So your daughter wants a tattoo.

Our kids and grand-kids are always going to be growing up in a world that is at war with the faith. This is nothing new even if some of the fads and fashions are different from those of the previous generation. I see similarities between the 1960’s, when I was a kid, and whatever we are calling this decade that we are living in now. In the late 60’s  everyone was wearing short, shorter, and shortest skirts.  And we won’t even discuss the 70’s and its idiocies.

The world has a powerful charm, and Christian women, young and old, must be wary of its deadening effects. Hebrews 5:14 says that “strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” In other words, if we want to be mature, we have to be using good sense to sort out what is good and what is evil. And as we do this, we are exercising, getting fit, ceasing to be bottle fed, and being welcomed up to the table where they’re eating meat.

Take tattoos for an example. Drunken sailors were always notorious for their tattoos (and still are, I believe),  and a century or two later it was the motorcycle gang members. But now we see more and more flesh covered with ink, and it crossed over the gender divide long ago. Tattoos have become so ubiquitous that it’s not really cool anymore because everyone has one. Remember the star-bellied sneetches? They started paying money to get their stars off because even the uncool sneetches had stars too. And I’ve heard that tattoo removal is big business these days. No surprise!

And that’s just about the time that your sweet Christian daughter thought it might be cute to get a little flower tattooed on her ankle or lower back or shoulder. Now what do you do?

There is a simple answer to the tattoo question; at least it’s simple if you have been exercising your senses to discern good and evil. I remember visiting New Guinea in 1973. The native people were totally covered in tattoos. Every square inch of exposed skin had markings, including their faces. Tattoos and body piercings are historically pagan, and as our culture moves further and further away from the gospel, they move deeper into the darkness of paganism. There has never been anywhere else to go.

Ask your daughter, “Whose uniform do you want to be wearing? The devil’s or Christ’s?” Tattoos are part of the uniform of the other team, and it makes no sense at all for Christians to adopt the other team’s colors. Imagine showing up for a football game wearing the other team’s colors. You wouldn’t do it. So why do it when the stakes are much higher? Some people may argue that they are going to get a little “Christian” tattoo. Maybe a Bible verse or a fish. But that just means that they don’t think the mark of baptism is enough. God has determined what mark His children will have, and that mark is the water of baptism. No need to add more to what God has already given us. No need to wear the pagan uniform, and even worse to envy it.

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63 thoughts on “So your daughter wants a tattoo.

  1. I’ve no interest at all in getting a tattoo (though I’ve been known to use henna) for aesthetic reasons. I’ve yet to see a 70-year old man whose 50-year old ink still looks good (assuming it ever did). But let me play devil’s advocate (rhetorically only, I hope!) a bit, and throw out a few thoughts:

    1) Couldn’t your same argument have been made about cosmetics a few decades ago? Couldn’t we call cosmetics a “mark” other than baptism? (And I lump henna in with cosmetics.)

    2) Why should the devil have all the good ink? Assuming Christians aren’t getting tattooed as part of pagan rituals, why couldn’t we “plunder the Egyptians” on this one?

    3) A friend just got her second (and final) tattoo. Both are pretty designs (though we’ll see about that 50 years from now). I can’t find it in me to fuss with her. Another friend has twenty-two tattoos. Aside from that happy bit of alliteration, there’s nothing aesthetically pleasing about her chaotic coverage — it’s a mismatched mishmash of images, and one is even vulgar. She reminds me of the Flannery O’Connor story “Parker’s Back.” That I have trouble with because my eyes feel assaulted every time I see her.

    Thanks for helping me think through this!

  2. I am agreeing with some of Valerie’s questions/points.
    I wonder also, do you view pierced ears as a mark of paganism? If not, can you help me understand why not?

  3. I’m sure I’ll do a follow up post about some of these questions. I’ll let them all drift in for a bit first. But in the meantime, here’s something to think about. My husband raised a great point in a recent talk he gave on pop culture. Christians should say, “Why should I get a tattoo?” but we always rush to ask instead, “Why can’t I get a tattoo?” The burden should be on why we should rather than why we should not. In other words, give me a good reason why a Christian should get a tattoo. But we always want reasons why we should not or cannot. We are usually leaning the wrong direction, which is with the world rather than against it.

  4. Tattoos have become quite popular among women post-mastectomy for appearance reconstruction.

    Personally, I find most tattoos (and frequently non-traditional piercings) to be either morally or aesthetically offensive.

  5. These are just my two cents, but if they help anyone avoid getting a tattoo that would be great! I got a “cute little flower” tattooed on my ankle while on my senior trip much to the horror of my parents. This was 15 years ago and I can say that now when my children ask me what is that on your ankle I tell them “a mistake”. I became a Christian two years after getting the tattoo and it took me a while to determine what I thought about them, but through prayer and the Scripture, I came to realize that tattoos really are a permanent defiling of the body that God gave us. Christ has not called us to follow the world, but to be set apart. Mrs. Wilson is correct that it is something that belongs to the other team and we should not desire it. I always tell the young girls that styles change and they will probably not be interested in wearing the same shirt for the rest of their lives and they will also not want to wear the same “body art” the rest of their lives. I have had laser treatments to have it removed and that is intensely painful, but a great opportunity to show repentance! Although makeup and earrings are altering our bodies they are not permanent and can easily be done away with. As Christians our bodies are not our own, they have been bought with a price and all our so called body art really just amounts to nothing more than graffiti.

  6. THANK YOU!! I love this post. I have been horrified lately at the abundance of tattoos, especially on beautiful young girls. We have 4 young daughters and I can’t imagine seeing them with a tattoo one day. However, I couldn’t explain why I was so offended, yet I completely agreed with your post. THANK YOU.

