Tattoos as a Religion
Hiroki Shishida

Ink on the Preacher

Making religion trendy for millennials

The visage of spiritual figures such as Jesus Christ and the Buddha have commonly found their way onto the bodies of stars, flaunting commitment to their faith of choice. In the article “Tattoos as a Religion”, it was argued that the prevalence of religious tattoos amongst celebrities served as both promotion and distortion for popular faiths. Religious tattoos are certainly a trend among Generation Y’ers that has picked up some steam in the past few decades, with even pastors now getting in on the act.

Introducing Carl Lentz. From the looks of it, you would take him to be your average Williamsburg hipster. Beard and undercut? Check. Skinny jeans? Check. Tattoos? That’s a given. He also just happens to be the newest superstar in Christianity — a televangelical phenomenon at the helm of the Hillsong Church in New York City. His electrifying on-stage presence and moving sermons have captured the attention of every Christian from the Five Boroughs outward. Donning tattoos on both arms and street style enough to make any Brooklynite jealous, the hip image that Lentz portrays is one that is highly relatable for a generation of urban 20–30 year olds. In an environment where people don’t typically put God in priority, Lentz has reinvigorated the need for faith in the city by making Christianity cool.

Lentz’s connection to millennials is further bolstered by him going beyond the standard sermon to reach his followers across all manners of media. It is because of this shrewdness that Carl Lentz has turned into the most talked about name in modern Christianity (next to Jesus, of course). Instagram photos of himself with celebrities such as Justin Bieber, a member of the Hillsong family, are used to promote faith across a new medium — one that is better suited towards popular culture. Lentz has truly transformed himself into a marketing powerhouse for the Church, and he has every intention to keep doing so.

“I’m an advertiser … You are God’s ambassador — as if He is making his appeal through you. We’re essentially His commercial.” — Carl Lentz
Segment from a typical Carl Lentz sermon.

The words divulged from the mouths of preachers like Lentz cover a very broad topic but in a very personalized style, crafting a message that connects with listeners in pews and on couches. However, the message plays a lesser role when considering the way that it is conveyed — for many televangelists and pastors, delivering a sermon is a performance. In the same fashion as megapastor Joel Osteen, Carl relies on a deep performativity to push his message across. Jerky body movements and stoic freeze-frame poses build into a form of entertainment and theatre for congregants, and just to witness him on stage becomes a reason for people to attend. Through his charismatic services, Lentz becomes the embodiment of the faith in the eyes of the audience — personifying what it means to be a modern Christian, tattoos and all — generating a religious desire to be more like him.

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