The Brick Bible: Subtly Deceptive

brickbibleThe Brick Bible, which comes in several books (such as The Old Testament, The New Testament, The Brick Bible for Kids: Six Classic Bible Stories, The Christmas Story: The Brick Bible for Kids, as a complete set, etc.) claims to be “an original, modern interpretation of the Bible, based on older public domain translations such as the King James VersionDarby’s Bible, and Young’s Literal Bible.  In addition, modern English Bible translations were used as references, and the author consulted the original Hebrew for certain passages.”  After one reads (views) The Brick Bible, he should come to realize that it is not a Bible at all.

Up front note that the LEGO Group does not sponsor, authorize, or endorse the publication or content of these books.  

The Brick Bible attempts to illustrate the stories of the Bible using LEGO bricks in various dioramas.  The author states on his website “For ease of understanding and avoidance of bpsmith lego bible2copyright issues, The Brick Bible uses its own wording of the Bible’s text.  But chapter and verse numbers are always cited and also act as clickable links to the rendering of the same verses in the King James Version, the New International Version, the New Revised Standard Version, the New Living Translation, and the Easy-to-Read Version.”  The author is simply trying to appear to give a fair rendering of Scripture while using his own wording to create the impressions and emotions of the Biblical text that he wants regardless of whether it is faithful to the original text. 

The Brick Bible does not contain the Bible in its entirety.  Through selective editing, the author creates his own (mis)interpretation of Scripture.  Small, almost imperceptible edits turn a reasonable Biblical story into something suitable for mockery.  For example, brickbiblenoaharkthe author portrays on page 27 of The Brick Bible: The Old Testament an ark crammed with Noah’s family and the animals, which perpetuates the skeptics tactic of debunking the historicity of Noah’s flood by showing how the ark could not possibly have contained all the animals as claimed. 

He portrays Yahweh as a singular being, instead of a Trinity.  See page 20 where Yahweh is depicted as talking to the angels instead of the other members of the Trinity when he said “The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil….”  The author’s God-caricature is always as an angry, vengeful, human-killing monster.  As an example of this type of portrait, page 29 shows skeletons everywhere when God is brickbiblefallmaking his covenant with Noah.  Instead of emphasizing the promise of a new start, the author subtly reminds us that God (unjustly) killed everyone else in the world.  Every single facial expression of Smith’s chosen LEGO character for God is with furrowed brow and angry eyes.

In going through the Ten Commandments, and the punishments for violations, he depicts the punishments (death) to be carried out at the scene of the “crime” instead of after a trial and the testimony of at least two witnesses.  He creates two misconceptions in the mind of the reader.  First, that the punishments are disproportionate to the wrong, and secondly that the punishments are administered on the spot instead of after careful deliberation based on the evidence.  This strategy is to make God’s justice to be unreasonable, if not immoral.  The author chose to illustrate the more violent passages of the Bible, and failed to provide these passages in context.  The theme of his illustrations is simply God’s wrath. 

Depictions of the events in the New Testament are similarly flawed.  Matthew 27:52-53 describes the opening of graves and many who were dead came back to life after the brickbiblezombiesresurrection of Jesus.  On page 134 of The Brick Bible: The New Testament, the author states “At [the moment of Christ’s death] the tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who died were raised to life.”  The author shows zombies leaving the tombs instead of resurrected bodies.  This alone is problematic.  He also misunderstood Scripture because the resurrection of these people occurred after Jesus’ resurrection, and not at his death.  This point is important because Colossians 1:18 and 1 Corinthians 15:20 state that Jesus is the firstborn of the resurrection, not these people who are mentioned in Matthew.  Downplaying the miracles, the author shows the Apostles performing “many signs and wonders” as if they were conducting mere magic tricks.  By doing this, the author turns brickbibleapostlesthese accounts into goofy legends and undermines the evidence of the Apostles’ authority as eyewitnesses to the resurrection.

The use of LEGO toys to depict Bible stories does not allow for a clear understanding of Scripture.  The depictions are often silly, and limited by the “brick” nature of the medium.  The limitations of the medium, combined with the likely nefarious aim of the author, turn the serious nature of the Biblical accounts into silly stories akin to the absurd tales of Norse or Greek mythology.  Through his Brick Bible the author would have us believe that God is hateful and vengeful.  He makes no attempt to portray the real theme of the Bible: redemption.

Though marketed to children, The Brick Bible is not suitable for children with its cartoonish depictions of killing and sex.  The Bible itself with its adult themes, may be unsuitable for children without their parents close supervision.  Parents need to explain the hard passages of the Bible to children, and not just assume kids are going to get the right impressions from descriptions of killings and rapes that are recorded in Scripture.

