Ben Atkins is no regular vicar. In fact, the London-based minister used to be a Satanist, before he became captivated by the love of God and fully devoted himself to Christian ministry.
In a short episode aired on BBC Three, Atkins heads to a London tattoo parlor with the intention of getting some ink to “tell that story” — and what a story it is!
“I woke up one morning, saw the devil at the end of my bed who told me I was going to pass my GCSE‘s and die,” Ben explained to the tattoo artist. “I used to be a Satanist, then I met God, and became a Christian.”
Now, he wants to mark his body with a permanent reminder of his powerful journey from darkness to light. After Ben shared his remarkable conversion story with the tattoo artist, he explained his unusual vocation. She was absolutely stunned.
“I want a tattoo that is meaningful,” Ben explained. “I used to be a Satanist but now I’m a vicar. I want something that tells that story.”
“It’s really stereotypical, [but] when I picture a vicar, I think of someone out of a film with a dog collar, a black shirt and a gold cross,” she explained. “And they are old.”
“Sorry for my ignorance, but are you allowed to get tattoos?” she asked Atkins.
“Absolutely!” he laughed. “Tattooing a vicar is probably like tattooing anybody else. I’m not gonna bleed black or anything!”
Atkins, who grew up self-harming and suffered from a range of emotional health issues, is convinced that the Lord saved him from a deep and fearsome spiritual darkness.
“I was really messed up. A lot of trauma, a lot of anxiety. Cutting myself, suicidal thoughts,” he said of his childhood. When he was introduced to Satanism, and became immediately hooked.
“I stayed over at a friend’s house one night after an argument with my parents and I remember lying down in bed, all the feelings of the pain and everything,” he said. “I saw in his bookshelf the Satanic Bible. I picked it up and started reading. It made sense. It was telling me what I wanted to hear. I began praying to Satan. I felt like he and I had a partnership. He was my master.”
But that decision to commit his life to the work of Satan had grave consequences.
“From that point, I started having nightmares, dreams where I would see him,” Ben explained. “I couldn’t run away from him anymore.”
Meet the Satanist turned Vicar, Ben Atkins
Posted by BBC Three on Friday, April 13, 2018
Then, things got even darker.
“I remember having a huge argument at home one day, going to my room, and all I could think of was just to scar myself. Before I knew it I was just carving this pentagram over my heart, this symbol of Satanism. I remember praying to Satan and saying ‘OK, I’m yours.'”
“I was trying to achieve escape and control,” Ben added.
“The concepts of the tattoo I’m getting — some bird silhouettes with a lion involved — to point to this boldness that I used to try and live with, ‘fortune favors the bold.'”
Now, though, Ben embraces a completely different mindset, knowing that the Lord protects the weak and vulnerable.
“God looks after the weak,” he explained. “It’s about joining up my story. I don’t have to try and be strong. I don’t have to pursue pride and pretend that everything is fine. It’s OK to be me.”
The tattoo artist, clearly intrigued by his story, pressed Atkins on how he became a vicar.
He explained how he got “dragged to a Church event,” where he heard a talk. Afterward, something extraordinary happened.
“They were offering to pray for people. I thought I’ve got my own prayer thing going on they probably wouldn’t like to know. This guy came up to me and say ‘would you like me to pray for you’?” Ben recalled.
“As this guy prayed for me I felt this incredible peace wash over me. I felt something that was even more powerful than what I felt at the hands of Satan but it was liberating,” he added.
“That was when, I think I said ‘OK, I should probably stop with this Satanism stuff.'”
“My aim as a vicar is to be me, and to support other people in being them,” Atkins explained. “When I look at my self-harm scars today, my instant response is to be thankful. Thankful that I’m not there anymore. Thankful that I live to tell the tale. I don’t think I could say that I’m proud of myself but I’ve got no shame.”
Now, Ben wants to point other people to a God who has rescued him from the clutches of death and delivered him into a new life of hope and purpose.
“The tattoo is gonna be a visible and permanent reminder of what God has done in my life. Of the difference that following Jesus, a God who isn’t far off and angry but close and loving, and full of care, makes to me. And it is a great opportunity to share that story as well. I can’t hid from this anymore.”
“I can say with confidence that God saved my life.”
You can find out more about Ben’s ministry by visiting his church website here.
(H/T: BBC Three)