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Getting ink for Lent

Getting ink for Lent

Lent, we often remind ourselves this time of year, does not exist that we may rend our souls. Pastor Chris Seay at Houston’s Ecclesia has taken it a step further by commissioning tattoos for the explicit purpose of decorating the flesh for Lent – and, of course, long after.


Seay’s church offered ten different tattoo forms for Stations of the Cross (some stations apparently didn’t translate well to this medium[?]). The response was overwhelming, as more than 50 have so far stepped forward to get Lenten ink.

Art is important at Ecclesia, so naturally the event created an opportunity to do a photographic installation. Some stunning work was done.

Sounds like plain-old good evangelism to me. And a heralding, perhaps, of things to come.

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Dave Paisley

Sorry folks, those tattoos are awful. Not that there’s ever been a tattoo that I would ever classify as good. Some are just less awful than others. And Chris Seay is a hipster pastor of a hipster church. Not that he’s a bad person, but it is what it is.

Tattoos are more addiction than art.

Erik Campano

Tattooing a Christian symbol on your body can also be a way that you try to force or convince yourself to believe. It can be like saying to yourself: “I’m not allowed to fully doubt anymore — not with this cross/lamb/fish tattooed on me.” I think in those cases, it would be better to leave your skin clear of Christian symbols. That way, if you ever do go into that dark night of the soul, you can do it fully, without having to look away from your own body. I.e., painting yourself with a permanent Christian landmark can be a form of cheating when the you get lost in the maze of faith.

Erik Campano

Erik Campano

I’m not entirely with you on this one. Tattooing a Christian symbol on your body can also be a way that someone tries to force or convince themselves to believe. It can be like saying to oneself: “I’m not allowed to fully doubt anymore — not with this cross/lamb/fish tattooed on me.” I think in those cases, it would be better to leave your skin clear of Christian symbols. That way, if you ever do go into that dark night of the soul, you can do it fully, without having to look away from your own body. I.e., tattooing yourself with a Christian symbol can be a form of cheating when you start to really doubt your faith.

Benedict Varnum

I think a more-appropriate stance in response to this might be, “Tell me how changing your tats changes your heart?” For some, the question may find the sort of vacuity that the original, brief post seemed to imagine. But for others, I suspect this would open up quite a conversation.

I have several good friends who have tattoos to remind them of, among other things, loved ones and important life experiences. I also know people who wear necklaces, charms and medallions that belonged to people they’ve lost. All of which is to say, my sense of the gospel is that we do better to hold curiosity and imagination for our brothers and sisters who find God differently than we do than to declare that we have no need of them.

I actually suspect more of the discomfort comes from the idea that a church community created these symbols and recommended them to its members, but I can easily imagine parishes where that would be a part of their common life.

Hipster schlock? The Book of Acts shows the Holy Spirit entering new context after new context . . . it never got to the incense-and-sanctus-bells crowd, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt without dismissing their faith communities. Same with the Celtic mystics at Iona, and the emotive musicians of mid-20th-century liturgical reform. Things like U2charists and Beatles masses may speak more to the generation above me than my own, but I don’t find those who draw messages out of the imaginations of modern musicians and into their faith life any less of faithful people than a Justin or Irenaeus declaring that Greek philosophers had glimpsed the Logos without understanding that it was Christ, the Word of God, and going on to use the language of Plato to try to make sense of God-with-us.

Alissa Goudswaard

Perhaps for some a tattoo may serve as a sort of outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace? 🙂

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