October 12th, 2013
08:50 PM ET

A journey of faith in five tattoos

Opinion by the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, special to CNN

(CNN) - The first tattoo I got was meant to set me apart from my conservative suburban Christian community, a way to signify “I don't belong to your tribe.”

Little did I realize that if I lived long enough I’d eventually become mainstream.

Tattoos now cover me from shoulder to wrist, but with the ubiquity of body art today, in many of the places I hang out I look more like a soccer mom than an outlaw.

Even the ill-advised and regrettable tattoos are part of my story, and ultimately, that’s what tattoos are: a way to wear stories–– our mistakes, celebrations, relationships, insights and losses–– on the skin.

Today, as an ordained Lutheran pastor, when I stand behind the altar table on Sundays and lift up the bread and wine and tell the story of the night Jesus gathered with his faltering friends for a meal that tasted of freedom, the arms that lift those common and holy things are themselves, common.

But they are covered in images of the holy.

These tattoos, both the Christian and decidedly non-Christian ones, tell the story of how I became who I am today. An unlikely lady preacher who loves Jesus a lot, but also swears a little.

1. The long-stemmed rose

It was 1986 and I was dating an older man when I got my first tattoo.

He was 20. I was in high school and not legally of age to do many of the things he introduced me to.

The biker dude at the tattoo shop didn’t ask my age. We were in and out of the dingy, little converted bungalow in half an hour. My body was forever altered. As was my attitude. The long-stemmed rose inked on my right hip set me apart. Now I. Was. An. Outlaw. The most Outlaw Church of Christ girl out there.

I don’t show a lot of people that very first tattoo. I tipped the scale at 236 pounds when I was pregnant with my first child, so that long-stemmed rose tattoo, which at the time was the self-affirmation of a really tall teenage girl, is now an unidentifiable blobby stretch mark which can easily double as a Rorschach test. So…what do YOU think this is?

2. The Peace Dove

I would get my second tattoo a year or two later after hitchhiking up Highway 101 to San Francisco from Pepperdine University, where I failed out after a single term, having succeeded more in impressing frat boys with my ability to drink like a man than in actually showing up for class.

I got a peace dove tattooed onto my ankle at the famous Lyle Tuttle Tattoo shop. I fancied myself a revolutionary at the time, and was getting arrested at protests–– when I was coherent enough to show up for them. I wanted to change the world but I had a hard enough time remembering to change my socks.

3. The Snake Goddess

When I was a young adult, everything felt like a crisis, as though my skin was letting too much in. Too many emotions and fears and threats and uncertainties.

I needed my skin to protect me, so I had tattooed on my arm an image of the Snake Goddess from a pre-historic Minoan society. She wore a long skirt, and was shirtless, and in each hand she held snakes above her head.

At 21, I needed to be strong and so I did the next best thing: I pretended I was. I claimed the strongest sacred image of a woman I could find, since my fundamentalist Christian upbringing had nothing helpful to offer in this area, and I knew I needed to borrow something from somewhere holy.

4. Saint Mary Magdalen

I got my first Christian tattoo in seminary: an image of Saint Mary Magdalen taken from Saint Alban’s Psalter, a 12th-century illuminated manuscript.

One hand is opened to heaven, while the other makes a pointing gesture as though to say “Shut the hell up, I have something to tell you.”

The other half of this depiction of Mary Magdalen announcing the resurrection did not fit on my arm. It’s a huddled mass of male disciples with befuddled looks on their faces, several of them pointing stupidly at scrolls.

I’d returned to the religion (but not the denomination) I was raised in, after 10 years searching elsewhere. I was struggling with my call to ordained Christian ministry for many reasons, including my own checkered past and a decidedly non-pastoral personality.

I started to study more about Mary Magdalen, again borrowing strength from a sacred female figure.

On my right forearm is the image of this deeply faithful, yet deeply flawed woman, who, like me, had been delivered from so much, and who had dropped everything to follow Jesus. Jesus, who loves like crazy and eats with all the wrong people and touches the unclean, chose Mary to be the first witness to his resurrection.

She was the one he chose to “go and tell”. Maybe to those more pious and good disciples, she seemed a questionable choice for the job. But Jesus is just like that.

5. The Liturgical Year

As a seminary graduation present to myself, my Snake Goddess was covered by the Advent image of a night sky from which the angel Gabriel announces to Elizabeth and Zechariah that they are going to have a bug-eating desert-dwelling baby boy: John the Baptist.

