The video above is an inspirational TedX talk given by Ron Finley, an artist and designer who aspires to ameliorate the health disparities in South Central Los Angeles. The obesity rate in his neighborhood is much higher than in the incredibly affluent Beverly Hills, which is within walking distance. The difference? – his neighborhood is littered with fast food and convenience stores while those who live in the gated Beverly Hills have access to the fresh, typically more expensive healthier vegetables and fruits. His resolve to undo this injustice and inequality? – plant a garden! I won’t simply summarize his video for you, but I believe this presents a wonderful opportunity to outline the subversive imagination of God’s Kingdom that Christians really ought to have! All throughout the gospels, we get this imagery that compares Christ to/ calls him a “Lord” or “King”. But…he’s not very kingly? He’s lowly, meek and mild…yet, he’s King! He has an army of followers who do not promote empire through military might or brain washing but neighborly love and discipleship through love, peace, and forgiveness. What kind of King/Kingdom is this!? It’s one unlike anything we’ve seen before! Instead of God’s Scepter being one of gold and adorned with the most precious gems, it’s a scepter of righteousness! It’s part of what makes calling Christ , “King” feel so good- because He’s not very kingly( by the world’s standards)at all. It’s like by calling Him King, we’re almost peaceably mocking and redifining what a true King/Kingdom ought to be like. In the video, Finley says that he is trading in the spraying can for the garden hoe – his gardening IS his graffiti! What kind of graffiti is this? It’s unlike anything we’ve seen before! In a land troubled with gang violence and constant police presence/aggression, Finley has resolved not to engage in guerilla warfare but guerilla gardening! No longer does a gangster meet in the streets with guns but in the garden with tools- he’s radically redefining what a gangster is!
I’m not sure what Ron Finley believes but regardless I applaud him and honor his subversive imagination that is totally in-line with what Christ has in mind! In a land of drive-thrus and drive-bys ( where the drive-thrus are actually killing more people), what Finley is doing kind of reminds me of the book of Ezekial with the Valley of the Dry Bones:
Ezekial 37 (NIV)
9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
Imagine new ways to be subversive- undo the ills of this world!