Saturday, January 26, 2013

Don't Get Inked: Why The Church Should Start Speaking about Tattoos and What It Should Say


Tattoos are ubiquitous and no passing fad. It goes without saying that tattoos have moved off the Navy ships and out of the motorcycle gangs to include the bodies of a large minority of 20-somethings. Models, athletes, and actors, whose bodies are truly their temples, have forever altered those temples by getting inked. Tattoos may be the most visible and visceral symbol of a changing culture, a generation of men and women content to make their Baby Boomer parents look like obedient conformists by comparison. 

Not having a tattoo may now qualify as odd in a land where everyone feels the urge to uniquely brand their bodies. Not having one may also become a kind of dividing line at a deeper level. For I would argue that whether one gets inked or not may represent more than whether one is brave enough to permanently change the body we have been given; it now represents - among many, but certainly not all - a more fundamental worldview that exposes how we feel about our unique place in the world.

Before I say another word, some qualifiers. I know that to criticize tattoos has become the real taboo. Tattoos, because they are permanent and intended to say something unique, something to which we commit ourselves with our very bodies, are deeply personal. It used to be a sign of rebellion, so to criticize the person getting the tattoo as a rebel was easy. Now, Christians get tattoos of Bible verses, those grieving get tattoos to remember the dead, and those in committed marriages get tattoos to tell the world of their commitment. And then there are the tattoos that are in memory of a band of brothers, or a similarly meaningful time of intense bonding, like a squadron in the military. 

I get that not all tattoos are created equally and that to commemorate the life of a loved one or a sacred brotherhood or event is as good a justification as one can have. I get that if you feel very deeply about something, writing a blogpost won't do it justice. You want the world to know how serious you are, how deeply you feel about that one thing. And tattoos are perhaps the ultimate form of commitment. I get that, and respect that.

But those aren't the tattoos I'm thinking about. I am talking about the ubiquity of relatively meaningless tattoos, tattoos that are not forged out of a trial by fire (say the Battle of Fallujah) or out of deep anguish, wherein the tattoo is actually a part of the grieving process (say the death of a spouse or child). I am talking about designer tats that are the result of a desire to be unique, or to celebrate something you think is important now, but may not always be. I can't quantify those tattoos; could it be as high as 70% of them? 80%? 90%?

Of course, I understand that in a free society anyone can do anything they want with their body and I realize I just offended the sensibilities of half of a generation, even many of those who aren't inked. Biblically, I'm not going to say the Levitical prohibition against tattoos still stands, per se. I would personally heed that prohibition, but theologians don't agree on that. I'm asking if the Church should begin to question the culture of tattoos, the culture of uniqueness, the culture of being "one of a kind". I'm asking if somehow, someway, the Church should speak to whether or not an individual should get a tattoo. 

That may not be possible because the topic is so flammable. Maybe we'll just have to let the fad pass…which could take a while. Maybe the best thing we can hope for is to provide good pastoral care when some of those who got inked have regrets. 

But I can hardly help but to see a corollary between a generation that is getting inked like never before and a generation that has abandoned the Church, certainly a traditional or historic expression of the Church. Is it any wonder those that highly value the unique and permanent branding of a personalized tattoo may not want to sit under the authority of anyone in the Church? Is it any wonder those who want the world to know that they have the courage to tattoo themselves are so independent that they would not also desire to avoid rote liturgies and 300-year-old hymns?

Now, some congregations have used the zeitgeist of tattoos as a subject for projects and sermons. Maybe we should all try to work side-by-side with this culture so we don't lost more in the generation. One congregation had over 70 members get tattooed during Easter week to commemorate the branding of a cruciform life. As tattoos and theology go, this is probably as good as it gets. 

But this can't possibly last forever. At some point, everyone who wants a tattoo will get one, and you'll have to be on to the latest trend. One is reminded of Paul's teaching that a circumcision - itself a change to the body none would forget - should not be sought. Instead, God now requires a circumcision of the heart. 

And that begins to get to the nub of the matter. Rather than having a debate about tattoos per se, we should, as I mentioned above, see them as the most visible and visceral symbol of a culture focused on the self. I can't prevent tattoos that have already sunk into the skin, and shaming people who have them won't help anyone. But the Church should, at some point, start to speak about them because not to do so would be negligent. To let this culture continue to wallow in its narcissistic malaise isn't fair to them. And maybe talking about the zeitgeist of tats will get their attention. 