  7. I have 2 tatoos, one on my belly
    (an ichthus) and a butterfly on my right shoulder blade. I love the Lord and want to glorify Him in all I do. I can not say that I believe tatoos to be inherently evil, much like I can not say that about a glass (or 2!) of wine with a terrific meal. However, I do agree that I would ask my daughter (who is only 2 right now) why she wanted one, if she ever came to me about it. It is not the tatoo, but the motive behind it that would concern me. Although I was a Christian when I got both tatoos, I got them out of a rebellious spirit. So, if my daughter’s motive was rebellion I would take issue. I don’t really know what a good answer would be for getting one, maybe thinking it looked “cool” much like a certain pair of jeans or a t-shirt. However, I would remind my child that it is far harder to return than a pair of jeans!

    And, my butterfly showed when I was wearing my wedding gown, not at all in keeping with the image I wanted to present that day. The fish on my belly is horribly stretched and maimed from 2 pregnancies. My husband won’t allow me to get it fixed as he wants a reminder to me, him, and our children of the folly of rebellion. Plus, it is terribly expensive to have a tatoo either removed or fixed.

  8. Excellent post! Thanks for being bold!! I’m curious what your guidelines are for Christian teens and makeup. We were thrown into raising a teenager about 10 months ago when our niece moved in. She is now 15. What types of guidelines did you use for your daughters when they were growing up? Thanks a bunch!

  9. “The burden should be on why we should rather than why we should not. In other words, give me a good reason why a Christian should get a tattoo.”

    If there is an answer, it is probably, “For beauty,” same as the answer to why a Christian should wear cosmetics or get pierced ears. The follow-up question is, “Will a tattoo achieve that end?” I’m sure the answer isn’t “Always,” but I’m not so sure the answer is “never.”

    I look forward to you further comments as you have time. Thanks!

  10. I appreciate you addressing this topic in this context. I just wrote a blog for our local paper on the three tats I am considering getting. I know it is a get a rise out the audience topic but it is also something I see more and more of so I used it as my latest theme. Now I am convert to Catholicism and I was formerly an Evangelical- in both contexts I am very serious about my Christian faith. Tattoos are not necessarily pagan- in that they are not necessarily a specific form of branding regarding worship of a foreign god. People get them to make a statement about themselves I think to the world- and that is a whole other discussion- but I think you might be right when your gut reaction is that they are not pleasing to Christ. The thing we have to nail down if we want to make a firm apologetic is why. Just opinions about what is traditionally attractive is hollow- like making a case for never wearing short sleeves- or covering one’s head with a round doily instead of a scarf- if you are going to go there then you really need to fight with weapons of truth- immutable truth. I want to know if there is anything to the idea that they are defiling the temple of the Holy Spirit and if you go down that road where will you draw the lines when it comes to plastic surgery, permanent makeup or laser hair removal or mole removal or getting a tan- in a booth or outside, even if just on your face- etc. Do you have any resources for addressing any of these ideas in the spectrum? I know of one Catholic theologian who wrote about plastic surgery, Germain Grisez, but I thought his argument was kind of weak. It went something like you can have plastic surgery for some defect that is deforming or to enhance your appearance within reason in order to attract a spouse, but only if the cost is within your means as excess- something like that. Can a tattoo be regarded as permanent jewelry? And what about ear piercings?

  11. Thank you for presenting great Biblical insights about how God wants us to view and treat our bodies. In a missionary-perspective, how could Christians communicate these values to people from pagan societies (who practice body-alterations) in a comprehensive and culturally relevant approach? I hope my question is appropriate here:)

  12. Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.
    Leviticus 19:28

  13. There is a Christian program that I think is terrific called , PURE FASHION. It is for teen girls and shows how as a Christian you don’t have to choose between faith and fashion.
    Check it out.

  14. (I’m finding it funny that Valerie came out swinging on this one! Well, maybe not swinging, but devil’s advocating!)
    Plenty of people are getting tattoos for the dead. (My son recently pointed this out to me.) Soldiers get tattoos for their fallen comrades, gang members for their victims, some for their mom or dad, or lost girlfriend, etc. Again, Valerie, I think the burden of proof remains on the person wanting to get a tattoo, given that the Bible prohibits it in a certain context. My point is not to make a list of no-no’s, but to ask who is wearing this uniform? Why are Christians dressing like the other team? Dismissing the Bible’s prohibition is a dangerous game to play. At the very least we should think, if God has expressed His opinion about this at all in any context, we should be very careful when we think to ignore or override it.

  15. For a very long time, jeans/pants were the uniform of feminists/rebellious women, they weren’t considered socially acceptable in most environments, but they are accepted now. By the same argument, we could therefore argue that as Christian women we should wear pants, and yet most of us do. Thoughts?

  16. Just have to keep everyone on their toes, Nancy! 😉

    If you’d taken the opposite position, I’d probably still have queried to the contrary just to get the thing discussed as thoroughly as possible, because it remains a puzzler to me. I was kind of hoping that someone who believes they’ve met that burden of proof would chime in with thoughts about that.

    I thought of that sense of “for the dead,” too, yesterday. Both of the friends I mentioned have memorial tattoos, but is that what “for the dead” meant in the biblical context, or was it for some other purpose–some pagan ritual?

    I am totally with you on taking great care before behaving contrary to any command in Scripture, which is why I’d like to be clearer about whether it’s a ceremonial or moral law.

    As I said, I’ve no interest in getting a tattoo, but if it’s wrong, I’d like to be avoiding it out of obedience rather than merely out of a lack of interest.

