The new Bible belt LegoLand
By MEREDITH JAMES / The Baltimore Sun, Photos courtesy
of BRENDAN POWELL SMITH
The Brick Testament' tells 10 stories from the book of Genesis
using Legos. It's by a man who refers to himself as ‘The
Reverend' and describes himself as an atheist.
For as long as the stories that make up the Bible have been written
down, their authors have been adapting them in varying ways. From
the Hebrew Bible to the St. James Bible to more recent versions
such as the Precious Moments Bible and the Extreme Teen Bible,
the text's sacred stories have been tailored for different audiences.
The oddest new addition to this genre may be ‘‘The
Brick Testament'' (Quirk Books, $14.95), 10 stories from the book
of Genesis ‘‘re-sculpted'' using Lego toy building
‘‘I choose to work in the medium of Lego simply because
it's eye-catching and great fun to work with," creator Brendan
Powell Smith explains. "And who doesn't get a chuckle out
of seeing Lego Adam and Eve in the garden, or Lego Moses smashing
the Ten Lego Commandments? For me, it's all about making the content
of the Bible more accessible without changing that content,''
Smith began publishing his images on the Internet. ‘‘The
Brick Testament'' (at www.thereverend.com) quickly gained fame
and a cult following. Over two years, the site has had almost
2 million visitors and has been featured in Time and Spin magazines.
It now includes seven books from the Old and New Testaments; one
of them, Genesis, is now featured in a book released last month.
Although some may scoff at the idea of using children's toys
to relate the Scriptures, Smith said that he's had a generally
‘‘I've received hundreds of e-mails about the Web
site and now the book, and there is a large following both among
religious believers, including pastors and youth workers, and
devout atheists,'' he said.
The Catholic Telegraph, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati,
is including ‘‘The Brick Testament'' on its annual
Christmas book list. Trade publication Publisher's Weekly said:
‘‘This creative, iconoclastic book is colorful in
every sense of the word, and will be appreciated by Lego enthusiasts
everywhere as well as whimsical Sunday school teachers.''
Still, what to make of Smith's intentions remains a little fuzzy.
While he refers to himself as ‘‘The Reverend,'' Smith
describes himself as an atheist. On his Web site and in his book,
he claims that while he was eating at Taco Bell, God spoke to
him and told him to write this story. Whatever the inspiration,
Smith insists that he is ‘‘not really out to change
anyone's mind about the Bible, just to make them more aware of
its content and hopefully entertain them in the process.''
And whatever his beliefs, Smith is trying to portray the Bible
as accurately as possible. ‘‘I think illustrating
the Bible in Lego has been, for me, a chance to re-tell these
stories in a way that's more faithful to the text than the other
illustrated Bibles I've seen,'' he said.
He bases his illustrations on actual Bible quotes and cites each
verse and chapter. ‘‘For me it's all about making
the content of the Bible more accessible without changing that
content,'' he said.
A self-described Lego ‘‘free-styler,'' Smith said
he spends about a week to create each Bible story. He adds that
he always uses authentic Lego pieces from his personal collection
(worth about $5,000) to create the scenes, although some modifications,
such as using a marker to enhance facial expressions, are needed.
It may be a small miracle, but somehow, Smith said, ‘‘You
always have the right pieces for what you're trying to build.''