Heidelcast 19: The Church of Steel vs A Cross of Wood

The Church of Steel vs A Cross of Wood

In downtown San Diego there is a storefront on Broadway which advertises itself as the “Church of Steel.” I found an interview with the proprietor (minister?) of this “church” and it is enlightening.

Actual Related Post
Tattoos as a Search for Fixity in a Liquid World

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  1. Isn’t this a matter of indifference? Don’t we still need “good and necessary consequence” rather than someone waxing nostalgic or finding an extreme example? The exact same things could be said of those who like motorcycles. Motorcycle enthusiasts are always talking about an experience. The message: the freedom of the autonomous self cruising down the open highway because everyone is doing it these days. The medium: a customized bike for the autonomous self that is free of the external restraints of walking on one’s feet. It is arguably as autonomous and unnatural as tattoos. Yet, if I ask my neighbor why he has a motorcycle, his only reason might be its good gas mileage. Shouldn’t the same charity be given as to the motives of those who have or like tattoos? Maybe I am being too sensitive about unnecessarily binding the consciences of other Christians.

    • Why motorcyles? For the cult-hit status of the bookZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values ialmost certainly has something to do with cultural liquidity.

  2. Hi Tyler,

    1. We would need were I trying to pass a law or impose some policy. I’m only trying to get Christians to think through the message inherent in the media of body art. I’m trying to persuade not impose. There’s a difference, don’t you think?

    2. I suppose there’s a little nostalgia here but there’s also been a change in practice and it’s also a true that a lot of guys in the old days came to regret that drunken trip to Broadway in San Diego and that “Mary” tat when they married “Brenda.”

    3. The point is that the Church of Steel isn’t “extreme” any more. It was but it isn’t. The culture is shifting and the C of S (not the church of Scotland) is just an indicator.

    4. I think that when I’m done with a motorcycle I can sell it. When I’m done with a tat I can’t just sell it. That’s in the nature of a tattoo. It’s permanent. It can only be removed by expensive and painful procedures. Modifying a bike is modifying something other than oneself. In the nature of things, a tattoo or body art is modifying oneself. That choice, that message (e.g. assertion of autonomy and self-naming) is permanent. A motorcycle is a message of sorts but it isn’t obviously a message of the same sort. There are practical reasons for riding a bike (e.g., economy). There are few morally justifiable practical reasons for getting a tramp stamp on one’s lower backside. Yes, a bike is more dangerous than a car but it isn’t obviously an assertion of autonomy or re-naming in the way a tat is. Even body piercing is less permanent than a tat.

    5. Check out the discussion that followed the posting of a link to R R Reno’s essay:


  3. Dr. Clark,

    Would it be helpful to bring up that in this Heidelcast a commitment to a tattoo suggests and even parallels RRC‘s quests? The cultural and social forces (liquidity) driving a commitment to a tattoo and a quest for religious certainty and/or experience are at the least profitably comparable? And such a comparison can be edifying for Christians and their churches?

    • Hi Eric,

      I think there’s a connection. Christians should at least consider why they are doing what they are doing and whether Reno is right (and if he’s wrong, why). Telling him (and me) to bug off because we’re old or we “don’t get it” is not an adequate response. I don’t think the discussion can be resolved by appealing to “generational differences.” One might be able to convince me that my distaste for rap music is generational but tat’s haven’t really changed their nature since I was a kid.

      What if a tat is an alternative to baptism? What if it is a sort of pagan sacrament? These are worth considering.

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