What Fundamentalists Can Learn From Kat Von D

What Fundamentalists Can Learn From Kat Von D November 11, 2023

Kat Von D is an inspiration, and other Christians should take note.
Kat Von D is an inspiration, and other Christians should take note. Photo by Mariano Vivanco. CC-BY-SA-3.0.

Celebrity tattoo artist, entrepreneur, and reality TV star Kat Von D recently opened up about her faith in Jesus, sparking criticism from certain Fundamentalists who scrutinize her past and question the authenticity of her witness.

Her response has been, in a word, Christlike.

We should not dismiss these incidents as just another gossipy celebrity scandal. The treatment Kat Von D has received starkly illuminates how the attitudes of a small but vocal minority could successfully misrepresent all Christ-followers, and her reaction is something each of us should take note of.

In Case You Don’t Know…

First introduced to the public eye via the TLC reality TV show Miami Ink and her very own spinoff LA Ink, Kat Von D has always attracted both dedicated fans and controversy.

Over the years, Von D has created tattoo art for hundreds of celebrities, authored multiple New York Times best sellers, launched her own line of vegan beauty products for Sephora, and is a successful goth/synth-wave recording artist with several releases.

Kat Von D is one of the first celebrity tattoo artists.
Kat Von D is one of the first celebrity tattoo artists. Photo ©Andrew Stuart 2011. CC-BY-SA-3.0

Von D’s critics have attacked her style, relationships, past statements on vaccinations, accused her of anti-Semitism, false advertising regarding animal testing, and even called her a Satanist and claimed she was a witch.

Growing up as the child of Seventh-Day Adventist missionaries, Von D was born Katherine von Drachenberg in Montemorelos, Mexico, and describes her upbringing as “a Christian home” although she “had a lot of questions as a kid.” She became interested in music and art at an early age, and by the time she was fourteen, she knew she wanted to become a professional tattoo artist. She quit school to work in a San Bernadino tattoo parlor just down the street from a prison, guaranteeing a steady customer base.

In 2005, Von D’s artistic talent piqued the interest of television producers, and she quickly became a celebrity. Known for her distinctive personal style, which incorporates elements of dark and alternative fashion and reflects gothic, rock, and punk subcultures, she has gathered a fanbase numbering in the millions.

Von D’s personal tattoos and body art are a significant part of her visual identity, as is her unique gothic-inspired makeup. She has embraced a rebellious, non-conformist image while exuding authenticity and confidence, which has only increased her viral influence.

She said that her previous experience with church was, “if you look different, you don’t belong here.”

Journey to Faith

In past interviews, Von D distanced herself from organized religion, while sharing glimpses of her spiritual journey by discussing topics such as astrology, tarot cards, and other mystical or metaphysical subjects.

Meanwhile, Von D was battling addiction. She described herself in that period of her life as a “full-blown alcoholic.” She is now a passionate advocate for addiction recovery. Sober since 2007, she said that although she wanted to fix herself, she “wasn’t really actively pursuing any belief system…I just was sad.”

Kat Von D's spiritual journey led her to Jesus.
Kat Von D’s spiritual journey led her to Jesus. © ladybird2810 via flickr. All rights reserved.

Von D began exploring Transcendental Meditation. Over the years, she described searching for spiritual fulfillment and meaning, but compared those “New Age” approaches to “band-aids on a sinking ship.” She continued, “I was just searching for answers and meaning in so many of the wrong places, like most people do.”

Because of interest Von D had expressed towards various spiritual and esoteric practices, including some elements associated with the occult, many of her followers were shocked when in July 2022, she shared in an Instagram post how she threw out books about witchcraft, magic, and the macabre because they don’t align with who she wants to be.

“I’ve always found beauty in the macabre, but at this point, I just had to ask myself what is my relationship with this content?” Von D wrote. “And the truth is, I just don’t want to invite any of these things into our family’s lives, even if it comes disguised in beautiful covers, collecting dust on my shelves.”

What the rest of the world did not yet know was that Kat Von D had accepted Jesus as her Savior.

Von D said she was in the process of “re-evaluating” her life right before the COVID-19 lockdowns began. A friend sent her a copy of a sermon, and she said that, “it really spoke to me, and it answered a lot of questions.”

“I just want Jesus, and it’s a very narrow road,” Von D said. “I feel like all these breathing techniques, or spell work, nature worship, all these things, they’re just crutches. They’re not really my answer…things I used to find attractive are disgusting to me.”

Von D said that after posting about throwing away her books, she faced immediate criticism on social media. “It was crazy to watch reactions. I feel like you could see literal demons hissing at each other,” she says. She was surprised that “Christians were attacking saying equally evil things” as some of her non-believing followers.

Growth in Grace

Part of Kat Von D’s journey had included shuttering her tattoo parlor in Hollywood and moving with her family from California to Vevay, Indiana. Speaking of her former lifestyle, she said, “I choose to not be around it.”

Von D began attending Switzerland Baptist Church, a small traditional church in her home town whose graying congregation has accepted her with open arms. “My church is amazing,” proclaimed Von D. In an Instagram video, she said, ”My little church was so welcoming.”

