What’s your favorite plague of Egypt? I remember in third grade, mine was the frogs. All the other plagues seemed utterly undesirable, but the prospect of having multitudes of frogs absolutely everywhere all the time sounded awesome, because I was an eight-year-old boy.
Behold: where we find the actual tale of the Tower of Babel! This is another favorite for the Sunday school classes. After all, it provides children with a narrative explanation of why some people speak using all kinds of strange words they don’t understand, and it also contains a cautionary tale against pride. But as I read it today, I found myself wondering what exactly motivates God to thwart the intentions of these would-be tower-builders. “Pride” may be a simple answer, reasonably accurate and easy to comprehend, but the reality may prove to be more nuanced than a single word.
I think I was in fourth grade when I first heard Weezer’s “The Sweater Song.” I was at the pool at Queen City Racquet Club, and one of the teenage lifeguards must have been playing The Blue Album, because I also remember hearing “Surf Wax America” and “Buddy Holly” over the snack bar speakers. It would be years before I heard “Buddy Holly” again, recognized it, and finally put a name to the band and songs that I’d heard as a kid at the pool. But Genesis 3 reads like the chorus of “The Sweater Song,” with God’s perfect garden unraveling and leaving the man and woman, the only two beings made in his image, lying naked and ashamed on the floor. The world is coming apart.
Man, writing this entry has been like pulling teeth. It’s been like going to the dentist and finding out you’re the dentist. Is every chapter of Genesis going to be like this? Is it going to be grappling every time with just what the text intends to communicate and how to talk about that to all of you, with your various perspectives on it? Am I going to spend each post on the mat, with uncertainty and self-consciousness putting me in a headlock? Well, so far we’re two for two, so let’s get back into the creation myth.