From this flows images of the church’s entire liturgical year. My arm has turned into a sort of stained-glass window telling the story of Jesus: a nativity for Christmas; Jesus in the desert for Lent; the Marys at either side of Jesus’ crucifixion for Good Friday; the angel and the women at the empty tomb for Easter; and Mary and the apostles with flames on their heads for Pentecost at my wrist.

I didn’t see it as a cover-up of the Snake Goddess as much as a layering of my story. My tattoos create a colorful confession of my journey to the cranky, beautiful faith I hold today.

The enormous image of the Annunciation currently in progress on my back that hides the black scratchy tattoo Jimmy the Junkie gave me in his living room….now that’s a coverup.

But that’s another story for another time.

The Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber is author of the New York Times Best Selling memoir, "Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint," and the founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Faith • Jesus • Opinion

soundoff (809 Responses)
  1. bananas

    Observy snake, u better delete this fast, honey. U don't want the truth leaking out, do u? Lol. Can't wait to c u in court, my precious. U disgusting, vile piece of dung

    October 21, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • bananas

      O yes, what is a cvnt face?

      October 21, 2013 at 9:31 am |
      • bananas

        My love, hmm? What is a domkie punchin but hurt in spray face cheeks full in front of pallin's retarded kid? U never did comment on your threat to rpe her.

        October 21, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • Anthony Crispino

      I didn't know people in the funny farm had internet access. My brother Joey knows a guy in there that can tell you how many raisins are in his oatmeal before he takes his first bite.

      October 21, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  2. Al Moonlight

    "unidentifiable blobby stretch mark" Yep, that is what they will all look like eventually. And the kids will grow thinking of tattoos as an old person's thing.

    October 19, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
  3. Sonoma

    Carving the words of God in our hearts is important and that is the only thing that needs to be etched in our hearts and minds – the scriptures.

    2 Corinthians 3:3 – clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.

    October 17, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • Reality # 2

      Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

      The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.

      October 17, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
      • Laurence Charles Ringo

        Blah,blah,blah...I find it both amusing and sad that instead of meeting Jesus yourself"reality#2",you allow youself to be so easily influenced in your thinking by so-called"contemporary scholars",whatever THAT means.A word of advice:Just because you have a bunch of alphabets trailing your name,that's no guarantee you know what your're talking about!These tiresome,boring canards about who Jesus supposedly was and is have been churned out by these so-called scholars for years;the only people who are even remotely impressed by them are these pseudo-"intellectuals"and people who are too lazy to find out the truth about Jesus themselves.(Or who are too cowardly.)Thankfully we have literally thousands of years of knowledge and experience backing up the claims of who THE SAVIOR really is,knowledge,experience,AND wisdom that all these so-called scholars lined up elbow-to-butthole will NEVER make a dent in!Don't forget Reality#2:We've got scholars too,if you want to go that route! But again,my advice to YOU:Meet Jesus yourself.Let HIM tell you who HE is.PEACE & LOVE IN HIS NAME.

        October 20, 2013 at 9:13 am |
        • sam stone

          all this talk about meeting jesus, laurence, what have YOU done to meet jesus?

          do you have tall buildings where you live?

          October 21, 2013 at 6:13 am |
        • bananas

          Darling, mind your own business. Prepare to meet THY god

          October 21, 2013 at 9:26 am |
  4. perdy

    who cares? god sees the heart

    October 17, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
  5. sbgob82

    I'm appalled at the number of people who think their personal opinion towards tattoos is the only thing that matters. First of all, Leviticus does speak against marking the skin...but it's written in a very specific context. If you follow that part of Leviticus, then also remember that you probably should never cut your hair (or shave), wear make-up, eat most foods you probably eat, etc. Simple case of people taking biblical text out of context to serve their own wants.

    Personally, I used to be against tattoos, and I strongly believe that you should really think about it and be willing to accept all consequences of said artwork before getting it done. However, I have about 10 hours worth of work on my body now and plan to get more in the future. Most of it is hidden, and some people are surprised that I'm inked. So, clearly I didn't do it to be seen. I see tattoos as scars that I am able to choose. Many of us face physical challenges that leave us physically scarred. I personally don't see much difference in choosing an occasional permanent feature on my own body.

