The Brick Bible's Case against Faith
At first glance, a Lego Bible seemed an enviably good idea. The Creation Story, the Sermon on the Mount, the Last Supper—artfully recreated in Lego blocks, then photographed for a picture Bible—seemed an ideal gift for children.
The young artist/creator was quoted extensively in the reviews, explaining his ardent desire to pictorialize each story of the Bible. The Chicago Tribune said, "Beyond remarkable, it borders on genius." Publisher's Weekly called it "a curiously powerful graphic novel."
In 2009, RomeReports TV News Agency featured the Lego Bible—calling it "one man's labor of love" and showing block constructions of the Tower of Babel, the Annunciation, and many other scenes familiar to Christians.
In 2001 the first book was published, including the first six stories from the Book of Genesis. In the ensuing decade, almost 5,000 biblical scenes have been illustrated with Lego blocks, spawning Nativity scene Christmas cards, sets of assorted greeting cards, posters and a series of smaller books, and custom Lego sets, as well as the comprehensive Brick Bible.
But the project turned out to be not the great "faith enhancer" some had imagined. Somehow, it would appear that early fans of the world's largest, most comprehensive illustrated Bible, The Brick Bible: A New Spin on the Old Testament by Brendan Powell Smith, missed an important detail about the author and his perspective on the scriptures.
In November, mega-retailer Sam's Club announced that it was withdrawing The Brick Bible from store shelves due to customer complaints. Parents reported that some images and mature themes were "inappropriate for children."
The discount chain's action has played out large in the media. Smith claims that Walmart and Sam's Club representatives saw an advance copy of the book and expressed interest in selling it in their stores—on the condition that images of Old Testament characters in sexually suggestive poses be removed. He says that the suggestive imagery was removed from the book (although the photos are still available on the Brick Testament website), but that Sam's Club still refused to carry the book. A Sam's Club spokesperson rebuts, claiming that the company was never involved in conversations prior to the book's publication. Sam's Club spokesperson said, "Sam's Club received numerous concerns from our members and parents about the mature content in what is perceived as a children's book. Accordingly, Sam's Club made a business decision to discontinue sales."
Brendan Powell Smith seemed genuinely baffled by the Sam's Club's action, voicing his astonishment in interviews, in a letter to Sam's Club, and on his website. How could it be, he pondered, that the store chain would ban his picture book while not banning the Bible, which contains exactly the same language?
That seems a fair question; in fact, I wondered about it, too. But my research turned up some surprises I could never have anticipated, considering the early popularity of the Lego Bible with church groups and in the media.
Kathy Schiffer is the wife of a deacon and mother of three grown children, and currently works as Communications/Media Relations Coordinator for Guest House, the treatment center for Catholic clergy and religious. She lives and writes in Southfield, MI, and blogs at Seasons of Grace.