Thursday, February 9, 2017

Christians, Tattoos & Body Piercings

            Tattoos and body piercings are popular because secular and spiritual celebrities flaunt their tattoos and body piercings. Hence, the fashion conscious Christians are tempted to upgrade their appearance through tattoos and body piercings.

            So a genuine question in the minds of God-fearing Christians is whether they can tattoo and pierce their bodies.


            Christian Research Journal describes the history behind tattoos and body piercings, “Tattoos and body piercings are not unique to contemporary culture. For example, in 1991, a 5,000-year-old corpse (later named Otzi) was found frozen in a glacier with several tattoos imprinted on his skin.1 A 4,000-year-old clay figurine from Iran was discovered to have multiple ear piercings.2 The Pentateuch reveals that in approximately 1400 BC tattooing and body piercing were well-known practices in ancient Israel and among its Mesopotamian neighbors (Exod.32:2–3; Lev.19:28). Furthermore, a remarkable number of first-century Greek and Roman writers mention the prevalence of tattoos, and the second-century historian Herodian even described the people of northern Britain as “Picts” after the open display of their body markings.3 Throughout church history, tattoos have also been referred to in edicts, councils, and personal correspondence among clergy.

            Tattoos started to gain prevalence in the Unites States when Samuel O’Reilly patented the first electric tattoo machine in 1891, which was based on an embroidering machine invented by Thomas Edison.4 In the twentieth century, tattoos and body piercings drew the attention of the public media. In 1936, Life magazine created a stir with an article that claimed one in ten Americans was tattooed.5 Current estimates on just how many people are tattooed or pierced vary widely, but the Mayo Clinic reports that approximately 20 million Americans are tattooed and an even larger number have body piercings.6 A nationwide Harris Interactive Poll found that 16percent of all adults have at least one tattoo. The highest incidence of tattoos was found among Americans age 25 to 29 (36percent) and those age 30 to 39 (28percent).7 Among university students, it was reported that 23 percent had one to three tattoos, and 51percent had one or more body piercings, aside from earlobe piercings for women.8 According to U.S. News and World Report, tattooing is the country’s sixth fastest growing retail business, growing at the rate of one new tattoo parlor opening its doors every day. One estimate has 30,000 tattoo and body piercing artists working in the United States with at least eight major tattoo magazines being published regularly.91

Tattoos, Body Piercings & Salvation

            Would Christians with tattoos and body piercings lose their salvation?

            Salvation is not through works, but belief in Christ. Man should believe in Christ and remain in HIM to gain eternal life with God.

            The implication is that a Christian who believes and remains in Christ cannot be a willful sinner. While a Christian cannot be perfect, he cannot sin willfully, for sins separate man from God.

            So tattoos and body piercings cannot impact Christian’s salvation. This, however, entails that a Christian will not tattoo caricatures that explicitly and implicitly depict the devil, antichrist or have any indecent or anti-christian representations. Moreover, the Christian will not indulge in nipple and genital piercings, for if he does, then his allegiance to the Lord Jesus could be seriously questioned.

Arguments For…

            Some well-meaning Christians contend the following:

            Leviticus 19: 28 (“Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.”) should not be taken out of context. If tattoos are prohibited based on this verse, then by the same principle of biblical hermeneutics…

                        …eating meat should be prohibited (v26).

                        …every Christian ought to maintain beards and not cut their hair, “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.” (v27).

                        …usage of cotton / polyester clothing should also be prohibited (v19).

            God advocated tattoos when HE said that HIS commands, decrees and laws ought to be permanently marked on our hands and heads (Deuteronomy 6: 8).

            Revelation 19: 16 states that Christ will be tattooed, “On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.” (NIV, Emphasis Mine). If Christ will be tattooed, then what prevents any Christian from not getting one?

            It is common for women to pierce their ears and nose. This is a culturally accepted phenomenon. Nowadays, women indulge in multiple piercings on their ears and nose.

