Home > Christianity, Church, Jesus, Sacrament > The Gospel of Street Art, or Banksy is (not) God

The Gospel of Street Art, or Banksy is (not) God

Lately I’ve been preparing for a week-long speaking engagement at our local middle school camp. Our theme for the week is See the Light. Know the Light. Be the Light. and we are using John 1 as our text. I am excited and nervous because I know connecting with 12-15 year olds is not something to take for granted, and yet I want them to leave the week knowing deeply the love Christ has for them, and the hope Christ offers to them.

My talk on Monday night is based on John 1:3 – “Everything was created through Him, nothing – not one thing! – came into being without Him.” My hope is that they will leave that night with this phrase ringing through their minds: You are an original creation of God, made to carry God’s image with you wherever you go.

In light of this, I am drawn to the underground world of street art. I was introduced to this world several years ago through a friend who spent time in Seattle as a “tagger”, marking various public locations with a specific, usually spray-painted moniker which others would begin to recognize as his signature. He had a scrapbook full of the different signs, buildings, trains, etc. he had tagged. Though it is an illegal practice, a visit to any big city demonstrates the ubiquity of this art.

It wasn’t until I watched the documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop,  that I began to more fully understand the culture surrounding street art. The film is produced by Banksy, perhaps the most famous of this enigmatic group. Though street art has been thrust into the headlines of popular culture, its most significant players fiercely protect their identity. They can only be known through their creation, and if you study their creations enough, you can learn to differentiate each artist by their style without ever seeing the artist in the flesh.

A Banksy creation near Bethlehem

While I don’t want to give away the story, the documentary focuses on one man, who through luck and a keen business savvy, becomes an overnight sensation in the street art world, though most of his work is done through articulating ideas to other artists who actually create “his” pieces.

In the end, this “street artist” takes an original, creative, and unique process and turns it into a mass-manufactured, capitalism-flavored farce – or so it seems. It is an excellent documentary that you should watch – but I won’t give away any more about it.

As I watched it and reflected upon it, I was struck by the way in which we are the “street art” of God – created uniquely in a certain style, that if one has the eyes (and heart) to see, will point to the original Creator in an undeniable way. People who know Banksy’s work know how to spot it among others who may try to emulate it. Whether it appears on a building in Bristol, UK or on the West Bank Barrier separating Palestine and Israel, his work is known.

One of my favorite George Fox quotes is as follows – “Walk cheerfully over the earth answering that of God in everyone.” God, the most creative and unique street artist who will ever exist has placed his mark in everyone. Do we have eyes to see it? Can we uncover the crud that has been piled upon his “tag?” Can we spot his original work among so many who try to convince us that we are nothing more than cosmic accidents?

Unlike Banksy, though, God wants to be known. He is not a secret, nor does He want to be. He has tagged the entire universe with His presence. Open your eyes and indulge your senses in God’s art.

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