seeing Beyond Babel
By now, you know that I see life as a story, and the one I saw last week was one of beautiful richness. I was at a FEMA vaccination site in Newark, and I looked out at a sea of humanity in wonder. It was Babel!
I could not count the languages, nor could I scarcely take in the variations in ethnicity within the room. It was a symphony of vaccinators and vaccinatees (yes, I know it’s not a word). There were citizens, airmen from Waco, TX, FEMA employees/volunteers, and officers in blue. I saw many tribes represented, and yet no tribalism was apparent.
DEFINITION of Tribalism
1: tribal consciousness and loyalty; especially: exaltation of the tribe above other groups
2: strong in-group loyaltyhttps://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tribalism
I moved in line, listening to the couple in front of me murmuring to one another in Spanish; it always sounds like music to me. The woman behind me had a gorgeous afro of black and silver. I asked her if this was her first or second vaccination, and like me, she confirmed the latter. Our little group arrived at the point where they divided you to a desk for check-in; it was time to part. The couple departed, and it was my turn. As I began to walk, I heard the voice of my neighbor behind me say, “Be blessed.” I looked at her and said, “I am. And you the same.” She returned, “I am.”
It hit me that everyone in the room, including my immediate neighbors, was there with a shared purpose. We came together for the common good of personal and public health. We were one tribe, and it was fantastic! I was indeed blessed!
In Genesis 11, we find the story of the Tower of Babel. If you recall, this origin tale echoes the Fall of Humanity as the people join together to build a tower so they could reach the heights of Heaven. YaHWeH comes down and confuses their language, scattering them about the earth. NOTE: The words “Babel” and “confusion” are virtually the same word.
If you isolate this story from the rest of scripture, it makes God sound jealous and petty. But like I said, it is an echo of Adam and Eve, but there is more.
This past Sunday, I taught that one must interpret the scriptures in the light of Jesus Christ. If you put on your “Jesus glasses,” what do you find? Add Jesus to the Tower of Babel, and you find that it is not up to us to build ourselves up to reach heaven, but rather the Christ who came down to help us to bridge the gap. This understanding is not without precedent; you hear John tell us that Jesus becomes Jacob’s Ladder (Jn 1:51) so that heaven and earth are connected. Paul tells the Philippians that the Christ became human in the person of Jesus of Nazareth so…
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11
So as I ponder my little glimpse of Babel, what I was seeing is humanity united under a common cause. I like to think of this flash of a moment as a glimpse of what it will be when every knee bends and every tongue confesses Jesus as Lord! You see, Jesus Christ is the answer to Babel!