The Prophet Banksy

So you’ve probably seen by now, the Simpsons opening from this previous Sunday night. Maybe you’ve heard that it was brilliant. Maybe you’ve heard that it’s dark. But the point is that you’ve heard about it. Which is unusual isn’t it? When was the last time that people were talking about the opening credits of the Simpsons?

This idea started a few months ago when the writers of the Simpsons decided to try and get ahold of a guy named Banksy to write the opening scene for them. Now if you haven’t heard of Banksy…repent. Banksy is the best example of a modern day prophet that I know of. He majors in street theater…specifically in street vandalism…Like this:

Now before you start thinking about the high cost of vandalism, you need to know a couple of things. 1. Cities want Banksy to create on their sidewalks or walls, even if they don’t know it yet. His sidewalk art is selling for millions of dollars to high profile people like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. But the other thing you need to know about Banksy is this 2. No one has any idea who he is. Seriously, he just shows up, does his stuff (sometime in the dead of night and other times in broad daylight) and no one has ever even seen him. He does it, not for fame, or fortune (he never sees a cent of the money that his art sells for). He paints walls and streets, zoos and bridges for another reason altogether.

In his book, Existstencilism, Banksy tells a story that gives some insight into who he is, and how he sees the world. It’s a story about the liberation of the Bergen-Belson concentration camp by a soldier in the British Army. This will rock your world:

“I can give no adequate description of the Horror Camp in which my men and myself were to spend the next month of our lives. It was just a barren wilderness, as bare as a chicken run. Corpses lay everywher, some in huge piles, sometimes they lay singly or in pairs where they had fallen.

It took a little time to get used to seeing men women and children collapse as you walked by them and to restrain oneself from going to their assistance. One had to get used early to the idea that the individual just did not count. One knew that five hundred a day were dying and that five hundred a day were going on dying for weeks before anything we could do would have the slightest effect. It was, however, not easy to watch a child choking to death from diptheria when you knew a tracheotomy and nursing could save it, one saw women drowning in their own vomit becasue they were too weak to turn over, and men eating worms as they clutched a half loaf of bread purely because they had had to eat worms to live and now could scarcely tell the difference.

Piles of corpses, naked and obscene, with a woman too weak to stand propping herself against them as she cooked the food we had given her over an open fire; men and women crouching down just anywhere in the open relieving themselves of the dysentery which was scouring their bowels, a woman standing stark naked washing herself with some issue soap in water from a tank in which the remains of a child floated.

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 those internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wantering 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 tatooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.”


And this is why Banksy does what he does. Because he knows the danger of walking through a world where we see more concrete slabs than flowers. He knows that while we may have learned to run the world quite efficiently, there is always the danger that we have stopped learning how to see those around us. And so Banksy adds some color to our lives, and sometimes it painful, and sometimes it’s funny. But it’s always profound.

Did you ever notice the nature of the Prophets in the Old Testament? Sometimes they’d publicly lay on their side for a year, like you do, just to make a point. Other time they’d cook their food over feces so God could communicate through them. One guy intentionally married a prostitute who would cheat on him…Just to show the world how God feels.

Prophets were the Street Theater’s of the day. When people tell me that their spiritual gifts are prophecy I think we should wonder if that means they mime.

But, just in case you start to think this was all just for show, go back and read some of the prophets. They’re main point was and always is, if you say you care about God…It’s got to show in how you treat the people around you. Now I don’t know the faith of Banksy, I’d love to tell you that He is a follower of Jesus, who does all of this in his name. But the one thing I know is this: Banksy sees people, and helps us to do the same.

So Thanks for the Lipstick Banksy. You’re a prophet.

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About jonathanstorment

My family and I love reading, traveling, daddy/daughter dates, playing hide and seek, good music, and long meals with friends. We still miss LOST, and all four of us have Superman uniforms. We are passionate about bringing Heaven to Earth and want to follow Jesus while repainting discipleship for those around us. We are followers of Jesus and I preach at the Highland Church of Christ. We participate in something called A Restoration Movement, and we've come to realize that might be larger than we thought.

