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Just as Christians divide history according to the birth of Christ, so we might divide modern history by another birth, July 16, 1945 —BAB and AAB, Before the Atom Bomb and After the Atom Bomb. The test, named “Trinity” by Robert Oppenheimer because he loved the poetry of John Donne, produced a new world, one in which humanity could possibly destroy itself. A dangerous era was born, one that could not be revoked. Christopher Nolan’s massive film, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography “American Prometheus” by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, shows how the scientist that presided over Trinity clearly understood this. His obsession with how the A-bomb would be used after the war even led to his professional undoing. In some ways, this scientific thriller can be viewed as a cautionary film.
I’ve been spending a lot of time with Genesis 11:1–9 lately, or the story of Shinar and the so-called “Tower of Babel.” It’s a popular Sunday school lesson, an etiology we recount to children to explain why humanity is so varied in language and location. We don’t engage it as much when we get older. For that reason, how we read and are taught the story as children often stays with us well into adulthood.