The practice of tattooing has nearly always been rejected in Christian tradition. The usual proof text is Leviticus 19:28: “You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord.” That verse has been regarded as an injunction against pagan rituals, but also as a call to honor God’s good creation as it is manifested in our bodies.
It’s not surprising that the tattooing phenomenon includes Christians. After all, the decision to get a tattoo is often informed by purposeful symbolism, and Christianity is a sacramental religion with rituals that outwardly mark an inward transformation. The act of being marked with crosses or doves follows a kind of incarnational logic.
Like many ministers, I used the popularity of Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ to focus attention in the church on what we believe about Jesus Christ. But I declined to tell people whether or not they should buy a ticket to see the film.
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