Kat Von D says her life has been transformed.
Kat Von D says her life has been transformed. Photo © Allie Beth Stuckey via YouTube.

Von D mentioned she had attended other kinds of churches in California, but enjoys the authenticity of her small Indiana church. “I want to worship, not go to a concert,” she said, remarking that she doesn’t care about smoke and mirrors or how big the worship band is. She has even joined the choir of her home church, and goes to a women’s Bible study every week.

Despite their dismay at the reaction of some Christians on social media, Von D said her husband, artist and musician Rafael Reyes, has been supportive and even attends church with her. She said his encouragement has been instrumental in her spiritual journey to Christianity, although he is not a believer.

As Von D’s faith grew and progressed, she describes what could be called an internal, spiritual shift. “If you would have known my heart and mind where I was before to where I am now, your mind would be blown.” She says she is inspired by the Bible. “My priorities have shifted a great deal…I’m the best wife and the best mother I could be now because of the changes I have had.”

Because of her life transformation, Von D made the decision to get baptized. “I didn’t get baptized to be saved, I was already saved.” She said she wanted to make “a public demonstration of where I stand with my faith,” and to let others know “that I’m not ashamed.”

Baptism by Fire

Kat Von D shared a video of her baptism on Instagram.
Kat Von D shared a video of her baptism on Instagram. Image by thekatvond via Instagram.

On October 3, 2023, Kat Von D shared an Instagram video of her baptism. “I knew that when I posted that video, I knew people had questions,” she said. “This was one of the most important days of my life. I want to document it just like I would document my wedding. To share it with the world it was intentional…to publicly proclaim this was me setting some things right.”

“This is something I want to celebrate, and I want to be open and honest about it.”

Publicly and privately, Von D has received both praise and criticism. “I’ve been taking my time processing the experience and the feedback I’ve gotten.” She said, “I know the majority of my fans and followers are not Christian.” She stated that in most of the responses “was an overwhelming, beautiful amount of positivity.”

Unfortunately, Von D describes that “there was this other side of the response that was so awful…it was really the Christians who were the worst.” She explained, “it was sad to see this critical display of judgment from Christians,” that it “isn’t Christlike to judge people’s journey.”

Many of the negative comments reflected judgments that Fundamentalists commonly make. Von D said that not only did some pick apart her past, but the fashion choices of the friends she had invited to the baptism, and even the position of her hands in the water as she was submerged.

Possibly most hurtful were those who accused Von D of faking her faith in Jesus. She characterized those comments as “cruel and annoying, holier than thou…Who does it help?”

Von D even describes receiving backlash for the clothes she wears and her music preferences. “I don’t think I am a dark person because I wear dark clothes,” she said, “I didn’t know there was a uniform.” She continued, “I don’t think Jesus would be bummed with me because I listen to The Cure…you’re pushing people away.”

According to Von D, her husband did not find the comments to be a positive representation of Christianity, and told her, “I don’t want to be a part of that.”

What makes this not only sad is also what makes it a valuable lesson, because Von D has been open and transparent with her thoughts and feelings. “When you have an entire community of people attacking you…when it’s getting amplified so much, it turns people off.”

Von D mentioned more than once that her husband is not a believer, and said, “If these people genuinely cared about me or my husband, instead of picking us apart or picking him apart, I wish that you would just pray for us instead…I’m here to be here and support him, and to be the best wife I can for him.”

“I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere now,” she said.

Love is Relational

Kat Von D is not discouraged, despite her vocal detractors: “I feel very sound in my faith.”

Von D said that she doesn’t intend to live out her faith in the headlines, but seeks to love others relationally. She has even reached out to others in the entertainment industry to share her faith, and described a number of positive encounters. “I love Marilyn Manson,” she said. “What do you think I should do?” she asked. “I’m still going to love my friends.”

"Why would I turn away my friends when I could be an open door?"
“Why would I turn away my friends when I could be an open door?” Photo by Kat Von D via Twitter.

To those who criticize her for maintaining relationships with non-believers, Von D said she has no intentions of cutting off her friends. “I don’t think Jesus would either,” she said. “Why would I turn away my friends…when I could be an open door?”

Von D has a message for her detractors. “It’s really insane that we live in a time that we still judge a book by it’s cover.” She asked, “Do you only hang out with people who think and look like you?” and added, “That is a very closed-minded kind of life.”

“I would never judge you for how you look, so why would you judge me?”

We need more people like Kat Von D who are willing to be advocates for those whom are marginalized by the judgment of Fundamentalists within the church.

“The important change is not outward,” said Von D. “If there was anybody out there that felt like they were at a crossroads and don’t feel like you fit in…you’re not alone,” she said. “I love you no matter what.”

About James Travis Young
James Travis Young is an ordained minister in the Church of the Nazarene making Christlike disciples alongside his spouse in Galveston, Texas, USA. Travis has served for decades in several active ministry roles including pastor, church planter, and teacher, and his writing has been featured in several books and publications. You can read more about the author here.

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