According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Banksy - Tearing Down Walls of Oppression, Part 1/2




Across America's political landscape, and throughout the GOP/Republican Party's 2015 campaigning season, we are hearing messages of "Building Walls of Separation and Discrimination." Messages of societal molding and conformity to a public rhetorical platform that is being hotly debated from the diatribes of the infamous Donald Trump stigmatas to an entire stage of right-wing conservative candidates looking to lead America to its "glory lands of peace and lauder" through building better walls, greater military budgets, and an expanded prison system already too full.

Might we suggest to these candidates - as well as to any of the American public gullible enough to actually believe that walls do actually bring unity and security that this is but a fictional dream - or nightmare - of your own incredulous making. No wall, budget, or system, anywhere, will bring to a people or a country the security it longs for. Or, the peace-and-unity it seeks, simply by banishing its enemies to the outside of its own severe political and religious boundaries. It has been done - and failed - too many times down through the history of the world to believe that it can be incorporated successfully as a final strategy.

And since this is a Christian website let us also observe that we see this same kind of energy being expressed time-and-again within conservative Christian theologies as well. Theologies that would raise dogmatic walls ever higher against the torrents of progressive rhetoric blowing against it as if "the higher the wall the more secure and at-peace its people will be within." People desiring to be protected against an outside world full of evil, forment, and unrest. Certainly this is a desirable goal but a goal without sufficient means of attainment when driven by isolating its own people from harm while excluding others longing from the very same needs of peace, rest, and harmony being sought.

Hence, the artist Banksy points out this sublime fact time-and-again that "walls do nothing if but divide people from one another." That they provide a false security, an enforced segregation to injustice, and do nothing to resolving the differences between the "haves" and the "have nots." In the long view of things, the only healing which may occur within a walled society is the fantasyland of belief that one is safe and secure from "those meanies and hate-mongers" on the outside of our concrete or theological boxes.

So excuse us once again if we plead for some semblance of sanity amongst the conservative circles of the Christian faith to remind each other that strong doctrines, strong positions, and strong belief systems do nothing but weaken that very thing you wish to protect. Weaken it by isolation and exclusion rather than strengthening it by allowing its faith assemblies to be intimately involved with a hard-bit world of turmoil and oppression. To be involved through the hard work of activism, advocacy, and petition. One cannot expect walls to inform a people held by fear within. Nor do walls encourage involvement. They are separators that create calloused societies focused on themselves and their own needs while using others to support those needs and wants. Walled societies are places of injustice, inhumanity, and oppression. Walled societies cannot be supported. They are built upon their own unworthy foundations of sand while giving the deceptive impression of solidarity, control, and imperviousness to all onslaughts against it.

More the rather, to strengthen what you wish to protect is to expose that society's foundations and structures to the very criticisms being levelled at it. That in the strangest of paradoxes the things we wish to protect must become exposed and weakened in order to show the strength within that very thing you seek to cling to in the desperate hours of darkness.

What this means is that God and His Holy Word, the Bible, will never crumble to the fears of His people attempting to "honor" Him by "prophesying in His Name" of His salvation to mankind by excluding those outside the faith from the faith within. But must dutifully crumble to those same fears which would "wall out God's people" from those same dark forces that must be exposed, contended with, and vigorously protested against.

If anything, the Christian faith, if it is true, must become an "unstructured wall exposed" if it is to confront the ungodly on both sides of the religious wall of faith. Both the ins and the outs. The haves and the have nots. For the Holy God of the Bible is not a Redeemer who is in the business of building walls but of tearing walls down so that both the world of faith and the world of unfaith may collide and learn from one another. Teach one another. Learn to listen to one another.

America cannot be a nation on a hill whose light shines brightly if it hides the light of its liberty from the very ones desiring this thing both in their hearts and in their societies. There can be no one economic system. No one political system. But from across the spectrum of capitalism to communism, from a society built upon republican virtues to socialistic virtures, God reaches out to one-and-all irrespective of our belief systems, our cultures, our economies.

