"Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah." (Isa 1: 9)
I was struck, this week in Sunday School, by the existence of one righteous city, Melchizedek's Salem, at the same time there are two wicked cities: Sodom and Gomorrah. Maybe it's just coincidence. Or maybe:
In the days of Terah, Abraham's father, there was one great city in the land of Canaan. In it, people were mostly part-wicked and part-good, but disagreed vehemently about how to go about both their wickedness and goodness. They gradually split into two factions, each faction aiming at a different half of righteousness, each officially indulging a different half of wickedness.
As the city became increasingly polarized, it became difficult to keep the peace: shepherds left their flocks wander as they shouted taunts at rival shepherds, water-carriers dropped their jugs in the midst of heated debates, even the midwives had difficulty focusing on births when the subject of factional ideologies came up, and, politics on their minds, would train new mothers to nurse only on one side.
Finally, the leaders of each faction met to decide the future of the city through a debate which would end only when one agreed that the other was right. The debate, however, lasted through the day and then through the night and soon it became an accepted fact of life that the factions' leaders could be heard at any hour roaring so loudly at each other that it became difficult to carry on a conversation over breakfast, to keep one's mind clear during evening prayers, and even simply to sleep.
No one know quite how a certain young boy silenced them, but afterward he became known by the name Melech-Zedek, "king of holiness," for teaching that compromise could be found if each would continue to advocate their preferred half of righteousness, but also be mindful of the other faction's critique of their preferred side of wickedness.
Many of the inhabitants of the city followed these teachings and learned to see their neighbors as the other half of a divine balance or paradox. Others, however, stayed faithful to the full orthodoxies of their own factions, ultimately deciding to create pure cities isolated from their different-minded neighbors.
One faction turned to the left and founded Sodom; the other turned to the right and founded Gomorrah.
Those who still had much in common with the founders of Sodom but would listen to their neighbors, who still had much in common with the founders of Gomorrah, began to call their own city, which was the remnant of the old single city, "Salem" meaning "peace."