Some of you may remember the infamous response of a Atlanta Braves pitcher when he was asked in 1999 by Sports Illustrated if he would ever play for the New York Mets or New York Yankees. He said:
I’d retire first. It’s the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the No. 7 train to the ballpark looking like you’re riding through Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It’s depressing… The biggest thing I don’t like about New York are the foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there.
The story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 teaches us that what the baseball pitcher said “racked his nerves” in the world, is what God, in fact, wills for the world.
In verse 4 we read that the purpose of building the tower was to avoid what depresses some on the No. 7 train leaving Manhattan for Queens, and to avoid what can be heard in Times Square. The purpose of settling in Shinar and building that tower was to live in a world with no foreigners, no confusing babbling in the streets, no queers or kids with purple hair to encounter on the way to work, no eating in the marketplace with people on strange diets, no rubbing elbows with people wearing weird clothes, head coverings or dots on their foreheads. So they came together and said, let’s build a tower of unity “to not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
And God responded to their fear by “scattering them over the face of the whole earth,” by creating a world of diverse languages and cultures, by creating a world of foreigners.
God was only accomplishing what God had always willed for the creation: diversity. In chapter one of Genesis, we read that the original plan for creation was for humankind to “multiply and fill the earth.” And after the flood in chapter ten we read where God sanctions and wills all nations to be “spread out over the earth” (Gen 10:32).
Simply put, from the very beginning of time, in spite of our will, in spite of our fear, God wills diversity.
Therefore, if we ever act or speak in any manner that denigrates or dehumanizes another because of their race, language, nationality or ethnicity, we are actually disparaging the God who willed such diversity. According to Genesis, diversity is not to be feared or avoided. If we want to do the will of God our creator, diversity is to be embraced.
In other words, if we love God, we will also love our neighbor.