So what should we say about this culture? Obviously, the culture has changed -  and is changing - fast. I won't elaborate on the usual list: instant gratification, attention deficit, relativistic understanding of truth, spiritual but not religious, extremely independent, victims of a misunderstanding of self-esteem. While to establish a golden age that never was would be intellectually dishonest, is this generation the best we can offer? Will any history books look back on this time as one of timeless virtues being embraced and lived out? Or as a time of pretty superficial and immediate distractions consuming our day to day lives? 

No longer are we content to live quiet lives of service. No longer will we cede authority to God; we hardly concede authority to our parents or bosses. No longer do we see ourselves as filling an important, but relatively anonymous and obscure role in the world. No, we want to be important, we want to be noticed, we want to be big fish in small ponds. And because most of us cannot or will not achieve notoriety that through our sheer brilliance, our notable work output, or our impact on the arts or  film, we turn to other ways to differentiate ourselves. We find it hard to accept that we will simply be anonymous and relatively obscure worker bees in a world that is hard to comprehend.

That's when tattoos come in handy. They do for us what few of us can accomplish through sheer talent or effort: they distinguish us. They make us unique. They celebrate the fact that there is no one else exactly like us. They feed our desire to be different and significant. 

But they're a quick fix to the wrong problem. This is where the Church has something important to say to those who feel the need to distinguish. God has already made all people unique and different. Everyone is gifted with gifts that only they have, gifts that the world needs. And everyone already looks different. We don't need to go out of our way to be different. We already are. We just need to exploit the gifts we've already been given. We just need to be willing to explore how we are already made wholly unique and in demand. So long as we rebel against the authority of God, putting tattoos aside, there is no reason to expect that our natural uniqueness will quench our thirst for notoriety.

Again, without shaming those who have tattoos, at some point the church can and should talk about the tattoo phenomenon. It won't be popular among our generation, but the next generation that is not yet inked may appreciate that someone spoke against them before the pressure got to them. And not just to be negative, but encourage their desire to be unique and to be, dare I say, special. Their unique gifts can be put to service. That's a much more fulfilling, and perhaps even more permanent, way to distinguish oneself.

55 comments:

Paxton said...

"No, we want to be important, we want to be noticed..."

This is what I see too with many who have tattoos. They are seeking attention. Why else would one wear shorts in 40 deg weather? (Thinking of some guy who I saw with tattoos on both calves--and one was an otter or something.)

Also, I think dermatologists are in for a lucrative living over the next 15 to 30 years as folks come to regret their tats.

Benjamin Sandoval said...

The proliferation of tattoos and body piercings is a byproduct of a Western Civilization that is becoming increasingly pagan. Christians do not defile their bodies in such ways.

Jason Simon said...

First to Benjamin, I am a devout Catholic Christian husband, father and member of the church. I also have 3 tattoos. So to say that "Christians do not defile their bodies in such ways" is off the mark. Both the implication that true Christians don't get tattoos and that the tattoos themselves are "defiling."
Now to the article itself, one thing the author failed to do is give the official position of the church on tattoos. Before getting my last tattoo, a family tree that has my children represented on it along with a cross in the roots, I checked with my Priest and was told that as long as the tattoo was not offensive (skulls, demons, cursing, etc.) then I was fine and the church had no problems with it. Any clarification on that from the author would be appreciated.

Hank MoHank said...

I don't have a tattoo, and don't recommend them- because of two Catholic principles, which when followed I believe make us more Christlike :
1) Our bodies don't below to ourselves they belong to God, therefore we are not free to do whatever we want with our bodies
2) Tattoos don't promote modesty and are about the statement - "hey, look at me" - which is why people get them and make sure everyone can see them.
--Having said that I know many good people who have Tattoos, but who just don't comprehend 1 & 2 above.

teleroboxer said...

I guess I shouldn't wear clothes, either, since I usually buy them and pick them out each day in order to express my own individual sense of style and identity. Seeing as how this makes me more inclined to shun Church teachings, maybe I should just switch to silver jumpsuits.

Actually, I think the blog post is the ultimate vanity of our time. At least the author should have the decency to post anonymously, if at all.

teleroboxer said...

