Tattoos, Piercings and Cursings

My mom believes there is a verse in the Bible that abhors or berates tattoos. She's still trying to locate the verse. I'm quite sure even right now she's flipping the pages of her NIV (Never Incorrect Version) Bible. Even if the verse exist, I'm quite sure its context has more to say.

Text always exists in context.

Piercings on the other hand symbolise slavery. Years ago, if you wore a earring, you were a slave. And that wasn't a very good thing. No one liked being a slave.

But right now, we're centuries apart from such symbollism. Even millenia apart. Slavery in the 'open' is strictly prohibited. I say open because I know some of foreign workers who are slaves in their workplaces. I met a Bangladeshi man on the bus who was only paid RM 2000 for the whole of last year. The construction management had changed hands, cheating the workers of their lawful wage. I'm embarassed.

Secondly, we're cultures in contrast. In almost-postmodern Malaysia, earrings and tattoos are accepted as a fashion norm. Perhaps 10 years ago in West Malaysia, people would balk at the sight of an ear full of studs. I knew a friend in college who coated his face with piercings. Now, that's slavery to earrings! You'd wonder if the cartilage could be peeled off like a 30 sen stamp.

The sight of naked-angel-tattoos would not only strike a cringe on the public but also pose a threat to national security - authorities fearing punk anarchism.

Today every other Tom, Dick and Mary sports a tattoo. Some play it safe by tattooing unicorns and graphical nonsense. Some have meaningful Sanskrit inscriptions. Others creatively wrap their arms with decorative bands. (I've yet to spot tattoos of butterflies and rainbows or something like "I love Yong Tow Foo") NO more association with Slavery or Anarchism ... though there are some who take it too far.

Some have tattoos in places where the sun don't shine for who knows what reason. I find it distracting when they try to show off those tattoos. Congratulations. You have a tattoo on your butt. I'm sure your toilet bowl's beaming with joy.

Society has come to accept it as just another fashion statement.

Art.

But this one's only permanent.

Besides, what makes tattooing and piercing different from hair-dying and nail polishing.
Or wearing nice dresses or ties. Aren't we all just trying to look and feel good?

Though I'm a fan of decorative bands, I have big reasons why I shouldn't get one.

1. Am I getting them done to prove a point to others? We sometimes do the things we hate, with the money we don't really have to please the people we don't really like. Am I trying to look cool so that others may think different or better of me? If I am, then obviously there's a lot going on inside of me that I need to sort out. My self esteem is probably losing steam.

2. Would my fashion tastes differ in the future? In the late eighties, I was a killer fan of the New Kids On the Block until someone told me they're all gay. Though unverified, I denounced my allegiance to them and got started with Guns and Roses and Nirvana. I was also a fan of Vanilla Ice and therefore found bicycle shorts the in-thing. Now I can't recall what got to me when I bought that psychadelic pair of shorts from Thrifty's. With a tatoo as permanent fashion, I'm not sure if I would regret it later. Plus, laser treatment's not cheap and easy.

3. Being in a position to impact others, how would others respond to my fashion statement? This almost sounds contradictory to my first reason. So what if others think of me?
What others think of me will not affect my self esteem. I would feel bad if it affects them instead. Though slowly, tatoos are becoming an accepted fashion, not everyone would feel the same. While I want to help people become thinkers and challenge their trends and theology, I have to be careful that I don't stumble them in any way. For some, these things are in the grey area. For others, perfectly black. For me, I see different.

Think twice. Think three times. Think four times. When in doubt, keep out.

Comments

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Anonymous said…
I came across this particular entry of yours about tattoos and body piercings and thought of sharing 2 interesting verses from the Old Testament. Many think, “What applicability does some of the Old Testament offer at this day and age?” Nevertheless, remember that Jesus Who is the author and finisher of our faith, Who was present at the creation of everything living (Heaven, Hell and the Universe) is the same Jesus yesterday, today and forever more. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but His Word shall remain. Yes, if it is needed, He could part the deepest ocean again just as He performed for the Israelites to escape slavery in Egypt and yes, He could also use any of us to call down a funnel of fire from Heaven to earth again…….and I mean in this specific day and age- if only we have the faith as minute a size as a mustard seed like our forefathers from the Old Testament did! Only the Holy Spirit is able to bring to clarity and reveal the hidden and many folded meanings of some of the incomprehensive, obscure text shown in the Old Testament :).
Back to the issue of tattoos and body piercings…. there is one passage that seems to teach against such things, Leviticus chapter 19, verse 28, which says: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD.” However, only nine verses earlier in the same chapter (Leviticus 19:19) the people of Israel were also commanded to avoid mixing fibers in garments: “Nor shall a garment of mixed linen and wool come upon you”. So, if you choose to consider a tattoo sinful, then you would have to toss all your cotton/polyester clothing too, lol!
But you see, God originally set aside the Jewish people as a “higher standard” among the pagan nations (and we are now the spiritual Jews, right…?), through whom the Messiah would come. So, many of their laws were given to wean them from pagan customs, habits, and appearance.
The book of Romans emphasizes that we are no longer under that Law. Jesus paid for our sins, so people no longer have to go through ceremonial practices to be worthy of being around a holy God. In other words, the Old Testament clearly states that people could NOT stay clean on their own, so God sent His Son, who could and did live a sinless, “clean” life. By accepting Christ, we benefit from His work, not ours.
Still, some laws were not ceremonial or fashionable in nature (to set people apart from other nations) but rather civil and moral. Those laws are still valid and many of them were repeated often in the New Testament, like in the book of James where it describes desirable Christian behavior.
There is one thing to consider, though. Since people react to tattoos, short skirts, beards, motorcycles, smoking, and other things in unpredictable ways; a Christian must determine what their company of people or “audience” (Christian and non-Christian) will think about Christians (using that person as the example of their admiration or scorn) if they appear or behave in some way. That said, this issue becomes a “matter of conscience.” (then again, your Mum might start praying for a guilty conscious to come upon you :D, just like mine did!) Romans 14:1-15.6 (chapter 14 verse 1 through chapter 15 verse 6) discusses matters of conscience and uses food as an example. Hence, us Christians should thoughtfully examine this passage, and modify our appearance or behavior accordingly.
By reading this, please don’t assume that I’ve got a hallow over my head….all of us have flaws and shortcomings in our lives. But it’s important that we take a questioning approach because Jesus does encourage us to sit at His table and reason together in order to grow in Godly lifestyle and imperatively find the truth, so that the truth may find us liberty.
So make sure to share this with your Mum and see what she says...:)

Sunny regards,
michkaynair@yahoo.co.uk

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