    Thanks for the thoughts on uniforms. Those are helpful pieces in the puzzle. But I’m still looking for a few more before I’m really sure I’ve got the whole picture. 🙂

  17. My concern is that people are using images to communicate. It’s one more “mark” (groan!) of a culture so steeped in icons that we cannot understand words any more. God sent Christ to us as the living word and we do Him disservice to turn him into a picture book.

  18. I can’t figure out nose rings either; could we discuss those? They couldn’t have been wrong in Biblical times because Abraham sent one to Rebecca. But would would they now come under the same category as tattoos? (Genesis 24 – and it mentions that it weighed half a shekel; I have no idea how much that is, but it seems to mean that a big nose ring is even better!)

  19. Yes, can we please talk about nose rings and colored hair -specifically nose piercings and colored hair on “nice Christian girls.” This is of particular interest to me because if I had more guts/higher pain threshold I’d probably seriously think about getting a nose piercing, and I’m already planning to get a few blue streaks put in my hair sometime. Just for fun 😀

  20. I think Mr. Wilson’s question of “Why do you want a tattoo” is the best revealer of intentions. It also seems to go well with body piercings/hair colorings/etc. or any other culturally provocative phenomena. From my secular high school and college experiences most girls wanted those things because they were “cute.” It seems like this desire came from popular culture providing the definition of beauty and not families and churches. If your family didn’t show you that a tattoo is cute, where did it come from?

  21. Maybe Rebecca’s nose wasn’t pierced and the ring just kinda pinched on…?

    When face piercings started becoming more widely done, a nurse friend of mine said they were seeing serious infections, including brain, as a result of piercing. She said that the face “triangle” is risky (just above eye brows down to chin).

    And (maybe I’m reaching here), following the Mosaic laws resulted in health for God’s people, like that story of the European community that adhered to the Old Testament laws during the plague years, and they did not get sick.

    Anyway, I don’t think we can assume the nose was pierced.

  22. My point of paragraph three wasn’t clear, I think: it just seems unlikely that God’s people would have a cultural practice that had the potential to be such a health hazard.

  23. What we need here is an engineer to do a stress analysis based on the reported weight of Rebecca’s nose ring that considers just how pinched that nose ring would have to be to stay on and how that stress would compare to the stress of being supported by a piercing. Surely there’s a mom out here with A. the needed skill, or B. an engineer husband/son up for an interesting problem 😀

    Also, I come from a very conservative family that never said body piercings (other than ears) or colored hair was attractive. Honestly, I have no idea where my particular weirdnesses come from -curiosity perhaps?

  24. I have been concerned about Christians getting tatoos and often wonder the motive behind it. I do not in any way want Christians with tatoos to feel like they are being singled out or that they are less of a Christian than I am, but I do worry about what the motivation is to have all the body art done. I am concerned that it could be vanity or rebellion, or a combination of both. Most Christians I talk to about their body art are very defensive and talk about how they aren’t accepted for who they really are inside. So it makes me wonder why they keep getting more tatoos when they already feel rejected and misunderstood? Are they intending to push others away? Are they rebelling against the mainstream Christian? Are they rebelling against authority and against God? I really would like to understand this. I do not mean to judge people by their looks, but when I see a person covered with tatoos, I do wonder why they did that? I am ashamed to say the first thing I think of is rebellion, and I know I am not the only one who thinks this. But I look back at what my children did behind my back when they were younger and how they rebelled against my authority, and it always involved some altering of their body because they knew how much I was against them doing that to their bodies, and that I saw it as rebellion. The only kids I knew who were doing those things were the kids who were in trouble all the time and I didn’t want my kids to be prejudged when they weren’t “bad” (the word we would use) kids. I really do want to understand the reasons why so many young (and all ages, really) people are getting tatoos. We have to be in this world, but we are not to be part of this world – not worldly. What are tatoos a part of? I think it depends on the reason behind the art work.

  25. I didn’t say that right. As Christians, we are not “of” this world so we are to do what would please God.

    I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.
    My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
    They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. (NIV)

    Romans 12:2 (NAS)
    And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

    I just needed to clarify what I said. When I read these scriptures it seems to me that body art could be a way of conforming to the world. We all have things we do to be accepted. We want to feel we belong. If this is what the reasons are for body art, then their way of conforming in order to have a sense of belonging is just more visible than ours, and more permanent, unfortunately. Most of us have done things we regret so that we could feel accepted, or for other reasons, but not to the extent that it would permanently and so visibly/vividly scar us. My scars from mistakes and regrets are not as visible as a tatoo, but I am still a sinner, saved by grace.

    Again, I still want to know what a good reason is and hope that someone will post a few. In all that we consider doing, we need to decide whether or not it is pleasing to God. I think when someone we love wants to get a tatoo, we need to ask them how it will edify God and bring glory to Him, and in what way will it please Him. If it is one of our children, then maybe we should have them research body art, see where it originated from on their own (not a parent just telling them), and ask them the questions above. I wish I had thought of all these things when my kids were growing up!!

  26. Wow! It seems like this topic is pretty on fire. Just so you know where I’m coming from, I have no tattoos not because I think they are wrong, but because of my tremendous fear of needles.

    I just have a few more points to chime in with.

    As far as Leviticus goes, I agree with Valerie that the verse specifies cuts/tattoos for the dead, and that is an important specification. I would also like to point out the verse before the tattoo one:

    27’You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard.
    28’You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD. (NASB)

    Even if you make a distinction between cuts for the dead and just any tattoos here, you would still have to admit that these verses were intended for a specific people at a specific time. If we’re going to apply these verses universally why are our
    husbands shaving their beards and cutting the “side growth of their heads?” Does that mean when I give my husband a buzz cut, we’re in sin, or wearing the other team’s uniform?

