Shannon Larratt, the creator of BMEzine.com1 wrote a great article called “Does God Hate Your Tattoos?” several years ago. I visit BME often, and I read this article before I decided to get a tattoo. Shannon is not a Christian himself, but he did a little research and presented a few findings that are worth thinking about:
- The Bible does not ban body modification.
- The Bible makes it clear that God wants some people to be modified.
- Body modification was common in biblical times, from simple (piercings) to very complex (eunuchs2).
After doing some of my own research, I got my first tattoo in November, 2005. I decided to have the Hebrew word, Sh’ma, written on the inside of my left wrist. Sh’ma is the first word in this passage of scripture, and also the word used to identify this scripture as well as a couple of other passages3:
4Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.* 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (NRSV)
The Sh’ma is a declaration of faith, a pledge of allegiance to One God. I bound these words, in a very corporeal way, as a sign on my hand. I see the sign daily, and it is an affirmation that there is One God, and my life is wholly dedicated to serving the One.
I want to continue my journey in body art with a large tattoo of stained glass on my upper arm. Specifically, I want the design to follow that of the sanctuary at Meadowbrook United Methodist Church, where I grew up. The imagery of my human body being a sanctuary for God is very meaningful to me, and the art itself is beautiful and sentimental. It probably won’t happen any time soon, mostly because I just don’t have the money to invest in such a project right now.
Has your faith ever led you to body modification? What kinds of artistic expression have you used to explore or share your faith?
Vaya con Dios, amigos.
1) BMEzine.com is a community that encourages the safe and informed pursuit of body modification. BME is an acronym for “Body Modification Ezine” and is pronounced “be me”.
2) Eunuchs are men who have been castrated. Some of them removed their penis. There are still men today who choose to modify themselves in this fashion.
3) Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Deuteronomy 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37-41 are collectively referred to as “the Sh’ma”.