To Tattoo or not to Tattoo? That is the Question.

When thinking about tattoos, the first thought that generally comes to mind is perhaps a big biker dude in leather, or a hard gangster type with sagging pants. Often, and unfortunately for women in our society, some people think trashy. The inked are often looked down upon and as such not taken seriously. People seem to be afraid of tattoos because social norms have determined one’s position in the community, and even their life beyond the grave. Truth be told, it is inappropriate to condemn persons based upon appearances, or because we dislike their fashion choices.The world is vastly changing and tattoos are becoming more and more acceptable. Our bodies are temples of God, yes, but being given the right to occupy these bodies and choose how we live should also include how we desire to decorate it. Beauty is something that one cannot enslave. It is free and has no limitations. The reasons for these negative outlooks have some reasonable, yet arguable, points, such as appealing to the Bible by asserting that tattooing is sinful, as well as that no one in the professional world will hire you and may negatively judge you. Granted that these points are in a sense valid, we often forget that what matters most about a person is not what we can see, but rather what God sees in us.  Or for those who do not believe in God, it is what is on the inside that matters.

Christians often quote the bible to each other on topics of intense discussion. There is nothing wrong with doing that, it is a good way to become familiar with the word of our Lord. Tattoos have been a very controversial topic amongst the Christian community. The Bible says “You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead, nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.” (Lev. 19:28). Because this is in the Scripture, people interpret this as the law for us and the world we live in today. Parts still apply to use and it is very sensible to believe that tattoos are a sin and an act that we should not participate in. Law is law, especially the law of God.

I must rebuke their argument with the same scripture passage, but with the beginning verses.“You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divination or soothsaying.You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads, nor harm the edges of your beard. You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead, nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.”(Lev. 19:26-28). Wait, what does this mean? It says we should not cut our hair and beards. Yet people practice this every day? Does that mean they are breaking the Lord’s law? No, of course not. This passage was given to the Israelites because they were practicing pagan rituals. God wanted to separate them from those traditions and bring their focus to Him. Lev.19:19 states “neither shall a garment of mixed linen and wool come upon you” yet 95 percent of what we wear are made with mixed fabrics. Now you do not have to agree with the idea of tattooing, no one can make you like anything you do not want to like, but consider this: does the Bible really say that it is a sin? If the point was to separate the Israelites from the pagan’s, then who are we being separated from today? Paganism is less than .33% of the population. Now if you are truly worried that it is still a pagan act and therefore makes it a sin, then we as Christians have no right to participate in traditional holidays such as Christmas. “Christmas was originally a festival of the Winter Solstice. It was customary to hold great feasts in honor of the HEATHEN GODS. The early teachers of Christianity PROHIBITED THESE FESTIVALS as unsuited to the character of Christ. Yet the symbols and customs…with many customs of pagan origin.”. I do not hear many people say that celebrating such holidays is sinful. We do not get to pick and choose what Old Testament laws should be followed. That is why we have the Magisterium to make these types of decisions.They have yet to confirm the sinfulness of tattooing. If all these laws still applied to the modern world then we would all be considered as non celebrating,vegetarian, one fabric wearing, hairy sinners. There are no verses in later readings of scripture that say tattoos are forbidden. Instead what we mostly read is that God loves us for who we are as people and for where our heart is, although he does not love all of our life choices. He does not care about how we look or where we are in society. Our bodies are temples of God, yes, but being given the right to occupy these bodies and choose how we live should also include how we desire to decorate it.  It would only seem logical that if God saysFor I desire goodness, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings.” (Hosea 6:6), then what he seems to mostly focus on our true and pure love and knowledge for Him, even if it just a simple act of kindness in this world. Not necessarily acts that scream “Look at me everybody! Look how much I love God!” One day at the grocery store I was struggling to get a cart from the line of other carts, it seemed to be stuck. People just walked on by me, watching as I struggled or did not even give me a passing glance at all. I was getting so frustrated, why would no one help me? Then I heard a voice asking me if I would like his help. I turned to see a man covered all over his body with tattoos and piercings. People who go to church and are respected amongst their peers, walked right by me. People who work and get payed well with families waiting for them at home, walked right by me. This man may have or may not have been religious, but it is in those acts of kindness that God remembers. Not if you walk around with a Rosary over your neck so that everyone knows that you are religious. Jesus sat with the poor, sick and the sinners because he loved them for who they were and not what others thought them to be. He sees what is truly important, and that is our faith and love for Him and for one another.

