Tattoos and Theological Education: In Common Cause to Change the World

Tattoos and Theological Education

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Tattoos and Theological Education: In Common Cause to Change the World

Last night I attended a high school fair that featured non-traditional educational opportunities for high school graduates. I was intrigued by how many of the organizations’ reps, the ones standing next to the colorful tablecloths loaded with brochures, signup sheets and candy, had come to their work through some deep encounter with engagement in the world, usually outside the United States.

I was more interested in their stories than the sales pitches they were expected to deliver. After some polite chatter with one young woman I noticed that she had tattooed on her left arm in bold letters: "Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God."

So I asked her, "Tell me about your tattoo."

Her face lit up and for the next ten minutes she talked and talked. She told me about her Lutheran church back home and about the Lutheran pastor who took them on mission trips, how she ended up in Uganda and working at an orphanage. Five minutes into the story I wondered when she was going to answer my question, until I realized that I knew exactly what she was doing. Her tattoo was an expression of declaration, a form of proclamation, and her commitment to endure through God’s love.

"Have you ever thought about going to seminary?" I asked.

I watched her freeze and I actually think she stopped breathing for a moment. She would not have been more taken aback if I suggested she try out for the Seattle Seahawks.

"I am very spiritual, but I am not religious."

"I understand," I responded.

She shot back "I mean, look at all the bad things that are happening because of religion.""I agree.""I believe in God, but I am not sure of all the rest of it.""I know the feeling. That is how I felt and still feel. That is why I went to seminary."My response seemed to both shock and intrigue her. The idea that seminary was a place to ask questions and that ministry was […]