Huge as the tower which builders vain/Presumptuous piled on Shinar’s plain.
It was the second petition in what we call the lord’s prayer, that model and pattern that Jesus gave his listeners instructing how we should speak to God; “Your Kingdom come” he said. And something struck me.
The thing is we have moved on from kings and queens. When Elizabeth goes the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will be on pretty shaky ground. Now it is as shaky as the monarch’s own health and who can guess what will happen when she departs? She who took a solemn vow 70 years ago and one, that she unfashionably has kept. It is probably unlikely that the monarchy will survive for very long after. In any case we are doing away with monarchs and tribes and races. We are giving up on republics and dictatorships and having doubts about democracy. We have outgrown nations and borders. The future is internationalist. We are progressing into a new world order, a great reset where people from all over can come together, find consensus, collaborate unite and plan for the common good in equality and equity. The existential threats of war, food security, overpopulation, disease and climate chaos can be now be faced straight on and with our collective will, can be defeated. We can, we will, it is all possible, if we come together. To deny that would be treason and a counsel of despair. The future is one of peace, prosperity, security, harmony and fruitfulness for all.
It all sounds very much like the Kingdom of God… Sounds like it. Except that God seems not to be mentioned. Which, when you think about it is strange. In fact, great pains are being taken to make sure he is not even namechecked. In the small-scale union of European nations, the idea that one nation can unashamedly declare its Christian heritage creates an enormous problem. We cannot have the suggestion that God has any part in what we are doing. The pretext is offense but the subtext is defiance. There is no god so we are gods and master of our own destiny. There is no King of kings so we are kings. There is no Lord of all we are our own lords. If you stand back and think about it for a moment it is almost comical and it would be, were it not so tragic.
Someone has suggested that we should be wary of any organising that has “world” in it’s title. The amassing of power seems inevitably to lead to an amassing of corruption and so often ends up with the organisation eating itself, destroying its original purpose of being. That may be so, but we certainly should be sceptical about large institutions that are able to accumulate power, albeit with fine motives for world peace or food or health or the environment or the eradication of poverty. So, you end up with the quite unbelievable situation where Venezuela, Sudan, Somalia, Qatar, Libya, Eritrea, Russia and China are all members of the UN Human Rights Council. If that is not an organisation eating itself, I don’t know what is. All nations are equally subject to the UN charter on human rights but some are more equal than others.
It’s only a small step from an intergovernmental agency becoming a supranational one and it is all done by stealth. Witness the recent attempt by the World Health Organisation, flushed with its success in getting almost the whole world to bend to its self-proclaimed authority to purloin even more power in its proposed pandemic treaty. All of the western enlightened nations rolled over and it was only blocked by plucky Africa. Once again it is people from the poorest countries, ones that have suffered from years of oppression and slavery, who have the vision to see what is actually going on. They see it as yet another attempt at colonisation. In the world context, that defiance is one genuine sign of hope.
These supranational bodies, amassing power and wealth and unchecked authority, inevitably become towers of Babel. The biblical story always sounded strange to me and I didn’t see what was particularly wrong with what they were doing. Afterall it was not violence or debauchery or cruelty or any other sin, but simply a public-spirited project in the interests of the common good. What was wrong with making bricks and mortar? Why did God deliberately disrupt what they were doing by causing confusion over language? It seems grossly unfair to intervene in this worthwhile project. That is what it seems like, but if we read the story carefully, we see that it was out of love and concern that God intervened and halted the work. While the motive behind building the city and the tower was pride “so that we can have a name for ourselves, not God”, and fear, the fear of dispersal, God’s motive in intervening is mercy and love. He intervenes to prevent them from doing much worse and so they end up being dispersed.
Time will come, I am sure, when the big world-wide institutions will fall into their own state of confusion, will be unable to hold the centre, will disintegrate, split apart and we will find ourselves retreating to our small nation states with borders, our own language and customs, having to grow our own food and look after our own families. It seems to me very likely and, I think, despite the pain it will cause, it will be a good thing. I would see it as a sign of mercy and a sign that God still loves the world that he created and is not giving up on us just yet, but providing us with one more opportunity to come to our senses and recognise the creator and the one who gives us our life, the king of kings, the name above all names.
I have no argument with you on the corruptability of institutions but I do think it is plain that unless we have common approaches to the very serious threats we face we are liable to perish.
I suppose a lot hinges on what is meant by “common approaches”. There may be different ways of solving a problem, (food production for example) and things that work well in a high industrial organised society, say in Europe, could be disastrous in rural Africa. And the trouble with central worldwide organisations is that they inevitably need control to work and absolute control to be truly effective. This leads to local concerns being side-lined or ignored in the interest of the greater good.
When I got involved in the design of a new school in Haiti, the possibility of another earthquake was very much in our minds and the concrete three and four structures school buildings we saw, terrified us. We wanted to make sure, as a first principle, that the structure was safe and able to cope with tremors. But the cost of doing this was prohibitive. If we followed that through, no school would be built. We had to listen to the people, who were more concerned for their children’s education now, than over something that might never happen in the future. So it was a compromise.
The way the World Health Organisation directed the response to coronavirus seems a perfectly example why this kind of centralist control can be disastrous.