Growing up, there was one Christmas present I could always guess with a single shake: Legos. This simple (and sadly overly commercialized) toy has been my obsession for the past thirty years, recently resurfacing as I declared myself an official Lego Collector (which means my wife is kind enough to put up with my Lego creations being proudly displayed underneath our whiskey shelf).
As a pastor and theologian, I cannot help but look at theology through the lens of my Legos. And, in doing so, I have discovered five simple things that make me love Legos and theology all the more.
1. Legos are fun. So is theology.
Why does the former evoke play while the latter evokes work? Legos are fun and theology is too (or at least it can be). People often think of theology as a mountain of inaccessible books and boring ideas. And while at times this is (sadly) true, theology at its essence is fun. It is about asking big, if not the biggest, questions in existence and entering into an arena of thought where one can play with these ideas.
I’m tired of people saying that theology is boring. Personally, I avoid all things boring. (For any of you enneagram junkies out there, yes, I am a seven.) But theology is one thing I eagerly embrace. Theology is not about following the rules so much as it is about playing the game, toying with ideas and seeing how they can fit together. And this game called Life & Faith is meant to be fun.
2. Legos evoke creativity. Theology can do the same.
Give a child a box of Legos and the possibilities of what they will create are endless. Yet for some reason, we bring our ideas about God to the table and suddenly find ourselves stuck within a rigid framework. Theology, like Legos, should evoke creativity. It should be the metaphorical building blocks that allow us to build and rebuild, articulate and re-articulate our understanding of God, faith, life, and the world. Theology should inspire us to bring new things to life rather than defend old ones. Because after all, being a person of faith doesn’t mean you have to be a person of antiquity.
Humans have always been called to be co-creators. Yet for some reason, we too easily become self-appointed defenders, holding fast to the anchors that hold us back rather than building sails that can be filled with the breath of God to move us and our creativity forward.
3. Legos are collaborative. Theology should be too.
Adults don’t typically have play-dates. But when you have thousands of Legos in your living room, your grown-up friends don’t mind being invited over to play. Because while Legos can be fun to play with by yourself, adding another person or two brings the activity to a new level of wonder and imagination. Legos are collaborative. And theology should be too.
Theology has a long trajectory of avoiding isolation and of situating itself among the people, in spite of certain individuals choosing to act as the self-appointed gatekeepers of orthodoxy. The Spirit of God is communal rather than individual. God works collaboratively, from the presence of God speaking to the nation of Israel at Sinai (after which they quickly nominated Moses to go up on their behalf) to the unleashing of the spirit of God in the egalitarian community in the beginning of the book of Acts. The Spirit of God does not just speak through one of us, but through all of us. God is like Legos with friends, or, like a Jack Johnson song: it’s better together.
4. Legos come in all shapes and sizes. So does theology.
In my thirty year history of playing with Legos, I have seen them evolve. From new colors to new shapes to new characters and worlds, Legos are an ever-evolving universe. They come in all shapes and sizes. And as much as one group (typically those with the privilege and power) would like to think, they are not the only ones out there. Legos come in more than bricks and flats, and so do the people of God.
Once upon a time, we lived in a world relegated by implicit tribalism. But in our global community we have the ability to transcend our tribes of origin and discover that, just as there are more than two thousand different Lego bricks, there are thousands of different expressions of what it means to be a Christian. The people of God is a tribe whose center eliminates the need for a boundary. Ignore certain Lego pieces all you want, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The same reality is true with the people of God, a difficulty for both liberals and conservatives alike.
5. Legos are for all ages. So is theology.
Legos transcend age. They are a toy for children and adults alike. You don’t have to outgrow them. Instead they can continue to grow with you. In the same way, theology doesn’t come with an age restriction. But this doesn’t mean you give a six-year-old the most advanced Lego set you can find. The most advanced Lego set contains many of the same bricks as its most basic counterpart, yet you often need to start with one in order to get to the other. And as you grow and develop, you don’t leave the basic sets behind. Rather they are transcended and included in the new creations you bring to life.
Theology is much the same. Everyone, from young to old, can be invited to explore and wonder and think and ask questions about God. But this exploration must come with a developmental appropriateness. Too often we teach abstract concepts to concrete thinkers when what’s truly needed is an invitation to learn how the bricks of our faith fit together, cultivating skills and passion that can grow with you time. Because theology, like Legos, is for everyone.
Old Testament, New Testament, Brick Testament
So the next time you see a bright, colorful, interlocking, brick, think about a bright, colorful, interlocking theology. And the next time you see a looming tower of old theology books, imagine all the shapes and structures they could be stacked into. Because theology has a lot to learn from Legos. Therefore (Le)go and be disciples of all nations, playing theology and Legos, discovering that they are more alike than you may have initially thought.
Jim Kast-Keat is the Associate Minister for Education at Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village of New York City. He is a divergent thinker, an ideation specialist, and an aspiring minimalist. Prior to working at Middle he helped lead ikonNYC in New York, NY, worked as a Product Designer with Sparkhouse in Minneapolis, MN and was a pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI. To find out more about Jim go to www.jimkastkeat.com or follow him on twitter at @IdeasDoneDaily.