May 2, 2014

Lego Movie Theology

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 10:09 am by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Did you notice the religious themes in The Lego Movie? There is nothing very deep, nothing one could call systematic theology. But the movie makers were consciously playing with religious ideas.

Obviously the movie begins with the now well worn messiah theme; there is a mysterious prophecy (which, the prophet says, “is true because it rhymes”) about a chosen hero who is “the most special, most talented, most extraordinary person in the universe”. I have heard UUs repeat this very American ideal that everyone is the most amazing, special and even prophecy fulfilling person in the universe. For example, think of Sophia Fahs’ words, “Every night a child is born is a holy night…”. Also, I must admit that I have heard UU sermons extolling the idea, stated by Emmet late in the movie, that a prophecy, or religious story, can be both completely made-up and completely true.

Then, as the characters are sailing on a sea of Lego bricks, “Wildstyle” says something about “The Man Upstairs”. We can assume (until the big reveal near the end) that this is a reference to the kid who plays with the Legos. But it is also an obvious insertion of God language. As a UU minister my ears perked up. I first wondered if there was some traditional Christian theology being slipped in. Then I thought about the Hindu notion of Lila where the entire universe is an expression of divine play. I wondered, where are they going with this?

The central theme of the movie is about control and creativity, the tension between “fitting in” and “being special.” At the beginning the main character, Emmet, is trying to “be part of the team” by conforming. In the end, his ability to follow directions is what makes him a unique part of a team. This theme takes on theological tones especially after Emmet “dies” and passes through a tunnel of light to a meta universe, where the greater truth of reality is revealed.

My impression of the movie as vaguely religious was reinforced when I came across an article titled Lego Movie’s Got Religion. The authors note that the name Emmet, in Hebrew, means ‘truth’. Also the name of Emmet’s guide and inspiration is Lucy, which means ‘light’ (as in Saint Lucy, or Santa Lucia).

The “truth” that Emmet uncovers is pretty humanistic, especially when the man upstairs turns out (spoiler alert)to be an actual man with a big Lego set and alienated from his son. Only vague echoes of the Christian Father and Son here. I could argue that through the reconciliation between father and son, and between Emmet and Mr. Business, that the movie sides with a theology of God as Inclusive Love, or agape.

In the end the Lego Movie is simply a bunch of animated fun and silliness, and an hour and half advertisement for plastic building toys. I liked it, and the Movie’s light religion added to my enjoyment.

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March 23, 2011

Fighting for Lost Souls

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 2:20 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

In fighting hatred and bigotry we must hold our ground fiercely and take back the ground of the enemy.

You may know that Indiana is one of those places where they think that “defending marriage” means defining marriage as only legal between “a man and a woman.”   UUs have been vocal in opposition to the bill that would change our constitution in that direction.  Recently, our Community Minister, Julia Hemeyer (the UU Church of Muncie, IN) wrote a thoughtful piece “Why I Stand On the Side of Love.”   She used well considered words and reasonable arguments, as well as a strong appeal to compassion and Love.

There actually were many positive responses in the paper and online.  But there were also the inevitable “God said this is wrong” responses.

Now, I am a very reasonable person and I have always encouraged thoughtful dialogue, but something about the tone of those negative responses hit a chord in me.  I decided that if they were going to say that God was on their side that someone had to clearly state that not only reason and compassion, but God almighty, was on our side.

Here is what I had published in our local paper:

“This is a simple fact: The politically motivated, so-called “defense of marriage” amendment will do nothing to defend marriage. The fact is that it will establish discrimination and bigotry in our state constitution. This is a simple fact: To go against gay and lesbian marriages is un-Christian.  Just because we have hidden our oppression and ignorance for so long is not a reason to exclude the realities of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from healthy respect and the right to engage in responsible relationships. God and the Bible both condemn lustful sexuality and affirm the discipline of marriage.

Since gay and lesbian relationships are as natural, and can be as healthy, as heterosexual relationships, God and the Bible demand that they should be treated in the same way. All marriages should have the same protections, rights and responsibilities as any others.”

The response was quick.  They said I was a kind-hearted pastor who was leading people astray.  They did not argue with me or wonder why I said what I did.  They did not ask me for scripture to back up my arguments.  They just said I was wrong.  That confirmed for me that I needed to say that they were wrong about God and the Bible.  I will not convince my detractors, but as they perceived, I will lead people “who assume  a minister must know what he is talking about regarding the Bible” and I will cause others to wonder and think anew.

My favorite final email about this came from a member of my congregation: “How could I have known I was being led astray by you, a”well-meaning pastor” who “misleads… regarding the Bible”?   Keep up the good work.”

I am quite proud to be a UU and to show that the power of love and justice has many names, including “Bible” and  “God.”

July 18, 2008

There is a God

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 6:38 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

The few responses to my recent posts have mostly about UU lack of, or antagonism toward, God, monotheism, and the Christian faith.  It seems a little troubling that after centuries of theistic tradition, and three decades of worshipping ‘The Goddess,’ goddesses, and almost constantly using the word “spirit” and all its variations in worship what we are still most known for is atheism (meaning literally not-god-ism). 

Just the other day my Mormon neighbor, while she was weeding with her daughter on one side of the fence and I was putting away garden tools on my side, suddenly called out “Thomas, does your church believe in the Bible?”  My immediate response was my usual response to such questions with uncertain agendas, “Yes… in a sense.”  After a little conversation about this she said, “I ask because a friend at my church said that there were atheists in your church.”  I pointed out that there were many different variations of theism there too, and that even many of the so-called atheists in our church believe very deeply in the power of goodness, even if they don’t call it ‘God.’  “What matters is how we treat one another and making the world a better place,” I said, “Don’t you think so?” and she agreed wholeheartedly. 

I am sad, and I apologize, that some people have been hurt by angry atheists and frightened or self-righetous existential humanists in UU churches; but the domination of some parts of our culture by a particular philosophical and cultural thread is only one small part of our story.  Both atheists and theists have been hurt and divided for too long by small definitions of the word “god.”  Our power lies in our openness to the radical and transforming truth, known in all cultures and times and places and by many names.  What we embody, at our best, is that aspect of reality which leads to a renewal of the human spirit and a vibrant alliance with all that creates and upholds peace and justice in life.