    Obviously not. We live in a different time with different cultural traditions. Setting ourselves apart as Christians is no longer shown by sewing tassels on our garments or wearing head coverings – we shown who we are by the way we act, and this can be done with tattoos. A tasteful flower is a lot different than a curse word across your knuckles, in the same way that a miniskirt and a knee length skirt are both skirts, but send across very different messages.

    In our culture, you cannot just look at someone with tattoos and assume they are pagan. A guy in jeans and a tee shirt with a ship tattooed on his shoulder isn’t the poster child of modern paganism – he’s just a normal guy, Christian or not. In the same way, the very same guy without the ship tattoo is no more the poster child of Christianity simply because he doesn’t have the tattoo.

    In our culture, you don’t have to be a Hell’s Angel to be a tattoo, in the same way that having ear piercings don’t make you a slave, and wearing makeup doesn’t make you a harlot.

  27. Nancy,

    I came across this post from Doug’s blog, and I have to ask: are you serious?

    So your argument, if I understand it right, is this: some pagans somewhere in the world have tattoos, so a Christian getting one somewhere else is playing for the other team?

    Look: if you’re going to be a missionary to a pagan culture where tattoos represent demonic involvement, then don’t get one. You’re compromising the gospel.

    But if you’re going to be in America where tattoos no longer have any pagan stigma (really, they don’t), then what is the problem? Well, there isn’t one.

    Which answer the “why not” question only, I realize. So let me take a stab at the “why” question.

    1) There is Christian liberty, including in aesthetics. It becomes a 1 Cor. 8 & 10 issue: there is nothing particularly demonic or not demonic about tattoos, so you have liberty. You shouldn’t abuse your liberty, of course, but the very use of the term “liberty” implies that a “why not” question might in fact be quite reasonable. Why eat meat sacrificed to idols? Because it tastes good, that’s why. Why not eat meat sacrificed to idols? Because you could make a weaker brother or sister stumble. Why get a tattoo: because you think it is beautiful, because you want something on your body that constantly reminds you of a Scripture (a friend of mine has God’s self-revelation from Ex. 34 tattooed in full on his forearm, just to remind himself), or whatever. But you have liberty. Don’t make a law where there isn’t one.

    2) You could feasibly be a Jew to the Jews, a Greek to the Greeks, or a punk rocker to the punk rockers. Really, you could. I’ve known people who go to hard rock shows with cases of water to hand out because it’s always hot and people need water, or are dehydrated from drinking a lot of alcohol. They didn’t get tats, but they sure could’ve to meet that community where they’re at. I met a Harley enthusiast who rides with a biker group called “Soldiers for Christ” with patches and all. He has one tat in particular that is a graphic representation of the gospel. It’s impressive artistically, and it’s an easy gospel witness to a bunch of guys who he can relate to him.

    3) I think the first argument needs to be answered: couldn’t you say the same stuff about cosmetics? There are plainly too many easy counter-arguments against the “pagan association” one.

    Let me state that I mean no disrespect in my direct tone, and fully understand your intent to be biblical and edify. I just disagree!

    Andrew Faris
    Christians in Context

  28. I got a cross tattoo about 3 years after I became a Christian, and after considering it for 1 1/2 years. I wanted to signify to myself that my new faith was permanent. I vowed to never show it to anyone – I don’t hide it, but I don’t ever show it off, nor have I ever mentioned it to anyone.

    I’m still undecided as to whether it was a good idea. I can’t say that I’ve ever been struck by the convictions that many seem to have – rebellion, showing off, etc.

    I don’t know – tattoos may be historically pagan, but neckties are historically linked to French mercenaries, but nobody sees me with a tie and thinks that I am either likely to surrender or hire myself as a killer for a foreign nation. The origins of a particular custom or practice do not necessarily form the current meaning of those practices.

  29. My dad had a simple rule that I have
    retained in my house: If you come
    home with a tattoo, don’t come home.


  30. Does it strike anyone that tattoos are much less common in countries other than North America (besides the odd tribal culture in Africa, for example)? Move to France, or Japan, or Costa Rica, and you and your daughters will feel a lot less pressure to get one.

    Does it make tattoos less attractive to understand them as a huge fad, which, unlike jeans, are permanent?? I’ll buy the latest fashionable clothing (within reason), but I won’t commit myself permanently (as in tattooing myself) to the latest fashion. This hype has come, and I’m pretty sure it will also go.

  31. One thing I noticed about the post. It preaches Moralism, not gospel. It is about not looking like this world, instead of transforming the culture around us for the sake of the gospel. It is important to distinguish between Moral Levitical law (Sex with animals, sex with siblings, Don’t Steal, Don’t Murder, etc..) and Laws that were put in place to separate the Israelites with those around them (Tattoos, piercing…)

    You argue from culture against the culture, instead of arguing from gospel for gospel transformation in peoples lives.

    Less Moralism, More Gospel.

    Also, I do not have a tattoo, nor do I plan on getting one. I wear Dress Shoes and slacks 6 days a week, and the trendiest part of my wardrobe are the t-shirts from my student ministry events. Based on appearances (which is what this entire post is based on, appearances) I would be the poster child for Anti-Tattoo. The difference is that I understand grace to mean that we all are jacked up, and God saves us despite our being messed up. I’m not going to pick and choose whose appearance is more pleasing to Jesus.

