it was deemed unsuitable for those who couldn’t!
For over two years my husband and I cooked and served a bi-monthly dinner to the hungry and homeless at our church in Florida. We can’t recall anyone questioning the calorie or fiber content of the food. There were a few complaints about the sodium level; it was too low. At times our guests declined the meal based on personal preferences and tastes. They were perfectly capable of determining what was best for them.
      The law in NYC and other cities appears to me to be less about the health and welfare of the poor and more about chasing them away. Remove opportunities to get a meal and the hungry will have to go somewhere else, assuming they can afford to do so. If not, they can resort to crime in order to eat or starve; neither an acceptable solution. Fortunately, the level of physical violence the Sodomites perpetrated on the “undesirables” hasn’t become a standard operating procedure in our cities when dealing with those in need. Sodom’s example of outlawing assistance to the poor is cropping up all over our nation. God said that He took note of Sodom’s actions and personally repaid them. He is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). Will He overlook our same treatment of those in need?
      I’m not saying hellfire and brimstone is about to start falling.
“He who is kind to the poor, lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done”.  Proverbs 19:17
Our nation is facing economic problems of global proportions. Countries, including our own, teeter on the brink of bankruptcy and governments keep printing more worthless money. The kingdom of God is financially sound; recession and depression proof. Perhaps some of the answers and resources needed to solve our problems are withheld due to our treatment of those less fortunate. This Thanksgiving, as Mayor Bloomberg and other city officials around the nation, sit down to a holiday meal with all the trimmings, how many individuals and organizations will have to choose between obeying the law or feeding the hungry? That’s food for thought.

If you wish to read the article here is the link


  1. I spent time late this afternoon helping serve Thanksgiving dinner to those of our community who have no place to go on Thursday, who have very little income, or have had a hard time with being unemployed. The hour I served, no one asked me about the salt content in the green beans I was dishing out. They were glad that they could come and eat. All of our cities seem to have leaders who have forgotten how the other half live. (Other half meaning those who don't have the basics.)

  2. Good, thoughtful blog. And it gets at the essence of religious behavior - as Jesus said, not necessarily following the "law" (every jot and tittle) but rather behaving in a kindly manner and serving the needy.

  3. The terrible irony is that those who have chased the poor away, Robert Moses and other developers in the past, have died with many of their initially good works forgotten and thrown down in the gutter for their extreme acts of racist cruelty. To many Robert Moses was a horrific, racist, egomaniac. It is time to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy, but change the seascape. I say this in an article I've written: http://technorati.com/lifestyle/article/belle-harbor-neponsit-the-rockaways-after/ It's a thorny issue to label NYC or other areas Sodom when there are many Christians in that area. God did provide an answer to Sodom. And in the New Testament, it says, "Where sin abounds, Grace abounds more." I am a very devout Christian...just not political and not manipulated to be political. I'm a first and second commandment Christian and leave the judging to God. Love thy neighbor is key. I live in a multi racial building...and am not a respecter of persons. I don't pretend to know or understand God's detailed plan. I do know that man is responsible for much and God is blamed. When people say God didn't stop something...it's not up to Him. It's up to US. He provided an unbelievable answer for all our woes and it is up to us to engage the answer after the Spirit of Christ...the love of Christ. So I extend that here, first. Secondly, I am obedient to what He guides me to do. There is nothing worse than "show" charity. We must each do as He wills us to do in obedience. The great Love of God is being manifested during the aftermath of Sandy in very wonderful neighbors and communities and people who show up to clean up and feed others. This is the Love of God. May those individuals be super blessed; they of course are because they are giving. If anything the hurricane has done is to bring the communities of Rockaway a little closer together; a curse is becoming a blessing. That is the love of Christ.