The content of this “Bible” is not accurate or theologically sound.  But now I want to discuss the author.  His name is, Brendan Powell Smith, or at least that is what his

bpsmith trans

Brendan P. Smith, a.k.a. Elbe Spurling

name was until he legally changed it to Elbe Spurling after he announced that he is a “transgendered lesbian atheist.”  What he has told us is that he is a man who likes women, and that he doesn’t believe in God.  So, he is in denial about his gender, in denial about his sexual preference, and is in denial about his creator.  Such a person is not in a good position to offer spiritual guidance to our children.  Yet, some parents still think giving his books as gifts to children is a good idea.  After reading some customer reviews on Amazon, clearly some parents have no discretion.  Here are some examples:

Someone whose screen name is 250xGirl stated “Bought for my step son who is autistic and here (sic) loves Legos. This is perfect for him to relate to the Bible.”  Another customer identified as Janyre said “My little guy (who’s 8) LOVES this. Not only is it super creative, but the stories are quite accurate too. I’d recommend it to any other boy mom out there.” “Sombrero” exclaimed “My Kids (5 and 3) will not go a day without reading this bible. What can I say to the author besides THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for such a wonderful work of art that gets my kids to read their bible daily!!! Its beyond imagination how amazing this work is. God bless.”

Another Amazon customer gave the product five stars, stating “This was a huge hit as a gift as a confirmation gift.”  Confirmation of what?  That parents who do not read the actual Bible really have no discernment when choosing illustrated Bibles for their children?  The Brick Bible is not a gift to give to children for their spiritual growth.  Parents who give these books to their children are giving them a completely wrong understanding of God.

On his website Brendan Smith, a.k.a. Elbe Spurling, uses the imagery of his LEGO photos to misinterpret Scripture and cast the Word of God in a bad light.  For example, in brickbiblenazi1interpreting the source for governmental authority, Smith insists Romans 13:1 (“Everyone must submit to governing authorities, for those in positions of authority have been placed there by God”) required unquestioned devotion to Hitler and his Nazi government, and that the American War for Independence was also rebellion against God.  Smith also plays fast and loose with enemies, slavery, women, marriage, wealth, wisdom, those who will never inherit the Kingdom of God, justice, and the Jews.  He simply parrots how atheists characterize what Scripture says about these issues without bothering to understand context or nuance.

In his desultory, disconnected spirituality, Smith has drafted up something called “The New Morality: Living on the Right Side of History.”  He condensed this “new morality” into 10 “New Commandments” which are more like guidelines than commands.  These new guidelines, however, are a mishmash of some of the “Old Commandments” and some brickbibleguidelinesprogressive platitudes, like do not alter the environment, and minimize the suffering of “sentient animals” which presumably means we should protect the animals, but not babies in utero.  But, I will discuss this “New Morality” in another article.

Brendan Powell Smith is a troubled man.  That he is an atheist should lead us to question his motives for illustrating the Bible.  That he is mentally disturbed by his pretending to be a woman also raises concerns of whether we can trust his perceptions of Scripture.  Do not mistake my review of these books to be a call for burning them.  I believe God has given us liberty, even liberty to choose what is wrong.  Though, with wrong choices certainly comes consequences.  I also believe that truth will prevail in the ultimate sense over lies like those promoted in The Brick Bible.  But, until truth triumphs, lies may deceive many into forgoing eternal life offered to us by Jesus.

Also, do not think by my evaluating the author that I do not care about him.  We should pray for him.  He is deeply disturbed.  Atheism is currently being studied either as a cause of mental illness, or a mental illness itself.  His transgenderism is also a mental illness.  I am not saying this to insult him.  As a man created in the image of God, he is of inestimable worth.  But, we still need to be discerning in what we allow our children to consume.  Like the lie the serpent told Eve in the Garden of Eden, The Brick Bible is subtly deceptive.  It pretends to be a fair rendering of Scripture, but it paints a distorted portrait of who God is.  We should not let Brendan Smith’s fun, and somewhat funny, misinterpretation of the Bible put another brick in the wall that separates our children from God.

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Judgment Day Is Coming to Hollywood

Harvey Bill sexual predators.jpg

Often I’ve heard that tiresome canard “I don’t go to church because it’s full of hypocrites.”  People dismiss the truth claims of Christianity because of the hypocrisy of Christians.  Mahatma Ghandi famously said “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  Setting aside the fact that Ghandi is hardly an expert on Jesus, and his comparison between Christ and Christians came from having created a “Jesus” to his own liking, Christians do fall short of perfection.  The truth is the Church is filled with hypocrites.  But Christianity is the one place hypocrites can go to be cured from their hypocrisy.  Church is the “hospital” for hypocrites.

In fact, in the 1980s, a cleansing judgment on hypocrisy began with the house of God.  Several scandals centering around sexual and financial improprieties rocked the Church scandal.jpgChurch.  Televangelists Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart made headlines for their sexual and financial infidelities.  Oral Roberts insisted in a fund-raising campaign that God would let him die if he did not raise $8 million.

