Shiny Little LegosEssays, Social Justice — By Matt Atha on May 8, 2012 at 5:32 am
Color-coded plastic bins of tiny bricks lined the walls of our basement growing up. No matter how many times we were told to clean them up, the brownish carpet seemed always to be littered with the plastic blocks which, at just the right angle, could send pain shooting through an unsuspecting foot and make you wish you had listened.
My brother and I spent hours upon hours in the open basement, crafting creations capable of fighting off our competing army of Transformers. I probably bought them, built starships with them, and acted out adventures with them far past a socially acceptable age, but they were my anchor to childhood as adolescence drew closer and closer.
Without fail, a new box of Legos, whether from a birthday, a visiting relative, or a good Christmas haul, signaled an inevitable conflict between my blonde-haired younger brother and I.
The problem was I wanted to follow the instructions, build what I had seen on the front of the package and in the pages of the glossy catalogue that arrived in the mail every few months. Chris, on the other hand, had little use for plans or directions; he wanted to pillage the set for the best pieces to expand his ever-growing legion of starfighters and spaceports. I always wanted order: the city Legos with the city Legos, the Star Wars Legos with the Star Wars Legos, so on and so forth. It seemed wrong to mix up those sets, to put things with those that didn’t belong, to not follow the instructions.
The Church today faces the same problem my brother and I had with Legos. We tend to follow the rules we’ve always been taught, center our faith around “do this, not that,” and put up walls between us and the uncomfortable alternatives. We construct the Church as it is “supposed” to look: mostly our own race; contemporary worship lead by a hip-looking twenty-something; a pastor who is funny and challenging (though not too challenging); a congregation that isn’t perfect (but not so imperfect that we have to talk about those really bad sins).
We wind up building Christ in our own image, in a way that culture and our upbringing tells us is “right.” A set of pale pink blocks for his white skin; small rectangular green ones for his middle-class values; a cloak of red bricks to show his commitment to conservative principles; square, yellow blocks with smiley-faces on the sides to remind of his “family values” and self-help message; and finally some reddish-brown bricks to build wall around him and keep all the unrepentant atheists, perverts, degenerates, gays, and gangsters just far enough away so we can say we love them (without having to live with them in our midst).
Yet the more I read, the less these constructions seem to fit the message Christ carried, the way the church was supposed to look.
Instead of comfortable community that looks like us, aren’t we supposed to build a church one where all are welcome, whether Jew or Gentile (gay or straight, whore or virgin, rich or poor, black or white, housed or homeless)?
Instead of moving the church down the street when the gay bar opens next door, why don’t we open our arms wider?
Instead of building a security fence and putting up bars after a break in, why don’t we find better ways to provide for a community in need?
When I look back, I realize how wrong I was. My brother knew what these tiny injection-molded bricks were really intended for: creativity, imagination, exploration, a new journey.
In the same way, it’s high time the Christian church realize that it can’t keep constructing faith to reflect itself. We must learn to see beyond the instructions, the pictures on the pretty Christian box that is marketed nowadays like just another product, just another Lego set.
It’s time to rebuild, to think outside of the lines we have drawn, and to see the wonderful imagination of God in the diversity of our world.