  32. Sarah,

    I don’t mean to be offensive, but your husband won’t let you get the tattoo fixed because he wants to use it as a reminder of rebellion to you and your children? I’m sorry, but that seems much more demonic to me than any of “Satan’s uniforms”. A good friend, much less a husband, covers up the shame of his loved ones. If it’s something you’re ashamed of and he wants you to leave it there as a reminder (which is ridiculous because it’s not like you won’t remember it if it’s gone), then he has issues. He’s not willing to hide you from your shame as Jesus did for you and he’s willing to, in my mind, make an example of you in front of your children to scare them. Maybe I’m completely wrong, but that sentence startled me and left a much worse taste in my mouth than some silly teenage tattoo.

  33. I believe that permanent tats, for both men and women, are a clear sign of discontentment…either for what God has given them, or (in the case of Christians) for the ways He says He wants to be glorified…or both.

  34. I want to make some comments related to Andrew Faris’s comments:

    1) “There is Christian liberty, including in aesthetics… Don’t make a law where there isn’t one.” Actually, I don’t see anybody here making laws for people in general. I see people wrestling with the issues and trying to decide what’s best for their own situations, and the situations of their families.

    2) “You could feasibly be a Jew to the Jews, a Greek to the Greeks, or a punk rocker to the punk rockers.” Yes, of course. But ministering to them doesn’t necessarily mean looking like them or acting like them. Honestly, some people use this verse as an excuse to do pretty much anything: I’ve heard people defend the use of profanity because they need to “be all things to all people” and actually think of themselves as holier than the rest of us because they care so much. (This is incredibly naive at best: if somebody would have come up to me swearing a blue streak back when I was doing the same, I would have laughed at him.)

    In a similar – though not identical – vein, it’s not necessary to be covered in tats to minister to them; you admitted as much, but your admission means this is really not a point in favor of tats at all. And if we can’t present the gospel using words, we need to learn a better gospel presentation (which might mean we need to understand better what the gospel is really all about), not tats that will do the talking for us.

    3) “I think the first argument needs to be answered: couldn’t you say the same stuff about cosmetics?” Yes, it absolutely can. And the answer (I think) is that cosmetics can be misused, and should not be; thus I am not sure how much better a henna tatoo is than a real one.

    Where does that leave us? I think pretty much where we started, which is:

    1. I think we should not presume to make a pronouncement, in every case, for every person, that getting a tatoo is anti-Biblical
    2. However, one should think VERY carefully given the existing Biblical counsel and associations (paganism, gangs, “tramp stamps”, etc.) tatoos have in society

    If we lived in a society where there were no negative connotations linked with tatoos (as there are no such connotations with blue jeans today) #2 might not be a concern; however, I think an honest appraisal of the current condition of society indicates that it is still an issue.

  35. Wow. I cannot believe how increadibly legalistic this is. I am a God-fearing young woman who has been actively serving the Lord my entire life, and I cannot believe the things I am reading. I have so many friends (and some of them are pastors!!!) that have been born again, and to represent Christ saving them from their former ways have tattoos symbolizing their transformation. It makes for a GREAT testimony, especially when an unbeliever sees these tatoos and ask what they mean. My friends then have the opportunity to explain what Christ did for them, and how they too can be saved. Furthermore I think it is absurd to imply that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ would look down upon this. Our God is a God of LOVE, and his desire is for the whole world to be saved.

    If I decide tomorrow that I want to dye my hair pink and purple, pierce my nose four times, and tattoo the transfiguration onto my entire back, God will not love me less. God loves UNCONDITIONALLY, and has called us to do the same. If the body of Christ begins to yell at the world telling them that tattoos are wrong and that God hates them, why would they want to seek Him? They would simply think that God looks at them as tainted bodies and does not desire their love.

  36. Also, our tradition of having Christmas trees in the home (AND celebrating Christ’s birth in December) stems from a PAGAN tradition, does this mean we should stop doing that as well? So many things we do cross over into differnt cultures, and it would be absolutely absurd to monitor everything and anything the pagans ever did and take it out of our life styles.

  37. Wow, this was a really good post… something I needed to hear, but not necessarily wanted to hear, which makes it all the more meaningful. I’m seventeen and for a long time I have believed that there’s nothing wrong with getting tattoos, for reasons that I honestly can’t think of right now other than that it was because I wanted one. Now, I wanted something small, something that could be hidden so it wouldn’t affect any future careers. I wanted one because I thought it’d be cute and I wanted to show that I could “tolerate” the pain of needles. But honestly, I wanted it in a spirit of rebellion as someone called it. I didn’t realize it until just now. I wanted to break my image of a good Christian kid and say that I didn’t really disobey my parents because I didn’t believe they were wrong. And that is awful. I’m very glad a friend linked me to your husband’s post and I found this because I don’t want to open myself up with this little rebellion to a whole other load of other things. I do not want to be conformed to the pattern of this world. Thank you very much for showing me that.

  38. Jesus has a tattoo.

    Revelation 19:16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

    You can’t forbid tattoos just because they are often associated with beliefs out of line with the gospel. That king of logic would forbid many many things which are morally okay and even beneficial.

  39. Gary,

    In order of your responses:

    1) You don’t see anybody making a law for everyone? What about the post itself, which argues that Christians shouldn’t get tattoos? What about all of the people who chimed in with total agreement? What about the ridiculous misuse of the Leviticus verse? Sounds like they’re making a law to m.

    More importantly, you didn’t address the meat of my argument, which is that it basically falls under the 1 Cor. 8 & 10 issue. I’ll restate it: Christian liberty allows it, so why not? Perhaps we could also look to Mk. 8 and say that it’s not what is tattooed on your body that defiles a person, but what comes out from a person.

