After fielding complaints from parents about its "mature" content, the Wal-Mart-owned retailer Sam's Club has pulled a reported 10,000 copies of a "Bible" off its shelves that uses plastic LEGO blocks to depict Old Testament scenes.
Brendan Smith, creator of the LEGO scenes and author of "The Brick Bible," reported earlier this week the Sam's Club decision.
"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 reported on his Facebook page. "This despite the book containing only straightforward illustrations of Bible stories using direct quotes from Scripture."
Sam's Club explained: "After selling this specific version online and in several club locations, we received numerous concerns from members and parents about the mature content for a perceived children's book. Sam's Club made a business decision to discontinue sales of 'The Brick Bible.'"
A woman identifying herself as Tabitha Grace – who engaged in a Facebook conversation with both Smith and Sam's Club – explained on the social media site why she was among those to complain:
"When my husband and I first saw 'The Brick Bible' at Sam's Club, we thought, What a fantastic idea for our nephews to have for Christmas," she wrote. "I flipped through the book, and when I got home went straight to the website in hopes to see if there were more stories. This is where it all went downhill for me. While the website does have a content warning on it, I feel the paraphrase of the Bible stories are not age appropriate and should be identified both on the website and the book itself."
Indeed, while Smith says "The Brick Bible" has been edited and abridged to remove objectionable content, the full body of LEGO Bible work on his website is marked with warning labels for nudity, sexual content, violence and cursing.
As WND columnist Marisa Martin explains, "The Good Book has never been particularly prudish about sex, covering rape, marital relations, incest, prostitution and endless begetting. However, Smith may be the only one who has illustrated them with LEGOs."
Martin also points out, however, that "the majority of Smith's illustrations are straight, true to the text, biblical depictions that should give no offense to anyone. They are extraordinarily inventive and fun to look at."
She explains that though Smith is a self-described atheist, he also insists he is not mocking the Bible and Judeo-Christianity, but questioning and exploring. His explanation for his choice of subjects and story commentaries was to create something "new, compelling and fun, and yet remained true to how the Bible itself told them."
The result is often a depiction of biblical events stripped of the usual Sunday school imagery, depicting instead a picture that may be closer to reality. For instance, Smith's version of Noah's flood has heads, body parts and LEGO debris laying parallel to a flat blue base, which Martin describes as "oddly believable as a deluge. Who would have thought?"
"Flood Genesis 7" – by Brandon Powell Smith
"My website and 'The Brick Bible' book have won tens of thousands of fans from every walk of life who appreciate that I illustrate the Bible in a very straightforward way," Smith wrote in response to Grace's objection. "On a daily basis I receive e-mails from ministers, Sunday School teachers and other religious educators offering praise for my work and asking permission to use my illustrations for classes, sermons and activities."
He continued, "I know that 'The Brick Bible' book will not be right for everyone, but it saddens me to think that a ban at Sam's Club will prevent thousands of people from coming across 'The Brick Bible' and being allowed to make up their own minds about it."
As CNET reports, Smith claimed his publisher, Skyhorse Publishing, had told him that Sam's Club had originally ordered 12,000 copies of "The Brick Bible" and that in just its first two weeks on the shelves, the book had sold 2,000 copies. He also reportedly claimed that "it was reps from Walmart/Sam's Club who had seen an advance version of the book and said they were very interested to place a large order of the book for their stores, but only if we were willing to remove or replace a dozen of the Old Testament illustrations – out of 1,400 total – that showed LEGO people in sexual poses. So there are no illustrations of the Bible's sex content in the book."
CNET also reports, however, that a Sam's Club spokesperson said that the company had never been involved in any pre-publication discussions about the content of the book.
"The truth of the matter is the Bible does have accounts that are violent and intense, but those teaching the stories usually teach them on an age appropriate level," Grace wrote. "When I decided to contact Sam's Club, my concerns were first, the book was being presented as a Bible, which it is not. [Second], the book was being geared for children, [though] it is not age appropriate for all children, and [third], that there was no content warning regarding the website. As a technology driven generation, children will be immediately drawn to visit the website, which does have vulgar content.
"I commend Sam's Club for looking further into this and their decision to pull the book off the shelves," she continued. "I feel like the inaccurate portrayal of a Bible is something worth taking a stand for. I do not find the Word of God offensive, I find the inaccuracy of 'The Brick Bible' as a 'Bible' offensive. It is a paraphrase of Bible accounts and should be titled as such and marked for appropriate age groups."