The Catholic Church endured its own cleansing when allegations came out of priests who struggled with homosexuality molested young boys.  An analysis of the abuse of children under age 17 by priests from 1950 to 2002 showed that over 10,000 victims reported being molested.  Some have suggested that there may have been as many as 100,000 victims.  Nearly 5,000 priests were accused, which is roughly 4% of the 109,000 priests in the American Catholic Church.

These televangelists and pedophile priests made Christianity a laughingstock.  But the Church dealt with the hypocrites by removing them from their ministries and from fletch lives2positions of leadership.  Instead of letting the Church deal with its hypocrisy by itself, Hollywood, as a representative of the larger pop culture, lambasted the Church by making televangelists the villains in their movies like Chevy Chase’s Fletch Lives, Steve Martin’s Leap of Faith, and Steve Curry and Annie Potts’ Pass the Ammo.

Hollywood couldn’t keep itself from throwing stones at the Catholic Church with movies such as Philomena, The Magdalene SistersStigmata, The Da Vinci Code, and 2015’s Spotlight about the Boston Globe’s investigation into the child abuse allegations and cover up by the Catholic Church in Boston, starring Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Ruffalo.

However, Hollywood over the years built its own sexual-predatory glass empire equipped with several casting couches.

Having continually cast stones at those who promote high moral standards, judgment is now coming to Hollywood.  (By “Hollywood” I mean American pop culture at large, but especially those in film media.)  Hollywood has its own long history of scandals and hypocrisy.  Does anyone remember fugitive child rapist Roman Polanski, and Woody Allen’s sexual liberties with Mia Farrow’s adopted children?  Hollywood protects its own.  It even awarded Polanski an Oscar for Best Director in 2003 to thunderous applause, and Meryl Streep’s standing ovation. 

Corey Feldman spoke out against the pedophilia in Hollywood that he said led to his friend Corey Haim’s death.  Hollywood and the media put on the full-court press to shutdown the truth from getting out.  During a segment on The View in 2016 with Corey Feldman as a guest, Barbara Walters asked him, “Are you saying they’re pedophiles?…Are you saying they’re still in this business?”  Corey Feldman answered “Yes.”  Barbara Walters then lamented that Corey Feldman was “damaging an entire industry.”  No, it wasn’t the pedophiles who were damaging an entire industry.  Barbara Walters hypocritically blamed the victim for speaking out. 

Hollywood came to the defense of President Bill Clinton who preyed on a White House intern.  His sexual misconduct was excused because he kept abortion legal.  (Just ask reporter Nina Burleigh who famously said “I would be happy to give him [oral sex] just to thank him for keeping abortion legal.  I think American women should be lining up with their Presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs.”)  Hillary Clinton and James Carville worked overtime to smear Bill’s many accusers as “trailer trash.”

Now, dozens of women have accused media mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.  In the throes of this scandal Harvey said “I came of age in the 60s and 70s when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different.  That was the culture then.  I have since learned that it’s not an excuse, in the office – or out of it. To anyone.”  Essentially, he is saying “Please excuse my moral ignorance. Now that I’m caught I’m a changed man.”  But, it was a story that the media knew about as far back as 2004.  NBC, however, spiked the story and flushed any of its remaining credibility down the drain.  In 2004, the New York Times dropped the Weinstein story when two actors, Matt Damon and Russell Crowe, urged the publication to back off.

Hollywood cannot sweep these accusations under the rug.  As more accusers come out, more and more people in the film industry have to admit to their knowledge, and their silence.  But, what has Weinstein done that Bill Clinton did not do to Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, Gennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinsky?  Why does Harvey have to go to rehab in Europe while Bill was able to serve out his term as president and remains at large?  In order to protect itself and its devious sexual practices, the power brokers of Hollywood will try to make Harvey the sacrificial lamb. 

The scandal of sexual deviance, however, does not end with Harvey.  Treating women (and young boys) as sex objects seems to be a systemic problem in Hollywood.  Ben Affleck recently apologized for groping Hilarie Burton and is now accused of groping a makeup artist.  The Left’s new Trump-hating darling, Jimmy Kimmel, is taking some flak for having done a bit for his “Man Show” that had women guess what was in his pants, telling one of them “Maybe it would be easier if you put your mouth on it.”  According to the UK’s Mirror, other Hollywood studios, producers, and actors are in fear of being exposed for their own “lay for pay” deals.  The Harvey scandal may just be scratching the surface.