Hank MoHank is correct. Our body belongs to God, not ourselves. It's not up to us what we do with our bodies. This is why I never leave my room, because I'm afraid that I might do something wrong with my body. Also why I never go to the dentist, because it's not my choice whether or not to drill holes in my teeth.

E2 said...

Missed by many is the hilarious yet pathetic irony of an entire generation desperately seeking to express it's uniqueness through mass-marketed "individuality." This goes for tattoos, expensive clothes that are ripped and worn, infection-inducing piercings etc. all to appear rebellious...like everybody else. The quality of education--intellectual and moral--is called into question.

Annie said...

I agree and disagree with you. I agree that meaningless (I like hello kitty so I am going to tatto her on my shoulder) needs to be addresses. As a heavily tattooed DEVOUT ORTHODOX Catholic. I think we have to be careful. Perhaps it is relativism, but my tattoos are all of DEEP religious significance... When people ask about them it gives me, an Introvert a chance to Evangelise our faith.

Annie said...

Sorry, my browser wouldn't let me finish typing. An example would be that on my back is tattoed, "oh Lord by your cross and ressurection you have set us free." It clearly tells the story of salvation, and Christ's Passion, like the stations, and stained glass in our churches, "temples".... I am curious what you think about this... I use my body to proclaim he good news, not just through tattooed, but through good works...

Annie said...

Also, the only place this is addressed is the Old Testament in reference to paganism. As pagans would tattoo themselves as part of pagan ritual to honor pagan Gods. The church hasn't ruled it immoral, and the apostles and Jesus never address it. I could see someone trying to parallel this to homosexuality, biblically, in an argument for relativism.... But it isn't an act that violates a natural law (like procreation), it doesn't invalidate a sacrament.... None of these things were addressed in this article... I would like to see them addressed.

teleroboxer said...

I'm sure after the Church brings abortion on demand to an end, averts the redefinition of marriage in Western countries, and addresses human rights neglect and abuse in nations all over the world, stopping teenage girls from getting butterflies inked on their butt cheeks will be next on the Church's agenda.

Annie said...

Jason, this has been my encounter with several priests as well...

Annie said...

No need to be rude, I am seeking a serious discourse. I, btw, fight with the church on behalf of those causes.

Annie said...

Also, please read all the comments...

lauermar said...

Please don't apologize for your views, relieveddebtor. The other side won't compromise theirs. Leviticus and its moral lessons aren't rescinded. We have Christ's teachings on our side. We must be apart from the culture, St. Paul said. Tattoos are graffiti on the Mona Lisa. They mark the beast. Their permanence says the wearer is into pagan self-worship, regardless of actual intent. Tattooed people are unaware and refuse to belive it, because they are obstinate in their love of the flesh. If you truly love Jesus, wear His scapular, not a tattoo. If you're grieving for a loved one, buy a wreath. Say prayers and have masses said. Getting a tattoo does nothing for his soul. In love? Get married and stay faithful. Faith must be practiced, not tattooed.

lauermar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annie said...

I would hope you wouldn't judge me so harshly as I pray in the tabernacle, or march for life.... We are not to judge others, but to try to live the law of the Church, which at the moment doesn't address tattoos, and whe I consulted with priests about it, they were not on agree acne with you... See above.

Annie said...

http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=229374

lauermar said...

This isn't about judging. Tattoos are about love of the flesh and attachment to earthly things, period. Eucharistic adoration and work for prolife causes are important, but they don't extinguish human concupisece--only Christ can. Participation in all of the sacraments are what Jesus asks of us. Unfortunately, few priests preach about hell or sin anymore, let alone teach against contraceptives. That some would sanction tattoos is not surprising, but unfortunate.

Annie said...

Not necessarily. Mine were not for a love of flesh, and because of my modest dress they do not bring me attention nor were for vain purposes.

Annie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annie said...

Btw, I am lucky in that our priests DO preach on sin, he'll, and satan.

teleroboxer said...

You're right. Tattoos are about love of the flesh. Which is why in addition to never getting inked, I never wear t-shirts with logos on them. I also don't cut or style my hair.

Annie said...

