Vandalism stinks

Pastoral Messages | February 23, 2023

I love to try and wrap my head around things I don’t understand, to learn something about all that I don’t know. Usually this journey is rewarding; sometimes it’s fruitless, though, leaving little more than an empty feeling.

Case in point: vandalism. I do not understand how vandals derive satisfaction from destroying or defacing property that is not their own. It doesn’t add to anything that resembles what I would call a sense of meaning in life. Maybe I’m looking at the matter too deeply. Still, I wonder, how one sleeps at night after maliciously attacking the joy and creativity of builders, artists, and neighbors.

Davenport, Iowa built an attractive welcome sign last year for motorists entering the city from the east end. The attractive stone and steel sign was years in the making. It wasn’t cheap to build or electrify, complete with internal lighting. And then one-night last month, some vandal decided to spray paint the sign in such a way that no manner of scrubbing will ever bring the sign back to what it was.

About four blocks from my house, a large steel sculpture was installed eight years ago along the Duck Creek bike trail. Here was an eight-foot-tall dandelion made out of steel, like other art projects along the park trail, the product of a local artist commissioned by the park board. It was striking in detail, attractive in design. Some fool took a baseball bat to the heavy steel, however, and that was the end of that piece of art. Twice more it has been replaced with other large abstract steel art and, in both instances, vandalized again.

I think I can grasp some of the psychological motivations behind the work of vandals. Perhaps it’s boredom or frustration in their lives, or a misguided sense of play. Maybe there’s some revenge to exact or malicious anger to carry out. All I know is that vandalism makes me ill. It’s a form of public theft from others – stealing away joy and contentment in undeserved ways.

Before I presume to suggest that vandals are only other people with spray paint and baseball bats, however, I probably ought to look in the mirror. There are countless ways in which my own living habits – fossil fuels I burn, kitchen countertops I enjoy, garbage I yield, etc. – all steal from or deface the beauty of creation. It’s not malicious vandalism, mind you, but it is still theft from another. Maybe I’m sleeping too well because I keep forgetting that I don’t own the world beneath my feet. It’s God’s creation. And on this day at least, I probably need to expand my definition of vandalism.

-Peter W. Marty, senior pastor

6 Comments on “Vandalism stinks”

  • elizabeth gosma

    February 27, 2023 at 12:57 am

    There are things like this that none of us can control.. it is very disappointing and frustrating when these things happen, but the individuals who are making these moves most likely have more grave situations than we do. God help all of us.

  • Barbrie Denato

    February 25, 2023 at 2:24 pm

    Well said! Enjoyed reading this!

  • Jerry Linn

    February 23, 2023 at 4:47 pm

    Excellent message, Peter. Cheryl & I enjoyed it very much. Jerry

  • Susan Grove

    February 23, 2023 at 3:55 pm

    I too liked that dandelion! I was just assuming it was just moved to another location. Sad day for the artist and also for all of us who enjoyed its joyful presence. I’m glad St. Paul has a group who reminds us about caring for the earth – regularly helping to keep our church neighborhood free from the trash vandals.

  • vicki felger

    February 23, 2023 at 3:07 pm

    Well and bravely said! Thank you!

  • Marcia Jensen

    February 23, 2023 at 2:29 pm

    Ha! I was full of righteous indignation until I got to the last few sentences! Well, done!

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