Many people who have thought of getting a tattoo and or have gotten one has heard the phrase “If you get a tattoo, no one will want to hire you.” In 2015 this still holds true. Many inked peoples find it difficult to find jobs because of dress code regulations, or they are forced to cover their tattoos so customers will not be offended. Many surveys have concluded that hiring managers see tattoos only for “thugs” and “druggies.” Afraid that the older generation will not take their companies serious. Even more so, people who have tattoos are seen as these things even off the job in their day to day lives. Jobs of all fields have rules and regulations on discrimination based on gender and race. Yet none can be found on discrimination of tattoos. Discrimination is discrimination. There are no two definitions to that word. When you pass judgement based on category intolerance rather than the individual, that is discrimination at its finest. An unknown source states, “I would NEVER hire anyone with a visible tattoo, ever. I don’t care who they are. This is an instant sign of extremely poor judgement and lack of self-control. I can’t imagine any circumstance where I would change my views on this. If you want to look like you just stepped out of San Quentin, that’s fine. More power to you. You simply have to accept that people will look at you as lowlife, and want nothing to do with you. That’s the choice you are free to make.” This man has decided to categorize all peoples with tattoos as low lifes with no self control. I am assuming he has met every single person with tattoos in order to make this statement. It just so happens that Teddy Roosevelt, Andrew Jackson, Winston Churchill, Sarah Palin, Adam Levine, David Beckham, and many other highly successful people had and have tattoos. All these individuals have different jobs. From the music industry to the White House itself. One’s success is not determined by their looks, but rather by their efforts and skills. A lot of the opinions on tattoos in the workplace are apart of the older generation. To judge someone based off of the markings on their body is like judging a woman with short hair as being gay. Half of the people in that classification may be what your judgement is, but not the other half. One cannot know why one decides to get a tattoo and the meaning behind the tattoo. We are so ready to jump to conclusions and judge a book by its cover that we miss out on a lot of good people. Some tattoos are stories of where that person has been and what they have suffered and lost. They are worn as scars because they are not ashamed to show the world who they are, where they have been, and what they have done. When Jesus was resurrected he kept his scars to show us the pain he had endured. We all have our own ways of showing the scars of our lives, and to refuse work to someone because of their style choices is not bringing us forward as a nation, and we can never reach true equality and unity until all types of discrimination has been removed.

People with tattoos often know what they are getting into, and for the most part have a reason for getting them. Whether there is a back story for ones tattoo or not, we should not judge someone based off appearance. You would not want to walk down the street being judged or denied a job for the way you look. Treat others the way you wanted to be treated. That is the golden rule. A rule that parents all over the world of every race, and every religion teach their children. People with tattoos can teach us one thing and that is to be true to ourselves. Because tattoos are stigmatized by the world they have to face the daily trials of hate that is thrown at them, and yet still continue to be the best people that they can be. “I am who I am.” (Ex 3:14). Tattoos are seen as immoral and unprofessional. Since tattoos are becoming more and more acceptable, once the older generation is gone it is quite possible that tattoos will finally be allowed in the professional area. John Paul the Great even said that some tattoos are acceptable. So long as they are not disrespectful, like a cross on the bottom of your foot, or a demonic symbol, then there is no sin in a tattoo. “ I appeal especially to you, Christian artists…you are invited to use your creative intuition to enter into the heart of the mystery of the Incarnate God and at the same time into the mystery of man…my hope for all of you who are artists is that you will have an especially intense experience of creative inspiration. May the beauty which you pass on to generations still to come be such that it will stir them to wonder!” say John Paul the Great. Tattoos are a form of art that last forever. Each individual tattoo is a story and a symbol. Whether that be the story of how one survived a sickness, or a story of a teenager who was living in the moment. Not every story is going to be your favorite, but just because one does not appeal to you does not make all the other stories unappealing either. It is time to stop the stigmatization of tattoos and the people who have them. It is time to love a person’s heart and not their skin. No one can stop you from judging a person, but we will all die and if there is no God then you lived a life full of unnecessary judgement that held you back from true happiness. But if there is a God, “ But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Romans 14:10).

Sources

1)Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, eds. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010)

2)“What Does the Bible Say about Getting Tattoos?” United Church of God. July 5, 2012. Accessed April 17, 2015. http://www.ucg.org/bible-faq/what-does-bible-say-about-getting-tattoos.

3)“Experts You Should Follow.” Answers. Accessed April 17, 2015. 

http://www.answers.com/Q/What_percent_of_the_world_is_pagan.

4)“The Origins of Christ-Mass: Catholic-Paganism.” The Origins of Christ-Mass: Catholic-Paganism. Accessed April 18, 2015. http://www.antipas.org/books/xmas/xmas4.html.

5)Taibi, Catherine. “Tattoos Still Reduce Chances Of Getting Hired, Study Finds.” The Huffington Post. Accessed April 19, 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/05/tattoos-hired-job-chances-study_n_3873425.html.

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