When I was 18 years old me and my buddies were in a restaurant in Minneapolis that got a visit by the outlaw bikers gang Satan’s Choice. I was physically ejected from the men’s room by a grizzly biker named Spike. I guess he didn’t like me staring in pale face shock as his “motorcycle momma”, who came in with him, mounted the sink and relieved herself. Aside from being scared half to death at the time, I will never forget the dotted line tattooed across his neck. It read, “Cut on dotted line”. I remember deciding at the time that a person’s IQ might be able to be measured as an inverse proportion to their number of tattoos. I am quite sure that since then Spike probably died a gruesome death when some rival biker took the invitation too seriously. It is not hard to see the tattoo functioning as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I am aware that on the subject of tattoos I may get seriously flamed here. 51% of young people now sport a tattoo and the trend has gotten so out of hand that some have guarranteed that the only job they will ever get is as a model for Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
Even my generation has warmed to the trend and many are getting the requisite ‘tat’ to keep up with the times. “All done sir, and your rolls of fat give the flag a realistic wavy look.”
My big concern is the way Christian youths are getting into the act like their very salvation depends on it.
Though I have never come right out and criticized the fad, most of the young people in our church have got the drift that I am not a big fan. Several have challenged me and said, “Prove to me from scripture where it is wrong.” If I pull out Lev. 19:28, “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD,” which seems pretty clear, they come back with, “Ya, but Pastor Mark, Lev 19:27, the very verse before it says, “You shall not shave around the sides of your head, nor shall you disfigure the edges of your beard. So how come you cut your hair? BOO-YAH!”
Alright, let’s go there. God gave Israel these laws having just come out of Egypt. Egypt was a religious culture that served all kinds of pagan gods. Two of the ways they honoured them were to make tattoos on their bodies, as well as cut their hair in a manner in which these gods were depicted. Check out the picture below. Their hair was shaved at the sides.
It is the reason orthodox Jews wear the long curl of uncut hair at the sides of their heads.
It’s quite simple, wearing a mullet is an abomination to God. Billy Ray Cyrus is going straight to hell.
Seriously though, it was all about not identifying in any way with the pagan rituals of their day. The hair issue is no longer relevant today as we no longer have the celestial hairstyles of the gods. The issue of tattoos might be a different story. A study of primitive cultures reveals that almost every single pagan religion, of any time period, and on every continent employed ritualistic tattooing as a means of honouring their pagan gods. For example, the headhunting tribes of Polynesia sported full face tattoos that resembled their demon idols. Most primitive cultures also used them as tribal makers to identify what clan they belonged to. Young people today tell me that their tattoo is just a way to express their individuality. I always like to ask them, “Well, if everybody else is doing it, aren’t you really expressing your conformity?”
My feeling is that tattoos have become the “tribal marks” of youth culture. A way to feel connected with the times. They provide a sense of cultural belonging not unlike how the ‘baby boomers’ fought tooth and nail with their parents over the issue of growing their hair long in the 60’s. The difference of course is, when the 60’s were over you could always cut your hair. The problem with the tattoo of that ‘soaring eagle’ on you arm, is eventually it is going to look like a ‘sulking chicken’. In an attempt to make a statement, some are sporting artwork that screams, “I am just plain stupid”. Literally!
1 Cor 3: 16-17 says, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” Our identity is not with our culture, but rooted in our God. Our very bodies are considered His temple. The study of scripture reveals He is actually offended when we abuse the temple in any number of ways; drugs, alcohol, overeating, sexual immorality and maybe, just maybe, the body art and piercings that have become so ubiquitous today.