Member Login

World Map

623 members currently registered
in 89 countries.

Mission Beree is a member of the Micah Network

 

Tattooing Jesus

« Go back

10 November 2013

Tattooing Jesus

The year is 1980. At San Marcos National University in Lima, Peru, a group of Christian students face a university board and student leadership that is the dominated by communist thinking. In response, the Christian students decide to put up a bulletin board on campus where they can post opinion articles about faith and society. “What should we call the bulletin board?” asked one of the Christian university students. They discussed amongst themselves, until one of the students came up with “Jesus, the Great Subversive”. Everyone agreed. “What about the logo?” A student brought a drawing to the group. It was a black and white silhouette of Jesus’ face, with long hair and beard, similar to the popular image of Che Guevara. The purpose was evident; the students wanted to show their communist “companeros” that Jesus was the true revolutionary, the new man. Jesus subverts all of humanity with love rather weapons.

How do we make Jesus relevant to the times in which we live? This seems to be one of the principal questions of Christendom for the past two thousand years. We must ask ourselves if our contextualization is of form or of substance. Are we merely putting new clothes on Jesus? Or are we translating his message to address the deeper problems of today?

Recently, in Texas, an image (and video) of Jesus has been showing up on billboards and social networks. In this image, Jesus’ arms are spread and his chest is bare so that the viewer can see countless tattoos on his torso and arms. Words like outcast, drug addict, hated, faithless, depressed, useless, etc. are tattooed onto his skin. He could easily pass as a guy from the Bronx or from a Latin American neighborhood in a big city. For some Christians, this image of Jesus is offensive. However, the image was meant to be part of an evangelism strategy that seeks to make the message of personal salvation through Jesus Christ more relevant to the youth of today. (See: www.jesustatoo.org)

Yet is covering Christianity with modern symbols enough? In the last few months and years, the people of Peru, Argentina, Mexico and Colombia have been unsettled by the scandal within the Catholic Church in which some Catholic priests and bishops were accused of sexually abusing children and adolescents and of unrecognized paternity. Similar horrors have occurred within evangelical communities as well. The most troubling part has been the fact that judicial authorities had a hard time getting church leaders to collaborate with them in

filing reports and criminal charges. Implicitly or explicitly, some religious try to cover up the facts in order to maintain an unscathed “church testimony”. For them, the mark of a follower of Jesus is saving face at all costs. In this way, justice is relegated, and the victims of these offenses are given less priority than the “good name of the church”. This way of thinking and acting is harmful and has become a curse. Is it not a better testimony to accept the facts that abuse can occur within the church but that we will not tolerate it and will do all that is possible to work for justice? If God had tried to hide his followers’ offenses and failures, then the Bible would have 30-40% less pages! Genesis 3 would not be included and neither would Paul’s writings to the Corinthian church.

With an imagination, it is possible to put modern clothes on Jesus. However, the difficulty lies in living out his radical message that speaks out against our society and its life style, unjust practices, idolatry of wealth, the way we treat each other, and especially our treatment of society’s outcasts.

The “brand” of Jesus was his radical message of love, compassion and consolation that goes beyond the superficial in people and societies. Jesus’ brand was to break religious schemes and transform power into service. He invites us to do more than put blue jeans on Jesus to make him relevant; more importantly, Jesus invites us to rethink how we live and the daily decisions we make in our private and public life. In summary, rethinking the image that we have of Jesus is needed, but even more pressing is rethinking how we live out our faith in the face of contemporary challenges.

Article by Alfonso Wieland, Co-director of Peace and Hope International