The Unfinished Tower of Babel


Orderly examination of empire, religion and the will of God.
Sociologist Bonn (Painting Life: The Art of Pieter Bruegel, the Elder, 2007) uses the biblical tale of the Tower of Babel as a jumping-off point for exploring the history of empire. Bonn works under the presumption that Babel is a myth, meant to characterize the rise and fall not of a tower but of the Babylonian Empire. Still, he sees in the story an elegant archetype for examining all empires. Further, Bonn points to the history of Christianity (as a faith tradition, not as an organized religion) as pointing the way toward a reversal of the Babel story. Drawing upon a breadth of knowledge, the author also sees history from a unique, overarching perspective. He begins with a brief, yet thorough, overview of ancient history, especially the histories of Babylon and Israel, which flows into a history of the Roman Empire and the advent of Christianity. Through the Christian faith, Bonn says, God and his followers began the process of reversing the effects of the Tower of Babel—the disbursement of peoples began to contract, as followers of Christ found a single reason to come back together. In examples such as the Day of Pentecost, this included a shared language as well. “It was in spreading the message of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire,” the author says, “that the early Christians came to reverse the logic of the myth of the Tower of Babel.” However, following history further, Bonn explains that the established church in Rome began to pervert the faith into yet another empire. As with all empires, as it gained in size and stature, God caused its downfall. Thus, Bonn explains, even the established church itself was broken apart by the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment. Bonn goes on to apply his theory to the modern world, explaining that it is not functional success (personified now by great towers—skyscrapers) which is problematic, but instead pride, avarice and wanton power. A sizable portion of Bonn’s work is concerned with explaining world history, often with facts and figures that, while they could provide background for a novice, largely do not affect his arguments. He follows his thesis through from the dawn of Western history to modern times, but his already slim volume could be pared down further without threatening his ideas.

Imaginative, inventive and erudite.

Pub Date: May 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-0989976008

Page Count: 138

Publisher: Sistina Street Press

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2014

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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