“God has committed himself, ever since creation, to working through his creatures–in particular, through his image-bearing human beings–but they have all let Him down.”
― N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
The waitress who brought me my order of eggs and bacon this morning at the Sweetened Sacks of Flour caught my attention as did another waitress last Saturday – their arms were covered in graphic cartoon-like black scrawl that seemed to slither up their arms toward some nether region of their bodies. My heart sank again this morning at the sight.
This young waitress – a twentyish woman with a beautiful smile and bright black eyes – had defaced herself and the Lord only knows why. Perhaps it’s the enticing effects of the reality TV culture, aka Pop culture, aka Cartoon Culture that we live in. Donald Trump was elected president in such a culture – and that makes perfect sense. “Winning” the Presidency has become a cartoon choice award.
Found on many cable channels, reality TV programming reveals people participating in all manner of human folly including the ritual of “inking”. To a great extent, The Media – the televised “news” programs, the newsfeed websites, the print and blog formatted- is also reality programming meant to arouse consumer’s attention and to provide a common denominator of baseness where one-upmanship is pulling one man’s pants down to use to pull your readers/viewers up out of the same swamp they are all in. Did we really need to be reminded of our broken humanness and subscribe to folly? But then again, watching the latest version of Sodom and Gomorrah in action may cause some to repent – but I doubt it. Just walk away and don’t look back.
Yes, my heart sank again this morning at the sight of this young woman who submitted herself to a pagan ritual. Tattooing is not adornment. That butterfly on the back of your neck is not adornment. You are telling the world that you belong to the ruler of this world and he – the Satan – has been kicked out. Anyone can be The Satan’s hands and feet, just as any Christian can be the hands and feet of the Lord.
At the health club, I see dozens of women who have “adorned” their bodies with graphic comic-like tattoos. Many have knowingly given themselves over to paganism with the “tat” being the sign that they are part of a death-Goth community which exists within a milieu of despair. They have thereby shown their allegiance to the former ruler of this world. As viewers of The Media, these who have dehumanized themselves with tattoos may have thought that God had given up on them and the world. Or, maybe they do not want anything to do with God and do not want to be a human who was created in God’s image. Paganism throughout human history has sought to destroy God’s image in our humanness. It has sought to make a god of man’s own image. Inking injects dye and idolatry into the skin.
Paganism is dehumanization. Paganism converts a person’s thinking so that they only live out their lives at a skin-deep level. Ultimately, paganism’s goal to make their supplicants into the image of The Satan. Before that point, one will look a lot like Gollum.
Paganism’s devotees find all sorts of religious ways to be rid of the indelible image of God. Some paganist’s devotion may be pantheistic in nature (diluting God in a solution of everything, thereby watering down any notion of a personal God) and some devotion may be populist in nature (watching TV), though the two are closely connected at the hip (pun intended).
Paganism’s alter ego is “enlightened Epicureanism. Both “religions” preach the same lie: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Both “religions” cultivate fools.
A fool will say in his heart “there is no god…and if there was I don’t want him anyway or to reflect his image. I will tattoo myself and shed any claim God may have on me”. In the end, when this fellow stands before God, he will say “I spent my entire life divesting myself of you. Get me out of here now!” And so, God will give him the desire of his heart.
Those of us who desire to be in the Kingdom of God, who desire the same true humanity as our Lord put on…we do not need to be in abeyance – the position of being without, or waiting for, an owner or claimant. God laid claim on us when we were sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever” (BCP, 380).
The DIY short list of how to become less human and deface the image of God (i.e., how to dehumanize yourself and others):
Involving yourself with bestiality
Worshipping the creature and not the creator
Dishonoring your mother and father
Watching and paying for fantasy-ridden movies and cable shows which glorify the above
Watching cartoonish “animated” movies a la Disney, DreamWorks
“When human beings give their heartfelt allegiance to and worship that which is not God, they progressively cease to reflect the image of God. One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship; what’s more, you reflect what you worship not only to the object itself but also outward to the world around. Those who worship money increasingly define themselves in terms of it and increasingly treat other people as creditors, debtors, partners, or customers rather than as human beings. Those who worship sex define themselves in terms of it (their preferences, their practices, their past histories) and increasingly treat other people as actual or potential sex objects. Those who worship power define themselves in terms of it and treat other people as either collaborators, competitors, or pawns. These and many other forms of idolatry combine in a thousand ways, all of them damaging to the image-bearing quality of the people concerned and of those whose lives they touch.”
― N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
Do you want a POV from a well-read prison psychiatrist who’s also an atheist?
“The correspondent asked me: what was wrong with tattooing, if that was how people wanted to adorn themselves?
I asked him whether he would have himself tattooed—whether he would be happy if his teenaged children had themselves tattooed—and if not, why not? After all, if he would not like it, he must have some inner objection to tattooing.
True, he said, but tattooing was not illegal. And since even I, who deprecated it, did not think that it should be illegal, there was nothing further to say about it. If tattooing was legal, it was thus of no social, moral, or cultural significance.
I tried to point out some of the cultural meanings of the vogue for tattooing. First, it was aesthetically worse than worthless. Tattoos were always kitsch, implying not only the absence of taste but the presence of dishonest emotion.
Second, the vogue represented a desperate (and rather sad) attempt on a mass scale to achieve individuality and character by means of mere adornment, which implied both intellectual vacuity and unhealthy self-absorption.
And third, it represented mass downward cultural and social aspiration, since everyone understood that tattooing had a traditional association with low social class and, above all, with aggression and criminality. It was, in effect, a visible symbol of the greatest, though totally ersatz, virtue of our time: an inclusive unwillingness to make judgments of morality or value.”
-Theodore Dalrymple’s Law Isn’t Enough