Saturday, August 20, 2016

What Would You Tattoo on Your Body?

First, let me acknowledge that I realize that many Christians take quite seriously the Biblical prohibitions against tattoos on the body, so what I'm about to write might seem heretical. 

When we were in the water park on Thursday, I noticed several people with Bible verses tattooed on their bodies--usually not the whole chunk of text, but just the book, chapter, and verse.  That got me to wondering:  if you could choose only one text to tattoo on your body, which one would it be?

And would the text you choose today be different than the one you would have chosen when you were younger?

I have loved the Micah 6:8 text since I first heard it during a Lutheran Student Movement national event:  the Lord requires of us justice, mercy, and walking humbly with our God.  But would I want that in a tattoo?  I've long loved the verses that admonish us to beat our swords into ploughshares--but is that the most important text?

Lately I've had the words of John the Baptist ringing in my ears:  I am not the Messiah.  But again, a tattoo with those words?

I saw tattoos with religious themes that had no Bible verse.  One man had these words tattooed across his larger than usual stomach:  "Only God can judge me."  Was that about his body?  Just a reminder of whose judgment is important?

And of course, there were tattoos with no words but religious imagery--or was it?  I was surprised by how many tattoos had images of death:  skulls and guns and apocalyptic scenes.  I don't really understand the appeal of having those images on my body forever.

I wondered how people decided to go with a tattoo.  Was it a kind of evangelism?  Did people think I might leave the water park and look up those verses?  Was it an action of witness?  Did the person choose it because it had deep meaning to the person?

And then the sociologist in me had other ponderings.  Are certain branches of Christianity more inclined towards these tattoos?  And there's the larger issue of societal acceptance of tattoos.  When I was a child, tattoos had an unsavory connotation--and now people carve all sorts of things into their bodies.

Of course, if I hadn't been at a water park, I wouldn't have seen many of these tattoos at all.  Now I wonder how many tattoos surround me, covered up with clothing.  Maybe it's a more private thing than I've been assuming.

I still come back to the question that interests me most:  we only have so much room to tattoo our bodies, so how do we choose?  So many essential Bible verses, so little fleshly canvas.

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