Globalization is an enduring utopian ideal. But it is in immemorial conflict with heritage and identity. Hence ecumenical hopes are perennially dashed. We long to return to the God-given Edenic unity of the earliest days, when “the whole earth was of one language, and of one tongue.” What shattered this unity after the Flood was, in essence, a hunger for heritage, the desire to forge an identity that would immortalize the memory of human accomplishments. The Tower of Babel elevated human pride to heaven itself, “to make a name for ourselves, otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth,” incoherent and forgotten (Genesis 11.1, 4).
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Image: Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Tower of Babel. Brueghel’s famous depiction of the Tower of Babel during construction, 1563. Oil painting. (Corbis)