A little bit of recent reading, and a brief chat with a friend today, has got me thinking about tattoos.
The reading I was doing was an article from Relevant magazine: To Tattoo or Not to Tattoo? by Matthew Lee Anderson. It’s a comment on the question of whether it’s OK for Christians to get tattoos, not because of any prohibitions found in Leviticus (which is something I’ve had quoted to me on a not insignificant number of occasions), but more related to questions of freedom and discipleship and witness. I’ll let you read it yourself to see what you think, but my initial reaction to the author’s final statement is one of disagreement.
Tattoos will continue to matter because bodies matter. Because “the form of this world is passing away,” Christians ought to enter into the permanence of tattoos the way the Anglican Book of Common Prayer advises believers to enter into the permanency of marriage: “reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly and in the fear of God.”
And to be honest, I really just don’t see them as that big of a deal.
I appreciate that permanently marking oneself is not nothing, and one needs to put a reasonable amount of thought into the decision, in the hope of not finding oneself with a daily reminder of a regretted ill-advised decision made forty years previous.
But, I also don’t think it necessarily warrants an awful lot more theological consideration than other things related to appearance, such as what clothes I wear, what hairstyle I prefer, or whether or not I have my ears pierced.
In actual fact, I think perhaps the clothing issue is a little bit more of an actual issue, and yet not one that is so readily addressed or discussed. I’ve counted myself amongst the ranks of the tattooed for 8 years now, and yet I would imagine that the majority of my friends and acquaintances either don’t know about it, or know but haven’t seen it, (especially since it’s located on my right ankle, and for about 75% of the year that ankle is covered up by thick tights and a pair of super-cool cowboy boots). However, everyone, family, friends, acquaintances and strangers passing me on the street, sees my clothes every time they see me, so surely if anything needs an article written about it, discussing the issues relating to freedom, discipleship and witness, it’s our choice of dress. Isn’t it?
I think that most people do put a decent amount of thought into what their tattoo says about them before they have it done, because the knowledge that this is for life weighs heavy on the mind, but I would guess that a great deal fewer Christians put much thought at all into the theological implications of their outfit at the beginning of each day: “What impact does the cut of this neckline or the length of this skirt have on my brothers in Christ?”, “What does the slogan on this t-shirt say about who Jesus is to me?”, “What does the wage of the person who made these shoes say about my concern for the poor?”
I really don’t ask these questions as much as I think I probably ought to.
And my tattoo? Well, as I said, it’s been 8 years, I’m still glad I got it done, and I’d like to have more done.
Actually, I’m rather surprised that it’s been 8 years and my total tattoo count is still only one. When I got it done the tattoo artist told me that they’re addictive, and that I’d be back, and yet whilst the desire to get more is definitely present, nothing has come of it. Although I had wanted one for a wee while, the thing that drove me into walking into the studio, choosing a design and handing over my cash, was a recently broken heart, and an overwhelming desire to do something drastic and new. I wanted a change that would mark out a new stage in life, and having ink etched into my flesh felt like an acceptable solution. I haven’t felt the same impetus in the last 8 years, and so no more tattoos have joined that first one.
Still, never say never, eh?
So, what about you? Tattoos or no tattoos? Do you think they matter? Do you think clothes matter? Do you think anything matters? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In summary: inked.