Empire & Resistance
When we recognize that cultural diversity was God’s original plan, another early story in the Bible becomes easier to understand:
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 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.”
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. - Gen. 11:1-9
The people are resisting God’s plans to fill the earth and develop a beautiful variety of cultures! Instead, they’re drawing together into a homogenous lump, desiring prematurely to settle and get comfortable and prosperous. (Ironically, though we often assume homogeneity is an asset and source of power, and it certainly can make us more comfortable, all sorts of studies suggest diverse groups are actually much more potent.)
In Roadmap to Reconciliation, Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil asks us to consider our own towers of Babel, the ways that we still today “use our human ingenuity, intellect, creativity and technology to… rebel against God’s plan to bless all people” and to recognize that “God resists our empire-building tendency toward homogeneity.”
Would you talk over these things with Jesus today? Where do you see towers of Babel at work in your world? Where do you see God at work, resisting?