Week 3, Genesis 11:1-9 “The Tower of Babel”: Our Own Kind

Tuesday, March 14 

“Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4).

In 1956, Rev. W. A. Criswell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas—at that time the largest Baptist church in the world—was invited to address the General Assembly of the South Carolina legislature on the subject of racial segregation. In his cringingly self-revealing remarks, Criswell condemned “scantling good-for-nothing fellows who are trying to upset all the things that we love as good old Southern people and good old Southern Baptists. . . . Don’t force me by law, by statute, by Supreme Court decision. . . to cross over in those intimate things where I don’t want to go. . . Let me have my church. Let me have my school. Let me have my friends” (Cited in Robert P. Jones, The End of White Christian America [New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016], 167).

Rev. Criswell could just as well have spoken for the First Church of Babel. The denizens of that place built their city and their tower to ensure that they would stay together homogeneously: “otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). We sometimes refer to the confusion of the world’s languages and the scattering of humanity as the “curse of Babel”—but being “scattered abroad” was exactly what God intended for humanity! The real curse of Babel is staying where we are comfortable and unchallenged, in “my church,” “my school,” with “my friends.” Babel itself, in its safe, comfortable, stultifying sameness, is the curse.

Prayer: O God who comforts the troubled, we pray that you might also trouble the comfortable. Push us out into our growing edges. Show us the blessing brought to our communities by those who are not like us. This we pray in the name of Jesus, who reminds us still, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold” (John 10:16), Amen.