- Associated Press - Thursday, April 17, 2014

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - Jes Farris says it happens two or three times a day. Someone walks into Studio 13, a local tattoo shop he owns with his brother, Jake, and inquires about getting a religious tattoo.

Usually, he says, the potential customer is an 18- or 19-year-old male dipping into ink for the first time.

“It’s easier to justify a faith-based tattoo to parents than a tattoo of something else,” he says, adding that’s how he and his much-inked brother started.

Of course, that was about a decade ago, when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were still fresh and tats with Christian images and Scripture were frequently requested by enlistees before military deployment.

Today, that craze has calmed somewhat. But religious images - crosses, the Virgin Mary, Jesus and angels, especially the sword-wielding St. Michael the Archangel - remain an enduring part of the business, The Journal Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/1qOS80L ).

“Right now it’s very popular to get the word ‘faith’ incorporated into the Jesus fish,” Farris says, referring to a symbol of early Christians. “We get that more than probably anything right now.”

Another popular motif is the words of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” as the verse is rendered in the New King James Version of the New Testament.

“That became popular after UFC fighters got it,” he says, referring to an organization of top mixed-martial-arts competitors. “It just boomed on the Internet.”

St. Michael, patron saint of seafarers, paratroopers and police, as well as the members of the military, is popular with people in those professions, he says.

Chad Bedwell, 34, is a youth minister at Sonrise United Methodist Church in Aboite Township. He has about a half-dozen faith-inspired tattoos.

He says he likes participating in their design. He adds that their meaning isn’t always immediately obvious - the better to use the markings as an opportunity to tell others about his faith.

On each of his arms he has images of a nail wrapped in ribbon. On one arm, the inscription reads “Tougher.” The other arm has the words “Than Nails.”

“I’m kind of a big guy, and I work out, so people think that’s what it refers to. People call me out about it - ‘Oh, so you think you’re tough, huh?’

“I tell them, ‘No, I’m referring to the nails of Christ on the cross. It’s not me.’ “

Bedwell also has a tattoo of what he calls “a shadow cross” - one that’s hard to see - on one wrist.

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