Religious tattoos more than skin deep

It’s a Wednesday afternoon. The cloudy grey skies and wet cement leaves Capital City Tattooz empty, but the artists are still hard at work. Pictures and drawings of a variety of tattoos are mounted on the walls.

Tag, a tattoo artist, is busy at work. He’s hunched over his table, meticulously sketching a religious tattoo for a customer. Something he does “probably daily; weekly, for sure,” in over 20 years of working in the tattoo industry.

Andre Simmons, 24, a fourth year political science student from Fort Lauderdale, has No Weapon tattooed on his forearm.

“It’s inspirational,” Simmons said. “It comes from my favorite song, “No Weapon” by Fred Hammond. I live my life by that. So I decided to get the tattoo. When I’m down and out, I can look down at my arm.”

Willie Haynes, 20, a third year computer engineering student from Tampa, has praying hands on his upper left arm with his name on top; a representation of how far he’s come.

“I know the things that I do and basically all the stuff that I’ve been through before coming into college. I knew he had his hands on me and he was watching over me. So, if it wasn’t for him [Jesus], I wouldn’t be where I am now,” Haynes said.

With religion and tattoos constantly coming up in the same subject, it presents the question of legitimacy. Many think having a tattoo is a contradiction of beliefs, religious or not.

Sarah Lee, 20, a third year political science student from West Palm Beach does not have any tattoos, but she does not believe it makes her better than anyone else.

“I’m not against it. However, the Bible does say things about decorating your body,” Lee said. “God made you perfect already. So there’s no need for anything extra like tattoos or earrings, but considering that I do have earrings and other stuff, I think that it is upon themselves and their religious views.”

For Haynes, getting a tattoo is no bigger a sin than the next.

“It’s not going to change the walk I have with Jesus. We all sin, so it’s just a sin that I’ve committed,” Haynes said.

Pastor Cyrus Flanagan from Family Worship & Praise Center frequently receives questions from young men and women who are considering getting tattoos.

“I usually ask them what their purpose is; What’s the statement? Many, even Christians, say they do it because their friends do it, or because it’s apart of the culture. So really, not many give me an answer that makes sense as to why they are doing this to their bodies except peer pressure and wanting to fit in,” Flanagan said.

According to him, having a religious tattoo doesn’t speak to the relationship one may have with God.

“It’s like a rapper who has a cross on his neck. He’s a gang banger, does drugs [and] sells drugs, but he has a big cross on his neck. It doesn’t speak of his faith. It’s symbolism about God but you really don’t walk in the ways of God,” Flanagan said.

For some, tattoos are just a form of art they enjoy displaying on their body. For others, there lies a deeper meaning. For some, like Pastor Flanagan, it would never be an option.