In the midst of the televangelist scandals, Hollywood ignored its hypocrisy.  How did Hollywood respond to these Church scandals such as the PTL scandal?  They empowered the “victim” by having her take her clothes off.  The $269,000 hush money Jim Bakker paid to Jessica Hahn couldn’t keep her mouth shut, or her clothes on.  Touting her as “no longer a victim,” Playboy featured Jessica Hahn in pictorials in November 1987, September 1988, and December 1992.  She even made an appearance on Married with Children in 1991 as Al Bundy’s shoe-loving temptress, who tried to seduce the married Bundy into an adulterous affair.  Hollywood took the “victim” of the PTL sex scandal and starred her in roles as a hussy.

Doesn’t anyone else see the hypocrisy in that?

Hollywood was not concerned that preachers failed to live up to their moral standards.  Hollywood was angry that preachers had moral standards and that they insisted those standards are universal.  With the televangelist scandals of the 80s, Hollywood could safely drone on and on about “hypocrisy” in the Church while eschewing moral standards and ignoring its own hypocritical scandals.

No, the Church does not hold a monopoly on hypocrisy.  With the silence on Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Harvey Weinstein, institutional pedophilia, Hollywood has a lot of explaining to do.  Having made much about Trump’s bragging that he could grab women with impunity, Hollywood now has to deal with an epidemic of studio executives, media moguls, and producers grabbing aspiring actors with impunity. 

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has now expelled Harvey.  In a statement the Academy said this expulsion was “to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over…The Board continues to work to establish ethical standards of conduct that all Academy members will be expected to exemplify.”  Let us hope that is true.  Will Hollywood apply this new standard to the likes of Polanski and Allen?  Doubtful.  Unlike the Church, Hollywood is not submitted to a higher moral authority than themselves.  Instead of dealing with the larger problem, I’m afraid Hollywood will continue in its hypocrisy while hoping to make this current controversy just about Harvey.

Authentic Worship Is Not A Therapy Session

Is worship all about our therapy, to feel good about our problems?  Is the Sunday morning service primarily for focusing on getting rid of our metaphorical burdens and chains?  We approach Sunday mornings as if it is all about “having an experience with God.”  And those experiences all too often (if not every week) turn into us dwelling on how God can free us from our discomfort and pain.  I know that where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom, but there’s gotta be something more to worship than always being about our situations.  I just don’t seem to think worship therapy is what discipleship is all about.  Am I wrong about that?  Honestly, I really would like to know.  It seems all this singing in church is all about us and not about God.

Beginning a sermon series in the Book of Daniel, our pastor referenced “cultural Christians” this Sunday.  Like a “Summer Soldier” or a “Sunshine Patriot” these “cultural Christians” only follow Jesus when it’s easy.  When there is pain in the Christian walk, they do not obey God.  Our pastor said that it is impossible to be a cultural Christian and experience the real victory or the authentic joy of the Lord.  Cultural Christians are about an outward profession of faith, but inwardly they have compromised with the world because they prefer to be at ease.  They are not fooling God.  They are only fooling themselves, and perhaps, their fellow church goers.

My pastor’s sermon got me thinking how church services are often unwittingly geared toward making cultural Christians comfortable in their compromise.  As mentioned above, the worship service focuses on “having an experience with God.”  The songs chosen, the lighting, the use of multi-media, the strategically placed encouraging words, are about how God meets our needs, and is all we need, and can heal our pain.  The music, the congregation, the environment produce an emotional high that lifts the spirits of these cultural Christians so that they feel they can go on with their lives for another week.  Then, after their lives of compromise during the week get them feeling down, and burdened, we’ll do it all again at the next Sunday’s worship service.

The cycle continues, week after week.  No one is experiencing authentic joy or real victory because there really is no true repentance, or true worship.  Inauthentic worship leads to inauthentic experiences.  But, because emotions are emphasized in a feminized church, the authenticity of experiences is judged by how they make us feel.  After focusing on ourselves in worship, instead of God, we gather around people at the altar, in group hugs, maybe with some crying, and we feel that God is in it all because of the way we feel. (And we think that those who question these worship therapy sessions are just judgmental, and quenching the Spirit, because they make us feel bad.)

Some object. “Shouldn’t we want to have experiences with God?”  Or they might say “Isn’t being freed from chains a good thing?”  Of course we should want to encounter God.  Of course being freed from burdens and chains is a good thing.  I know that God does change some people’s lives during Sunday morning services.  I am not challenging the good in experiencing God or in freedom from chains.  But, I submit that those things are merely by-products of authentic worship, and should not be the focus of our worship.  When the priests came to the Temple to worship, they brought a sacrifice.  Sacrifice is what our worship services tend to lack.  Instead of coming to the altar of the Lord with our sacrifices of praise and service to others, we merely offer our petitions for relief from our problems.  Real worship acknowledges God for who he is, not just for what he has done or can do for us.

Discipleship is measured by how we deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus, not by how easy the Christian life is for us.