If anything, the need for walls should tell us that we must go to the ones shouting the loudest to listen so that we might humble ourselves, repent, and repair the damages caused by our vigor and protest. Areas like Ferguson, MO, cry out for the servants of the Lord to restore civility to the crimes committed for too many years and too many decades of exclusionism. Crimes of negligence. Crimes of over-zealous protection. Crimes of unjust civic law creating discrimination, racism, fear, and pride. Not simply there but everywhere we look in our cities of industry, progress, and means.

Walls do nothing if but illuminate ourselves to the world. They do not bring justice but injustice to those walled out. And to the political and religious demagogues and their foolish public who think otherwise remember God's very own Holy Personage as example who did not wall out a sinful humanity but suffered Himself to come into its manic folds:

Who did not think it "unpolitic" to humble Himself and come into a creation full of sin and
ruin. But made of Himself a part of this holy creation that He might take the form of a
servant and serve. Even to the point of dying to that very thing He created and loved."

Walls destroy. Walls bring death. Let us learn to live without walls in our lives. Let us seek to be "agents of demolition" to all that would wall ourselves out from one another. To seek peace and unity without the necessity of building higher, greater, deeper, walls. Whether in our political beliefs. In our theological beliefs. In our personal lives. Let us learn to live as exposed people. As weak servants of the living God. As people whose faith is real enough to allow it to examine ourselves first even as it will our "enemies in the lands of the living" whom we hate and fear.

And finally, should this be a plea for pacifism or for some kind of militant pacifism (an oxymoron if ever there was one)? When fighting injustice it must be one that loves our enemies but seeks to fight for those who are oppressed with crimes intolerable. Love is both weak and strong, wise and fearless. Perhaps rather than building walls we learn to re-build relationships with our enemies who are themselves as much in the business of wall making as we are by their own crimes of terror and oppression.

The most recent public example is President Obama's removal of the political walls between America and Cuba; with Iran's nuclear program arsenaled off from the contemporary world; and his visit of peace and respect to the nations of Africa. To hear his message that Muslims everywhere must be valued and not hated. But to also stand against the oppressions of all criminal groups - whether it be ISIS or that of an injust American system disempowering the disenfranchised. To recreate justice for all and not for some. To recreate community relations to every person of race, creed, or color, and not just to those we feel most welcomed within its boundary lands of oppression, hate, and discrimination.

If one is to lead a nation as a GOP candidate than one must be above the protocols and restrictions of one's own ideals if to serve and to bear the wounds of many. Any who would be a candidate for presidential leadership must be a candidate for all people everywhere and not simply to their own party of beliefs and ideologies. This takes a great wisdom of which only some have been successful at throughout the history of the world. But it is a wisdom from above. A wisdom that we pray and seek daily to honor from the God of all love, authority, and forgiveness, who is both our example, our Spirit-power, and our Lord and God who desires mankind to be at peace with itself.

R.E. Slater
August 13, 2015
revised August 24, 2015


Phillippians 2.1-11

Christ's Example of Humility

1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, anyparticipation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men.8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


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Brian Sewell Art Directory
BANKSY

http://www.briansewell.com/artist/b-artist/banksy/banksy-palestinian-tag.html


We couldn't work out if Banksy's taging of the Segregation Wall Palestine was 'Cheap publicity from other peoples misery' or 'Publicity for Palestinian misery'? So here is a review from the Intifada.

