Recently,- very sternly- probably angry at one of his own that got tattooed- a young man asked me about the orthodox point of view of tattooing.
Even before he asked me this question, this sad contagion got my attention. When you turn on any of the entertaining channels, whether you watch a concert, or a sports game, or a boxing match, or anything similar, you can see many celebrities that are as illustrated as the children’s books.
In fall, when my wife and I usually go on “vacation” wherever one looks, one can see someone blemished by tattoos. Unfortunately, this is not limited to young people; very often you see elderly people whose worn out bodies gained a few more ponds of ugliness with these kinds of drawings.
Tattooing had stopped to be a “privilege” of bikers and criminals a long time ago.
Living in this world and in these surroundings, it is normal that we, the orthodox Christians, have to ask ourselves how to deal with this contagion. Our religion has a clear and very straight answer to that: it is negative. Orthodox Christians must not expose their bodies, given to them by God, our Creator, to any kind of tattooing.
Because God explicitly forbids it.
God, our Lord, is our Creator. “We brought nothing into the world.” (1 Timothy 6:7) Apostle Paul reminds us; therefore, nothing we have is ours. God lent it all to us. We cannot abuse someone else’s property.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought at a price. ” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20) Therefore, Apostle Paul calls upon us to honour God with our bodies and souls because “they are from God” (1 Corinthians 6:20)
God created us “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27) Even our bodies have to be a reflection of the beauty of our Creator. For those to whom this is not convincing enough, here’s a direct command from God in which He explicitly forbids drawing on His creation. “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:28)
Some “brilliant” interpreters of this part of the Holy Script simply reject this command, with the explanation that previous to this God’s command there are other things that God forbid us, so they say if we do not abide by those other commands why should we abide by this one. They say we should not take only this command out of the context.
What are those other things that God forbids us?
“’Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it. Do not practice divination or seek omens. Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.” (Leviticus 19:26, 27)
So the protestant interpreters ask: Should we stop eating steaks, or cutting our hair, or trimming our beards?
It is obvious that this is not about that.
All of these commands, which are related to these questions, God enforces with His warning: “I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:28) or “You are the sons of the Lord, your God.” (Deuteronomy 14:1)
God’s chosen people, the Israel, lived surrounded by infidel, pagan people. Tattooing and other brutalities to their bodies were very common among pagan people. By accepting these satanic rites, Israel was in danger of assimilating with those surrounding people and forgetting who their God was and whose children they were.
The whole Holy Script of the Old Testament is in fact a repetition of acceptance and digression of the chosen people from God. Many times and always in a very dramatic way, God warns them to secede from the pagan surroundings and to have nothing to do with the pagans. “Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing;” (Isaiah 52:11) God calls.
We, the orthodox Christians, have to have our eyes wide open for the satanic occurrences and deceptions to which we are exposed. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15, 16)
This is the time of antagonism against God; it is very evil time. Everyone’s pouncing at us, the orthodox Christians. They assail us everywhere, they revile us, they drop bombs and missiles on us. Carl Bildt, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs (and once a High Representative of the UN and EU for Bosnia and Herzegovina), accuses Putin for “demonstrating loyalty not to the international values, but to the orthodox Christianity” and says that orthodox Christianity is “worse than Islamic fundamentalism and therefore is a great threat to the western civilization.” (“Dveri”)
For that reason, some satanic and diabolically powerful countries in many ways and with many resources are trying to bring the paganism back and are promoting pagan demoniac rituals. The creators of the fashion trends go through the Holy Script page by page and go against everything that God stated as His will and His strict commands and they find satanic inspiration in that. If God said: “Do not cut your hair all around and do not disfigure your beards”, they will set that as a fashion trend so we can see celebrities cutting their hair exactly that way. They leave feathers and bird’s nests at the top of their heads to defy God with it.
Everything God created was good. (Genesis 1: 10, 12, 18, 21, 25), and after creating the man, the crown of His creation, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31). By tattooing and using the sharp needles to inject black or any other ink, persuaded by the satan, the man replies to his Creator: “It is not good, let alone very good, the way you created me. My advisor, and your opponent, the satan and I will fix your creation and we will prick it with stamps, drawings, skulls, and satanic symbols, and we will make it black and poison it if necessary just so it cannot be recognized anymore as your creation. I deform, God, your form.”
There is no difference between our times, completely demonized and the Biblical times when God warned the chosen people of the first letter of the alphabet of life- that He is their Lord. And we, Christians, are scattered in the ocean of new paganism like islands and little islets. Our children watch how people distort themselves, and under the hail of pressures, they are in danger of giving in and accepting “horns for candles”. That is why God warns us and calls us to come out of those surroundings, to separate; and to not accept the devil. “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable” St. Apostle Peter advises us.
We have to live in this world but we do not have to be like this world. It is all good when the boat is floating on the water; it is not good when the boat is in the water. We are invited to not conform to this life but to transform by renewing our minds, to recognize through our experience what is good, nice and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)
I did not occupy myself with other: medicinal, social, psychological and other aspects of this topic. I would just say that we need to measure everything using God’s units of measure and to follow the St. Apostle’s advice and always remember “for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Romans (14:23)