Saturday, December 17, 2011

A big difference between 19 and 29...

I have not and do not say much about tattoos and body piercings.  In general, I am against them.  I try not to be the kind of demonizer that throws a Bible passage at someone with a tattoo as if it were a weapon.  I have never preached on this -- although I do mention this in catechism class.  It is certainly part and parcel of a whole area of body image and self-esteem issues. I do not plan to go into it all here but a friend passed on an even handed "rant" by a Roman Catholic monsignor and I would commend his words.  They are not what I would have written but they do the job rather nicely of addresses what has become rampant in our culture.

Let me also say that I believe that much of this is youthful self-indulgence.  There are a great many of our young folks (twenty or so and under) who see things only in the moment.  They, like me at that age, have a certain idea about themselves and life that seems to foster and encourage spontaneous decisions.  Thankfully, there were no cell and camera phones, no YouTube, and no easy access to the tattoo parlors and piercing stations that are in the malls and on Main Street across America.  I could wake up after a youthful indiscretion (what I have learned to call sin) and confess it and it was gone.  Tattoos and body piercings (even radical plastic surgery) does not disappear with regret or confession.  These things are rather permanent reminders of our youthful fancy and, with age, they leave us with the marks of our foolishness to bear publicly and, often, prominently unto death. As one guy put it so eloquently, "There is a big difference between 19 and 29..."

So I commend this to you as a good read for those considering a tattoo or some help for those re-considering a tattoo already regretted.  Scripture has at least one passage against it but more than this, the Bible speaks so positively of our body as the temple of the Holy Spirit and a gift from God.  I would simply say to those attracted to these, be careful, be cautious, and take time to reconsider.  Youthful actions have adult consequences.  As St. Paul has told us only too well, "all things may be possible, but not all things are beneficial..."  Indeed.  What seems a good idea at the moment, especially with the lubricant of enough alcohol or other vice, is very often a bad idea reconsidered.  By then it may be too late.  The other thing is the sheer economics of this all.  Tattoos are expensive.  They are even more expensive to remove.  They are painful.  They are even more painful to remove.  My advice... don't do it and just say you did (if you feel you have to fit in) better a lie to a peer than an arm, shoulder, back, butt, or face full of regret that will not easily go away...


Jk said...

I think people who dislike tattoos have a bias against them, which makes them seem really awful in their own minds.

I admit a bias against a mullet haircut...but that bias only exists because of the current social stigma around mullets.

I think there is a lot of social baggage certain people carry around, with regards to tattoos, that many other people simply don't have.

Everyone agrees that tattoos, as a result of youthful indiscretion, are a bad thing. But this is largely not why tattoos are gotten. It's a false argument.

And the idea that one is ruining or destroying the body with a tattoo, is a personal opinion, not a theological one. Is a tattoo defiling and disfiguring the temple of God, or decorating and celebrating it?

And why does the article bring up the Leviticus passage? Two verses up, that same chapter tells people not to eat meat with blood still in it (anyone had a rare steak lately?) In the next chapter, Leviticus says that a priest must not shave off the edges of their beards (PASTOR PETERS, I see your photo, it looks to me like you've done some beard edge shaving in the recent past... ;)

(I'm not making this argument is self defense...I don't have any tattoos, and don't plan on getting any, but I know a lot of people with them.)

Anonymous said...

When men or women pierce their
ears, they are making a personal
decision. It is completely their
choice. The church really has no
Biblical authority to challenge it.

When men in the 21st century wear
beards, they are making a stylish
choice. If their wife enjoys going
through the forest for a picnic,
then their kissing habits will remain

Anonymous said...

I don't really like tattoos, but the one in the picture actually looks pretty good.

Anonymous said...

Like it or not, people judge by outward appearances. Get a tattoo, a piercing, and/or a mullet, and you automatically lower your chances of getting a good job or a promotion. The general perception of a person with tattoos is either gang member or redneck white trash. And you have to be careful. I once recall my nephew being followed around the shopping mall by hardcore gang members because they saw his piercings and mistakenly thought he was a member of a rival gang. (He never belonged to any gang, but that did not matter to the people who wanted to beat him up.) Protest all you want about society being unfair. Too bad.

