Graffiti: Evangelistic or Eyesore?
Published on January 4, 2011
“We use graffiti for God’s glory!” – Jeremy ”Bamskie” Johan
Sssst sssst some people see it as vandalism, Sssst sssst some see it as art work but did you ever see it as it as worship, a time of prayer, a way of expression, something timeless, a language and a tool for ministry: this is Christian graffiti! It’s a movement reaching far across the global, impacting many people’s lives and it’s all done legally, so don’t get twisted. Crews like Gospel Graffiti, Daystar Tribe, gospelonwallz, Kingdom Graffiti Art and others are just a few names that come to mind. I had the privilege to speak with a few graffiti artists who are involved in the movement. Their main goal is like every Christian – to be a witness to others, sharing the love of Christ and his peace that passes all understanding. “Graffiti is just a tool”– Cameron “chef camer1” Moberg.
Back in time
Since ancient times, people have been writing on walls. Graffiti actually comes from the Italian word graffito which means ‘little scratch’. Back then they used graffiti for inscriptions and figure drawing on walls of ancient sepulchres or ruins, ect. Nowadays a new type of graffiti came up from the hip-hop movement in New York. In some places, such as Holland, it came from the punk movement. All this lead to a massive amount vandalism. Graffiti crews just wanted to get there name out there and you can spot their tags anywhere from buildings to subways, to the bus, etc. Some say they do it for the rush, other say do it for the fame, but graffiti as been a part of our history for very long time.
Beauty of it
“An art that is unappreciated in the US mostly because of its illegal nature.” – Carlos Trevino Jr – Mote aka Dj Promote
Let take a step back and look at the beauty of graffiti. Painting with a spray can instead of a brush. The talent it takes, the technique, the patience you must obtain. A piece could take from thirty minutes to ten hours! Your lines have to be straight (no rulers allowed), your letters have to be dope and you have to bring your own style into it. Promote was telling me in China their lettering is taking more seriously, having schools that teach the structure and art of writing. “I wish there was a respect for this kind of art” he concluded.
“Graffiti is like the black sheep of the art community and HHH movement.” – Battle
This art form is not only overlooked in the world but also in the Christian community. People don’t understand the impact Christian graffiti has on the world mainly because a lot of people don’t know about it. It’s kind of under the radar, yet the impact it has is tremendous! Sometimes the graffiti artists themselves don’t know of its full impact: ‘You just put it up and then you walk away you don’t really hear the impact it makes.” Battle explained. I think that’s the beauty of the movement: God is using these artists in such a humble way! Most of the time people just see the message, not the artists.
“Every person is really unique; you can really be yourself. We want to shine the light to the world by expressing it visually.” – Arend “Joax” Maatkamp
God at Work across the Global
Graffiti artists are speaking the language of the culture- Battle
This movement is global, from the USA, Canada, Netherlands, France, New Zealand etc. God is working through this art form! Jesus gives us the mission in Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” Frank of gospelonwallz says “We can’t afford not to talk to this new “nation.” God himself chose his disciples to speak this “language” and allow the “people” hear the gospel in their own language.” He describes graffiti as a foreign language learned, worked and practiced. “Today God speak even on walls! Its amazing!”
Picture this…Loud hip hop music blasting, a cloud of weed smoke and in the middle of it all: a shirtless man clearly intoxicated on drugs getting prayed for after seeing them spray paint ‘Jesus’ on the wall in an event. This was powerful scene that took place in Holland, Netherlands. “This might not be the biggest healing story or ”falling on the knees” story but it was Gospel Graffiti to the fullest. God used us for reaching out to them who are in need!” Jeremy ”Bamskie” Johan from Gospel Graffiti crew told me. This kind of scene is normal, the legal spot where they graffiti is a dark atmosphere. Around drugs and alcohol but they are there to spread the gospel! They’re respected for it, even a sort of counsellor to those around them.
“Graffiti is largely about self glorification. What a perfect opportunity to be different in a world where it’s all about yourself and we say it’s all about Jesus.” – Dj Promote
In the city of San Francisco, where only about four percent of the population are Christians, Cameron “chef camer1” Moberg told me God has given him opportunity to share Christ and teach others about graffiti. “God ministers right back to us. We see the face of Jesus in each person we make a connection with.”
“It’s there for everybody.” -Battle
A Christian man in this car going through a crisis turns to God in prayer. After his sincere prayer he looks up and sees an encouraging bible verse on the wall: a Christian graffiti piece in France. He gets in touch with the crew to show some support. “Reading my bible motivates me to use graffiti to write messages to non-Christian but also to encourage Christians.” Frank of gospelonwallz states.
Battle, a member of the Gospel Graffiti crew in Canada, goes into a satanic metal bar. He asks them to do a piece on the wall. They glance at his profile and agree except they just don’t want the name of Jesus on the wall. So he does a piece of a man with a beer can in one hand and cigarette in the other walking on a tightrope. The tightrope is about to snap, the man is off balances: he’s drunk. He going to step and fall and that was the end of him. Battle describes it as the fall of sin. This satanic metal bar was a historic landmark but about a week after he painted the piece the bar was torn down! God is truly working through is movement, this isn’t even half of the stories there are many more!
“People are afraid of what they don’t know……It’s impossible to contemn a whole genre.” – “Joax”
I’m tired of Christians just looking at something and claiming its evil. I seen it done with Christian rapping, HHH music in genre, dancing and also Christian graffiti. I tired of people just pointing the evil in the world genre and classifying the whole medium as evil. Dj Promote, a former graffiti artist, told me “Jesus sees the heart sometimes we just see the outward appearance (clothes, music, etc.) and assume its evil.” Why are we so quick to judge? Can we see God’s purpose plan? Always judging, encouragement is what we need as a body!
“We must all understand that anything can be bad, God can and will use it for His glory and His purpose.”- “chef camer1”
We are suppose to be imitators of Christ, the salt and light of the earth, but before God’s grace, we were like hip hop music or graffiti in general so to speak. We all have a sinful past but He redeemed us as sinful as we were. Why can’t He do the same to the hip hop culture? Think about it! Frank of gospelonwallz suggest “Maybe instead of using energy to fight against the way God wants to use it, they should look for a medium to share the language of the Good News.”
“Everything can be redeemed, even what the devil meant for evil God can turn into good!” – Battle
“Not a lot of people are doing it, it’s a shame…it has a lot of power and potential, it can change a city.” –Battle
Each artist encourages people to get involved, sketch, sketch, sketch come to the forums ask questions sketch some more and connect with other fellow Christian graffiti artists! Love Christ, live the life and ask God if it’s His will for you to be involved.
“I would say be a Godly person. Don’t use graffiti art or hip-hop as a way to fill up the world with more propaganda. If you want to change the lives of others then be a “real person”. Interact and care for people and don’t treat society like a market place to get your message across. God loved the world so much that he gave his most precious possession, if we’re just giving our opinion, that doesn’t hold much weight.”- Dj Promote
All I gotta say is…
God is working through this Christian Graffiti Movement! All I ask from you my fellow brothers and sisters is to keep these artists in your prayers! Although they are respect in some area they’re also persecuted for Christ name sake. To me personally although it might be under the radar Christian graffiti artists are the new breed of missionary! Invisible to the world, but God speaks through their work!
“We are Graffiti artist that love Christ. We are not pushing any agenda or trying to follow any movement. We are simply people who have been transformed by the love of Jesus Christ and he lives in us. If art is an expression of what is inside of us, how can our art not reflect the God in which we serve?” – “chef camer1”