    In fact, I’ll be even simpler: give me one Biblical reason why a Christian shouldn’t get a tattoo. And please don’t use the Leviticus passages, because I’ll just quote you back the surrounding ones that we don’t follow anymore, and we’ll both have to realize that it’ll take a little more hermeneutical thoughtfulness when we’re dealing with Levitical law.

    2) Your point is correct in one sense: you shouldn’t sin to reach out to sinners. I’m not advocating that.

    What I am saying is that if it isn’t sinful to get a tat (and I obviously think it’s not), then there is no problem with getting one.

    And regarding the charge that we need to preach the gospel with words, I realize looking back now that I wasn’t clear enough. Someone asks him about his tattoo, and he explains it to them piece by piece. So he uses words.

    3) I’m more interested in the fact that cosmetics are used by worshippers of materialism/self-image/vanity/etc. So does that mean that all who use cosmetics are associating with that? Of course not.

    The same goes with tats, especially in our culture: are tattoos associated with American paganism? I would answer with a resounding “no”. At least not for my generation (I’m 25). Not at all. I can honestly tell you that as a p.k. raised in a conservative Christian home, I do not in any way associate someone who has tats with Christianity or not.

    Heck, I know of a tattoo artist who has become a local legend in SoCal for holding Bible studies in his shop and reaching non-believers that way. He’s had a remarkable ministry, and he opened a place next door where he hosts shows for local bands. Is he polluting the gospel by giving tats? Of course not.

    So again, let me summarize with one challenge: give me one reason from the Bible why a Christian shouldn’t get tattoos, and make it straightforward and logical. That is my challenge.


  40. oldfatslow Aug 4th, 2009 at 6:17 am

    “My dad had a simple rule that I have
    retained in my house: If you come
    home with a tattoo, don’t come home.”

    You’ve got to be kidding me!!! You’d break every new testament command to love over a Tat? You’d break relationship with your own family over it, That’s sick!

    Be careful, or maybe your lack of love will force Jesus to say, “I never knew you”. I’d reexamine if you even know the meaning of grace or the Gospel of Christ!

  41. Andrew,

    Show me a passage that says:
    1. Don’t eat yellow snow.
    2. Don’t play football on the interstate.
    3. Don’t stand between an bear and her cub.
    4. Don’t criticize the wife’s first attempt at fried chicken.
    5. Don’t (you fill in other “discerning” “laws”).


  42. Mark,

    Being discerning is one thing, but saying that getting a tat=associating with Satan’s team is a whole other.

    There may be good reasons not to get a tat, but that’s just not what the original post argues. The original posts argues that getting a tat is wearing the devil’s uniform. And I’m saying that’s ridiculous.

    So yeah, maybe old fat guys who got tats when they were young and skinny have to reap the consequences of a decision they shouldn’t have made. I’d be careful about tats myself.

    But that’s not what Nancy argued.


  43. I totally agree with Nancy here, but let’s not stop at tattoos. Women need to adhere 100% to Biblical standards of appearance. 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy totally lay out exactly what women on the other team look like — they appear in public with their heads uncovered, with makeup, and jewelry, and adornments, and flashy attire, to incur the attention of men and drive them into lust. Paul says this is what prostitutes look like. Regrettably, from my experience, it seems that virtually all women in the church must be on the other team.

  44. Andrew,
    I made the point in my original post which you have illustrated for me once again. Christians don’t ask the right question, which is give me a good reason why I should get at tattoo. Christians always want to know why they can’t do something rather than why they should. This is what teenagers do when arguing with their parents or school chums. Sometimes when our children asked if they could do something ridiculous, my husband would cheerfully reply, “Do I look like an idiot?”
    Blessings and thanks for chiming in on Femina.

  45. Nancy (or do you prefer Nancy Ann? Like I said, I’m new!),

    Thanks for responding. But I don’t think you addressed my point!

    In fact, in my first comment on this thread, I gave you at least one case where there is a positively good reason for a tattoo. So there’s that.

    But more importantly, I contested that criterion, saying that the very nature of what we call “Christian liberty” and the very thing Paul discusses in 1 Cor. 8 & 10 is that sometimes, well, you don’t necessarily need a grand theological reason to do something. Sometimes enjoying a piece of meat is just fine- as long as, of course, you aren’t making it tougher to be a Christian for a weaker brother or sist. And I’m not sure in most cases how getting a tattoo would qualify for that.

    I’ll make it even easier by taking that criterion and apply it to other things in life: do I have to come up with a great reason to grow a beard? to sit on my couch right now? to have a glass of juice instead of water? to buy a car with an automatic transmission instead of a manual?

    And so on, ad absurdum.

    I don’t need a great reason to do those things because they aren’t sin/not sin issues. And so the reason I might get a tattoo is because I might think it’s beautiful and it isn’t sinful to do so.

    What your husband is most certainly right about is what he said in his post that linked this one: namely, that the issues surrounding getting a tattoo are the important ones. Issues of insecurity, or vanity, or whatever. If that’s the reason you get a tat (or whatever else) then you shouldn’t do it. But if you get a tat because you think it looks beautiful, there’s nothing objectively wrong, sinful, pagan, demonic, or whatever about that, even if you’ll regret it later or if someone else thinks its ugly.

    Heck, if we all asked the “why” question you purport here about everything, we’d never do anything. It would be paralyzing.

    On top of all that, you made a massive “why not” charge in your original post. So I wonder what your criterion actually is anyway.

    In any case, thanks for your response despite my hearty disagreement, and as always, I mean no disrespect or personal condescension, etc!

