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Would Jesus Have A Tattoo?

August 9, 2018

Yes. I think so.

I am a Boomer. Think Old. We, the old, associate tattoos with being drunk (or high). But that is not why I think my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, would have a tattoo if he popped up in the never ending line at Starbucks. He had a good 30 years of being fully human before, well, you know. So it is likely that he would have gotten any amount of body art, no matter what his dad thought of it.

We dads are a judgmental lot. My one criteria for evidence of success in parenting was simple: by age 21 our sons have no drug use or tattoos in their lives. By that criteria, we are validated. (They are 26 and 28)

One of our children is a full Episcopalian, by any hope and measure, for life. But we would plotz if the Episcopal-Shield was seen inked on his shoulder.

We Boomers feel this way because in our world view no one in their right mind would permanently color their skin, especially when you are so young that whole cuisines have yet to be tasted. Tattoos are not a hangover, they do not go away. Especially if they happen in the fog of youth. They are considered with the same depth of thought as a haircut. But hair grows out.

I knew I was going to be an architect when I was 16. I could have gotten a tattoo then, “ARCHITECT” and that would have worked out. Except I think tattoos are, well, not me.

When most tattoos are applied, those tattooed have no life mate, no career, no kids – just interests opportunities, risks. In other words you are young. Botox wears off. Implants can be removed, hair color only colors the hairs it touches. You can lose weight. Change clothes.

But it is very (very) hard to remove a tattoo.

To be young in the 21st century means that nominally defining yourself by being part of a faith is no longer operative.
In New England the question “What church does she go to?” was once part of the interpersonal download, but it’s now a non-issue. Of course she does not go to church.

But she probably has a tattoo, somewhere.

Getting inked is now as much a part of life as any visible expression of yourself. Just like religion used to be. Harris Interactive says that 50% of those under 30 (and over 18) have tattoos – roughly the same percentage who never, ever, attend church (according to Gallup).

In one generation going to church is less expected than having a tattoo.

Tattoos cost a lot, take time, even pain. They express “This is me” and “I am not you.”

But in a place where faith in anything larger than your immediate life is increasingly lame, tattoos manifest and project that the tattooed have an obvious and “out” faith in their control.

“I can do this.” “This is me.” “So cool.”

All me, all the time: and everyone sees that declaration, or at least your intimates.

Getting tatts is a devotional act. You are devoted to you. That time, money, pain is all in the name of expressing yourself. Nothing wrong with that. If I did not exercise 1.5 hours 6.7 times a week I could use that 10 hours a week to feed the homeless, but I know working out makes my life better, longer.

However I know, that no matter much I work out that in the end I do not control much, because God is the bottom line, not me. It’s a buzz kill for those who are living in the self-empowerment world.

The thrill of control has seen a unique explosion in a decade of popularized tattooing. Body art probably offers the highest amount of expression for your investment of time and money. Tatts offer more change per dollar than any other cosmetic reality of hair, clothes, even weight. I know those who lift weights not to gain strength but to look like they lift weights.

My guess is that if you really felt you had complete control you would not be getting tattoos. But we want what getting ink offers: evidence of our capability to determine at least that part of our destiny.

But a great career, sex, hair, pecs are only great in the moment others perceive them, just like tatts, in the end, alone, in bed, the car, the hospital no one is seeing your tattoo. I want great hair, but my bald spot grows every day.

No matter who you are, no matter your glory, your grossness, your confusion, whether aethiest or evangelist, it is pretty clear that Jesus was just like the rest of us, but wait, no – he wasn’t. Three years of making the revelation that there is meaning beyond this life changed many lives.

But for 30 years Jesus didn’t know there was more to life than tattoos, and other attempts to define and control a life that was, like all other lives, often disappointing, if not depressing. Like so many of his generation if he was around now, my guess is he would be inked. I just wonder what the tatt would express


One Comment leave one →
  1. August 9, 2018 1:55 pm


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