    I grew up in a small southern bible-belt town, and I am a Christian now active in my church. I've learned, though, that I want to be surrounded by open-minded believers who aren't going to quote Leviticus ignorantly every time they see at tattoo. I don't want to hear people say, "oh what a shame, she was so pretty...then she got that tattoo." Ugh. Like it or not, we have the right to choose what we do to our own bodies.

    October 17, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • perdy

      like you

      October 17, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • perdy

      you have the right to be ugly

      October 17, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
      • John

        God sees that your heart is ugly.

        October 19, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
  6. Conspiracy Man

    The only statement, by definition, that she can make with a tattoo is a fashion statement. Congratulations.

    October 17, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  7. David @ Red Letter Believers

    She is a local pastor and is impacted a segment of society.
    I do agree that most tatoos are selfish in nature - and eventually regrettable.

    October 17, 2013 at 9:52 am |
  8. bananas

    After existing in the dark, boring world of atheism, me and thousands of my fellow cursed brethren found the christian religion/god and r thrilled

    October 17, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • Hmmm

      I tend not to mind the dark, but the boring....yeah. I can't handle the boring.

      October 21, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
  9. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    Someone mentioned this classic earlier. It deserves posting here.


    October 16, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Oh Lydia, oh Lydia, say, have you met Lydia?
      Lydia The Tattooed Lady.
      She has eyes that folks adore so,
      and a torso even more so.
      Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclo-pidia.
      Oh Lydia The Queen of Tattoo.
      On her back is The Battle of Waterloo.
      Beside it, The Wreck of the Hesperus too.
      And proudly above waves the red, white, and blue.
      You can learn a lot from Lydia!


      When her robe is unfurled she will show you the world,
      if you step up and tell her where.
      For a dime you can see Kankakee or Paree,
      or Washington crossing The Delaware.


      Oh Lydia, oh Lydia, say, have you met Lydia?
      Lydia The Tattooed Lady.
      When her muscles start relaxin',
      up the hill comes Andrew Jackson.
      Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclo-pidia.
      Oh Lydia The Queen of them all.
      For two bits she will do a mazurka in jazz,
      with a view of Niagara that nobody has.
      And on a clear day you can see Alcatraz.
      You can learn a lot from Lydia!


      Come along and see Buffalo Bill with his lasso.
      Just a little classic by Mendel Picasso.
      Here is Captain Spaulding exploring the Amazon.
      Here's Godiva, but with her pajamas on.


      Here is Grover Whelan unveilin' The Tryon (a statue at the 1939 World Fair)
      Over on the west coast we have Treasure Islan(d)
      Here's Nijinsky a-doin' the rhumba.
      Here's her social security numba.


      Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclo-pidia.
      Oh Lydia The Champ of them all.
      She once swept an Admiral clear off his feet.
      The ships on her hips made his heart skip a beat.
      And now the old boy's in command of the fleet,
      for he went and married Lydia!

      I said Lydia...
      (He said Lydia...)
      They said Lydia...
      We said Lydia, la, la!

      October 16, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
      • High five

        Lydia oh Lydia that encyclopedia....

        October 21, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I missed the intro:

      Ah Lydia
      She was the most glorious creature under the sun
      Thaïs, du Barry, Garbo rolled into one.

      October 16, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
  10. Beardy

    Tattoos are for self important people who want to show off their self indulgent stories that nobody cares about. I remember that awesome vacation because I was there. I remember that woman, I was there, I remember when my dad died, i was there. Personally, I'm tired of looking at grown children who color on their skin. Tats are not art...get over yourselves, Dbags.

    October 16, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      And what about those who have tattoos in places others don't see?

      October 16, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • Maddy

      Put out your eyes then. Your opinion doesn't matter, loser.

      October 16, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
      • Hi Maddy

        Would care for a cookie? How bout a hug.

        October 16, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
  11. Observer

    (Lev. 19:27-28 “You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord”

    Just more Christian hypocrisy. So let's ignore that so they can pick on gays and pro-choice supporters.

    October 15, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • AE

      That was for Leviticus priests, not Christians. I've never met anyone that suggests I should follow those laws (besides you).

      October 15, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
      • G to the T

        Doesn't mean they're right either...

        October 15, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
        • AE

          They were written for a specific people at a specific time. Not meant as universal laws.