    Andrew Faris
    Christians in Context

  46. Dennis,

    I can understand your quibble about
    the seriousness of tattoos. But, you
    might want to consider that my dad’s
    statement and my repetition of it are
    in the line of Mt. 18:8-9.

    I hope you at least agree that
    love does not trump everything
    when it comes to family matters
    anymore than it trumps everything
    when it comes to the Family of
    God. Of course, there have been
    those lately who do think that way.


  47. this may be a bit late in the discussion,
    but i wonder if the issue here is what we are trying to communicate, whether through make up, dress , tattoos or piercing.
    in all that we do we should glorify God. there fore, we need to consider what we are communicating about our God to an on looking world.
    For example… different groups use certain styles of dress, make up and accessories to communicate their identification and tell us something about who they are, from nuns to bikies, the seductive woman, the tom boy etc…,
    the message we are wanting to communicate about our love for God, should not only be clear to us, but also leave no confusion in the secular mind.

  48. The bible says “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead nor print or tattoo any marks upon you; i am the lord (Leviticus 19:29).”

    I have done a larg amount of research. I found that the markings they are talking about in Leviticus, along with many other scriptures, are referring to a heathen practice. The idea was that if an individual were to ‘cut’ oneself they were invoking their pagan gods, especially during time of disease and death. So as it states, it is true that Christians should not cut or mark themselves, but it is important to understand that God was referring to doing it in ways similar to a heathen. God states and repeats numerous times that Christians should not follow PAGAN rituals, cutting being one of them.

    I am a 17 year old christian male and i am going to get a tattoo of a cross on my arm.
    You say “give me a good reason why a Christian should get a tattoo.” I am getting this tattoo so at first sight everyone will know who i believe in and to showe my religion and dedication to christe. This will be in my skin the rest of my life always there to remind me of my true purpose in life. And yes people will ask about it saying its wrong but every person who asks about it i will have the opportunity to intruduce to god.

    So there is my opinion no matter what you think of it.

  49. I have read this entire post, and am leaving my church due to the liberal leadership over the issue of tatoos! One of the ministers in the church I attended is a tattoo artist, his work is dark in nature, and this isnt a problem with my Pastor.
    We are to be seperate from the world, a new creation, an example to a lost and dying world. As Christians in the church get tatoos, there is no seperation between the church and the world,I dont care if its a cross, praying hands, or whatever, a tattoo is more of a distraction than anything else.
    Just the origin of tats are demonic, and pagan in nature, let alone cutting into your skin.
    Christiasn liberty doesnt give us the right to copy the pagan pratices of the world, it gives us the right to honor God in our bodies, remember we were bought with a high price, the blood of Christ.
    Terry Watkins Dial-the-Truth Ministries



    Leviticus 19:28 is the Christian (or so-called Christian?) tattooist and tattoo-bearer’s worst nightmare. The Lord plainly, clearly, strongly, and without a doubt – condemns the tattoo.

    Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.
    Leviticus 19:28

    Could that be any more clear?

    “Ye shall not. . .print any marks upon you. . .”

    Simple. . . Straightforward. . .Settled. . .

    God Said It. . . I Believe It. . . That Settles It. . .

    Right. . .?

    Not hardly. . .

    The clear statement from the word of God does not settle anything for this generation of disobedient, carnal, worldy, tolerant, non-judgmental, Christians. Rather than obey God, they run miles and miles and miles to “justify” their open disobedience to the Word of God.

    How do they get around Leviticus 19:28?

    Clearly, there it is. “Ye shall not. . .print any marks upon you. . .”

    A lot of Christians when confronted with Leviticus 19:28, scream, “Hey dude, that’s not for today. Man, that’s the Old Testament. I’m under the New Testament”.

    Did you know that “bestiality” (sicko, perverted, sex with an animal) was ONLY forbidden in the Old Testament Levitical Law? Only in Leviticus 18:23 and Leviticus 20:15-16. Dude, only in the Old Testament Law. Does that mean a Holy God NOW – under the New Testament, approves of bestiality?

    By the way, have you ever read Leviticus 19:29? The verse immediately AFTER the “it’s not for me” Leviticus 19:28?

    Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.
    Leviticus 19:29

    This is the only place in the Bible that God directly forbids someone to prostitute their daughter. And since, it’s ONLY in the Old Testament Levitical Law (and “hey, dude, we’re NOT under the law”) – it MUST be ok by the Lord for a parent to cause their daughter to prostitute.

    Same sick, perverted, wicked, line of reasoning as the “it’s ONLY in the Old Testament-tattoo-bearer-wearer”. Same reasoning. . . Same disobedience. . . Same perversion of the Word of God.

    There are many other “moral laws’ that are ONLY forbidden in the Old Testament, such as the human sacrifice of children. No where in the New Testament is this forbidden. Does that mean that NOW under the New Testament, God Almighty endorses throwing babies into the fire as a human sacrifice?

    And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.
    Leviticus 18:21

    Matthew Henry’s Commentary at the beginning of Leviticus 19 explains that most of Leviticus 19 (such as verse 19:28) are moral commandments that applies not only for Israel but for the New Testament Christian today.

    “Some ceremonial precepts there are in this chapter, but most of them are moral. . . Most of these precepts are binding on us, for they are expositions of most of the ten commandments.”
    (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Leviticus 19:28)

  50. My 17 yr old daughter just emblazoned her back with a cross and thorns with “Your were there when no one else was” scrolled around. I am sick to my stomach and haven’t slept for 2 days. Neither I nor any of my family members have tattoos. She lives with her mom and they belong to a non-denomination church. I am born, raised, confirmed Catholic. Her mother signed for it and defends her actions at all costs. I question both of their motives both for her age and how quickly it was done not giving it a very long and hard thought. I am so angry I feel like turning my back on her. With the idea that if she refuses to listen to my input then don’t ever ask for it and be on your own. Do as you will and suffer the consequences for your actions. I know feeling this way is wrong and hope it subsides. I just needed to vent when everyone is looking at me like my reaction is crazy, controlling and that I just need to get over myself. As I look over pictures of my little girl of days gone by, man, I am so angry, frustrated and sickened that she would deface her flesh like this. Not even laser removal will wipe this one out. Scarred for life, I’m sick.