Ah, but your comment DOES judge the intentions of my heart, and inaccurately at that. I would urge caution in making judgments like that, especially when there is nothing in the catechism to stand on. Law, 2289 I know quite well, as a former professional athlete who left the sport and repented for the sin stated there... Quite a sacrifice indeed! I know the difference between my getting tattoos and my worship of my body... Let us not forget self-flaggelatioN conducted by many deeply religious in the dark ages as an act of devotion.

Annie said...

From where I stand I think we should look at the Catechism, 2477...

Scott said...

Thanks, everyone. I've been trying to decide if I should leave the Catholic Church or not, and am more and more being driven to leaving. As are many present catholics. I have a tattoo of the Lamb of God and a tattoo of the Chi-Rho Cross. Apparently, I'm a pagan who is devoted to the flesh, and therefore must burn for all of eternity in hell. Well, if I'm going to express my love for Christ permanently on my body, yet still be thrown in the fires of hell, then what's the use of continuing to obey the rest of the commandments and being faithful? I'm already doomed, so I might as well go have a good time. Thank you, lauermar for showing me that, since I'm already going to burn in hell for being a pagan because I have a tattoo, I might as well just stop practicing my faith and become a pagan. And then you wonder why the church isn't doing so well in this world. "Judge not lest ye be judged" ... apparently Catholics don't understand that.

Annie said...

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:

- of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

- of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them;

- of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

Annie said...

Scott no you are not. Please read the Catechism, this article is a violation do it, in that it is making a rash moral judgement that is not mentioned, nor backed by the morals of the church (I.e. Catechism) the priests I talked with had the general concensus that tattling, so long as it doesn't violate law, 2289 isn't of moral consequence. Intention of the heart determines that, and if it doesn't mutilate an organ so that it cannot serve its intended purpose.... I thinking loving the church, and following her teachings can be fully accomplished whether you have tattoos or not. I have to see an argument here that would show me otherwise.

Annie said...

Excuse the typing errors... Using a little keyboard.

relieveddebtor said...

Thanks to all for the comments! I'm always honored. Jason, you raise a good point. I don't know of an "official" statement from any church body on tattoos. I think it is a pastoral discretion issue. I did mention the Levitical prohibition, but that text is in dispute, so like a number of issues, it is a choice we make. There is little said in the Bible about them - none of it is positive - and I think that is part of what has allowed them to flourish. Not that what the church teaches is all that heeded anyway!

And I did try to make exceptions, notably the instinct to commemorate particularly important events, like births, deaths and even traumatic events. So I did not want to make a blanket statement regarding all tattoos, but to comment on the general subculture of unique branding and attention seeking among many. My point is, if the church has no clear teaching, maybe it's time we formulate some! Maybe church bodies do need to gather their theologians and issue a paper, just as they did with birth control, abortion, etc. The church won't though because it is terrified of alienating an entire generation that is already in rebellion against the church, Annie and Jason being the exceptions.

Teleroboxer, I know of no church that would institute silver jumpsuits as appropriate clothing. Plaid and knit seem to be the consensus. Seriously, you have a point. I go out of my way to buy clothing that advertises no brands because I do seek anonymity in my clothing. The only clothing that endorses any brand at all are the free t-shirts I get when I give blood. And I do post anonymously, hence relieveddebtor as my handle. I actually mentioned blogging as an option for self-expression. Sure, much of it is narcissistic, but surely not all?

Actually teleroboxer gets to the nub of the matter well. There are some who see their bodies as theirs and some who see it as Gods. It's a question of ownership and/or stewardship. I might go so far as to suggest, as a generalization, that views of the appropriateness of tattoos and the rightness of choices like abortion might line up far more often than not. Like I said, putting aside to a degree the rightness of tattoos themselves, they seem to clearly represent a dividing line of worldviews. Not 100% of course, and there is obviously carryover. But tatted up church members are an anomaly, plain and simple.

Annie, I appreciate your comments. I struggle with religious tattoos. Like I said, they are good as they come if one has to get them. Look at Collin Kaepernick and the attention he has received. One thought, and I mean this with no accusation, is the Ash Wednesday text of Matthew 6, wherein the faithful are taught no to practice their piety before others. How do we square that teaching with tattoos? Is there a connection? I'm open to religious tattoos in concept, but we all know that is a pretty small minority of them that are truly notable for their Christian content. The ubiquitous cross, for example, would get no attention. Didn't Axl Rose have a cross tattoo?