          October 15, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
        • bo

          They were written for a specific people at a specific time. Not meant as universal laws."

          to them, it makes no difference. they say all the laws apply 2day because the n.t. says so. they no this isn't applied the way they say, but they use it anyway

          October 16, 2013 at 3:43 am |
        • G to the T

          No, I understand the theology of progressive revelation, I just don't agree with it. I've read too much about the bible to believe it was all part of a larger plan intended to turn out the way it did.

          October 16, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
        • Observer


          "They were written for a specific people at a specific time."

          Yep. Apparently they were written for his most religious people, priests, who are an example for all people and supposedly the closest people to God.

          October 16, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
        • AE

          And what does Jesus teach about those people?

          October 16, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
        • AE

          (Luke 10:25-37)

          On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

          “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

          He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

          “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

          But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

          In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A PRIEST happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a LEVITE, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

          “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

          The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

          Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”


          If the Priest or Levite would have stopped to help the man, they would have broken Leviticus laws.

          And yet Jesus says nothing about the Samaritan breaking these laws. He praises him for his mercy.

          October 16, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
        • Observer


          "If the Priest or Levite would have stopped to help the man, they would have broken Leviticus laws."

          Please list the law that tells them to ignore the Golden Rule.

          October 16, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
        • AE

          That is what Jesus' was pointing out.

          The priest and Levite were trying to be holy (don't touch a dead body, save their wine and oil for ceremony) and walked on the other side of the road from the half-dead and naked man (since he was naked they could rationalize the man wasn't Jewish and they didn't need to help him).

          The good Samaritan used his wine and oil (get it? All priests carried wine and oil for ceremonies) to actually help the man. And went out of his way to follow the golden rule. And he didn't follow the golden rule to prove he could follow laws. He was acting out of love.

          October 16, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
        • AE

          If the Priest would have even walked near a dead body he would have been unpure. Hence he took the long way around him.

          October 16, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
        • Observer


          "If the Priest would have even walked near a dead body he would have been unpure. Hence he took the long way around him."

          Fascinating to know that people shouldn't call for a priest when someone is dead.

          So what is the verse in the Bible that tells priests to ignore the Golden Rule?

          October 16, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
        • AE

          I never said there was a verse. I was describing the priest and the Levite that followed the law, yet in God's eyes failed to love his neighbor.

          October 16, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
      • saggyroy

        I believe Jesus said to keep the laws given to you, or something like that.

        October 17, 2013 at 6:08 am |
    • james

      For Christians, Romans 12:1 may apply here, and on another subject here 1 Tim.2:11,12; 1 Cor14:33,34 and 1 Tim.3:2,12 may apply to this person.

      October 15, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
  12. Come just as you are...


    October 15, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Come to Jesus!

      Come just as you are
      Hear the spirit call
      Come just as you are
      Come and see
      Come receive
      Come and live forever

      Come and see
      Come receive
      Come and live forever

      Life everlasting
      Strength for today
      Taste the living water
      And never thirst again
      Life everlasting
      Strength for today
      Taste the living water
      And never thirst again

      Come just as you are
      Don't you hear the spirit call
      Come just as you are
      Come and see
      Christ my King
      Come and live forevermore

      October 15, 2013 at 8:33 am |
      • Sheila

        Problem is, Jesus is long dead and rotted away. He no longer exists. The Christian storyline about a god that needed to sacrifice doesn't make any sense anyway. Keep trying to prop up your myths, but they are fading into history. It's inevitable.

        October 15, 2013 at 9:59 am |
        • Jack

          Yeah, 2,000 plus years of inevitable.

          October 15, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
        • bo

          not true and u have 0 proof to to claim otherwise

          October 16, 2013 at 3:45 am |
  13. Two Questions

    #1 – Do missionary groups–past and/or present–avoid working with cultural groups that practice tattooing and/or other forms of body modifications as part of their heritage and belief systems? Are people in these cultures deemed unworthy of potential religious conversion?

    #2 – Are people in the US with existing tattoos allowed to become born-again Christians? What happens if an existing parishioner gets a tattoo? Are they formally banned or shunned by their fellow parishioners?

    October 15, 2013 at 12:59 am |
    • Observer

      No problems. Churches are full of millions of Christian adulterers who live in sin by divorcing and remarrying. Hypocrisy isn't any issue for them.

      October 15, 2013 at 1:03 am |
      • Bill Deacon

        If you're claiming that churches are full of sinner, I don't think anyone would disagree with you. Did the name of this pastor's church escape you in the article?

