“Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord,” Leviticus 19:28 (NIV).
Last week, I raised the topic of Christian controversy over tattoos. Though this day and age seems to have more people who are open to the idea than previous generations, the question of tattoos being forbidden territory still stands. This week, I sat down with junior HU peace and conflict studies major Toby Doyle to continue the discussion of how Christians can approach tattoos.
Can you describe your tattoos and what gave you the idea to get them?
I have five! But I will only speak about two, because they all have such a rich backstory.
They represent a different stage of growth for me. One of them is of a heart overlapping with a hand on my left bicep. It is a reminder that all actions are an implication of the heart and a person’s nature, so I need to be aware of what effects I can cause with what I do.
The other is 1 Corinthians 13:7 in Hebrew, around my forearm. It says “[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Love is a really important concept to me in how I live and treat others, and I feel that very few people really practice love in the way it is supposed to be. My mom also inspired me to get this tattoo in Hebrew because she is the best example of love in my life, and she taught me Hebrew too.
Have you encountered any opposition toward your tattoo? Or what supportive remarks have you heard about your choice?
I have had a lot of people tell me that getting a tattoo is sinful, referencing Lev 19:28. But I have also had plenty ask about my tattoos. Whenever I explain my stories behind them, they would say things like “That’s so cool,” or “I never would have guessed.”
What are your thoughts on Lev 19:28 and the frown on tattoos in reference to it?
It is a culturally contextual verse. Taken into context, that verse is actually talking about non-Israelite cultures where tattoos were attained during pagan practices like sacrifices. My reasons for getting tattoos have nothing to do with pagan religions, and my tattoos serve as vehicles for conversation about my life or faith.
What makes tattoos or the concept of them so attractive?
It’s art, which people are drawn to. Tattoos in particular, have such an individualistic basis and are unique to each person. They definitely make for good conversation starters.
What advice do you have for those who are unsure on the topic of tattoos in general?
Do much research and talk to a lot of people—those who have tattoos and those who don’t. Get a lot of input and reflect on your stance as to why you feel a certain way about tattoos. You want to be sure on how you feel about tattoos, especially if you are planning to get one, because they are expensive, not to mention permanent.