Lauermar, I appreciate your words. Well said.

Thanks again to all. As a side note, it seems like most of the commentators are Catholic. I wonder what the Protestants think?

teleroboxer said...

Scott, I wouldn't worry about it. We're not all scrupulous puritans who make up our own Church teachings.

Annie said...

Good point about Matthew 6. I would ask, what does the practice of piety look like? For the juggler, in the famous parable, it was juggling. I am not sure that religious tattoos aren't a practice of piety. I agree that people can violate 2289 with tattoos, and worship their bodies and serve vanity... But to lump every tattooed person it no that category violates 2477...

relieveddebtor said...

Annie, I googled to see that 2289 and 2477 refer to the Catholic catechism. I'm Lutheran so less familiar with it, but agree with most. I'm not lumping all people in a category. I've tried to be very careful not to do that. I'm just balancing different ways to look at the issue from a biblical point of view, because the Bible just doesn't say much about the issue. What competing philosophy wins out? One says that there is no more permanant way to be cruciform than through a religious tattoo. (I referenced that in the original post.) Another says that to make your piety this public while "desecrating" the body is wrong. Live out the faith is secret, so to speak. We have come to two philosophies that are irreconcilable. Perhaps both have valid points.

Scott, I'm very saddened of your reaction. You know that within Catholicism there is a huge range of views, even among priests and bishops. Leaving the church would not be the right thing to do, I don't think, over two tattoos. If the Church has no one with tattoos, we can't really talk abut this issue well. This is not a creedal matter, even if an important one.

Annie said...

I think you are attempting to take an easy out on a difficult, but fully reconcilable topic. Piety, even if hidden, will be seen through our actions. After all, we are called to evangelize the good news. Therefore we can only veil our piety, unless we lock yourself in a tower. Christ knows us by our love. This type of discourse is NOT loving. In fact, it leaves many seeking Christ at the door step of conversion feeling as though they are not permitted thought the threshold. This is a very divisive rhetoric. Even if tattooing were a sin, the sinner can experience a conversion, but unlike say, murder (st. Paul) or adultery, or theft the sin remains in full disclosure to all. You, nor anyone else can know a persons piety upon first glance, yet to claim that even religious tattoos are impious is a judgement of another's piety. Judge lest ye be judged... I would, and DO advice young people to be wear of the vanity and sin of worshiping our own bodies, in anyway. But I think it was of our mother church not to have a made a moral judgement on tattoos, and I suggest following her lead. If you can't see a persons piety because your own judgement keeps you from seeing past their veil says more about the condition of your soul than theirs.
1 Corinthians 2:9-11
New International Version (NIV)
9 However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”[a]—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—
10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

Footnotes:

1 Corinthians 2:9 Isaiah 64:4

relieveddebtor said...

Again, I never lumped everyone into a category. That's a judgment of me. I'm outlining different positions. I have waffled on religious tattoos throughout, much more so than some of the other commenters. So I think I deserve some credit for that. Your comments about a repentant tattooer (one who has a tattoo) are precisely the reason I wrote the post. The Church should offer some teaching on this before everyone has a tattoo and regrets what is now permanent. Precisely because they are so visible! There are plenty of repentant sinners (pagans) who regret their tattoos. Maybe, just maybe, if the church had taught against them, they would have given it a second thought.

I agree, it is hard to evangelize if our piety is public. I suppose Jesus is speaking to the kind of piety to which we draw attention and for which we want credit. I'm not saying people with religious tattoos are committing this sin, the Matthew 6 sin. But I bet some are! Again, it's a pastoral discretion issue. You are in the minority of what I'm talking about. As a pastor, I am concerned about a lost, narcissistic generation that is increasingly making itself unavailable to the Gospel. I do think tattoos as a phenonemon represent that, but that may entirely exclude you!

In fact, if you were in my congregation, you would be welcome with open arms, tats and all. In fact, I personally invited about 300 tattooed college students to a class yesterday alone. I'll do the same tomorrow and next week. So I do not use tattoos as a judgment. Let's stick to what we agree about, that Hello Kitty tattoos should be prohibited!

Thanks again,
RD

Annie said...