        October 15, 2013 at 11:14 am |
        • G to the T

          If having a tatoo is a sin, do you have to have it removed before you can "go and sin no more"?

          October 15, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
      • bo

        as others have said, it requires someone working full time to correct all of her errors. u no better, too, dorothy

        October 16, 2013 at 3:48 am |
    • AE

      1. "avoid working with cultural groups that practice tattooing and/or other forms of body modifications as part of their heritage and belief systems?"
      Maybe some do. But not all.
      "Are people in these cultures deemed unworthy of potential religious conversion?"

      2. "existing tattoos allowed to become born-again Christians?"
      "What happens if an existing parishioner gets a tattoo?"
      Same thing that happens when you get a tattoo.
      "Are they formally banned or shunned by their fellow parishioners?"

      October 15, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
  14. Observer

    (Lev. 19:28) “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord”

    Christian HYPOCRISY. Nothing new.

    October 14, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
    • krhodes

      There you go again....stating things you have no idea about. It must be nice to just say whatever you think is correct without trying to understand what you are critiquing..

      October 15, 2013 at 2:07 am |
      • Observer


        There you go again. Ignorantly criticizing an EXACT quote from the Bible with ZERO facts to back you up. Pathetic again.

        October 15, 2013 at 2:09 am |
      • bananas

        It is her trademark.

        She does it constantly. She has a fit when she gets criticized for it, like a big baby, yet she does it all the time. No scholarship whatsoever

        October 16, 2013 at 7:38 am |
    • Realist


      The Judeo-Christian-Islamic ...

      ........ http://www.GODisIMAGINARY.com ..........

      ... and thank goodness because he emanates from the ...

      ....... http://www.EVILbible.com


      October 15, 2013 at 5:08 am |
  15. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    At least this pastor is now thinking about the tattoos she wants.

    It made me wonder how many people have tattoos where less thought was invested on what their tattoo would actually look like than when they choose art work to hang in their house?

    I personally know of people who chose their tattoos drunk in a spontaneous "let's get tattoos" moment. (Zero thought involved with bad results.)

    I suspect lots of people have an idea of what they want, but no clue as to how it will actually be executed.

    With the exception of people who bring a picture to the parlour, arguably the people that have the most understanding of what a tattoo will look like are those that choose a generic, derivative pattern in the tattoo parlour – which is hardly 'art'.

    October 14, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I've run the gamut of tattoo choices...
      My first was a backpiece I had done at age 17 that a friend designed for me from my verbal description.
      I got one during a debauched vacation when I was 20. I didn't even remember having it done until I was lurching through the airport hungover and my buddy smacked it.
      Around the same time, I got another to try and impress a girl. The girl is long gone, but the sh/itty ink remains.
      A few years back, I had those two covered up with something better – more thought out on my part and done by an actually skilled artist...
      There are some other scattered here and there with which I am content – they remind me of what they're supposed to.
      However – none of them are visible if I'm clothed normally (pants and a t-shirt) as I've no interest in showing anybody.

      October 15, 2013 at 8:46 am |
  16. AE

    Thank you Nadia – your online sermons are helpful to me. I need to make time to read your book.

    October 14, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • Spot


      October 14, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
  17. My Dog is a jealous Dog

    I have seen my friends get tattoos over the years, and after years of considering what symbol I would want to display on my body for the rest of my life, the best I have come up with is a simple question mark. When anyone asks me what it means, I can truthfully respond... " I don't know". I still may never get a tat, but if I do.... ? seems the most honest to who I really am.

    October 14, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      There are very few things that you can reliably guarantee you would want use your body as essentially a walking billboard for your message that you you will feel exactly the same way about for the rest of your life.

      Plus, based on the tattoos I see, most tattoo artists are terrible. An individual artist might get better over time, but who wants permanent ink from someone who is practising?

      See this artist's early attempts: http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/14/living/irpt-aj-family-friendly-tattoo-shop/index.html

      October 14, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
      • My Dog is a jealous Dog

        My tastes in Art has changed over the years, and I have to agree that most tattoo artists are terrible. Even if I painted a mural on my wall, I can always paint it over if I want to, so I see tats more for their symbolism. Other other hand, my brother has a very practical tat of a medical alert (diabetic) right where an IV or injection would be administered. He does construction and can't wear jewelry.

