Photography by D. Plasman
I got inked last weekend, just below my wrist on my right arm. The decision was totally unplanned. It didn’t hurt one bit. I got inked at the annual meeting of the Michigan Conference of the United Church of Christ that met in Flint, MI, where, in 2016, the tap water is still undrinkable—an American tragedy!
I know what Leviticus says, “You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tattoo any marks upon you” (19:28). But, I say, “Screw Leviticus! Sometimes you just gotta feed your wild side.” I blame the Rev. Deborah Conrad of Woodside Church UCC for taunting the less impulsive side of me. “Come out of the untattooed closet,” she challenged, “and get inked!” So I did.
The two Hebrew words, read from right to left, are pronounced: tee-KOON oh-LUHM. The most common translation is world repair. Repairing the world means working for social justice, striving for equality, alleviating oppression, sorting out what belongs to whom and giving it back.
World repair was the job description Jesus accepted when during his first sermon he read from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of God is upon me, appointing me to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed.”
Because Jesus was singularly driven to repairing the world—more than he was to maintaining unity and purity within his religious tradition—the Man of Nazareth became the Crucified One. Certain religious leaders and higher-ups in the regional government deemed he had to go.
Because of tee-KOON oh-LUHM and, in large part, because the denomination that holds my ordination has taken a giant step away from repairing the damage it has done to members of the LGBTQ community, I added my name to a resolution that can be found at RoomForAll. It reads as follows:
We, the undersigned, are ordained Ministers of Word and Sacrament in the Reformed Church in America (RCA). We are pastors, chaplains, professors, retirees; some are currently without charge, and others serve in different roles.
Relying on the Holy Spirit, scriptures, and the doctrinal standards of the RCA, we joyfully and unconditionally affirm the full inclusion of people of all sexual identities and gender expressions in the Body of Christ, and commit our prayers and support that LGBTQ people will be welcome participants in every aspect of the life and ministry of the RCA.
Our personal statement does not necessarily reflect the views of the congregations or other institutions we serve.
Now, I need to come clean. I didn’t get a real tattoo. The words on my arm were imprinted by an ink stamp; tee-KOON oh-LUHM washed down the tub drain the next morning when I showered.
I’m hoping and trusting the words are written on my heart. If not, I’m going to face my fears, act like an adult, take some medication, and get over to Pain For Sale Tattooing in Grand Rapids and get it done.