In The LEGO Movie, average construction worker Emmet is told he is the Special, the prophesied saviour of the Lego world from Lord Business, who wants to use his superweapon the Kragle to freeze all activity in the Lego world. At the movie’s (seeming) climax, Emmet sacrifices himself to save the Lego world by jumping into the Vortex of Nothingness.
Now here’s the major spoiler: Instead of falling for eternity, he lands in a human basement. We see that the Lego characters have been acting out a story created by a boy, Finn, who has been playing with his dad’s Legos – against the rules. His father, a.k.a. the Man Upstairs, has built the Lego world on his basement worktable, and signs in all directions read: “HANDS OFF,” “DON’T TOUCH”.
The Man Upstairs – dressed in the same suit and tie as Lord Business – immediately enters the basement and begins berating his son for causing disorder. He starts grabbing pieces (including Emmet) out of his son’s hands so that he can permanently Krazy Glue (Kra–Gl-e) them into place.
But he soon realizes that he has become the bad guy in his own son’s story. Then, the son offers, “You don’t have to be the bad guy.” In a touching moment of conviction, the father asks his son, “If the construction guy (Emmet) was going to talk to Lord Business, what would he say?” And Emmet, returned to the Lego world and speaking to Lord Business using Finn’s words, says, “Look at the people. Look at their creativity. Look at how they can take the things you made, and make new things with them. By working together with other people.”
I’m paraphrasing from memory here, but the message is clear: We need the ability to harness our individuality and work together in an orderly fashion. But we also need the riot of untrammeled creativity which allows us to bring new ideas and things of beauty into the world. The way we bring the two needs together is by caring for people, listening to them and being in relationship with them.
In the Man Upstairs and Finn, we see two different theologies of creativity at work, which can inform our understanding of living Church.
For the Man Upstairs, creativity means discerning The Way Things Should Be, conforming oneself (and everyone else) to it, and then standing (perfectly) still. God is a Rule-giver, and the job of the Church is to obey the rules, make sure everyone else is obeying them, and keep things that way for eternity. The one thing most abhorrent to God, in the eyes of this theology, is a Mess.
For Finn, creativity means receiving the good things created by others, affirming them as good, and letting them inspire you to the creation of further good things, which are gifted back to others in a fruitful (and messy) cycle of making. God is the Inspirer, the Creator who shares with His creatures the gift of creativity, and encourages them to use it joyfully with and for others. Our job is not to be afraid of the messiness, but to embrace it as a rainbow riot of colour which brings us closer to God and to each other.
Multiple theological interpretations of this Father-Son dynamic could be argued. However, I don’t think the filmmakers want us to see an intra-Trinitarian conflict. Instead, I believe that we are invited to see ourselves as the Man Upstairs, as people who put ourselves into the place of God.
We, the viewers, are called to conversion. Where have we shut down others’ creativity by forcing them to adhere to our own vision of The Way Things Should Be? In terms of Church, where have we sought to erect walls against the “messiness” of the Spirit, believing that holiness is found more in rubrics than in relationships?
Most of all, where have we rejected the Holy Spirit working in others because we refused to believe that someone so young, so unremarkable, or so disordered could be a vehicle of true inspiration?
Cole Matson is a third-year PhD student in the Institute for Theology, Imagination & the Arts. He thinks that puppies, unicorns, and steaks are awesome.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures – © 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc (IMDB)