Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Brick Testament, Atheism, and Fundamentalism

In sermon researching and exploring this week, I found myself again digging through the online presence of the Brick Testament dude.   This fellow, in the event you haven't encountered him, has made something of a name for himself by recreating stories from the Bible using Lego and Lego figurines.   Years back, I was gifted one of his books...the story of a family member, and it was worth a grin or two.   That same book now sits on the mantel of the abandonware fireplace in my 1827 church office.    It's cool and creative.

On the receipt of an Amazon gift card last year, I found myself thinking I might want some more of his stuff.   And so to BrickTestament.Com I went to peruse his wares.  It was not what I had hoped.  What I discovered there was interesting.   I first noticed something of a subversive edge when it came to presenting the Bible stories from the Tanakh.   There wasn't any talk of justice or care for the widow, orphan, and stranger.  There was no prophetic challenge to the structures of social and economic power.  Instead the editorial choices included stereotypical hellfire and brimstone, Bathsheba-schtupping, and bronze age ultra-violence.   When I wandered into the teachings of Jesus, the interpretive bias of the creator of these works became even more clear.

A significant super-majority of the images and recreations used to describe Jesus were deeply negative.  Jesus, or so the testament of brick pitches it, was a hypocrite, a delusional, sadistic zealot, who calls us to abuse ourselves and hate others.   Even his teachings about nonviolence are spun with images that interpret them nothing more than the babblings of an idiot, calling us not to stand up against bullies and criminals.   The Lego-crafted retellings were not neutral, or objective.

More importantly, they aren't playful.  They're just kind of mean.  Their splenetic and willfully negative view of the Nazarene bears no resemblance to what a disinterested observer would say he actually lived and taught.  We all pick and choose, of course.  But if you go looking for reasons to hate, it says more about your own desires than the text itself.   They read like simplistic atheist plastic brick political oppo-research.

Two further things caught my eye.  

First, as the Brick Testament guy interpreted his way through the teachings of Jesus, his approach to exegesis was exactly the same as that of fundamentalists.   To tell a story, he takes verses from different Gospel traditions and knits them together, often not even in chronological order.   Given the Frankenstein's monster character of the storytelling, it was clear that the context and intent of narrative were less important than the point he'd already decided to make.   This is a consistently shared interpretive technique of atheism and fundamentalism.

Second, almost every banner ad on Brick Testament guy's website was for a fundamentalist or evangelical ministry.  Big evangelical conferences?  Right there.  Ads suggesting that you enroll in Liberty University?  Sure 'nuff.   It was just another reminder of the peculiar symbiosis between atheist and fundamentalist literalists.

Some of the tableaux are still cool, and he's obviously a creative guy.   I'm keeping that book of Genesis on my mantle.  I'll probably snag some of the images off of the Net for illustrations now and again.    But the books were the familiar spin of the anti-theist, and as awesome as the Lego/Bible combination has the potential be, I'm not going to be doing any buying of them.

I just really never enjoyed playing with kids who go out of their way to be mean.