Most people are familiar with this story who can trace their religious foundation to the TaNaKH, Torah to our laymen. For those unfamiliar this is a story within Genesis that is supposed to explain the confusion of language around the world. Now from a theologian standpoint there are a few issues with the story but that’s another article for another time. But here a short mini scoop of what the story consists of. The people were enjoying the fruits of the world, money, probably material things, in the way of their material items, frankincense, linens, precious metals, livestock etc. They were enjoying so much that they needed something else to take on. They decided amongst themselves well we have mastered this what now? We should build a tower to heaven. And so they started to build. God was a little teed off at their boldness and presumptuousness and confused their language and spread them all over the land.
We miss a lot of subtle messages in the biblical text because we are so hung up on the race of Christ, (of course he was a black man duh), or the authenticity of which race wrote it, who are the real Hebrews? Or the literal meanings of the words and the plight of how God would deal without issues of fornication, and our confusion about what the text says about drinking, or polygamy and homosexuality, or what God says about gender reassignment that we miss some of the simplest testaments of the word. I’m not here to argue any of the above debates, and I can believe me with fervor, but what I am here to say is sometimes the answer isn’t always that angry or that ruggish. Sometimes what the answer is changes its language like the people of Babel depending on who God is speaking to.
Now when you first look at the story doesn’t seem all that uncanny to anything we live every day. But let’s take a deeper look. The main theme for a lot of people is that the people of Babel were bold enough to try to be like God. This is not a religious lesson I promise, I am using this text though to make a point. But what if the text is a story about a people who consumed and found more and more ways to consume until the last thing to consume was themselves? These people had an appetite, an appetite that needed one better every time they turned around. This story is pretty easy going when you read it. Look around you, yes you, right now. What do you see? Take a real good look at the people who are around you? Look away from the phone, the tablet, the laptop. Look away from your Instagram, your snapchat, your Periscope, stop pinning for a moment. I tell you what I see, I see people who go to dinner and lunch and eat with their phones, and people who allow the mass army of capitalism convince us that the last version of something that we bought isn’t good enough. So while we follow like aimless sheep and forget what it’s like to just be satisfied do we realize we are building our own Babel? We argue about race, no one understands the other, we speak about guns and yet one group cannot identify or empathize with the loss of those who have experienced their children and loved ones gone from gun violence, they see only THEIR rights. The Tower of Babel, we balked when we tried universal healthcare because we thought why would I want to help someone else who couldn’t afford the level of care I have every day because my job pays the majority of the premium, the Tower of Babel. We are aimless and wander about shamelessly as we tell Muslim countries how to run their own worlds because guess what ours is so perfect. The Tower of Babel. We have a prison system that although we as a country only make up 5% of the world we make up 25% of the imprisoned. The Tower of Babel. When we think of criminals we think of the big bad wolf not a disproportionate number of men and women of color who have come out of our own Foster care system failed educationally, mentally, and emotionally. Statistics show that black men and women who go to jail do so at an alarming rate as former foster care children. Who failed who? The Tower of Babel. Yet and still we still can’t quite find a common ground. Because we can’t understand each other. Imagine that. That confusion of the language doesn’t even mean that we don’t technically speak it, we just don’t speak it the same way.