  51. JEB,
    Though it may be tempting to pull away from her, a foolish daughter needs her dad all the more. We’ll pray for you.

  52. Thank you. The frustrating part is her mother defend this saying “It symbolizes her faith & what God has done in her life”. I do not know of a priest, nun or minister that would have one. This baby is big, from the hairline of the neck to half point on her back. I know i am just going to have to move on. She is 18 in 5 months so I better get used to her own will, be there for advice and guidance. She was taught right from wrong spritually and mentally. I just need to let go and let her blaze her own way. Even if she does have “Stations of the Cross” on her back.

  53. Google “Coptic Christians tattoos” and you will see that Christian tattooing is not a new phenomenon. This practice still survives today among rural Coptics. In later times, medieval Christian pilgrims and Crusaders often tattooed themselves to mark their journey and remind them and others of their faith.

    As with so many other things, I think it is the intent and heart motivation that counts. One’s actions can be morally neutral in and of themselves, or even GOOD, yet it is our motives (our inner self) that counts before God. It is the inner motivation that he sees, even if others do not. Praying is a good thing, yet if one prays like the Pharisees did, or prays for forgiveness for themselves yet does not forgive others, God knows this.

    So, with respect, I think that this issue is far from being the cut-and-dried, black-and-white one that Nancy Ann has opined that it is.

  54. Intent and heart motivation is not enough, Mat 5:20. Sin started from the heart, Mat 5:27-30. Jesus did not come to demolished or wipe out the law, Mat 5:17-19. There is no ‘but’ word in the original Greek, John 1:17, so do not miss interpret, so it means both works together. Basically, the whole New Testament says, do not put yourself under the judgement of the law by living in sin, do what is righteous and Christlike lifestyle and activities so that the law has no way finds it way to charge or sue you. On your repentance day, make it real by leaving the past, not keeping some and having it all over again. If you leave in sin after your encounter with the truth, there will be no more mercy for that but judgement. The word should be written in your heart and people have to see the spiritual fruits out of your behavior and character. The Bible did not ask you to write the words or your testimony on the flesh. A person will be more hypocrite even worst than the pharisees, if they have all the so called Christians decoration on the flesh while the attitude and character of true life is far from Him. You will not be able to even proof whether Jesus has one. He never speak about you to get one. He says, preach the Gospel, not write it on your skin. Fashion? So, why did Jesus did not get in the fashion, the kind of fashion in His time on earth? What is good moral and character nowadays? Is it according to what those in business believe, or what is appropriate according to the Bible? There is no way we can synchronize Biblical spirituality with the world philosophies and beliefs. If we really wanted to be His followers, why do we need to be like the Israelites in the wilderness? Why do we have to gain our own interest by looking for or at someone like Aron, who agreed to do what he thinks right which is more acceptable to the secular world.

    Out of 5000, only about 70 really followed Christ…that represent that about 4930 people disagree with Christ teaching. I am not surprised when they are more support Christians tattoo than apposed. Like Nancy said, history is repeating – look at CCM, it is the same story… hmmm

    Matthew 7:14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

    These is what Jesus said about salvation. John 3:16 …that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life, …most people will say Amen! Check on verse 18 through 21, …describes the truth, means you have to leave sinful lifestyle. You hardly heard people read all the way down. Why? Because they are afraid of the price that they have to pay. Now, read verse 36, …He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” …believeth (original Greek was about being faithfull) not the Son shall not see life. John 4:24 “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” Spirituality is about lifestyle and not body-mark. That is what God is looking for. The Bible concerned are more on protecting our body and avoiding it from being exposed, that it might be used by evil to promote evil. It is also to keep what is original and brings no division. God is also concern about the body’s holiness such as keeping it holy for it is the temple of the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 6. We shouldn’t let the idea of this world to enslave us and do what it thinks right, not even letting them change the truth about biblical spirituality, Romans 8. We have to learned the mistake in the past when Christianity was merged with paganism. We have to avoid our mind been controlled by the tattoo’s wave that gaining its empire so powerful just as the CCM wave managed to penetrate all denominations.

    In Christ, David Ebin

  55. Hello Mrs Wilson! I’m interested by this topic because I live in Portland and the tattoo culture is so prevalent that it is passe at best. I agree with you… I have only started thinking about this topic for a year now, but from all of the learned people I have talked to it seems tattoos seem to be prohibited in the bible. (Leviticus passage that Melissa noted as one example) And as we are those who stand on the bible and NOT cultural standards (which ebb and flow like the tide) it seems to me that your argument is more than sound. Its when we start comparing a tattoo with other cultural arguments, ie women wearing pants and makeup and earrings ect ect… that we Christans seem to get hung up in our Christianity. Those arguments just never hold up, they are formed around man’s standard, which for those who have noticed, is always changing. (and Christians usually take up the charge in fashion 50 yrs after when the old folks and their disapproving head shakes die out) And so though I don’t agree with your nasal piercing post from a year ago, (I just cant get over beautiful Rebecka and her ornaments) I love this one!
    (Not meant to be a backhanded complement, I just couldn’t work up the courage to say this a year ago)

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