The apostasy of painted people

A century ago, you could pay a few cents to see them at the circus sideshow“Step right up and see the Painted Lady!” These days painted ladies – and gents – are everywhere you go, and the views are free. Whether you want them or not. And mostly I don’t. Ugh ~

Of course I know I’m terribly old-fashioned, and definitely in the minority when it comes to skin “art” these days – but I can’t get past this:

“You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead,
nor tattoo any marks on you; I am the Lord.”
~ Leviticus 19:28

nastyTats3Now this admonition is Old Testament, so it’s not particularly binding on Christians. It’s one of the many, many laws and prohibitions that God imposed on the children of Israel. You might be tempted to think all His rules and restrictions were the authoritarian proclamations of a power-hungry tyrant. They weren’t. Instead, they were God’s means of keeping His chosen people separate from the corrupting influence of the surrounding heathen nations. In this way, His ultimate plan for our salvation would reach fulfillment, undefiled, through the Jews, in Jesus Christ His son.

The specific rationale for prohibiting cutting and tattooing was because these were pagan practices, likely associated with Egyptian idolatry. According to my MacArthur Study Bible, tattoos were connected to names of idols and were considered permanent signs of apostasy.
nastyTats6Which brings me to the other reason tats make my skin crawl: painting one’s body seems to be a form of self-idolatry. I thought it was just me, until I ran across this article at The Federalist ~ We All Need To Admit That America Has A Tattoo Problem. Mark Hemingway’s observations tell him that we seem to be rapidly approaching equilibrium between the have/have not tattoos ~

If tattoos ever had a singular redeeming quality, the fact they are now inescapable has robbed them of it. Before everyone had one, seeing one was at least exciting. And you had good reason to surmise there was a story behind it. Maybe your uncle’s career as a salesman at IBM didn’t exactly scream international man of mystery, but when he wore the wifebeater at family cookouts you just knew that guy had some tales to tell about what happened on shore leave.

Jimmy Buffet called them a “Permanent Reminder of a Temporary Feeling” and “a badge of validation.” Still, over the decades, tattooing has become less a way of making a statement about your loyalty, affiliation or affection, and more about “Hey! Look at me!” ~

If tattoos were once an act of rebellion against cultural norms, now they are a well-established norm. If you want a tattoo, hey, it’s a free country. But it seems many people still get them laboring under the delusion that they’re a hallmark of individualism.
The desire to use visual signals on your skin to proclaim yourself unique to people you don’t even know can’t be terribly healthy. It is, in a subtle and penetrating way, kind of selfish. Or maybe my misanthropy is showing, but the omnipresence of people begging to be noticed for such superficial reasons is surely annoying.

And this is where I see body “art” as a form of apostasy. It’s basically rejecting God’s authority for our own.
As Christians, we are to consider our bodies to be temples of the Holy Spirit. I’m pretty sure that precludes using them to call attention to ourselves.

“What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
~ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

To put it in the vernacular, as Mark Hemingway did so astutely, if you view the human form as beautiful, tattoos are a kind of corporeal vandalism.


Thank-you God for the non-tattooed parents you gave me. Amen. :)

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