Well-known UK graffiti artist Banksy hacks the Wall
Nigel Parry, The Electronic Intifada, 2 September 2005

The Wall around Qalqiliya. A twenty-five foot high concrete cage cuts residents off
from their agricultural land, necessary for their survival, and prevents you from traveling
even 5 minutes out of the City. A single gate, open at the whims of the occupying army,
controls 100,000 residents. | Photo: 
StopTheWall.org

Whitewashing the Wall

In June 2003, I received an e-mail in EI’s inbox from a Nathan Edelson, who introduced himself as “a design critic whose features on architecture have been published in major U.S. newspapers,” which a Lexis-Nexis newspaper database supported. He was writing a story “about architecture in Israel, with emphasis on the new security ‘fence’ which you rightly call a wall.” His request was for larger images of the Israel’s West Bank barrier for study, and explained that “the premise of my article is that one can argue about the desirability of a wall, and certainly where it runs, but if it is going to be built it should not be an aesthetic monstrosity.”

As you can imagine, we get a lot of crazy mail at EI, ranging from the fundamentalist who has for years been weekly mailing Zen-like one-liners such as “Biblical Christianity will one day return to the Holy Land,” to the ex-Israeli soldier who sent photos of him in service across the occupied territories with accompanying narratives of how much he enjoyed mistreating the Palestinians he came across. But somehow, this e-mail from internationally-respected design critic Nathan Edelson won my vote for the most clueless communication that info@electronicIntifada.net has ever received.

Usually, all correspondents to EI receive a polite response with links to more information. But when a clearly educated person tries to get you to swallow soup with a turd in it, there’s got to be a cut-off point for pleasantries.

“That's a little,” I replied, “like arguing for nice faux painting on gas chamber walls or calling for Martha Stewart torture chamber bed sets. Clearly ethics play no part in your school of design criticism.”

Edelson’s reply was truly surreal. “I could accuse you of having no ethics because you want the security wall to be as repulsive as possible so it will stir up the maximum possible resentment, which will translate into more violence.”

“I care very much about where the security wall runs,” he continued, “as well as how it looks. My upcoming article will hopefully elicit meaningful conversation between the sides based on a joint desire to make a bad thing better, and this can help create the trust which can change not only the look but the routing of the barrier.”

Of course, the second the beautification of the barrier is complete, the Israelis, who bulldozed and confiscated countless acres of Palestinian land to build the wall, cut off thousands of farmers from their sole livelihood and, in one example, surrounded a single Palestinian family home in a mini-wall, will sit down for a meaningful conversation with their new Palestinian friends about the route of the finished barrier! I was also chastised by Edelson for being less than “civil” in my response to him.

“There is nothing you can do aesthetically,” I wrote in my reply to Edelson, “which will make this wall benign. There is no making it ‘better’. Want a big picture of the wall? Here's one attached. Do you think a nice mottled green would help it blend in to the indigenous landscape nicely? Or perhaps some arches and battlements for a more traditional medieval flavor?”

This satellite image of Qalqilya and Israel's West Bank Barrier surrounding the city
was taken on 7 June 2003. The progress of construction of the barrier can clearly be
seen, ultimately cutting off residents from their surrounding agricultural land. See
here for 
before & after images. (Photo: Space Imaging/NTA Space Turk)

“If you actually intend to actually write an article arguing for this monstrous whitewashing of a visible human rights violation -- and it says so much about the state of ignorance in America that you are even thinking of it or if indeed there is any likelihood any serious newspaper would print it -- I would suggest you first get on a plane and go visit Qalqiliya and Rafah and see the reality for yourself. Speak to the people who live there. See how the thing plays out on the ground.”

“What you propose -- using art to serve the interests of what is a dictatorship for the 3.2 million Palestinians who didn't vote for the system that rules over them -- follows in the footsteps of Leni Riefenstahl and Richard Wagner. While I totally concur with your point about the need for civil responses to civil questions, there was nothing "civil" about your enquiry. It was a perfect example of 21st century barbarism.”

“Hats off to Nathan Edelson, the man who came up with the wonderful solution to a century of conflict: simply paint the cage a new color and watch the prisoners dance.”

Hitler with Leni Riefenstahl (R), an otherwise brilliant 
film maker who made propaganda films for the Nazis.

