The large Celtic cross tattooed on the small of Amy Bonde’s back testifies to how she sees Jesus Christ as her “lover.”

The Hebrew letters encircling the young Vancouver woman’s ornate cross are from the spiritually erotic Bible chapter, The Song of Solomon. They read “I am my beloved’s, and he is mine.”

The sentiment captures Bonde’s desire to be in an intimate relationship with Jesus. The lanky 23-year-old, who wears bluejeans and black platform shoes, is one of a growing subculture of evangelical Christians who are flouting their religion’s straight-laced past and adorning their bodies with permanent religious tattoos.

In a room at Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Langley — which shakes on Friday nights with free-spirited rock-gospel music and about 150 young people speaking in the ecstatic language called glossolalia — Peter Davyduck, a burly 24-year-old with a hedgehog haircut, shows the tattoo on his ankle.

It is a stylized version of the word “SIN.”

To Davyduck, it is his way of reminding judgmental Christians that everyone is a sinner and should be accepted in spite of it. Christians, Davyduck says, don’t have to live in guilt behind “white picket fences.” They are freed by Jesus Christ, he says, to be creative, expressive human beings.

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