        October 14, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        A medical alert makes sense. Regarding this comment:

        "I see tats more for their symbolism"

        sure, but your relationship to a symbol will likely change over say 30 years – and even if it doesn't the world around you might change it's perception of a symbol such that it comes to mean something else or even something passé or ridiculous.

        A great example is tribal tattoos. At first they were 'bad ass' but as soon as they reached the point where 'everyone' was getting them, they were (and remain) no longer cool and even tattoo artists think they are stupid or at best derivative.

        This woman is a good example. She now regrets her earlier tattoos to the point where she needs cover ups. What if 15 years from now she loses her faith. Are her tattoos now just ironic?

        October 14, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
      • Sara

        Whenever I see someone with tattoos I think whay a sadly unimaginative person they must be to think they'll have the same tastes and beliefs in 30 years. Or what an even sadder person to be right about that.

        October 14, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
        • G to the T

          Sometimes having a permanent, visible reminder about some part of your past is the best way to ensure you aren't that same person later in life. At least, it was in my case.

          October 16, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
      • My Dog is a jealous Dog

        Did you see the new SNL cast member show off his crappy tats on Weekend Update this last Saturday? Tribal band on one arm, nautical star on the other, and a weird seascape on his side. Anyone considering a tat should watch that clip.

        October 14, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
        • stardust

          I wonder what percentage of tattoos are gotten under the influence of alcohol? This might explain a lot.

          October 16, 2013 at 8:20 am |
        • G to the T

          Stardust – any tatoo artist will tell you the worst thing you can do is drink before getting a tatoo. The obvious impulse control issues aside, alcohol thins the blood and makes the process/recovery more difficult.

          October 16, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Akira

      Following my son's death at age 17, I got two small tats honoring him. One is a small heart on the top of my left wrist, with his initials and age in it. I see it every time I look at my watch, and i am reminded how he is will always be a part of me.
      The other is the Japanese word for "son", on my back just under my neck.
      Okay, they are not great works of art, as they are very simple, but I have never regretted getting them, and they hold great meaning to me.

      I have a friend who got a small tat of a cheeseburger on her heel. I asked why, and she replied, "who doesn't smile at the thought of a cheeseburger?" I said, "um...vegans?" It's cute, but that was something i wouldn't even think of doing...

      Watch "Bad Ink" on A & E. That man, Dirk Vermin, is truly phenomenal, and he specializes in covering up bad tats. Plus, his friend Ruckus is hilarious. And talk about some truly awful tattoos...

      Matter of taste, I guess.

      October 14, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


        I'm sorry to hear your son passed away. No doubt the feelings you have for him are more permanent than the ink.

        I've seen "Bad Ink". Those bad tattoos they show (and they really are bad) aren't that uncommon.

        I recently saw an ad for another tattoo show (there are so many) where the artist misspelled a tattoo written in 3" high letters across someone's chest.

        Spelling mistakes are not that uncommon. I saw a misspelled tattoo on a woman the other day. Then of course there the whole subset of poorly/wrongly executed Asian calligraphy as parodied on The Big Bang Theory:

        Sheldon: Why do you have the Chinese character for "soup" tattooed on your right buttock?
        Penny: It's not "soup," it's "courage."
        Sheldon: No it isn't. But I suppose it does take courage to demonstrate that kind of commitment to soup.

        October 14, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
        • Akira

          GOPer and Dog:
          I'll be honest: I probably would never have gotten any tats if it weren't for that.
          I've seen some truly awful tats, and what goes through my mind is "why??? Oh, the humanity!" Lol.

          October 14, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
      • My Dog is a jealous Dog

        trying to find the bit that isn't passing the filter.... it may come in chunks

        I have seen the show, and there are some dreadfully awful tattoos out there. I completely understand, respect, and support your decisions about your tattoos. I was in my 20's in the 80's – so I have been considering the symbolism of a tattoo for a long time, all along seeing my friends getting inked (now middle aged and not as attractive as they used to be – both the ink and the people).

        October 14, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
        • sam stone

          a friend had a cannabis leaf tatto covered up with cannons

          probably a good thing, as he was a Dept Of Army employee

          October 14, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
      • Akira

        Sure thing, faith. How are you doing today?

