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Rite of passage parenting: Tattoo-a-thon

Not long ago, I had an interesting night. I spent a couple of hours at a tattoo parlor. I guess you still call them parlors. My grandmother had a parlor, but it looked nothing like this one.

I visited a place called Spaded & Jaded in Tulsa. Six tattoo artists wanted to raise money for cancer research, so they decided to hold a 24-hour tattooathon. If you donated $50, you got a free tattoo.

The event started on Friday at 5 p.m. and went until 5 the next evening. Caleb Moore, the pastor of Tulsa, Logos, asked if his church could supply free food. Without much fanfare, the church set up a barbecue grill and a table with all of the fixings for hot dogs, along with chips and drinks. At 5 p.m., the line began to form. Soon, the little waiting room was packed tight and a large group gathered outside. That night, I made a few observations:

1. Those gathered to receive tattoos represented an unreached people group largely ignored by most churches. We talk a lot about unreached people groups overseas, but right here is an ever-growing group of people who embrace a different lifestyle. For the most part, the more tattoos and body piercings they have, the more uncomfortable we become. Sometimes we need to be like Jesus, Who Scripture says was “listening to them and asking questions” (Luke 2:46). If you take the time to talk with people, you’ll find that their needs and ours are the same.

2. They are not by and large anti-Jesus or God; they are anti-church. Many of their tattoos have religious overtones, and they love to talk about spiritual things. But when they come to our churches, what Sunday School class do we put them in? I’m not sure we have a place for a man whose nickname is “Goat.” They think the church is for those who are good, not a sanctuary for those in pain, troubled or different.

3. They have a community. Those who signed up for a tattoo at 10 that night didn’t get in to see an artist until 5 the next morning. And no one ever waited alone. Friends, strangers, all waited together. If you walked up, they would move over and give you a place to sit. Even without words, you knew you were accepted. When they found out I didn’t have a tattoo, they offered to take up a collection to buy me one. I was touched, but declined. I wonder if this group understands community better than today’s church.

4. This culture attracts people of all ages, occupations, ethnicity and social status. I saw students, homeless people, grandmothers, businessmen, bikers, veterans, Christians and cowboys all standing in one line. I wish we had this same line waiting to get into our churches.

5. I asked a number of them what kind of tattoo they were getting. All those I heard about were connected to relationships. One man showed me two tattoos he already had, the same as those of his departed grandfather. He got emotional as he talked about his grandfather and how much he admired him. But that night, he was getting a tattoo of a sparrow holding a ribbon with his grandmother’s name on it in its beak. I talked to another woman who was getting a tattoo of the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon with her mother’s name below. Doctors caught the cancer in the early stages, and her mom is now five years cancer-free. She wanted to celebrate with a tattoo.

6. They affirmed and celebrated together. No matter what tattoo someone got, everyone admired it. The group praised each tattoo whether on the back, ankle or arm. “If it matters to you, it matters to us” seemed to be the unwritten theme of the night.

7. Outsiders were welcome. Have you ever seen a children’s book where the object is to identify which three objects are alike and which one doesn’t belong? It didn’t take long for people to notice that I was the odd one out. But as my son took me through the back door to meet some of the artists, they all welcomed me. Even the legendary artist, “Goat,” stopped what he was doing and welcomed me.

What did I learn? We are the same everywhere. We are all looking for meaningful relationships. We all need community, acceptance and validation. Sometimes, I wish the world could find that more often in the body of Christ. Mom and Dad, if your children don’t find community, acceptance at home and in the church, the world will provide alternatives.

I’m glad there is a church that will stand outside a tattoo parlor and love the people Jesus loved. Way to go, Logos Church!

 

Walker Moore

Author: Walker Moore

View more articles by Walker Moore.

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  • Kaci Lusk

    I love this article and understand the sentiment behind it, but I also find it a little offensive. I am a Christian, a Sunday School teacher, a mother, a substitute school teacher. I have MANY tattoos. I love that this article is talking about the human-ness of the Tattooed, but having tattoos is not necessarily a “culture” of people. It is not necessarily any specific group as such. We are people, we are Christians, we are you. I challenge you, who think of the Tattooed as a sub-culture, to ask in your next church service or Bible study how many people there have a tattoo. It’s not just bikers and sailors any longer: it’s teachers, mothers, doctors, fathers, everyone. There are so many out there who don’t feel comfortable in church and guess what? They’re not all tattooed. We need to get off of our padded pews and into the world to reach them while there is still time.

