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Ohio tattoo artists use skills to spread faith

By Associated Press
On November 9, 2005

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) _ As an ordained minister, Brian Krabach denounces demonic symbols. As a tattoo artist, he refuses to ink his patrons with pentagrams or swastikas.Krabach opened Revelation Tattoos in Toledo about a year ago as an extension of his ministry to people who feel put off by more straight-laced Christian lifestyles.

"It's not that we preach to people,'' he said. ``We just talk.''

Tattoo artist Ron Lee took Krabach as his apprentice, and the two co-founded the Toledo shop after Lee closed his parlor in Petersburg, Mich., about 15 miles north of Toledo.

Lee, 40, still works in Petersburg as a part-time firefighter and paints acrylic art of firefighters. He has been designing tattoos for 11 years.

Krabach, 30, is a former Web designer and Internet entrepreneur who left his high-paying job to found Paradox Church, where he is now the pastor.

"I thought about starting a church to reach our peers, a church that was like the others but with a different flavor,'' he said.

Krabach said the subject of God comes up every day at Revelation. The heavily tattooed and pierced minister said he enjoyed talking to tattoo artists about Jesus, but as he began to run out of uninked skin, he knew he'd need another approach to reach a nontraditional part of the population.

"So I decided to get on the other side of the chair,'' he said.

Krabach looked up Lee after learning he was involved in the Christian Tattoo Association, which claims several hundred members.

The two struck up a friendship and began looking for Toledo property. They found a spot nestled near a crack house and a liquor store.

"Brian's ministry is, I think, reaching the Gothics and other people who are marginalized by our usual standards of lifestyle,'' said the Rev. Dave Claassen, pastor of Mayfair-Plymouth Congregational Christian Church, a financial and spiritual supporter of Paradox.

But that ministry means drawing some lines, Lee said, such as not tattooing demonic symbols onto patrons.

"I tell them I can't do that,'' Lee said. ``I have to answer (to God) for it someday.''

"Claassen said Paradox and Revelation should be encouraged and commended for reaching out to a different segment of society.

"These wonderful folks are not going to be reached by a traditional style of church very easily, so Brian is able to remove some of the barriers between those people and a relationship with the Lord,'' he said.

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