Book banning is nothing new in America. Banned Books Week pointed out the top 10 tomes that produced conflict because of their anti-police views, sensitive plot lines, sexually explicit references, racist caricatures, and other factors. Some are classics and have hit this list many times, such as “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, and “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. Others were published more recently, like “The Hate U Give” (2017) by Angie Thomas or “George” (2015) by Alex Gino.
Historians believe that “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe was the first book banned nationally in the United States. The story disturbed the Confederacy because of its pro-abolitionist slant; it also generated conversation about the ethics of slavery, to the extent that some academics purport the book propelled the country into the Civil War (from LitHub). Even the Bible has faced censorship, despite its status as the most-read book on the globe, selling more than 3.9 billion copies in the past 50 years (from Capitalize My Title). In North Korea, for example, the Good Book is illegal, and possessing one could mean arrest or death for its owner, according to Open Doors.
Even more pictorial representations of the Bible are banned, including Brendan Powell Smith’s LEGO version that Sam’s Club stopped selling in 2011, according to The Christian Post. The company removed “The Brick Bible: A New Spin on The Old Testament” — which told Bible stories using 1,400 LEGO images — after customer complaints.
Pulling a LEGO Bible from the shelves
The fourth book from Brendan Powell Smith’s “The Brick Testament” series — which depicts Bible tales illustrated with LEGO figures — received complaints about “mature content,” according to CNET. But the content that generated the remarks only appeared on the book’s website. “I have just been informed that Sam’s Club is pulling ‘The Brick Bible’ from the shelves of all of their retail locations nationwide due to the complaints of a handful of people that it is vulgar and violent,” Smith’s Facebook page reads. “This despite the book containing only straightforward illustrations of Bible stories using direct quotes from scripture.”
Smith sought not to dilute the Bible’s more racy content, even though the illustrated book targeted young children. “If it was in the Bible, my thinking was, it was worth illustrating,” he said to The Christian Post. “That decision has meant, though, that not everyone considers ‘The Brick Testament’ appropriate for all children, since the Bible is chock full of graphic violence throughout and contains a few stories with sexual content.”
American history gets the LEGO figurine book treatment
While Brendan Powell Smith’s “The Brick Testament” website included some suggestive content, he asserted that his publisher, Skyhorse Publishing, removed that type of material from the illustrated books that Sam’s Club sold at their retail stores. Since 2001, Smith has retold Bible stories using the toy figurines to depict classic Bible scenes. Why the brouhaha now? Sometimes tastes, sensibilities, etc., change. James LaRue, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, asserted on the American Library Association website that “as a society, considering an ‘index of complaints’ helps us to understand who we are and where we’re going. Cultures change over time, and the things we fear, or celebrate, change with them.”
Despite any past controversy, “The Brick Bible” continues telling its stories from the Old and New Testaments, from the Last Supper to Job to Daniel in the lions’ den (see the above photo). The company now offers LEGO-figurine accounts of familiar histories, such as the American Revolution and stories of assassination attempts on American presidents.
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