I read WND’s recent article on body modification with great interest. The article speaks about how the tattooed, pierced, and voluntarily scarred are now suing employers on discrimination grounds. However, the article touches on much deeper issues.
I’m tattooed myself. Bedecked with dragons, skulls, a burning cross, a unicorn, and other mystical images, I once thought I had a reason for being this way. Indeed, I bear the images of alcoholism, drug abuse, abortion, my Gen-X culture, a disconnect to God, and a desire to express myself through silent rebellion against God and society. While I am now a successful lawyer and the president of the Pro-Family Law Center, I am not far removed from the reasons I chose to ”graffiti the temple.” I wake up every morning to images in the mirror that remind me of the culture and self-interest we live in.
When I read the WND article, I was not all that taken aback by the premise that one can sue an employer for failing to allow piercings, scarification, implants, and the like. After all, evil wins regardless of the outcome of any lawsuit.
If the employee loses his or her suit, this person finds themselves unemployed, disgraced, and evil wins. If the employer loses, we lose a sense of civility in the workplace and the dysfunctional images, which body modification presents with, become an ordinary part of the workplace and must be deemed acceptable by all subject to the images. This is much like the sexual liberation theology that has been forced on all of us by the homosexual, bisexual and transgendered communities (which coincidentally often ally themselves with the body modification subculture).
As though this is not all self-evident, it should be clear to all that evil always postures itself to destroy the individual by normalizing deviant behavior or by outright destroying the individual. While one might say that tattooing is hardly a symptom of a living evil in our presence, I respectfully beg to differ.
Body modification always starts off with the premise that ‘I need to express myself.’ As with all things evil, self-interest is never a good starting point for any human endeavor. When one modifies the body, it is always to garner attention to the self at the expense of another.
Now, obviously, there are culturally normative ways of expressing oneself through dress, makeup, and ordinary communication. However, one can always simply adjust or change such behaviors to fit the present moral condition of the person. Once a person is born again, rises to a professional position, seeks positive respect in the community, or the like, one can adjust one’s behaviors through the exercise of freewill. With visible tattooing or other scarring, one chooses a course that suggests that one wishes to permanently label themselves in a way that can never be avoided.
Others should not be forever forced to accept our personal attempts to disrupt society by self-expressing in inappropriate ways. Part of being human is that we serve others and our society in positive ways. Just as all evil is ultimately rooted in self-interest, I believe it also turns out that all human good is found in the service of others and the positive denial of selfish interests. Body modification is not designed for the benefit or service of others under any analysis.
Well, if this is true, why get tattooed in the first place? We now know that, Jon, a senior at Conneaut Lake High School in Meadville, Pa., has a medium-size tattoo of a wizard on his back because he ”just wanted one.” Last time I checked, there are reasons for all that we do. While we might not always be conscious of the reasons for our behavior, there had to be some stimulus or primal cause for Jon’s desire to permanently scar himself. He had to take action to leave his home, or wherever, to get the tattoo. He had to consciously ask the tattoo artist to perform the work and Jon had to voluntarily pay for the work. He had to either please or displease his parents with this decision. Either Jon is an automaton with no free will, or he knew exactly what he was doing.
To the extent that he might be an automaton, it hardly seems that evolution or natural selection compelled him to scar himself. Tattoos hardly make one a more likely survivor within the human species. The fact that body modification presents with the risks of AIDS, hepatitis, tetanus, infection, and disfigurement suggests that this is hardly a life-sustaining activity.
Thus, we are left with the possibility that our God, the devil, or culture led him to do this. Given the Biblical precept that the body should be kept pure and without marking, the idea that God silently drove Jon to the tattoo parlor seems unlikely to me. However, I am open to the other two related alternatives.
We live in a ”me-culture” and it makes perfect sense that Jon would be driven to express himself as a cultural matter. We already know that he claims that he doesn’t really have any personal reason for doing this to himself. Thus, maybe he was just the proverbial lemming who needed to do just what 49 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 to 29 are doing. Isn’t it just grand to think that 49 percent of our young adults are doing just what Charles Manson, war-torn veterans, convicts, primitive tribal members, rogue bikers, drug addicts and the like have done to themselves?
Frankly, it makes little sense that one would want to mimic the behaviors of people who voluntarily hurt themselves and find no other positive way of expressing themselves except through pain, bleeding and permanent scars. However, we do know that what has previously been associated with evil has become good and that our society places individualism above collective faith in something higher that ourselves.
Tattoos have traditionally expressed themselves through images of mysticism, raw primitive pattern art, remembrances of death, Satanism, sexuality, drugs, homage to human fraternities, and tainted views of religion.
While primitive art has seen a resurgence in that tattoo world, the reality is that we are simply mimicking primitive cultures that are driven by a spirituality that often leaves them in poverty, in homage to dark spirits, existing in near-animalistic states, and other states far removed from the potential and success that Judeo-Christian culture has shown for thousands of years.
I always found it odd that the folks that I grew up with in Southern California chose to get big tattoos of Jesus or the Virgin Mary on their backs and elsewhere. Naturally, of course, when they were shirtless and fighting with an opposing gang member, you could see the image of Christ engaged in bloody battle. Or, of course, one could always see the image of Mary being associated with smoking pot, shooting up, or other behaviors that are designed only for destructive self-interests. Seemingly, it never dawned upon anyone that this was great advertising for Satan. One cannot think of a better way to destroy the image of what is good than by directly associating it with evil.
The young Christians who tattoo themselves with scripture, images of Christ, and other religious references are no further removed from the dysfunction that I describe above. You do not need a permanent scar, that will simply degrade and fade, to prove that you are a believer. We will know that you are a Christian by your acts. One can only hope that your faith will not be as muddled and disfigured as your tattoos will be in a few decades. Look for something deeper than a mere image of Christ that’s left to fade away.
When I got my tattoos, it was truly an unfortunate expression of myself. The burning cross on my left arm represents the hatred that I had toward God. The skeleton figure, looking to the sky in anger, represents the rage I felt when someone aborted my child. The unicorn represents the mysticism that took the place of God in my life. The dragons represent much of the same.
While it’s true that my right arm bears the image of an eagle on an American crest, this is not positive either. It represents the higher ideal of America’s promise of freedom and liberty that I felt I could not achieve – while failing to recognize that it was there for me the whole time. Freedom and liberty are ironically found in the service of others.
On some deeper level, it should be recognized that the tattoo images didn’t place any new images on my person. The tattoo artists simply traced the ink that had already bled out from my soul because of my dysfunction and inability to see myself as having a purpose that calls for me to rise above self-mutilation and the like.
On a personal note, I feel sorry for Jon and the many others who don’t know why they got a tattoo. One day they’ll find out that it was truly something wrong within themselves and society that led to this stupid decision. The ink was already bleeding out from their souls and onto their bodies. The fact that Jon’s got a wizard on his back is not based in some deep mystery. Rather, it’s fairly obvious that wizards and mysticism appeal to him. The problem is that he has failed to inquire as to the reasons for his attraction to the occult. I just hope he finds out before too long.
As to the cultural aspect of all of this, I hope that our pastors, parents, and leaders can see that the ink is bleeding out onto the bigger image of our future. Each of the young adults and children are bearing visible images of what is going on in their souls.
Can’t you see the images of fading spirituality, increasing self-interest, and the lack of respect for the self we were given at birth? I personally hope that these marks are simply symbols to the world that we need a revival within each of our souls. The ink’s bleeding out and it appears that nobody wants to deal with the images we now face every day.
Richard D. Ackerman is the president of the Pro-Family Law Center.