I am sorry, you deserve credit... You have been much more pragmatic than many others. I am on a soap box. Btw, I was in my 30's with a full a vibrant religious, and spiritual life before I started the tattooing.... You have many valid points, while you don't lump people, you don't you are right, many people do. Those that read this, who aren't willing to embrace repentant tattooed folks, or who as a knee jerk reaction judge the piety of every tattooed person they see (which happens a lot, and doesn't bother me, or hurt my own faith or perceptions of religion, probably because they were so solid before hand, and I knew I'd be judged and I feel no guilt... Plus unless it is very warm my modest dress covers them) are really creating division instead of unity, are judging instead of loving, and they will misconstrue blogs like this to validate their own sin. Love the person.... Period. I do get passionate because, as a military wife, I know lots of people who desperately seek Christ, but steer clear because they fear they can never be embraced by pious people... They come to me, because they see me as an oasis, I assume. I think tattoos (specifically the type you most question) are a symptom and you seem to agree... So shouldn't we, instead of focusing on the symptom, focus on the disease? The Catholic Churches doing an effective job of this. They are condemning the values of the world AND sharing the true faith and true freedom of virtue through the word on fire ministry, The Choices we face talk show, The Catholicism series. To Conde,n the symptom is to condemn those who are suffering in their blindness, and this in turn alienates them. Instead of healing they are further wounded.

Annie said...

Thank you for embracing those college students...

Jason Simon said...

For the most part I want to commend everyone for the discussion that occurred after I left my comment this morning! I am used to seeing flaming and other rude tactics and this has been a pleasant surprise coming back and seeing this intelligent polite conversation. It has also given me a lot to think about in regards to getting a tattoo I currently have covered. I was young and dumb and got a tattoo on my back, nothing evil, just nothing of meaning. I have been considering getting it covered with a portrait of our most Holy Mother Mary. This discussion has been a good one for me to read going into that decision.
Hopefully the fact that "tatted" individuals like Anne and myself having conversations such as this shows that in fact you can't lump groups of people together over things like tattoos, clothes or other discriminatory things. Hows that for irony, rough tough tattooed folk having conversations about the Catechism and Biblical verses regarding piety...O the irony!

relieveddebtor said...

Jason, there is a lot of irony there. I think there are a lot of people who are getting tats because it's the thing to do. There is risk in this conversation and a lot of parallels with abortion. If the church is silent, true, we will not make anyone feel bad about having had one. But we also do not make available forgiveness for it, nor do we discourage young girls from getting abortions in the future. My question is, the Church needs to start talking about tats to give people courage to resist them if and when there is pressure. Now, if someone really wants a religious tattoo, I still think it is debatable on the merits, while I would pretty strongly argue against one if my opinion was asked. Have you seen the show Tattoo Nightmares? Covering/repurposing tattoos, like removal, will probably be a booming business in future years. I think your idea about getting yours covered is good, for what it's worth.

Annie, you're a military wife? Well, then you're double exempted! Tattoos, I'm guessing, originated in tight brotherhoods to show solidarity, so that was one of the groups I was careful not to cast any judgment on. And whether you are in active service or the spouse of someone, the issues are the same. Just ask my wife, a pastor's wife. Thanks again to both. RD

supernonhero said...

Excellent!! Well put! I had to write that part down about individuality; exactly what I've been thinking! In everyone's quest to be unique, they all end up the same.

Susan said...

Interesting... I am a very devout Catholic and I have two tattoos. One on each shoulder... they are rarely seen by anyone but family because when out in public I wear some sort of sleeves... I never wear strapless anything nor do I wear tank tops except at home. One I got after I was diagnosed as cancer free after a big scare. It is in Latin and it says "Gloria Patri et Filii et Spiritui Sancto" surrounding a modest sized triquetra (symbol of the Holy Trinity) entwined with lilies...symbol of my name and of purity. The other is three nails and a small drop of blood representing Our Lord's crucifixation and my acceptance of the crosses in my life... My point... these are deeply meaningful to me and I do not think the Lord knowing what is in my heart would find them "evil" or offensive.Common sense folks.... like many things in life... good or evil is found in one's intentions...

Augustina said...

You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh, for the dead, neither shall you make in yourselves any figures or marks: I am The Lord. (Lev 19:28)

Augustina said...

