Lessons from the Tower of Babel

Tower of Babel

Do we really want to be the laughing stock of the universe?

Throughout history people have built buildings to symbolise their status, power and wealth. The Egyptian pyramids were examples of such statements. This is why the Twin Towers in the U.S.A. were terrorist targets. They were seen as symbols of wealth, power and oppression. Even churches and temples purportedly built to glorify God were often really built to glorify their sponsors.

The tower of Babel in the Bible represents the way mankind can build a complex of religious beliefs which appears to lead to the happiness of heaven. However, as the story illustrates, man-made bricks were used and not stone. Stones represent God given truth, but bricks are like the fallacious ideas and reasonings created by people and hardened into shape by the heat of their self-centredness and their desire to rule others. The bitument they used instead of mortar represents the evils which bind these ideas together. Through well-constructed, manipulative arguments, people can be united in their belief that this way of life leads to the happiness of heaven. Such a belief structure appears to unify people through many years but, because God loves mankind, there comes a time when He reveals the reality of this false unity. Human history shows how cruel and inhuman ideologies which seem to promise so much eventually collapse because the lies they are based on eventually become apparent to all.

Self-centredness can unify people to a certain point but its true nature is wanting one’s own way. So, although a society can appear to ‘speak one language,’ in reality it is as divided as a den of thieves when it comes to sharing the spoil. Then the confusion of Babel (everyone speaking different languages) is revealed, as everyone wants their own way. At a very worldly level it is like Pyramid Selling, which is based on the false promise that everyone will gain, whereas only those as the top do.

The religions of the world are facing a Babel moment now over who is God. Intuitively, there can only be one God who is Creator, yet so many believe that their particular God is the one. Any alien visiting us from outer space will not be able to believe there is such confusion. We will be the laughing stock of the universe. Swedenborg offers this insight. That there is one God, who is pure Love, pure Wisdom and pure Life, and He has revealed Himself to mankind in different forms to suit different ethnic cultures and temperaments. He has done this so that He can have a relationship with each of us in the historical and religious context we were brought up in. From our tendency to be self-centred, we have tended to diminish the Love and Wisdom of God by making Him small, conditional, exclusive like us. The situation we have reminds me of the words of Shelley’s ‘Ozymandius:’

My name is Ozymandius, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty and despair! Nothing beside remains; round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, The lone and level sands stretch far away.

We can but hope that, in some way, God through His Divine Love can truly unite His very divided people. Then we can truly speak with one voice.

Rev. John Sutton


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