Father Slawomir Kostrzewa of Poland has warned that Legos have become a Satanic threat. New angry facial expressions on Lego characters, as well as the supernatural themes in the “Monster Fighters” series, could “destroy children’s souls.” For decades, religious conservatives have warned the public about the spiritual dangers of everything from comic books to Dungeons & Dragons. Paradoxically, culture warriors like Fr. Kostrzewatarget products not just because they perceive them to be evil but because they depict a supernatural battle between good and evil. Fr. Kostrzewa may see himself as a warrior defending the innocent from evil, but when the same cosmic battle is portrayed in children’s blocks, it’s regarded as demonic distortion. In this sense, moral crusaders demonstrate alienation from their own cosmology of spiritual warfare.
Like so many others, Fr Kostrzewa, who has previously warned about the spiritual dangers of such children’s products as Hello Kitty and My Little Pony, makes such claims to help establish his authority as an “expert in evil.” These would-be experts in evil often seek to appropriate the cultural authority of the medical establishment by alluding to psychological studies. Fr. Kostrzewa, for instance, pointed to a 2013 study by a Dr. Christoph Bartneck, a professor of technology, who noted that the faces of Lego characters have become more diverse and now include a variety of angry expressions which, Kostrzewa argued, serve to warp the moral understanding of children by portraying evil characters that appear happy and good characters that appear sad. The message to children, according to Kostrzewa, is that sin and occultism is pleasurable and fun despite the fact that Dr. Bartneck has rejected this interpretation as a distortion of his research. While Kostrzewa’s claims have been mocked in Poland, at least some Poles have taken them seriously, with one woman expressing her belief that Legos have a connection to the Church of Satan.
This concern about the facial expressions of Lego characters is part of a broader claim made by religious conservatives about popular culture. “Monster Fighters” Legos as well as horror movies, role-playing games (RPGs), and the other pop culture artifacts accused of luring children into the occult, all feature a supernatural battle between good and evil that is largely derived from Christianity itself. Yet the very people most invested in such a worldview see these narratives not as a reinforcement of their views but as a demonic counterfeit that somehow blurs the lines between good and evil.
One explanation for this paradox is that popular culture offers a rival brand of spiritual warfare. The real fear of cultural conservatives like Fr. Kostrzewa may not be that Legos will lead children to worship Satan, but that the battle against evil is more exciting when enacted through Legos than through the teachings and rituals of the Catholic Church; or perhaps it’s because they portray spiritual warfare as a child’s fantasy rather than a cosmic certainty. Ultimately, I suspect that Fr. Kostrzewa is less worried about children’s souls and more about securing his own brand as the original “Monster Fighter.”