All three of my children have small tattoos....unknown to me they were getting the. They are all married now and they All regret marking their bodies, (thank goodness they are in places where they do not display. Each of my married children have spoke to their children and have discussed the mistake they made in ruining the body that God gave them. This is what happens when so many choose to follow the crowd..it's the "in thing" to do. Wrong!
Personally, when I see tattoos especially on women, I get sick to my stomach..because they are showing the youth of today that it is OK to mark up the body that God made for you.

relieveddebtor said...

Thanks to Augustina and Susan both. Well said.

Mamaduke said...

No body's burning in hell till the Big Guy says so. He judges your heart, He has promised unfathomable mercy, trust in Him. The Church is not perfect, and never has been nor ever will be...she is made up of human beings who can not be perfect. But God has willed to work through imperfect human beings. So bottom line, read up on what the Church really teaches, what is truly non-negotiable and what is a matter of discretion. And for heaven's sake pray before doing anything of a permanent nature! I believe it's quite possible that for some people, their intentions in their heart for getting a tattoo may be acceptable to God and for others whose intentions are different, God will not be so pleased. But a tattoo alone is not what will send someone to Hell...that much I know!

Paxton said...

" I was young and dumb and got a tattoo on my back, nothing evil, just nothing of meaning. "

Jason, thanks for commenting.

My opinion is that most people who get tattoos do so as it is neat or trendy, and is an instrument to state "hey, look at me!". I see this with the way people were clothes to expose the tattoo on their back, neck, upper chest etc.

Clearly from the comments here and from the original post, tattoos can and do have meaning for the individual.

Lindsay MacIntyre said...

Ephesians1:13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit. Satan always tries to mimic God. This is satans way of marking us. This is just my opinion but it is all part of the fall of society with abortion and the homosexuality movement. I'm not saying people with tatoos are by any means bad people just that satan is sly and sneaky. I would just pray about it and ask for forgiveness IF it is against God.

RenaeS said...

My Brother said,"that each tattoo is where his dad beat him" My Brother's tattoo's are all over his body. My brother is a good man. His wounds can be seen. tattoo's were a way of expressing his sadness/rage/hurts/etc..you name it. Tattoo's just aren't a fad.

RenaeS said...

My Brother said,"that each tattoo is where his dad beat him" My Brother's tattoo's are all over his body. My brother is a good man. His wounds can be seen. tattoo's were a way of expressing his sadness/rage/hurts/etc..you name it. Tattoo's just aren't a fad.

Eileen said...

Oh for God's sake - MUST we ask the church's permission for everything? I don't have any tattoos, don't want any, don't associate with people who have them, and consider such people mindless sheep and very low class, if not outright Rednecks - but it's not a moral issue, for crying out loud !!! If people want to look like morons, there's nothing in the bible about that. And by the way, tattoos are on the way out - which is why you see laser tattoo removal shops popping up all over. If the church is going to start pontificating against people who look like lower class dregs of society, the churches will be more than half empty. I see some rough-looking, unkempt people at mass every Sunday - northerners, all, but at least it keeps the churches full.

relieveddebtor said...

Thanks again to all who have kept the conversation going. Eileen, I don't know that I said tattoos were a moral issue, per se, but that they represented a moral shift in the culture. How I wish my church were only half empty! I suspect mine, and many more, are more like 3/4 empty because of the general rebellion against godly authority. And our church is full of "nice people!" Teaching about tattoos would instruct those who have yet to get tattoos to think twice and to embrace the kind of conformity that, frankly, Christ desires. It would also open a door for those who have tattoos, but have regrets. The abortion analogy, though not in any way as serious, is applicable again. Teach it so that when that girl or boy experience an unexpected pregnancy, they have a foundation from which to make decisions. And teach it so that those who have had abortions might come to know God's forgiveness.

Yvonymous said...

It says in the Bible not to cut our bodies like the pagans do. ( Leviticus 19:28). How clever of satan to "trick" us into thinking a religious tattoo, or one reminding us of our loved ones, is an exception to God"s command.

relieveddebtor said...

I'll say one more thing, for the record. As a pastor, there is always a delicate balance of Law and Gospel in ministering to folks. It would be relatively easy to use the Law as a bludgeon and drive some into shame, shame the tattooed person may never want to deal with. So I think whatever the Church says, while I think co-opting the act is a very bad idea, it should be clear not to shame those who have already made that permanent change. RD

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