  • Walker Moore

    Kaci, God bless you in your ministry, that is amazing all the things you do.! The word culture is not a negative term. It is defined as “The characteristics of a particular group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts.” So by definition tattoos is a culture as the same with musicians, artists, preachers or writers there is a common denominator that hold defines the group. What should be the bigger denominator/culture is that we are Christ followers. I agree with you about that we not call these wonderful people a sub-culture, we are all equal at the cross, Jesus died for us all. You are so right we do need to get off our padded pew…We must remember what Jesus said in John 9:4, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. So keep up the good work!

  • Jacqueline Nicole Goodrich

    I was disappointed to read this after seeing it so highly praised in my Facebook newsfeed. You have a valid, and somewhat positive point ultimately. Unfortunately that is completely lost in the numbered points you laid out. You start off immediately assuming that anyone gathering at a tattoo studio is lost or against church and living a “different lifestyle.” My husband and I grew up in baptist churches. We served on youth praise teams, we have lead bible studies, and now we raise our children to know the love of God and what the precious blood of Jesus has done for us. My husband has a number of tattoos. See, he is a soldier. A wounded combat soldier. We were called as a family to minister to others through military service for our country. One of his larger tattoos is a scene with the arch angel carrying a fallen soldier to heaven. One dear friend of mine has a tattoo on her foot that she started having done at the very moment her husband was paying the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom while serving in Afghanistan. I assure you that our “lifestyle” is no different than yours. We cherish our daily walk with Christ and strive to be the most godly parents we can be through him. We will not only GIVE our children acceptance and community at home but we will teach them how to create that for others, which is the point that is lost here. Your right to make assumptions about such a large group of people is not Biblical. Looks do not tell you whether a person is saved, back sliding or thriving in their walk. Their heart and actions reveal that and until they are revealed it is not our place to assume and further divide with stereotypes. And if you feel led to reach out it is okay to just straight up ask, like Jesus often did, where they stand on salvation and church. Be willing to minister to everyone like Jesus, but it’s not okay to use your expectations as a label for people.

  • Franki Presson

    Lovely article! As the tattoed wife of a tattoed evangelist I’m excited you got to experience something outside your comfort zone and come away with some nice insights! Very Cool!

  • Adrienne

    I just read this article today. I read some of the other comments. This article made me cry, because this is what people think that people with tattoos are not Christians. I am from a small town and go to a small church. Sometimes I feel like a person with a tattoo is look down more on than some that was once on drugs, alcoholic, or even a cheater. I was raised in church but when I went to college I felt away from church and Jesus. I did some things that I should not had. In that time I got few tattoos one of them I got was with by best friend we healed each other hands while we got are tattoos. She has MS and is poor health now. We are tattoo sisters. I have been ask to remove it by people that go to church or if I want to remove the one on my back. This has been at my church I go too. I tell them the story of each they just look funny. I now teach VBS each year for 2 years now and want to be missionary. I do that that more church’s and Christians need to be like Jesus and see the soul not how they look on the out side. Their are lot of people who say they are Christians but they are not that Christ like. They lose their cool they cannot forgive, they judge. By saying this I am judging them. If you are true person of Christ you will not care what they look like all you see is their soul. I think that is great that Logo Church did this more churches need to where Jesus would go. I know not all were lost but this is any area where churches don’t go.

  • Donna Branch

    I love that about Logos too, and that event was hosted by my brother-in-law’s organization, Cancer Sucks. A few months ago, I was praying to find someone who my daughter’s fiance’ would feel comfortable with to do their premarital counseling. He wasn’t raised in church, and they had already rejected a couple of options that I had suggested. God led me to reach out to Caleb, who had done their senior baccalaureate. They agreed to attend a church service with us at Logos, and Caleb and Adrian did their counseling. Caleb married them on May 22 and I am so grateful for their ministry.

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