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Monday, June 3, 2013

Graffiti: From "Vandalism" to "Street Art"

The passage of time changes things. When I was very young, I rode with my family through some not-so-nice parts of New York City. The walls were dirty gray. There were emergency escape ladders that looked like they were barely hanging on outside cruddy buildings. Some windows had no glass, and tattered curtains fluttered out of blank windows. It wasn’t pleasant. At street level, I remember ugly wall writings, mostly in black spray paint. Words I couldn’t understand. Everything was gray and dirty and dingy.

Fast forward forty-plus years. Inner city neighborhoods are getting a new life. Roof-top gardens bring a touch of green. The old buildings have been cleaned up, and large, windowless walls provide perfect canvases for “street art.” Today, urban artists are asked to decorate the walls.

I’m intrigued by some of this new craze. In Biarritz, France, for example, there’s a huge mural on the side of a building that faces a traffic circle. It is a trompe l’oeil masterpiece with painted details of open windows, doors, stairs, etc. with the real ones included. It’s hard to tell which part of what you see is the real building and which is painted. Human figures are doing all kinds of activities—including a lady peering out from behind a curtain. Geraniums grace planters in front of the windows. It makes you want to take another turn around the traffic circle.

In London, a man who paints simple stick figures has been nicknamed Stik. Another London artist, Bansky, paints realistic people, usually in black and white, and always surprising. He often paints a mouse. (My personal favorite Bansky painting* is a maid sweeping the dirt “under the carpet,” only she’s lifting up a sheet over the wall to reveal natural bricks.) A Hong Kong man was dubbed The Plumber King because he painted calligraphic plumbing advertisements all over the city. “Cope 2” in New York City became famous for his stylized, colorful letters and words.

What started as “defacing public property” has become a celebrated art form. Some street artists have even been featured in galleries!

I read a quotation not too long ago that expressed this same idea.

But, it was talking about sin, not graffiti.

Sins that were once called taboo/criminal start on a progression. They are tolerated, then accepted, approved, normalized, protected, and finally, they're given preferential treatment.**

This applies to almost any sin. You can fill in the blank. What was once called perverse, abnormal, and criminal is now celebrated as a “lifestyle.” (Thankfully, not every sin can be put in that blank. People still frown on murder, major theft, and the like.) Let me give you an example. I took an abnormal psychology course at a state university in the late 1970s. We studied a variety of behaviors that were labeled “abnormal.” Today, almost every one of those behaviors would not be called “abnormal.” Today, even child abuse in the form of pedophilia is on its way to becoming decriminalized and re-labeled “a preference, a form of sexual expression.” It’s on its way to becoming tolerated, and soon, it too will be perfectly acceptable. Within the next twenty years, it may not be a crime at all. It might even be “celebrated” in parades.

We’ve watched this process begin to happen with promiscuity, euthanasia, prostitution, homosexuality, assisted suicide, and abortion. What used to be shocking, illegal, and absolutely wrong is now “normal” and protected. “Rights” to practice these sins are being defended in courts of law.

The cycle has started.

The Bible says, Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)

What the Bible condemns, we should, too. When our government wants to change its laws contrary to biblical thought, we need to lend our voice to the outcry. We need to vote our conscience. What’s wrong is wrong. Let’s not call it good. Let’s protect the rights of those who have no voice.

*Some of Bansky’s work is indecent, and much of it is strongly political/social commentary. I by no means endorse all of his work or ideas, though I appreciate his talent.
**This progression is from a column titled “Where ‘Little Lies’ Lead” by Joel Beltz, World Magazine, Feb. 23, 2013.


  1. Si que es verdad que progresivamente han cambiado muchas formas de ver las cosas, y con el paso de los años va ha peor. Muchas veces no nos damos cuenta de que ha pasado hasta que ya es tarde para hacer algo al respecto.Y como tu bien has dicho y yo no hace mucho que lo vi en un estudio hemos de condenar lo que la Biblia condena, para que podamos estar en el camino correcto.

    1. Bien dicho. (Well said.) Thank you, Tere, for your thoughtful comment.

  2. How sad that so much sin has become accepted and sometimes even encouraged in our society.

    "What one generation tolerates, the next generation embraces." - Jon Wesley

    1. That's interesting that John Wesley, way back then, noticed this too! Thank you for sharing that quote. God bless, Lauren!


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