Am I going to do this? I guess I am.
Let me start from the beginning. In the beginning, there was LEGO. Wait, that's horrible. I can't do that.
No. For me, this is the beginning:
As I was working through a cart of new books one day at work, I found this book, The Brick Bible: A New Spin on the Old Testament. I was entranced. Arrested! What do we have here? We have a graphic novel-style Old Testament in which the pictures are executed in LEGO.
[flip flip flip read read read]
Wow. Man. It was mesmerizing! I could not stop paging through the thing. I know a lot of Bible, but seeing these familiar stories in the equally familiar - to me - medium of plastic snap-together bricks absolutely blew my mind. There's something about recognizing the purple turbans worn by Joshua's priests as Professor Quirrel's Voldemort-concealer that just tickled me enormously.
So then I thought to myself, "Should I bring this home to my boys?" My boys are 9 and 11. Their love of LEGO is almost as profound as their lack of interest in religion. My husband and I are atheists, and while we have certainly not prevented our children from learning about systems of faith, it's not something that we have actively spent a lot of time with. No judgement implied. It's kind of like with TV: we don't watch much at home, and although we have nothing against them watching TV at other peoples' houses and in hotels, it's not like we're going to sit them down and school them in the finer points of Spongebob vs. Phineas & Ferb any time soon.
Therefore, I found myself thinking,
- Are they old enough to start learning some of this lore?
- Am I ready to answer the questions that are bound to arise?
- Will they even be interested?
And then I turned to the page with Goliath getting smacked in the noggin by David's stone, and I loved that so much that I just had to bring the thing home.
I got the answer to my third question first: I wasn't ten steps in the door before Ezra weaseled The Brick Bible out of my tote bag. "What's this?!" he cried, and he was immediately head and shoulders immersed.
I got the answer to the second of my questions about 35 minutes later, when he surfaced long enough to ask, "What's a foreskin?" I responded by hollering up the stairs to my husband. Yo, I will step up to the plate and take on plenty of the hard weird questions, but it is only fair that he gets the penis and penis-adjacent ones.
Consider yourself warned, though: if you have sons, and they are circumcised, and they do not know what circumcision is or what it entails - by the time they have read the first 20 pages of The Brick Bible they will have gleaned that it is both crotch-related and bloody. Don't forget David and his bucket full of foreskins. Milo walked into the room in the middle of that explanation, stood there listening for a minute, and then said, "You did WHAT to my WHAT?!"
Hrrmmh. Talk to your father.
And that ain't the half of it. The Old Testament is full of massacre, psychotic behavior, decapitation, dismemberment, rape, incest, and insubordination. Graphic - which is to say visual - depictions of Old Testament stories are always going to be at least a little shocking. You ever check out R. Crumb's Book of Genesis? Ho yeah. Some libraries won't even carry it. And it's not like the R- and even X-rated pictures are the result of editorializing on the artist's part.
But while Crumb might be sort of scarily good at drawing flesh and gore, I would venture to say that LEGO is not a natural medium for representations of pools of blood and childbirth and such. My hat is all the way off to Brendan Powell Smith for this scene alone:
That is some inventive repurposing right there.
The scenes are captioned with Smith's own wording of Bible passages - this is "to avoid copyright issues," but the scholarship seems sound. Further, although the Brick Bible as a whole is clearly intended to be fun, it does not appear to intend any offense to Christians.
The Brick Bible has lived on my coffee table for about a month now. Both of the kids have read it at least twice. Ezra wants to be Moses for Halloween. But - would I recommend it for kids that I don't know really really well? I have to say no.
Actually, this verse of Leviticus, the one on bestiality, does not appear in the print version. It, like the prohibitions on transvestism, incest, and homosexuality, are online only. But there's enough stabbing, mistreatment of women, and pure naked LEGO sex in the book that I would still be extremely wary of giving it to a child without a nice long flip-through with the parents. Partly because I don't fancy irate parents, but partly because the book is just so fun to share!
I am therefore delighted to report that Brendan Powell Smith has created several kid-friendly Brick Bible storybooks. I haven't gotten my hands on them. If you get a chance to check them out, please let me know.