The Lay of the Land

This election, man. We’re crumbling, aren’t we? The tower we’ve built for ourselves – America the beautiful, America the great – is beginning to crack in the corners and really, we all know it’s not going to take much to knock the whole thing over with our heels.

I’m trying to choose careful words here, but I’m also trying to choose honest ones.

Do we want America to be great again?
Do we want America to be kind again?

But that’s not America’s job.
It’s ours.

Remember the biblical story from years ago, from older days of brick and tar? The tower of Babel? As the story goes, God’s people in the land of Shinar united themselves to build a tower of worship – a mark, a mission, a monument.

“And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” -Genesis 11:3

But this wasn’t supposed to be the plan.

The plan was to scatter, to spread, to share – to make a name for God. The plan was never to make a name for themselves.

What God asked for was a common purpose, but a common project.
Perhaps God wanted a movement, not a monument.

As the story goes, God stopped the people from finishing the tower by jumbling their words. Many believe this is the origin of multiple languages; others believe it’s only a myth.

“Come, let Us go down there and confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” -Genesis 11:6

The very thing the people didn’t want – lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth – was the very thing that happened.

We are a nation of names. We have spent decades building monuments from which to stand upon, feet planted firmly in crumbling soil. We have made towers with our choices and we have elected watchguards to uphold them, to keep us safe, to supply us with bricks and tar to patch what is broken, to rebuild what is cracked, to stack higher what is not.

In God we trust, our coins say.
In Us we trust, our conversations say.

“Come, let Us go down there and confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

This is the world in which we live. A world where we cannot understand one another’s speech. Where progress is measured by monuments, by the watchguards we elect, by the projects they promise, by the bricks we lay.

You over there.
Me over here.

I have lived a short life, but a long portion of it has been spent watching confusion. I have heard groups of people stack choices over one another and seal them with tar: Breastfeed your kids, but not for too long. Welcome refugees, but not too many. Be a feminist, but not too feminist.

We build towers.
Let us make a name for ourselves.

We grow confused.
That they may not understand one another’s speech.

We have more speech swirling around us now than ever. There are Tweets, articles, statistics. There are lies and injustices, fact-checkers and controversies. There are front page celebrations and back door politics and side-by-side comparisons that we’re told will eventually stack up to some version of the truth.

Stack up to where?

I don’t know how to un-twist the tongues of our country. I don’t know how to right my version of this nation’s wrongs. I don’t know how to elect my version of this nation’s right candidate.

I know only to stop building the tower.

I know only to set aside the bricks.

  • Honest, beautiful, well-put words. I couldn’t agree with them more. Love the way you weave your words into a tapestry. You almost always leave me saying “wow, that’s what I was thinking but couldn’t put it on paper.”

    • Oh Lisa, thank you! This was a hard post to write and it took FOREVER. Politics are never an easy thing to chat through. :)

  • I’m hoping most people choose from their gut, not just to stop the other side from winning. If that happens, we may be off in a better direction…

  • I have goose bumps <3
    I couldn't have said it better… You speak the truth of soo many of us <3 Thank you, for putting it into perspective <3

  • What a beautifully written piece! I rarely comment on anything but I have to let you know how much I admire your writing. I am a designer with a degree in Literature and I am slowly finding my way back to writing once again.

    • Oh Amanda, that’s so kind to hear – thank you for your sweet words! Design and words are my favorite areas of interest as well. :)

  • Thank you for having the courage to write this. And the eloquence. I feel like I’ve had similar thoughts swirling around but haven’t been able to put them together. E

  • Politics is so hard and uncomfortable. I find that sometimes in my desire to not offend, or step on anyone’s toes, to respect that everyone has a right to their own opinions (all valid and true points), I use it as an excuse to not say anything at all, to not engage in dialogue. So, it’s good that, by setting an example, you’re creating a place where people can safely and kindly express their thoughts.

    • AMEN. I’m this way, too, Choong, quick to say nothing at all. Thank you for encouraging me to continue sharing thoughts, even the ones that I’m unsure of. :)

  • You always cut thru to the story that I would tell if I had the write words. Yes, just yes. You cut thru the noise to the heart of it.

  • erin, this piece was masterfully put together … so well written … i liken the building of monuments to ego and the building of movement to humility … i don’t have tv so am not in the throes of all the election battling but it does not seem to change much year to year …

    • Oh Dawn, thank you — and I’m with you on the no TV thing. It’s been kind of a nice quiet lately. ;)

  • It is sad that many of the basic lessons of life are lost to us, as we try to be self sufficient and without need for a God, or even friends to help us.
    Good thoughts Cheree. Thank you, and keep on writing.

  • Thanks for not being another person screaming at me what to think and do, but someone coming alongside and gently puzzling it out along with me.

  • Beautiful thoughts reflecting a beautiful heart. As our pastor said last week, “…through all this chaos, we know who is in control.”

  • Beautiful words, Erin, & said with the care & sensitivity needed for topics like these. I love how you took history (or a story depending what you believe) & showed us its relevance today. I’m reminded it’s not really about the candidates even if those are important. There’s a bigger picture here. Thanks for making me think!

  • Fantastically written. Living overseas with no TV helps me escape the immediacy of it all, but there is no escape from the madness of the current election cycle.. You nailed this beautifully! I want to share and share again.

  • So true. Thankful that I don’t have to carve out an identity pedestal to stand on but can trust God’s purposes. Thanks for the reminder.

  • This is great! Loved the Babel analogy and I hadn’t thought of how well it compares to America today. One word of caution not to extend the God’s choice to confuse languages too much to the negative. You’re right, God said to fill the earth and be fruitful. In that sense, when the people scattered, it was not a curse or punishment (as often as this gets said) but it was what God wanted all along. This matters when it comes to affirming God’s original plan for many cultures and ethnicities to exist :) I learned this perspective a couple of years ago and it was so enlightening! Bonus: Pentecost in Acts is then viewed as Gos redefining His people and they can once again understand each other! Ok. Enough. Good blog post!

    • I LOVE this perspective – thank you, Taylor! That’s definitely an enlightening shift; I so appreciate you sharing it!

Comments are closed.