            In a nutshell, Christians are encouraged to tattoo and body pierce under the following conditions, “If the tattoo or body piercing (1)will not violate your conscience or the conscience of others, (2)will not cause permanent harm or disease to your physical body, (3)will not harm your interpersonal relationships, and (4)is symbolic of a spiritual truth that will benefit your relationship with Christ and your witness to the world, then I believe that it will not desecrate the image of God and you as a Christian are free in Christ to go under the needle.”2

Arguments Against…

            Leviticus 19: 28, 1 Peter 3: 3-4 are some of the passages invoked by Christians to prohibit tattoo and body piercings.

            These are more arguments against tattoos and body piercings, “Traditionally, Christians have viewed tattoos as immoral on the basis that they desecrate the image of God.17 Proponents of this view say: (1)Tattoos desecrate the structural aspect of the image of God because they violate our consciences (Rom.2:15) and God’s Law (Lev.19:28). In reference to his tattoo, one Christian writes, “With my depraved and back-slidden mind, I justified an abomination to God Himself, who instructs us through His divine law not to print any marks on our bodies (Lev.19:28).”18 (2)Tattoos desecrate the functional aspect of the image of God because they mutilate the body that is supposed to be nurtured and sustained, making it vulnerable to infection. (3)The relational aspect of the image of God is desecrated by tattoos because they hinder unity within the body of Christ and violate the consciences of fellow Christians (1Cor.8:9–12). Psychiatrist ArmandoR.Favazza summarizes: “Many people—especially those belonging to non-conformist groups—get tattoos to demonstrate their defiance of traditional authority….Many studies link multiple tattoos with antisocial personality, [and] an increased incidence of assaultive behavior.”19 (4)Lastly, the teleological aspect of the image of God is desecrated by tattoos because they glorify the ungodly and vulgar, as well as convey narcissism, defiance, and arrogance—vices that are inappropriate for Christians (1Pet.3:3). Jean-Chris Miller, author of The Body Art Book, supports this point by stating, “Death and darkness have always been a classic tattoo theme—skulls, snakes, demons, and spider webs are all conventional tattoo imagery.”20

            Many of the same arguments are used to support the view that body piercings are immoral. Proponents of this view say: (1)Body piercings desecrate the structural aspect of the image of God because they are an unnatural addition to the physical framework of the body. (2)They desecrate the functional aspect of the image of God because they mutilate the body. (3)Body piercings desecrate the relational aspect of the image of God because they hinder unity within the body of Christ and violate the consciences of fellow Christians. (4)Piercings desecrate the teleological aspect of the image of God because they are ostentatious (1Tim.2:9) and may indicate psychological and behavioral maladies. In her book, In the Flesh, Victoria Pitts writes, “Practices such as piercing, scarification, and branding are linked to anorexia, bulimia, and what has been called ‘delicate self-harm syndrome,’ which is an addictive, repetitive, non-decorative form of skin cutting, usually on the arm or legs. This is considered an expression of absolute hatred or anger.”213


            Why do we need tattoos or body piercings?

            We do not need tattoo and body piercings to look cool and trendy, for our focus is to be spiritual and not being excessively cool and trendy. (It’s not that we should not be cool and trendy, but be moderately so.)

            We do not need tattoo and body piercings because our celebrity idols have them, for Christians ought to be God-focused and not man-focused.

            Would I ever have a tattoo or body piercing? No! Would I recommend it to anyone? No! They serve no constructive purpose at all.

            Should tattoo and body piercings be prohibited? No! Tattoos and body piercings are absolutely unnecessary.

            Should we judge those Christians with tattoos and body piercings? No, not by any means.

            Finally, would God be impressed with tattoos and body piercings? No! Never! If not God, who are we impressing with tattoos and body piercings? 

            It’s of utmost significance to study the Bible more than once than to desire tattoos and body piercings.





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