Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Disciplining The Bad Puppy That is Man and Why The Internet is Doomed -- Bible Study, Night Four

Reading My Late Mother's Bible


I think I'm finally getting a handle on Genesis: God, when He created the human race,  saddled himself and the world with the equivalent of a very intelligent, very defiant puppy. It ate stuff it shouldn't have in the Garden of Eden and was banished to the backyard. In the backyard, it bit and killed a litter mate, fouled the grass, and generally ran wild until it was sprayed with a garden hose as punishment. Then it shaped up for awhile. But just awhile. And then, because it was a puppy with hands, not paws, and because it wasn't really a puppy at all but a tool-using hominid endowed with language, it erected the Tower of Babel.

The Tower was bad, one sinful stack of bricks, but why it was bad, the reason, I find surprising. I used to think I knew the reason. Before last week, when I started reading the Bible instead of just quoting from it and alluding to it and smugly assuming I'd absorbed it merely by sleeping at night in its vicinity and having several friends who vote Republican, my sense of what made the Tower of Babel abominable was the excessive pride that it expressed, the narcissism behind it, the arrogance. Wrong, it turns out. What made the Tower offensive -- or not offensive, but deeply threatening -- was the amazing teamwork of its builders.
For those who believe that capitalism and corporatism are systems beloved of God, I have bad news: except for those that He personally authorizes such as the assembly of the ark, He dislikes big projects, especially big, costly ones, and particularly ones whose execution depend on complicated communications. He dislikes them because, for a being of such vast powers and undisputed cosmic alpha status, He's ridiculously insecure. He may even fear for his job, to hear Him talk:

"And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they all have one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do."

There is palpable panic in this verse. It's almost as though, as the Tower rose and rose and the sound of its architects, engineers, and laborers conferring and conversing reached His ears, God could feel human beings coming for Him, could begin to imagine them turning on their master. He seems not to have to have foreseen such competition, but once it materializes, He acts immediately; acts in the frustrated manner of an eight year-old who suddenly finds himself losing at a board game. He demolishes everything from the building itself to the universally-shared language that permitted its construction.

We all saw what happened in New York City ten years ago. Now I fear that the Internet is on borrowed time.

[To catch up with this project, see prior posts]


  1. Another interpretation for your consideration:

    What offends God is not teamwork, but the ends to which teamwork is put. The "people" build the tower "to make a name" for themselves and as a safeguard against being scattered across the earth -- that is, to enhance their own status and centralize their power on earth.

    Only God's name is great, and only God can prevent people from being scattered. While it is true that God's stated reaction to the tower is similar to his reasons for expelling Adam and Eve from Eden (so they won't eat from the Tree of Life), what God takes away from the people in this fable of how or why different languages were born turns out to be a gift.

    God gives humankind a challenge: to work together in spite of different languages. Perhaps by variegating languages (and, by extension, cultures), humankind may learn to appreciate God's handiwork and power. They may even begin to fear God, which scripture tells us is the beginning of wisdom.

    God complicates man's ability to function as a "hive mind." God is worried about what humankind will think is possible or impossible for them, not that they will supplant or usurp him. God cannot be usurped.

    Nothing is impossible, but nothing is impossible *with God*. It's when humankind acts on its own without consideration of God that trouble begins.

    Just another suggested interpretation.

  2. I don't consider myself religious, but I know there are many interpretations of the Bible, as well as, reinterpretations. It's fascinating how scholars go back to Hebrew and Greek and try to get the correct meanings of words, than study to figure how to put it into the context of the times. Plus, what passages meant to the people they were originally written for.

  3. Maybe the fact that god is childish is more a reflection on us than it is of god. I like to return to the question of whether god created man in his own image, or if maybe man created god in his own image. Either way, we're just all children who get wrinkles.

  4. Effective writing! But God wasn't afraid for himself when he saw the people erecting the tower. He knew that mankind would eventually develop and use the weaponry to destroy all life on the earth (Matt 24:21-22, Gen 6:5, etc), so he was concerned for the people, and slowed our progress down by separating us into disparate languages/cultures (That way, we didn't develop the that made that possible until the 1940s). He has no problem with big building projects like, oh, I don't know the construction of the Firsts temple (1 king 10:1-10, especially v. 4).... But, if I had only read the first 11 chapters of Genesis, I might arrive at the same incorrect conclusions you came to. The Bible can't be understood if you read it from beginning to end. It is, as Isaiah wrote, "precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little (chp. 28:9-10).

  5. Wow. What a stupid commentary on the tower of Babel. First: If you are going to comment on the Bible go study and read some more theology.
    Second: The tower of Babel was sinful because mountains were the places where people could invoke gods in ancient religions and the tower of Babel was an artificial mountain that would be used to manipulate God as if he was just like the ancient gods.
    God loves teamwork () so just stop being an ignorant twat and try to study theology for once before you comment on it.

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