Working from his tattoo parlor in Bismarck, N.D., the 35-year-oldentrepreneur tattoos everything from skulls to roses to portraits of Jesus.He has been in the business for 15 years, and he sees it as both an art formand a ministry.
"I witness all the time," Mastre said. "When people come in, my job is notto judge them. But I will plant a seed--and if it grows, it grows."
Mastre is so committed to his cause that along with Daniel Ostrowski, aminister who runs a tattoo business in Wausau, Wis., he helped foundthe Christian Tattoo Association. Ostrowski is president of the group, whichhas united about 100 Christian tattoo artists for the purpose of reachingindustry insiders and art enthusiasts with the love of Christ.
"God uses everybody, regardless of what they are doing for a living," Mastresays. "Unfortunately, tattoos got a bad rap because of seedy people in theindustry."
The Christian community is perhaps the most notorious for giving tattoos abad rap. Citing verses such as Leviticus 19:28, "Ye shall not make anycuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you" (KJV),believers often pass judgment on those who make tattoos and those who wearthem.
A closer look at the verse, however, reveals its true meaning. In context,this instruction was part of a larger list of moral and ceremonial laws thatwere given by God to separate His people from the idolatrous worship ofsurrounding nations. According to biblical scholars, the "marks" prohibitedin this verse were made either by means of a hot iron, or sometimes by inkor paint, and were taken in honor of the dead or of an idol, or to pacify ademonic deity.
Others believe these marks refer to an ancient Egyptian practice in whichindividuals painted pictorial inscriptions on bodies so they would knowwhere to go when they reached the afterlife.
Mastre believes tattoos as we know them today are simply a means of artfulexpression. "The word 'tattoo' is not in biblical manuscripts," hesays. "This verse in Leviticus has nothing to do with tattoos."
Mastre refuses to do a tattoo, he says, if a person wants it for the evil orritualistic meaning behind it. "The intent of the heart is what matters," hesays.
So, would Jesus get a tattoo?
"He already has one," Mastre said. "Revelation 19:16 says, 'And He has onHis robe and on His thigh a name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.'"