The story of the Tower of Babel is one of God’s judgment against man’s pride. Builders of the edifice were acting presumptuously in thinking that they could erect a stairway to heaven. God then said, “Let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech” (Genesis 11:7). Since the builders could no longer understand each other, they could no longer cooperate with each other and their project had to be abandoned.
Here, the word Babel, meaning “gate of God,” is interpreted by the Hebrew verb “confuse”. Despite the fact that the word babulus in Latin means “babbler,” and “barbaros” in Greek refers to one who says “bar-bar”, there is no direct connection between “Babel” and “babbling”, although an association between the two words may have affected the contemporary meaning of the latter. Nonetheless, babbling, referring to talk that is foolish or incoherent, retains the Hebrew meaning of the word “to confuse”. “Babble” is also reduplicated in the term “bibble-babble”, meaning idle talk.
We have constructed our own Tower of Babble in which, very much like the builders in Babylon, linguistic confusion prevents people from working together. Let us examine, briefly, five words in today’s language, all beginning with the letter “B” that are confusing enough to prevent both harmony of discourse and unity of action:
This word, together with associated terms such as “unborn baby”, and “premature baby”,
reminds abortion advocates too vividly of the nature of the being whom the mother is carrying. Thus, the child in the womb is reduced to a “fetus”, or “embryo”, or even a “pre-embryo”, in order to make abortion easier on one’s conscience. Ironically, when a child is conceived through in vitro fertilization, it is commonly referred to as a “test tube baby”. The word “baby”, then, is subject to the various desires of those who look upon the baby. At the same time, evident in popular music and in the cinema, the word “baby” is commonly applied to an adult who is sexually attractive.
The Bible, traditionally referred to as “Sacred Scripture”, and “The Holy Book”, is now an object of suspicion. Biblical images are removed from public display so as not to offend anyone. The “Word of God”, is now interpreted in many quarters as an instrument designed to promote violence, homophobia, and sexism. It is deemed incompatible with the moral wisdom of the modern world. Those who affirm the Good Book’s teachings are often labeled as “Bible thumpers”, “religious zealots”, or “fundamentalists”. It is commonly presumed that being influenced by Scripture is an indication that one is unable to think for himself.
Bigotry, traditionally, had a narrow range of application. It referred to a negative attitude toward people that was recklessly prejudicial and stubbornly intolerant. The fact that the words “prejudicial” and “intolerant” are no longer agreed upon, adds to the confusion concerning the meaning of bigotry. Today, all that is needed to be vilified as a bigot is to defend traditional marriage or to have faith in one’s religious beliefs. Since the Bible has lost a great deal of its authority, the number of people who qualify for the term “bigot,” has greatly increased. In fact, the term is now used so loosely, that it can be directed at anyone.
Bravery, properly understood, is a moral virtue. It is “grace under pressure” when confronted with a significant evil. Traditionally, it was rooted in love, clearly manifested by a person who risks danger to himself while rescuing a child from a burning building. Pro-life students appear to be acting bravely when confronting a university that refuses to acknowledge their freedom of speech to provide factual information about abortion. Rather than being praised for their bravery, they are often condemned for their “fanaticism” and for attempting to foist their opinions on others. At the same time, an athlete receives a presidential citation for bravery merely for acknowledging that he is homosexual.
Throughout North America, many forces have joined together in an attempt to stamp out bullying. Universities organize conferences that point to the evil of this practice and how it must be stopped. The Media is solidly behind ending this barbaric activity. Bullying, in which the stronger take physical advantage of the weaker, is seen as both outrageous and intolerable. Yet, the clearest example of bullying—abortion—is not regarded as bullying at all, but merely as a choice. Nor are the draconian measures used to ostracize and punish “bullies” deemed instances of bullying. Christianity, which commands people to love their neighbor, is not always regarded as an enemy of bullying, but is looked upon with suspicion because of its alleged “bullying” of women and non-believers.
The Bible opposes bullying and bigotry while honoring married people for being brave enough to bring a baby into the world. In today’s self-made Tower of Babble, does this sentence make any sense, or does it cause offense? God speaks of the extraordinary things that people can accomplish when they have “one language” (Genesis 6), that is, a language that is not divided by ideology. Language is meant to unify on the basis that we are all looking at the same reality. Our contemporary confusion results from the simple fact that we are not looking at the same reality. Hence, we see the present distrust, discord, and devastation.