        October 14, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
      • My Dog is a jealous Dog

        I have yet to have a significant trauma in my life, but I just don't feel the need to mark myself, but I may in the future. No matter how awful some guy's "MOM" tattoo is, you just don't go there. People get inked for a lot of reasons, some not so wise. Some people are putting "art" on their bodies, and to me that sounds like a total crap shoot with only a slight chance of a payoff.

        October 14, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          Unless the design was very simple, I think you'd want to see an illustration of what the artist will execute and lots of examples (skins not photos) of the artist's work before committing.

          I understand the appeal, but it's not for me. I'm glad I wasn't tempted. In my younger days it wasn't nearly as ubiquitous as it is now.

          There's going to be a lot of grandmas with really bad tramp stamps in the next 20-30 years.

          October 14, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
        • My Dog is a jealous Dog

          After nearly 40 years of atheism, I am now starting to feel comfortable about being open with my views, and I may get it done someday and only explain the "true" meaning when I feel like it. I vacation in places where being an atheist may be dangerous, or at the very least subject to truly obnoxious proselytizing.

          October 14, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          Then there's the whole professional aspect.

          It's surprising just how many situations arise in which you encounter colleagues and (potential) clients where tattoos can be visible.

          Men of course have a lot more options to hide tattoos than women do but I question the idea of why you would get a tattoo that is always hidden. What's the point in having one that only your doctor and significant other will see?

          October 14, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          I can't think what would symbolize disbelief.

          Don't do the question mark. It's too open to misinterpretation. And of course people (of a certain age) will ask you if your favorite song is "96 Tears".

          And pop culture references are a bad idea. At some point they will always be trite.

          October 14, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
        • Akira

          Speaking only for myself, mine aren't so noticeable that it is the first thing you see when you meet me...people who have known me for years are always surprised when they see the one on my upper back during the summer months.
          I didn't do it to make a statement, though. I really don't know what motivates other people; only myself.

          Tramp stamps on anyone is just...icky, IMO. Worse than that? Facial tattoos.

          October 14, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          I was contemplating a compass rose on the left side of my face. If it's icky I may rethink that.

          October 14, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          Yes, facial tattoos are nasty.

          Do you remember the guy who tattooed the Romney '12 logo on the side of his head? What a bone-headed thing to do.

          It's interesting to me that extensive facial piercings have amost disappeared. In the 90s, before tattoos really took off, visible piercings – brows, lips, nose, etc were really popular, particularly in some parts of the country. I don't see nearly as much of it now. These things seem to cycle with each generation.

          'rebels' by decade:

          50s – biker look
          60s – hippies
          70s – ditto
          80s – as much as I hated the 80s there was an explosion in uniquely 80s 'looks'
          90s – piercings
          00s – tattoos (plus hipsters with ironic tee shirts)

          Pretty soon tattoos will be passé. What kid wants a look that both mom, dad and grandma have?

          October 14, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
        • Akira

          Lol, Tom. That's just me. I'm sure yours would be very tastefully done, and what are the odds we'd ever meet?
          Of course, if we did, I'd know how to recognize you.

          October 14, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
        • Akira

          Gauges in ears is a look that I dislike intensely. I'm kind of glad that look is fading from popularity.
          And tongue piercing. Yuck.

          October 14, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          Yes, gauging the ears is a particularly unattractive look. I too am glad there's not that much of it to be seen these days.

          October 14, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
        • bananas

          Look in the mirror.

          After 27 months of atheism, I puked every day for 9 years until I became a christian. All of my old atheist friends have converted to this religion, too. All use the books by fake atheist scholars to reach the lost athies thru out the world.

          October 17, 2013 at 7:45 am |
      • Sara

        Your story changes my mind somewhat. I have always thought there was nothing I would be so sure of feeling or believing in 30 years, but the loss of a child or other loved one would be an exception. I think that's a beautiful tribute and memory that will almost certainly never change.

        October 15, 2013 at 9:54 am |
        • Akira

          Thank you, Sara. I hope you never have to get a "tribute" tattoo...

          October 15, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
      • bananas

        When my three year old got run over twice, I had a birthday cake tat put on my left lower inside cheek.

        October 17, 2013 at 7:41 am |
    • G to the T

      I have "entropy" written down the side of my right ankle. A permanent reminder... that nothing is permanent...

      October 15, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  18. glasshopper

    You go, Nadia! Loved Pastrix! Seekers are looking for "real" Christians these days, and you're the real deal indeed! Looking forward to seeing you at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC on November 5.

    October 14, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.