Guest Outpost blog by Alex Becker
I am invisible. It’s not something I regularly tell people, largely because if I told them out loud that I was invisible, they’d hear me and know I was there. The whole point of being invisible, after all, is not to draw attention to myself.
As a pastor, it’s particularly useful to be invisible. When I get on a plane or a bus, when I’m out shopping for groceries or clothes, or when I’m out at a restaurant, it’s great to not have people ask me questions about being a pastor, or about Christianity, or about God in general. Instead of all those exhausting conversations, I’m free to go about my business camouflaged.
Of course, I’m not invisible in the sense that you can’t see me with your eyes. I’m invisible in a spiritual sense – you’d never know from looking at me that I’m Christian.
I’ve toyed around with the idea of wearing a collar or a cross necklace, but I’ve never been forced to wear them, and so I haven’t. You won’t see me wearing a nametag with my title and profession written on it while walking around town. I have a variety of psychological and theological reasons for not being more visibly Christian, but when it comes down to it, it’s a choice I make out of comfort. It allows me to choose whether I’m going to be a person who happens to act like a Christian, or a flawed Christian who sometimes loves his neighbor and sometimes doesn’t.
I often look at people with cross tattoos or Bible verse tattoos and admire them for their willingness to put their faith on display. I’ve never wanted a tattoo, but when it comes to faith I find myself asking, “Why wouldn’t I get a tattoo that symbolizes my commitment to Christ?” After all, I’m not planning on losing my faith. Tattoos are (supposed to be) a lifelong statement, things that define you. They are birthmarks that we choose, and they reflect the life we’ve lived or the life we want to live. I do, after all, want to live a life that is marked by the love of Christ, a life in which I try to love God and love others first and foremost. Why shouldn’t I be willing to commit that to a tattoo?
In the end, the reasons are more aesthetic than philosophical. My personality doesn’t lend itself to tattooing. Theoretically, I could have a tattoo of a cross or something else that reflects my faith, or I could have a tattoo of a wedding ring to symbolize that lifelong commitment. But I know that I’m going to choose to remain invisible, and that brings with it a particular challenge.
If I don’t have something that visibly declares my faith, I have to live it out that much louder. I have to remember on my own that I am representing Christians everywhere when I don’t tip the waiter, when I cut someone off in traffic or when I studiously ignore the person on the sidewalk with the cardboard “please help God bless” sign. I’m not saying that getting a tattoo removes that responsibility. But even without a tattoo, I want to be marked by my faith. I want to live it out so that I might as well have it tattooed across my hands and my forehead. I want people to know the love of God through me, to feel welcome in my presence, to feel like a sibling, not a stranger. I don’t want to stay invisible.
ALEX BECKER serves as the pastor of Langcliffe Presbyterian Church just outside of Scranton in the wonderful town of Avoca, Pennsylvania, where you might catch him out for a run, or more likely a walk.