MY EARLIEST memory is of Lego. It is what my father and I were
playing while my brother was born upstairs. Its attraction was its
immediacy. It required no glue or tools. My fat fingers needed no
At a recent church-run event, I found myself alone with a box of
bricks in a room the children had left, and discovered that the
allure has not gone away. They returned to find a waist-high tree,
and an absorbed man pleading with them to tiptoe in case it fell
over. Lego takes you wherever your imagination wants to go. It's a
The plastic bricks with distinctive interlocking studs were the
invention of Ole Kirk Christiansen, a Danish carpenter whose
business struggled during the Depression. He stopped building
luxury houses, and started making affordable toys. In 1934, he
formed the Lego company tosell wooden bricks, and, in 1947,
recognised the potential of plastic. Since then, the principle is
unchanged, and so is the name. In Danish it is short for "play
In 2004, Lego made huge financial losses. Onscreen entertainment
was providing formidable competition. As sales dropped, the company
responded in an inspired way by appropriating the tools of the
enemy. A series of Lego sets based on popular movies and video
games proved irresistible. Now you can recreate in Lego the
Batman films, Star Wars, and The Hobbit.
The success has been extraordinary. Yet the company, still run by
its founding family, refuses to create military-themed sets.
Christiansen was adamant that war must never seem like play.
Although a Polish priest, Fr Slawomir Kostrzewa, referring to its
Monster Fighters range, has declared that Lego can "destroy
children's souls, and lead them to the dark side".
Generally, however, the biggest criticism that Lego faces is
that inviting children to follow instructions to create models
identical to a million others turns them from participants in a
boundless, creative adventure into consumers of a branded product.
They respond to someone else's imagination instead of unleashing
Once again, the company has responded in kind. The Lego
Movie has been the year's most successful film. In stop-motion
animation, aLego figure, Emmet, gathers a community of independent
minds to take on Lord Business. The villain plans to use glue to
fix the Lego-made buildings of the planet in permanent conformity.
In his world, creativity will be impossible.
What can save the world from this rule-bound wretchedness? Why,
grace can! Our hero sacrifices his life for his friends by flinging
himself off the edge of the universe. In a twist that it would be
unkind to reveal, not only is the animated world saved, but so is
the real human world, bringing harmony between the Man Upstairs and
those with the imagination to understand.
This is the Lego gospel. Conformity, no matter whether to
consumerism or religious legalism, is imprisoning. But inclusive
community, reconciliation, and, above all, creativity will make you
It is a typically post-modern gospel, which refuses to name a
particular faith; but to those with eyes to see it, it is law and
grace. It is Roman and Celtic Christianity. It is rules and
spontaneity. It is £17.99 if you want to reconstruct one of the
movie locations out of Lego. Play well!
Peter Graystone develops pioneer mission projects for Church