Lubbock, a city where churches outnumber tattoo parlors 25 to one, has some new billboards that combine the love of religion and ink. The billboards feature a hirsute Christ with words including “outcast,” “jealous,” and “faithless” tattooed on his body and outstretched arms.
An anonymous group has erected 59 of the billboards in a fifty-to-sixty mile radius of Lubbock, according to a spokesperson for the group, speaking to Texas Monthly on condition of anonymity. The billboards went up on September 30 and are set to stay up for four weeks. The billboards direct people to visit jesustattoo.org, where they can watch videos and learn more about Christ.
“This idea was a creation of a group of people that who were humbled by the love of Jesus and they just wanted to share it with everyone, both churched and unchurched, in a creative way,” the spokesperson explained.
The group is being coy about its identity. On their website they refer to themselves as “a small group of people humbled by the love of Jesus. We are not a church. We are not selling anything. We encourage you to tell as many people as possible. That’s it.” The domain name was registered through a proxy service, making it harder to trace, but this appears to be a well-financed marketing campign designed to go viral. We wouldn’t be surprised if there were a tech-savvy megachurch somewhere behind the effort.
Of course, the idea of renting out billboards to get your message out is older than the Interstate Highway System. But this project seems more polished than most, which can be attributed to the fact that a Lubbock-based advertising agency volunteered to handle the creative aspects of the campaign.
Reaction in Lubbock’s religious community has been mixed. Davis Wilson, a pastor at Lubbock’s Southcrest Baptist Church, told ABC News that he liked the campaign. “I thought that it was cleverly done because, basically, it’s a visual of Jesus taking the sins of people and covering them and taking them from an outcast or something and giving them a new start, which is what the gospel is about,” he said. “I looked it up, and I said … this is perfect because it just draws people in here.” The pentecostals, however, are unimpressed: Pastor Mark Herridge of Pentecostal Lighthouse Church in Livingston opined to the Christian News Network that he found the project “Utterly detestable. …Tattoos have always been associated with paganism. To lift them up as an evangelistic tool is to completely miss the point of why Jesus saved us,” he said.
The group’s spokesperson said that most of the feedback they’ve heard about the project is positive. But that’s not the point. “We welcome any kind of feedback,” she said. “Anything that gets people talking about the greatest love story of all time.”