The Gaston Gazette
GASTONIA, N.C. — Small portions of Randy Herring’s skin peek through heavy ink that adorns his body.
The local tattoo artist clearly embraces his craft with few places left un-inked on his 55-year-old body.
Herring most recently went under the needle late last month, getting the word “Faith” scrolled across the back of his head. Owner of Skin Art by Randy, Herring said neither his passion for art nor his devotion to his faith is a secret.
Herring said he’s not the only one getting religious connotations permanently inscribed in his skin.
A member of the Christian Tattoo Association, Herring says he sees many clients choosing religious symbols or scriptures.
Sam Johnston of Lake Wylie stopped in the Franklin Boulevard tattoo parlor on Friday for that very reason.
Johnston sat still for his second tattoo, a cross on his arm. A Christian all his life, Johnston said a religious mainstay seemed logical.
“I love sharing my faith, and I felt like this was a way to break the ice,” he said. “Without saying anything, this is a way to share my faith.”
Some religious sects have lenience in regards to body art. The Muslim faith isn’t one.
“We don’t believe in tattoos. We don’t believe in anything that changes your face or your body. It’s forbidden in our religion to do it,” said Hossam “Sam” Shoukry, president of the Islamic Society of Gastonia.
People may use modern life and beliefs as a reason to justify body art, but religion doesn’t change, according to Shoukry.
“It’s doesn’t matter what century it is. Religion is religion,” Shoukry said. “The basis of what God wants them to do is still written.”
The Rev. Ray Hardee, who heads up Forest Pointe Church in Belmont, said his congregation doesn’t have any hard-and-fast rule regarding tattoos. But Hardee said he’d never turn a parishioner away for sporting ink.
Much of the opposition to tattoos in Christianity comes from the Old Testament.
Herring argues that if someone cites the Old Testament, they could also refer to Leviticus which says not to cut or trim your beard.
Hardee never opted to get a tattoo.
Two of his three children, however, took the plunge. Neither of his children asked for permission, but Hardee said he wouldn’t necessarily have put his foot down.
“I might tell them to think twice because they may not want them later in life,” Hardee said. “I’d say to them that this is going to mortify your mother.”
Hardee was excited the day his son, Alex, called and asked him to recite John 15:13. He thought Alex was really showing an interest in Scripture and faith.
A full-time firefighter, Alex was actually at a tattoo parlor preparing to have the words tattooed across his back.
The script, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” marked Alex’s devotion to his profession and fellow firefighters, Hardee said.
Jeff Mauney, owner of Ink Link on Franklin Boulevard, said he’s also seen an increase in religious tattoos at the shop.
He says the shop probably puts a cross on a customer’s body at least once a day.
“People come in and don’t know what they want, and they’ll settle on crosses,” said Mauney.
In the business for 30 years, the uptick started about five years ago, he said.
People also choose to memorialize loved ones through illustrations, quotes and scripture, said Mauney.
The negative stigma attached to tattoos seems to be waning, according to Mauney.
He had one theory on why people may choose a religious piece of body art.
“I think some people may go that way to make it OK in grandmother’s eyes,” he said.
“Faith” wasn’t Herring’s first religious tattoo. Though he doesn’t know how many illustrations decorate his body, Herring said he’s got multiple crosses in the mix.
He takes pride in being a Christian and sharing his faith.
Hardee doesn’t intend to climb into the tattoo chair anytime soon, but he’s talked to parishioners about the decision to do so.
The Belmont pastor remembers one man with large arm tattoos. Eventually, he asked what one of them meant.
The man answered, “Mistake,” referring to a girl’s name engrained in his skin.
As a father and a pastor, Hardee offers a word of advice.
“If you feel like you’ve got to do it, make it about something bigger than just having a cool tattoo,” he said. “If they use it for purposes of promoting faith and eternal value, that’s the best reason to get one.”