A tattoo of Jesus Christ’s head done by Shawn Legrow which he submitted to the Northern Ink Xposure Tattoo Show earning his shop a booth during the weekend event in June. Photo courtesy of Tyler Erdelac

Religious tattoos create ‘billboards for Christ’

By 
  • July 3, 2012

TORONTO - While getting a tattoo may not be considered the holiest practice, it shouldn’t always be perceived as devilish.

“Religious tattoos are a sign of faith,” said Jason Gennaro, creator of religioustattoos.net. “Those who tattoo themselves with Christian symbols of faith are displaying a belief that many try to subjugate and hide.”

A father of five, devoted husband and faithful Catholic, Gennaro currently has 18 tattoos, 14 of which directly link to his faith. The other four need a little explanation to expose the religious relevance which Gennaro insists exists. “My tattoo choices are the result of prayer,” said Gennaro. “I will be struck by something I read in a book or see in a church. I take those items to prayer and let my conversations with God guide me.”

He admits that tattooing is not for everyone but does provide an opportunity for those interested to “become a billboard for Christ.”

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- photo courtesy of Shawn Legrow

But like everything, there are at least two sides to the story regarding God’s position on tattoos. Gennaro occasionally receives criticism from strict Scripture followers who claim tattoos are prohibited, citing a single passage from the Old Testament.

“You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh on account of the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord,” reads Leviticus 19:28.


On his web site, Gennaro addresses this criticism by noting Leviticus is discussing God’s prohibitions against adopting pagan practices. He writes pagans frequently marked their bodies with symbols of idols following a death with the intention of securing a favourable afterlife.

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“Many who read the Bible will not take into account historical considerations or the full context of Leviticus 19:28.”

“Usually, these people operate with less charity than a Christian should,” Gennaro said about those who judge him on his body art.

Even memorializing a lost loved one by permanently inking a symbol of faith onto one’s body shouldn’t be considered sinful — it’s actually helpful. That’s the position of Shawn Legrow, owner of Sakred Skinz Tattoo Studio in Bolton, Ont.

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“Almost every other person comes in and gets a religious tattoo. Usually their family members that passed on were religious and they feel that because they didn’t go to church that they should have that piece on them,” said Legrow during the recent 14th annual Northern Ink Xposure Tattoo Show in Toronto. “A lot of them, when they get those pieces put on them, have gone to church after.”

At least 50 per cent of the tattoos done in his shop since opening nine months ago, about five per day between two artists, have been a religious-themed memorial. said Legrow.

Although he doesn’t practise a faith himself, Legrow said doing a religious tattoo is still very special.

Tattoos2

- photo courtesy of Shawn Legrow

“I put my heart and soul into every tattoo (but) when it comes to something like that, a religious tattoo, it’s a little more of a step up because it’s important to that person,” said Legrow, who admits to often getting emotional when he sees a client’s reaction.

He said he is morally committed to only tattooing images which have a deep rooted symbolic meaning and has often talked younger people out of getting “bad tattoos” — those selected solely because they look cool.

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