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Man Starting Christian Tattoo Group

January 18, 1999

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) _ Randy Mastre is a tattoo artist of Christian themes. He inks Jesus into his customers.

His tattooed Biblical inscriptions and portraits of Christ provide startling contrast to more typical flaming skulls and ``Born to Raise Hell″ markings adorning the leather-clad bikers he rubs elbows with at national tattoo conventions.

It was at one of those convention that he met the Rev. Daniel Ostrowski, a born-again Christian and Word of Faith pastor who runs a tattoo parlor in Wausau, Wis.

Last year, the two decided to unite other Christian tattooers. Since then, almost 100 tattoo parlors across the nation have heard the call of the Christian Tattoo Association.

``Our idea is: Let’s take Christianity out of cloistered halls and put it right in the forum where people live, and let’s make it so real, so up-to-date, so today that it impacts peoples’ lives,″ Ostrowski says.

Adds Mastre, who is studying to be a Pentecostal pastor, ``I think the best way to put it is a few like-minded people that are trying their very best to share the word of God in a place where it’s never heard.″

At tattoo conventions, they put up a table and work the crowd.

Some members adopt tattoos that cover their entire backs. Tattoos of St. Michael slaying the devil and the Last Supper are popular.

``I’ve seen hundreds of full-back Christian tattoos,″ Mastre says.

Mastre says he’s wanted to start a Christian tattoo group for years. He said Christians in the industry need to encourage each other.

``We don’t want everybody in the world to think that tattooing is the work of the devil because it isn’t,″ Mastre says. ``It’s a beautiful art form.″

Rand Johnson, a tattooer in Willmar, Minn., describes the group as a ministry focused on people in the tattoo industry _ and whoever else will listen.

``For the most part, the world of tattoos and tattooing and such is a pretty dark world, and as a Christian you want to shed a little light in there,″ Johnson says.

Some members of the clergy aren’t wild about the idea.

Fargo Bishop Rick Foss says that if somebody has to have a tattoo, he’d rather it have a Christian theme. But, he adds, there are better ways to spread God’s word.

``I’d be really surprised if anybody could make a very good case in the Bible or the basis of Christian tradition that this is somehow a really good thing,″ says Foss, who heads the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Some clergy members who are against tattooing cite a Biblical passage in Leviticus, which they say warns, ``Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you...″

Mastre argues that the passage is part of the Old Testament, and that many rules were changed in the New Testament.

``If they want to live by the Old Covenant, they have to do it all,″ Mastre said. ``They just can’t pick out one thing or the other.″

Christian tattoos have always comprised a sizable piece of the tattoo market, Ostrowski says. What’s new is the effort to organize.

From small Biblical quotations to portraits of Jesus, Mastre works in his tattoo parlor in a Bismarck mall. A sign saying ``Praise the Lord″ hangs above one of his studios, where he’ll make a small tattoo for $40 to $100. Larger works run from $300 into the thousands.

Mastre says he also removes about 40 tattoos a month.

``I know that several times people have come in with demonic type of tattoos, and they’ve become Christian and wanted them removed or covered,″ he says.