The Lord Rebuked Globalism at the Tower of Babel
Since the end of World War II, many world leaders supported the rise of globalism. They idealized it as the post-war world order. However, as states became more interdependent and shared political power through international bureaucracies, some of us chafed. We rediscovered the idea of a government closer to the people. We revived the concepts of nationalism and decentralized power.
One can see the tension between globalism and nationalism foreshadowed in several parts of the Bible. In particular, the Tower of Babel. (Gen. 10-11) Here was the first, and failed attempt to impose a worldwide orthodoxy of speech and thought. Nimrod (Gen. 10: 8) is identified by Biblical commentators as the principal force behind building the Tower. He sought to impose a uniform political and cultural pattern in place of the structure then existing. This uniformity would be independent of G-d’s plan of creation and the moral values G-d established.
We find many parallels between today’s populist movements of nationalism and biblical support for independent nation-states.
The Post-War New World Order
In the 1940s the winners of World War II sought a new world order. The leaders of Western powers had a vision of “interdependence.” This meant linking one nation-state’s fate to the fates of the others. The Soviets imposed a different idea, an authoritarian structure. There, loyalty to a common political ideology reigned supreme within the nation-states they controlled.
Neither vision succeeded.
The European effort involved transnational bodies. And strong bureaucracies. See the European Union, International Criminal Court, and the United Nation’s Human Rights Council. These institutions, over time, stoked a populist backlash:
- The vote of the British to withdraw from the European Union.
- The Yellow Vests protests in France, begun over added gasoline taxes.
- The recent success of Euro-skeptic political parties in European elections. These European parliament elections exposed major political and cultural upheavals. In Britain, after only five weeks of campaigning, Nigel Farange’s Brexit Party overwhelmed Britain’s Labour and Conservative parties.
Similarly, in national elections, the Netherland’s Thierry Baudet’s Forum for Democracy party gained 86 seats. It went from zero seats to becoming the largest single party in the Dutch Senate. This came in reaction to the support by mainstream European bureaucrats for open borders and elitists’ views of climate change.
The People of Many Nations Reject Globalism
Soviet Communism collapsed in summer 1991. So did its domestic empire. Several former Soviet Socialist Republics proclaimed their sovereignty. Many of the former autonomous republics restructured themselves into smaller nation-states based on geography and ethnicity. Likewise, the former Yugoslavia broke into seven different countries. Czechoslovakia split in two.
The United States elected Donald Trump, showing that such sentiments lived here too. Trump rejected or criticized some of the international postwar institutions. He cited the advice of President George Washington’s Farewell Address. It suggested that America be wary of entangling themselves in foreign alliances.
President Trump forcefully stated his case at the United Nations. He promised that “the U.S. will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control and domination.” In an early foreign policy address, he was clear that the USA “will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism.” In doing so, he sought to strengthen “America’s greatness” and its sovereignty. In the process, he could better protect his political base of blue collar workers.
Furthermore, President Trump pulled the USA out of several treaties that he believed might undermine U.S. authority. These included the Paris Climate Agreement and the International Arms Treaty.
The Old Guard Clings to Power
However, globalists such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel haven’t backed down. They continue to maintain that “nation-states must today be prepared to give up their sovereignty.” To keep on transferring power to international bodies such as the European Union. She is not alone in her thinking. Remember that the British voted to exit the European Union more than three years ago. But bureaucracies within the U.K and Europe continue to create barriers to their departure.
The Tower of Babel
Many of us look to the wisdom of the Bible for lessons to apply in our daily lives. Let’s think a little harder about the Tower of Babel. The biblical story does not reveal the motives of the conspirators who built the Tower. But significant biblical commentary explains them as sinister and idolatrous. The Bible itself informs us in Gen 10: 8 that Nimrod “was the first to amass power in the world.” The first century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, agreed. “Now it was Nimrod,” he wrote, “who excited them [his followers] to such an affront and contempt of G-d.”
Biblical commentary states that Nimrod believed building the Tower would leave him independent of G-d’s plan for creation. The biblical sin of the generation of the Tower of Babel? An effort to impose a uniform political and cultural pattern upon the world. That’s the same goal as today’s globalists.
By attempting to reach Heaven, Nimrod and his followers tried to replace G-d and His moral values. They committed blasphemy against the Lord. Blasphemy violates a key element of the Noahide Laws. (These apply to all mankind.) The Ten Commandments would later reaffirm this divine law.
