>As expected a few of my readers took exception with the point I made last week that America should become more involved in worldwide government bodies like the UN. In spite of my plea not to confused Orthodoxy with Literalism some claimed that God himself is against such organizations, incorrectly sighting the story of the Tower of Babel as “proof”.
To quote one reader;
It appears that you and many of your commenters here are trying to backtrack to Babel; at present scattered around the earth, confused in language so as to not be able to understand one another, but trying to return to the plain of Shinar to build a city and tower to reach to the heavens and build Utopia on the earth.
This is a complete misunderstanding of the story. The Tower of Babel really doesn’t condemn World Government at all. On the contrary it can more accurately be looked as a warning against becoming too insular.
At just nine verses, the story of The Tower of Babel [Genesis 11:1-9] is a relatively short account, a mere foot note in the broader arc of Genesis. That fact alone should give readers an idea of how much importance the author wanted to give it. It’s as if the he was saying, “yes this happened but it isn’t really that important so let’s move on.”
The Tower of Babel was constructed in the city of Babylon in the Shinar valley near present day Baghdad. Babylon was possibly the first city constructed after the flood by Noah’s grandson, Nimrod. Nimrod is a Hebrew word meaning to rebel and may not be a person’s name at all, more of a moniker given to protect his true identity and the identity of his family. In today’s vernacular it might be more appropriate to refer to him simply as The Rebel.
And rebel he did. At a time when the rest of Noah’s family were spreading out in an attempt to repopulate the earth, Nimrod defied the will of God and Noah’s instructions and stayed close to where it is believe the Ark ran aground. Why do you think he did that?
The key to the whole story lies in verse 4 –
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”[Genesis 11:4]
Did you catch it?
Nimrod and the people of Babylon were afraid of the very thing that eventually happened. They wanted to remain in close community with one another so they undertook an ambitious capitol project that would focus their collective efforts and hold them together while at the same time drawing more people into their orbit.
Does that sound familiar? How many times have you heard the mayor of a town or city call for the community to rally around a similar project sighting the need for them to attract business or residents? Several years ago the city in which I lived expended a massive effort to build a new convention centre so that they could “make a name for themselves”. In the end the project lost money and cost the mayor his job. Similarly, why do you think the competition to host an event like the Olympics Games is so intense?
God’s reaction to the Tower of Babel is a story of how he wants us to build community. The people of Babel were insular, building great monuments to draw attention and pulling people in but God had commanded Noah and his family to go forth and “fill the earth.” [Genesis 9:1] If you try to entice people to come to you, what you are really doing is projecting a sense of superiority. Everyone you attract will somehow be a second class citizen. They came to your city or country because of some great monument, social or political institution, business or event but they didn’t help build it so they don’t really belong.
And that my friends; was the great sin of Babylon! They built a monument to their own greatness and community based on a concept that was exclusive setting up a hierarchy of belonging and diluted themselves into thinking they were somehow better than anyone else.
By confusing the language and scattering people across the face of the earth God was telling them (and us) that we can’t build community by turning inward. Community is “out there”. Worldwide bodies that promote a form of world community are not the problem. The problem arises only when these organizations become an exclusive hierarchical club or when members of the organization make it difficult for them to function as they were intended.
Don’t get me wrong, the UN and other world bodies have their problems, but they are not Babylon. I can think of a few cities that resemble Babylon much closely than any worldwide goverenment, with a single language, monuments to their own greatest, and irrational fear of outsiders and a hierarchy of belonging that would put even Nimrod to shame.