Steve Bensinger is a man who loves his Christian faith — and loves his tattoos.
Tattoos cover more than half of his body and include an angel killing a demon and Jesus on the cross.
He considers part of his work to be spreading the message that tattoos don’t harm a person’s faith but offer a way to present a gospel message.
“For one to be a Christian, you don’t have to fit a certain mold,” he said during a recent phone interview.
Bensinger, 46, is an ordained minister who leads the Come As You Are Church in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Because his appearance frequently leads to stares and comments from others, he nicknamed himself “Pastor Freak.”
Bensinger is also president of the Kalamazoo-based Christian Tattoo Association, a group that seeks to bring together Christians who are interested in tattoos and in promoting tattooing among Christians.
The organization has about 850 members worldwide in countries such as Australia, Japan, Norway and Malaysia.
The organization’s Web site includes a discussion forum.
Bensinger travels to tattoo conventions and shows to raise awareness of Christian tattoos and to serve as a voice for those who believe there is nothing wrong with getting them.
When people recite the scriptural verse that says, “You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tattoo any marks upon you,” he comes back with another verse from the Book of Leviticus.
“I’ll say: ‘What about Leviticus 19:27: Don’t cut the edges of your hair’ You’re just as wrong as I am.’ See how goofy that sounds?”
Bensinger interprets the Leviticus verse to refer to people who would tattoo themselves when they were in mourning as a way to appease gods.
“I just want to tell people about the love that God has for us,” he said. “And God doesn’t have an issue against” tattoos.
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May 20, 2006
Joe Rodriquez, Knight Ridder Newspapers