In recent years, it has increasingly become the norm for college students to express themselves through tattooing, which has becomeÂ a popular form of art and culture. For Christians,Â tattoos often serve asÂ an expression of beliefs.
A glance around the ACU campus affirms that, despite the stereotypes that may be associated with private Christian colleges, there are still a good number of students who choose to express themselves, and their faith, through tattoos.
Amy Wages, junior exercise science major from Vancleave, Miss., has a full sleeve covering one arm. She said she never planned on having a sleeve when she got her first tattoo at age 17, but she now has 25 hours’ worth of tattooing on her left arm.
Wages said many of her tattoos hold special meanings for her. When she looks at her tattoos, she is reminded of the need to cherish life and to extend grace to others.
“I don’t usually share theÂ stories behind my tattoos because, for me, it’s not really about receiving attention,” Wages said. “I’m actually quite conservative; I just like tattoos. More people are getting them because they’re trendy or because they do want attention, which to me is kind of the wrong reason to do it.”
Some people use charm bracelets to represent different things they like, Wages said. SheÂ uses tattoos to serve the same purpose, only hers are permanent.
“It’s just expressing who you are and theÂ things you like,” Wages said. “The fact that I have tattoos doesn’t mean I’m not a Christian, especially when some of mine are faith-based tattoos.”
Aaron Johnson, junior health promotion and psychology major from Houston, has 15 tattoos andÂ eachÂ portrays a message about God.
“I think it can open doors,” Johnson said. “I’ve had a lot of people ask about them and it’s just another chance to share my testimony and what I believe about the Lord.”
Johnson said he sees himself as a canvas for Christ and he wants his life to glorify God.
“I think that it’s important that I blend in visually in the world,” Johnson said. “The Lord puts me in a lot of darker places to be a light and I’m able to blend in with people that are a little more rough around the edges.”
Johnson said some people will look at him and be intimidated, but if they were to take the time to get to know his heart they would see that God lives inside of him.
“There is judgment. That’s what we do as humans, we judge each other based on looks and actions and words,” Johnson said. Â “Sometimes I think that maybe I’m viewed as marked, scarred or dirty. I mean, the tats and the dreads can be a bit much, but it’s me and I love it and I wouldn’t change it.”
Justin Lloyd, junior exercise science and health promotion major from Elizabeth, Colo., said he came into the church later in life and a lot of the older people in his church were not big fans of his tattoos.
“People always argue that your body is a temple,” Lloyd said. “I just say that I choose to keep mine decorated.”
Lloyd said he does try to stay healthy in other aspects; he just likes to have a little bit of ink on him.
Brittany Williams, junior journalism major from Rockwall, said she believes this generation is more of an independent generation, so there is a different take on tattoos now.
“They’re a work of art in their own sense,” Williams said.
Williams said her decision to get tattoos was not a rebellious act; it was just something she wanted to do.
“I don’t think there’s any blanket rule for tattoos, it depends on the individual belief,” Williams said. “Even my pastor’s daughter has tattoos.”
Dr. Jean-Noel Thompson, vice president for Student Life and dean of students, said there is no current ACU policy against tattoos. There is only language discouraging the display of anything that could be considered offensive or inappropriate to the mission and Christian standards of ACU.
“My guess is that there was probably some enforcement against getting tattoos somewhere in ACU’s history,” Thompson said. “What we have now is a broader standard in our dress code.”
Thompson said he believed there were probably new ways of thinking about tattoos now. He said, in the past, it seemed tattoos were acquired as an act of being different and standing out, whereas now it is more to be a part of something and to follow along with what others are doing.
“I think we should have, as Christians, a reasonable standard in terms of what we cover our bodies with and knowing how they affect people around us,” Thompson said. “Scripture is clear about our bodies being temples and that, unlike any other action we take, there needs to be extra caution in how we take care of ourselves physically and spiritually.”
Thompson said that those considering getting a tattoo should first ask the real reason behind why they want to do it and to determine what it is they want to accomplish through it. He said to pray and determine if it would be contributing to the kingdom or if it would be distracting from what God is calling them to.
“We cannot judge a person by the fact that they have a tattoo or if they have a pink streak in their hair,” Thompson said. “We live in a community where we value honoring God and one another.Â If there is something inconsistent with that mission, then weÂ should respectfully address each other.”