Pastor Peters:

Why is there so much emphasis in the Bible on cleanliness and in maintaining a good appearance. Why is this ignored or misunderstood by so many people today.

By the way, what does "rounding the corners of your head" mean in Leviticus?

Anonymous said...

Exception is my cousin. He married young and had a large family with 25 already. He has tattooed the names of his children on the inside of his left upper arm. He wants his children "are close to his heart" forever.
He is the only one who didn't chose a religious symbo. Most tattoos I see are very clear "Catholic or Orthodox." That may confuse people in the U.S., but there is also a very good reason. Christian families, who come from Islamic countries, tattoo christian symbols, not only to distinguish themselves from Muslims, but especially to prevent forced conversions to Islam.
This is not without dangers. The other day during the riots in Cairo it was reported that"security forces" looked for the crosses on the forearms of demonstrators to ensure that they beat up the "right people".

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, SSP said...

Unless we're going to interpret the Scriptures like Oprah Winfrey, Bill O'Reilly, the gals on The View, and Bill Maher, neither the passage from Leviticus 19 nor 1 Corinthians 6 mentioned by the Monsignor in his article have a thing to do with modern day tattoos. Can getting tattoos become a form of idolatry? Sure. We can make idols out of anything. But, to use these passages as a prohibition from God against modern day tattoos is to ignore their context and misunderstand their meaning.

Anonymous said...

Geez, Rev. Messer, did you even read what was written. Pastor Peters did not wrap himself up in the words or the passage but suggested that those considering act with caution and deliberate what is not easily undoable. The passages may not be directly applicable to the practice today but that does not mean they have nothing to say. I have a friend who has spent thousands covering his arms, one leg, back, neck, and a few other spots. I wish he had thought about it more before diving in to this practice. Though he has not said it directly, the fact that he has not gotten one recently and talks little about them seems to me that he wishes the same thing.

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, SSP said...

Dear Anonymous,

I was responding to the article Pr. Peters linked to, wherein the Monsignor used these Scripture passages to help him make his case, not to Pr. Peters' commentary, as I thought I made clear in my post.

Also, I made no mention of whether I think it's a good idea or not to cover one's body in tattoos, just that these particular passages do not address that issue, that's all. The passage in Leviticus is speaking about a specific idolatrous practice among the pagans of the day and has nothing at all to do with someone getting a butterfly tattoo on their ankle (unless they belong to some weird butterfly worshiping cult or something), etc. And the passage from 1 Corinthians 6 has to do with sexual immorality, not getting tattoos or eating junk food or smoking or drinking or any of the other myriad things many people love to associate with that passage.

Pr. Messer

Colleen Oakes said...

This is an issue in our church right now - not so much tattoos, but the perception that a Christian looks a certain way. A good Christian wears khaki pants (pressed), a button down shirt and sensible shoes. He does not have tattoos or piercings, and does not wear dark clothing, jeans or any other form of expressive clothing. This is wrong. We are all sinners, we are all equal in that our Savior died for us. My husband is trying to ring this into our congregation's head: you cannot tell a good Christian by the way he looks, nor should you try. I have a tattoo that I got in college - and that one was a mistake. Luckily, I was smart enough to know that Christ is the only constant, so I got a Jesus fish on my ankle. Two years ago I went back to the tattoo parlor and added a beautiful vine of flowers and an open book to the fish. It turned a lame college tattoo into something so beautiful. I love my tattoo and I would say that it has opened up so many conversations with other people who I would not normally talk to about Jesus. "Cool tattoo, what is it?" "Well, it's a fish to represent my faith in Christ..."

tattoos designs said...

tattoos designs are only designs for fashion or it is the way to express your likes dislikes, your nature, your cultures etc. NO any other reasons behind it.