Via Ad Deus – Road to God

Finding our new, old road to God | Bellevue First Congregational Church, Bellevue, WA

On Tattoos and Pentacost

English: Back Tattoo

English: Back Tattoo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, how do tattoos relate to Pentacost?  In brief, both are ‘non-intellectual’ and connected to community.  And perhaps the comparison helps me better understand an important dimension of my faith.

I have never come close to getting a tattoo.  And I don’t really understand how people decide to get one.  Do they make a list of advantages and disadvantages, and then decide?  I think not.  Do people get their first tattoo on a whim?  (Well.. I was picking up some milk, and decided to get a tattoo…)  I think not.

I have to conclude that it is a decision that just feels right.  It is more emotional and not at all intellectual.  It may be like a song that you love today, immediately.  You don’t have to weigh the pros and cons.  And you feel that you will like the song for the rest of your life.

Community may also play a role.  First, if your friends have tattoos, then it is probably easier to decide.  And second, it may be a way to identify as being different, or being part of a different community.  Tattoos are visual, and so it makes sense that they serve some purpose of communication.

This last Sunday was Pentacost, and both our Children’s sermon and Adult Sermon focused on spirit and speaking in tongues.  (I have to give Kudos to Lisa for running with streamers, and having us speak in multiple languages simultaneously.)   And as the sermons were proceeding, I started to connect the dots with tattoos.  (I had already been reflecting on tattoos and my faith.  Pentacost seemed to suddenly align with tattoos. Perhaps a little weird, but true…)

I use the term ‘non-intellectual’, in part, because I view my faith typically through a frame that is too intellectual.  So, it is kind of a goal, but I am seeking something more than simply eliminating intellect.  Perhaps it is a feeling, or an emotion or passion or like just knowing that you really like a song.  Or perhaps it is like getting that first tattoo.  While I am not likely to get a tattoo, the analogy helps me better understand speaking in tongues, and ultimately spirituality.

Prayer is also in some sense anti-intellectual.  And maybe a tangible way for me to get away from the intellectual frame I typically use with my faith.

Finally, there is community that ties tattoos and Pentacost together.  Without community, tattoos have less meaning.  Without community, faith would be a struggle.

I also find it easier to view our faith community through an non-intellectual frame.   A smile or a empathetic word can go right to the center of your being.   Other examples include listening to senior sermons, listening to choir and witnessing service we provide to each other within our community.

So, maybe I’ll get a tattoo.  I wonder what it should say?


4 comments on “On Tattoos and Pentacost

  1. Nancy
    May 22, 2013

    Peter, I’ve been thinking about tattoos also — ever since our blog meeting. Tattoos have always been around me; I grew up in SD where bikers consistently have them. But now they are way more common everywhere.

    What I know about why to get a tattoo is two-fold; as an anchor and to express a passion. My heart and soul is anchored in the Black Hills — and I am passionate about the Black Hills — so I have always wanted to get a tattoo that represented them. The only thing I could come up with, until recently, was the back side of Mt. Rushmore but, well, if you look at the link you’ll understand why I didn’t do it. Now I have finally decided on a pine tree but can’t decide where to put it. So maybe I’ll never get it done. But if I’m near a tattoo parlor, in an altered state sometime…

    I applaud your search and respect for the anti-intellectual, although would non-intellectual be a little more neutral wording?

  2. petervalle
    May 22, 2013

    Nancy, I like the suggestion of non-intellectual. Already updated the post. Thanks. And Thanks for your comments.

  3. Bob Forgrave
    May 22, 2013

    “Non-intellectual.” Hmm. The concept is important, but that’s still describing the world of passion, faith,and love from an intellectual perspective, now through the absence of the thing in question. Like describing color as non-auditory.

    That said, I face the same struggle, approaching faith first in full-on logic mode. Certainly a tattoo is the polar opposite of that approach. Yet even here, I suspect I would attempt to lead logic first, putting the image on my wall for a year beforehand to make sure that the passion would last as long as the tattoo.

    A sermon I heard a while back referred to being on the back seat of a tandem–letting go of the logic and control of your life, letting God take the handlebars for a while, and just enjoying the ride. Yikes! But in re-listening to Steve Jobs’ graduation sermon at Stanford, I noticed he was saying the exact same thing….

    He said that you can’t connect the dots of your life in advance, only in retrospect. So you have to live your life with passion, doing the things you love. It’s the only way to be really good at your job (because you love it) and to live the life you want to live. No word on whether Jobs had a tat, but if so, I’m sure he loved it.

  4. Lisa
    May 22, 2013

    Hi Peter, Thanks for the shout-out! I think you’re right that for folks, tattoos are out of the intellectual and more in the symbolic side of things. It might also be interesting to think about how ritual plays a part–many folks I know with tattoos got them to commemorate a significant life event, loss, or something that matters to them deeply, and the act of getting a tattoo was a way of recognizing that meaning.

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