The Lord Loves True Diversity
G-d rebuked these efforts of Nimrod and his followers. He scattered their whole generation. Prior to G-d’s action, “The entire earth had one language, and spoke the same words.” (Gen. 1 : 11) A revered Jewish Sage, Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, explained how important that is. This unitary language represented the ultimate expression of uniformity. It prevented individualism and true diversity. To wipe out the individuality with which G-d created us was a principal objective of the builders of the Tower of Babel.
The Lord encouraged individual expression and diversity. In fact, G-d split the population into 70 separate nations with distinct languages. Those who seek to bring back Nimrod’s regime today use methods that remind us of him. On today’s left, the dogma of political correctness gets imposed on those who dissent. A single, uniform, global ideology is held up as the sole legitimate one, worldwide.
Globalism and Blasphemy
Rabbi Berlin makes clear that a uniformity of belief and action was never intended by G-d. Nimrod and his followers became the first “social engineers.” They advocated “groupthink.” The sin of attempting to build the Tower of Babel was the effort to consolidate all power within one governing human force. G-d responded to this blasphemy. He saw that it meant to make war upon Him and to arrogate His divine attributes of unity and harmony.
Rabbi Shimon Cowen further explains, “Instead of uniting in humility to accept G-d’s sovereignty, they united with one another [in an effort] … to direct Divine power… .” These men attempted to establish a single, supranational authority. One with the power to promulgate a uniform law applicable to all. This approach opposed the diverse model set forth in the Hebrew Bible of independent nation-states, each with its own culture and language.
A Bounty of Many Nations
Out of the devastating ruins of the Tower of Babel comes hope. G-d explains to Abraham how he will be a blessing for all the nations of the earth. Note, rather than speaking of a singular imperialistic nation, G-d unequivocally uses the plural term “nations.” We see this in several places. In Gen 17: 5, G-d informs Abraham he shall become the leader of a multitude of nations. In Gen 18: 18, he explains that through Abraham, “all the nations shall be blessed.” And in Gen. 22: 18, through Abraham’s seed “all the nations of the earth [shall] be blessed.”
The theme that G-d intended mankind to be blessed with differences rather than by one supranational authority pervades the Bible. See the last of the Five Books of Moses. Here Moses revealed to the Children of Israel “all that G-d had commanded him for them.” (Deut. 1: 3). He reminds the Israelites they are not to occupy lands such as Edom, Mo’ab, and Ammon. Such lands are to be outside the control of the Israelites. Through such revelation, G-d reminds us of the importance of maintaining sovereign and independent states.
True Diversity: The Divine Plan
The world of the 21st century is vastly different than that of previous centuries. Advances in technology and communications are shrinking the distances between countries. Nation-state interdependence (globalism) has the power to destroy the heritage and culture of different ethnic groups. To homogenize the world. Such cultural imperialism against the cultural diversity existing within different nation-states violates basic Biblical lessons.
Today, the drive toward uniformity appears alike in Europe, the US, and Canada. See especially contentious issues such as race, class, gender, and sexual and group identities. Only one, “liberal” creed appears as legitimate in media. The idea of open borders is most controversial, especially as it draws significant resistance from ordinary citizens. However, many other areas of modern life are affected. They include:
- Educational systems.
- Political bureaucracies.
- Affirmative action quotas.
- Replacing the ideal of equal opportunity with equal outcomes.
- New pronouns for invented genders.
- “Safe spaces” cleared of free speech.
A G-dless, Soulless Utopia
The ideal sought by this new ideology is clear. It’s a borderless world where everyone thinks (or at least expresses himself) the same way. This vision is reminiscent of Nimrod’s vision for the Tower of Babel.
Nimrod as leader desired a Utopian conformist society. One where all peoples would live and think as one. Since the minds of people are not identical, Nimrod and his followers were fearful that some of their subjects might change their ideology and adopt another. To enforce their philosophy, they made sure no one left their domain.
The process Nimrod envisioned would have radically altered the course of world history. It would have flattened the wonderful spectrum of humanity’s individual and national diversity. But G-d created that diversity and cherishes it. Nimrod’s proposed change in the purpose of creation would have destroyed the uniqueness of each soul, the variety of human spirits, and the beauty of different approaches to life.
The racial, cultural and national distinctions that characterize humanity are a divine stamp of approval on the kaleidoscopic potential of human creativity. They are also a stimulus to seek the G-dly spark in every person — starting with oneself.
Arthur Goldberg is Co-Director of the American based Jewish Institute for Global Awareness (JIFGA). JIFGA sponsors Funding Morality, a crowd-funding site for those committed to Biblical values. He has authored Light in the Closet: Torah, Homosexuality, and the Power to Change. You can contact him at Arthur@jifga.org.