“Cloud Zombies” by Steven Vizena. 2012 Artprize. Grand Rapids, MI.
“Then they said, “come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” ~Genesis 11:4~
Have you ever lived in a metropolis? Did you like it? Or, like me, did it leave you uneasy and uncomfortable? Did you ever look around at all the buildings and ask yourself, “Why?” Well, this morning as I read Genesis 10-14 I revisited the memories of a Chicago Past.
In my four years at Moody Bible Institute, I never felt at home in Chicago. The times that I enjoyed the city the most were when I was with friends who loved the city. Do not get me wrong, the architecture impressed me, and the skyline would often inspire me. My senior year I had a room on the 19th floor in Culbertson Hall. If I woke up early enough, I could see the sunrise reflecting off of skyscrapers and buildings in the North Side of the city. It was a beautiful sight.
Yet I could not keep myself from thinking about the Tower of Babel. Almost every day I would ask myself “Why do I live in Babylon?”
I realized that the metropolis was a living organism that spoke to me in ways that scared me. It spoke to me in a way which cause me to write a poem. It may not be a very impressive poem, but forgive me. I am a boring theologian.
Babylon, O Babylon,
Why must you keep me up?
Late at night your incessant glow
With the morning noise and constant sirens.
Man and his pursuits are so low.
Every spire and building is compensation
Since you lack true imagination.
Suppressing the truth in unrighteousness:
Malice, greed, envy;
Lust, self, power.
The leech has two daughters,
I call them Trump and Willis.
Is your name so important
That rest and peace are curse words?
Entitlement, sloth, ambiguity.
What is justice, love, freedom, and gender?
God, save me.
For this city shows me
Before you misunderstand me, know that my heart was deeply stirred for the city of Chicago. It pained me to see so much pain and vainglory. It pained me that I so quickly could see myself in the same endless pursuits. It also pained me that I could sit in judgment which helped no one.
Because I could so easily become resigned to the broknenness of Chicago, I decided to do what I could to have an active love of Christ towards others. I heeded the question of the Black Eyed Peas, and decided to practice what I preach (“Where is the Love” by Black Eyed Peas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpYeekQkAdc). I decided to be part of the Big Brother and Big Sister initiative in Cabrini Green. I went to church in Cabrini Green. I became friends with the homeless who hung around the Chicago Avenue McDonalds. I used my time where I was to help other people find their God given dignity and the One who gave it to them.
That is the name that people need to find. Don’t spend time making a name for yourself like the people of Babylon. Spend time helping people find the name that God desires to give them: Child.
Because if we are leaving people to their own demise, then in reality, all we are doing is leaving ourselves to our own demise.