14 thoughts on “The Prophet Banksy

  1. Saw the video. Very funny. I hope you don’t mind if I don’t repent of something that’s not a sin.

    I hope you also don’t mind if I don’t want Banksy drawing stuff on my walls without my permission. Glad to know I want that even if I don’t know it.

    I’d heard the story of the lipstick. The human spirit (given by the divine) is amazing.

  2. I love it.

    You know you are infamous when a preacher from Arkansas, now in Abilene TX, is talking about you.

    I saw my first banksy piece back in London a few years back and it was unreal. Some of the context is lost by simply viewing the pics without understanding the environment, but bansky is a strong enough artist that message is still understood.

    I think it’s important to understand that most street art exists because art has become such a streamlined process, used primarily to sell goods. For the most part, if you want your art to be seen then you should go work for an advertising agency. How many galleries do we have in our cities? And how many people have access to art that doesn’t come from the aisle by the frames at Target? So a guy like banksy comes along and reminds us that there is another way to get your message out there.

    As for the message, I think banksy’s work as a whole is there to remind us of our own flaws, and that things are not as they should be. The Simpson’s piece is a great example of how art has been hijacked to sell goods. I’m stoked they let that on the air.

    Also, you should check out the Writer’s Block in San Diego. It’s a graffiti park set up as a free place for artists to show their work. I think you’ll like what you see.

  3. Hey Bro. Danny! You say that now, but wait till you see some of his stuff. Banksy is a genius. I bet you’d let him paint your walls if you knew what he could do with them. And yeah he’s famous, but it’s the way Clark Kent is famous, people know that there is some anonymous person doing a lot of good, but Banksy is his secret identity…As Joe Smith (or whatever his name is) he’s not getting any acclaim. That’s what I was getting at.

    Thanks Ben, I’m glad you liked it too!

    DJ, Yeah, this is right up your alley huh? That’s a great point about street artists, they serve a purpose to break through our consumeristic worldview. Banksy does that well, as evidenced even in the Simpsons video. I’d love to check out the Writers block sometime…BTW, doesn’t your grandma live in Frisco? How can you possibly route for the Yankees over the Rangers?!!

  4. You might have missed the point, Jonathan. He knows he’s Banksy. He gets a kick out of doing what he does and signing that name to it. I think he loves the fame.

  5. Mom lives in Frisco. And that’s recent. I met Yogi Berra when I was eight, that was a while back. The only time I ever pulled for the Rangers was when Nolan took Robin Ventura to ‘don’t charge the mound’ school.

    Also, as far as fame goes, it’s very important for street artists to sign their work. It’s the only way they can take credit for their work. If banksy didn’t sign his art there would be plenty of other people who would try and take credit for the pieces. Street art 101. The very reason he (personally i think it’s a team of people) uses a fake name is so that the art takes the attention. (Also, some his stunts are kind of illegal) If he wanted to go for fame and riches he would use his real name, like Shepherd Fairey.

  6. Come on, guys. Can’t you see that signing his work is getting him fame? I don’t know the man (and apparently nobody else does, either), but whether or not he is seeking fame, he has it. And now he has a contract with the producers of “The Simpsons.”

    There’s nothing wrong with that. But let’s call a fish a fish, shall we?

    By the way, Robin Ventura is the only man ever to get three hits off of Nolan Ryan in a single inning.

  7. Thanks Thomas, you should check him out. I think you’ll enjoy the stories that come out of his work. Thanks for stopping by.

    DJ, I’ll never forget that moment in baseball history. Nolan Ryan was so tough, I’m not a violent person, but I miss hitters charging the mound.

    Bro. Danny, okay here’s where I think we’ll have to settle on. I think we’d all agree that any fame that Banksy has is an unorthodox version of it at best. No one would recognize him or his real name in public. But with that said, yes Banksy is famous. And if you’re house gets toilet papered in the near future, just assume that it was him. 🙂

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