By Tamara Jane
That is the question. Last year when I went to a local waterpark, I noticed something new and in abundance: tattoos. After a long, hard winter, I hadn’t seen much bare skin in a while, and as my first time at a public pool for the year, the tattoos really jumped out at me – some in an “in your face” sort of way, while others seemed more tasteful, like art on the body. Then I contemplated the tattoo.
If you were to poll random Christians, you would get a variety of answers about their views on tattoos. Many are staunchly opposed to defacing the human temple. Others are unsure, and if I had asked members of biker churches, I bet they would be strong supporters of tattoos. Of course, the Bible doesn’t mention tattoos one way or another and there are cultural contexts to consider as well, so it’s not easy to say tattoos are “right” or “wrong.” And yet, given our cultural context, there are definitely some pros and cons of tattoos. And perhaps they can help you to decide if a tattoo is right or wrong for you.
• They’re a good way to express yourself and to instantly communicate something about you to the world.
• They’re artsy or edgy at best and can make you feel like you’ve got a little flair.
• They last longer than Sharpie! So if there’s something you want to permanently impress upon yourself – like your favorite Bible verse – it’s there, to stay!
But on that last point: don’t think that just because you get a cross, picture of Jesus, or your favorite Bible verse tattooed on, that it will endear you to Grandma. Some Christians think it’s sacrilegious to tattoo the things of God. But if you’re so inclined anyway, don’t contradict your witness by placing the tattoo someplace that forces a man to exercise self-restraint as he reads it! I’ve seen young women with references to verses tattooed across their chest or right above the fanny. Doesn’t match up, if you get what I’m saying.
• Let’s start with the one that’s also a pro: tattoos are permanent. But the problem with that is that we are not. We change with time and often quite drastically. So an image we feel is our icon today might not be something we’d like several years from now. For example, a Hello Kitty tattoo might be the cat’s meow for you today, but when you’re older? And maybe you think a tattoo totally fits your carefree and countercultural lifestyle now, but 15 years from now when you’re up for that supervisor position? Better wear long sleeves to the interview.
• Tattoos are expensive – you could buy an original piece of art from an up and coming artiest for about the same amount of money needed for a decent tattoo – and they hurt, a lot (which is why many people need to be drunk to get one).
• Over time, tattoos fade or begin to turn yellow, especially when they are exposed to the sun. So for a long-lasting tattoo, you need to put it where the sun doesn’t shine, but then who is going to see it? A catch 22.
• The strongest con of all is not about you or the tattoo, but about everybody else. People are pretty judgmental and in our culture, tattoos (whether you agree or not) are associated with lower class, hard living, rebellion, promiscuity, drugs and drunkenness. Now I’m sure there are plenty of prim and proper, upper class virgins with tattoos out there (ehem!) but they are not the image that pops into the average American mind when it hears, “She’s got a tattoo.” While you shouldn’t be punished or overly inhibited by what others think, you should still be aware of this.
Weigh the pros and cons for yourself, but remember that God knows your heart, and that’s what He judges, not our appearance. Also remember, people aren’t as understanding, and they do judge you for appearance, and in this world where we are to be salt and light, that can be pretty important too.
By Tamara Jane