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Tattooing: A New Rite of Passage for Christians?

Updated on March 28, 2016

Is getting tattoos a new rite of passage for Christians?

Twenty years ago, the answer to this question was obvious – a resounding “No!” Who would have even dared to ask? Today, the answer to this question is blurred or blurry.

It isn’t quite clear exactly when the blurring began. It has been believed that practices not instructed by God or not performed to the honor and glory of God theoretically opposed sound Christian doctrine. While the Bible states that without righteousness and holiness no man will see God (Hebrews 12:14), is an ungodly world presently influencing or changing Christian righteousness?

Should Christians Get Tattoos?

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Should Christians have Tattoos Removed?

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Are Christians with Tattoos Perceived Positive or Negative by Non-Christians?

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Are Non-Christians with Tattoos Perceived Positive or Negative by Christians?

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History and Meaning. Historically, tattoos served three primary purposes: 1) representation of social status; 2) form of punishment, and; 3) honor or worship to pagan gods [1]. Men and women painted, inked and scarred themselves as a form of expression – good or bad. Tattoos told a silent story or provided a vivid description of individuals without a question being asked. A portrait of the tattooed individual was painted on his body for the world to see and know. An individual’s determination to suffer for the purpose of expressing himself very conspicuously conveyed self-centeredness, self-worth and self-glorification. As opposed to humbling self to the Almighty God, tattooed individuals branded, cut, pierced, painted or scarred themselves in honor (or sacrifice) to “other gods” – including themselves. In Exodus 20:3, God commanded that “thou shall have no other gods besides me”. Is the tattooing Christian worshipping himself as well?

Young Taiwan men, for example, historically painted, pierced, branded or scarred themselves in celebration of entering manhood, being able to protect his homeland. The women of Taiwan likewise tattooed themselves to publicly illustrate their ability to weave cloth and perform housekeeping. The ritual of marking the body prepared men and women for family life. Similarly, men of Siberia, Petan, Neutral and Japan were well-known for tattooing animals on their bodies to represent defensive, supernatural and protective capabilities [1]. While these forms of tattooing may seem innocent or necessary, the purpose of tattooing remained the same. Men and women all across the world tattooed themselves to express and glorify self. The only Wise God, on the other hand, is not glorified. Decisions or choices to mutilate one’s own body are acts of self-worship and self-glorification. Romans 1:25 described the darkness of man’s heart, as those “who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature (that which is created by God) more than the Creator (God himself)”.

It is not indicated anywhere in the Word of God that tattoos were instructed or necessary by the Lord God for the purpose of His worship or service. As indicated above, tattooed individuals felt inclined or made a choice to distort and damage their bodies for the honor of another “thing” they glorify. If God made us in His own image (Genesis 1:27), why or how will He glory in us purposely damaging or distorting our bodies? As Christians, are not our bodies the temple of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 6:19)? How can the Holy Ghost work in us for the honor and glory of God, if by scarring, painting, cutting, piercing and damaging our bodies, we clearly do not honor ourselves?

Modern Reality. Today, practices of branding, piercing, painting, cutting and scarring the skin are yet still performed by men and women worldwide. While a modern tattoo consists of colorfully inking or branding the skin, the purpose of tattooing has still not deviated from history. Men and women today brand or tattoo themselves with extraordinary and prize-worthy illustrations, photography or text that matter to them or that which express themselves to the world [1]. In a world becoming more ungodly, materialistic and self-centered, it is not surprising that tattoos are becoming common or normal rites of passage for men and women across the globe.

However, is there a line in the sand? Modern-day Christians know that tattooing opposes God’s commandment to worship no other god – including self. As Christians, we know that God is the same God yesterday, today and forever more (Hebrews 13:8). Therefore, at what point over time did tattooing become a rite of passage for Christians? Even Christian preachers, ministers and other leaders are presently becoming less opposed or resistant to Christian tattooing. 2 Thessalonians 2:3 describes the “great falling away” of Christians from the Church. So as Christians, is God’s Word changing or are we? Will God judge us now any differently?

The polls above suggests that this topic is open for polling and discussion. While the Bible seems pretty clear and straight-forward on the topic, I pose the question to readers: Should Christians get tattoos? Please vote and include your comments below as well. Stayed tune for a follow-up article presenting the findings of this study.

God bless.

[1] Citation: Wikipedia. 2016. The History of Tattooing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_tattooing

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    • cwcsisters profile image
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      Christian Women's Central 15 months ago from Middletown, NY

      Christians must be a light wherever we go.