The Great Wall of China and California’s manmade Salton Sea are both iterations of a deeply embedded human need to build empires, according to Russell Rathbun. Comparing young Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s desire for a unified China to the impulses behind the Tower of Babel, and intertwining thoughts on the biblical flood and the unintentional flooding of the California desert, Rathbun takes readers on a journey as he wonders why God created us with ambition when it so often goes wrong.
With family connections to the Salton Sea area and a fascination with the Great Wall, Rathbun digs for more information and understanding of each place. His self-effacing humor and his irreverent take on history, which he credits to his admiration of writer Sarah Vowell, make this an unusual road trip in the form of a book.
The gushing foreword by Lutheran pastor and “cranky spirituality” writer Nadia Bolz-Weber should give you fair warning of Rathbun’s willingness to really dig into the mystery of God as found in the Old Testament and look at stories from the Bible from a different perspective, as Jewish rabbis did with midrash. Philosophical, funny, and disarmingly honest about himself and human nature, this slim book will leave you thinking about it long after you finish. (Eerdmans)