Edelson didn’t give up, and responded one last time, expressing hope for a resolution to the conflict, making a final statement about the aesthetics of the barrier. “I also believe, however, that given any particular routing decision, it is immoral to create any more ugliness than is absolutely necessary.”

Enter Banksy

When I first encountered some of the graffiti art and sculpture of “Banksy” in London several years ago, I was struck by the importance of where his pieces were located. In Banksy’s work, location itself is a large part of the message, a key component of the resulting metaphor. Whether he’s hanging a fake rock pictogram of early man pushing a shopping cart in the British Museum, or installing an amalgam of the Statue of Liberty and Statue of Justice clad as a prostitute at the site of his last arrest, the environment is usually part of the message.

The “Manifesto” on Banksy’s website contains only a diary extract from Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin DSO, who was among the first British soldiers to liberate Bergen-Belsen in 1945:

“It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, though it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. This was not at all what we men wanted, we were screaming for hundreds and thousands of other things and I don't know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it, it was the action of genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for these internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wandering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips. I saw a woman dead on the post mortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. At last someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tattooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.”

 

The Holocaust Lipstick motif in Banksy's art (see above right), which accompanies the text on his website, has also appeared on the streets of the UK and aptly captures the deliberate incongruity of his large body of public work, which highlights and satirizes the dehumanizing impact of modern society and government by disturbing our sense of place and appropriateness.

Familiar images -- the Queen, smiling children, policemen -- are given a dark twist designed to wake observers up from the 9 to 5 rat race -- also a common Banksy theme, typically delivered in person by talking rats -- a rat race that literally itself streams through Banksy’s borderless gallery of streets to make you reassess the structures and symbols that form the backdrops to our lives.

Banksy hacks the Wall


Whereas Nathan Edelson wants to create no “more ugliness than is absolutely necessary”, Banksy’s the kind of guy who prefers to draw a 20 foot high arrow pointing at the ugliness to encourage us to ask why the hell it’s there in the first place.

When I first learned of Banksy's summer trip to the route of Israel’s West Bank barrier, which the artist describes on his website as “the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti writers” -- I knew even before I saw the first image that this was going to be interesting.


“How illegal is it to vandalize a wall,” asks Banksy in his website introduction to his Wall project, “if the wall itself has been deemed unlawful by the International Court of Justice? The Israeli government is building a wall surrounding the occupied Palestinian territories. It stands three times the height of the Berlin wall and will eventually run for over 700km - the distance from London to Zurich. The International Court of Justice last year ruled the wall and its associated regime is illegal. It essentially turns Palestine into the world’s largest open-air prison.”




Much of the art he produced on the Wall visually subverts and draws attention to its nature as a barrier by incorporating images of escape -- a girl being carried away by a bunch of balloons, a little boy painting a rope ladder.

Other pieces invoke a virtual reality that underlines the negation of humanity that the barrier represents -- children in areas cut off from any access to the sea playing with sand buckets and spades on piles of rubble that look like sand, and corners of the wall peeled back to reveal imagined lush landscapes behind.



Banksy's site offers two snippets of conversations with an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian who happened upon him while he was in the process of creating the series of nine pieces on the Wall, in Bethlehem, Abu Dis, and Ramallah.

Soldier: What the fuck are you doing?

Me: You'll have to wait til it's finished

Soldier (to colleagues): Safety's off

Banksy is the anti-Leni Riefenstahl and anti-Richard Wagner, reclaiming public spaces as a space for public imagination and enlightenment where they have become propagandistic barriers to thought and awareness, as is the very terminology for Israel's West Bank barrier itself. Banksy's summer project on Israel's Wall stands out as one of the most pertinent artistic and political commentaries in recent memory.

Perhaps the last word, perhaps the clearest answer to the Nathan Edelsons of this world who wish to whitewash all that is ugly rather than change its basic nature, should come from another conversation Banksy reports having with an old Palestinian man:

Old man: You paint the wall, you make it look beautiful.

Me: Thanks

Old man: We don't want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall, go home.


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