I see that Banksy’s been at it again. This time it’s a mural of reindeer whisking away the bench on which the homeless man sleeps. As usual it’s a piece of imaginative, timely deconstruction and a headache for the landowner who now has to protect a priceless work of art from vandals. Banksy is a prophet. Time and again he calls out the corruption of economies, dividing walls, industry and power structures. Each new artwork an anonymous plaintive rage against the machine. We all forgive him the vandalism because the brilliant murals harnesses our own frustrations with the system. His 2004 work “Barcode” is my favourite.
But there is a problem with the prophet Banksy. He warns us about the failures of our systems; he points out the corruption of our leaders; he highlights the shortcomings of cultures, but I have yet to see a Banksy that suggests an alternative. Banksy likes to deconstruct. Even when he builds a theme park or a shop, it’s made to tear down.
Jesus was also a prophet. No spray can stencils, just wild prophetic acts and publicity stunts. Turning the tables in the temple. Hanging out with tax collectors and sinners. Healing on the Sabbath. He called out the corruption of the politico-religious system of the day. He would have been all over everyone else’s social media.
But Jesus is a constructor. I will build my church he says. The Kingdom of God has come near you he says. Go and make disciples of all nations.. teaching them to obey what I have commanded you. He starts with a small cell of followers and leads them in a new way of life. Forgiveness, discipline, hope against hope, humility, worship, self giving, generosity. A new community of men and women dedicated to living life God’s way. And so twelve become hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands and millions until Constantine capitulates and compromises and contaminates because he can’t contain Christians.
But despite the contamination, construction continues. New lives, new hope, new schools and hospitals and rehab centres and churches (people not buildings) in places you wouldn’t expect all atound the world. Jesus does tear down. But he also builds. Maybe I’m doing Banksy a disservice. Perhaps his anonymous alter-ego is building something beautiful. The Beaste boys said ‘it takes a second to wreck, it takes time to build.’ Jesus said ‘I will build my church and the gates of death will not prevail against it’. I’m with Jesus. On with the building.