The New Bible Belt
By MEREDITH JAMES
The Baltimore Sun
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 bricks.
''I choose to work in the medium of Lego simply because it's
eye-catching and great fun to work with. 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,'' creator Brendan Powell Smith explains.
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 says 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.''
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, just what Smith's intentions are 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 seems to be trying to portray
the Bible as accurately as possible. He says, ''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 bases his illustrations on actual Bible quotes and cites each
verse and chapter.
A self-described Lego ''free-styler,'' Smith says 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 says, ''You always
have the right pieces for what you're trying to build.''