Have you ever wondered if it is okay to have a tattoo? If we look around today, we will see many people who have a tattoo or a multitude of tattoos. It is seen as the hip thing to do today, especially for young adults. I can remember many years ago, it seemed that people who were serving in the military were more prone to get a tattoo, but not as much with regards to your everyday American citizen. But today, all of that has changed. So, for a Christian, and in particular a Catholic, is it okay to have tattoos put on your skin? What does the church teach about this matter? Is it morally okay?
If we look to the Church, we see that in principle, it does not oppose tattoos. If we look in the Bible, there is the verse of scripture in the Old Testament from Leviticus that says, “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh on account of the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord (Lev 19:28).” Is this binding to a Christian? Well, this passage is taken from a long list of things that the Israelites had to follow in order to become holy (to be ‘set apart’ by God) in the same way God is holy.
So, why was God worried about tattoos in the ancient world? Well, in those times, tattoos signified belonging to a pagan religion. It could also mean that you were invoking those gods for help. The Mosaic law also prohibited other activities, just like tattoos, that now seem harmless today, but were practiced by other pagan religions. At that time though, Israelites who were engaging in these activities would have failed to “set themselves apart” or “be holy” compared with these other groups. But, since we are not tempted to worship these pagan gods anymore, we are no longer bound by many of the Old Testament laws. The Mosaic laws that a Christian are bound by, would be those laws that coincides with the moral law.
So, when it comes to coloring one’s skin; there is no reason why someone cannot apply make-up on themselves, put a press-on tattoo that only last a few days, use writing ink markers or get a real tattoo. Just because the ink of a tattoo goes into the skin, doesn’t have a fundamental moral difference.
Should a Christian get a tattoo just because the Church doesn’t prohibit it? Well, would you put a bumper sticker on a restored showroom “Classic Automobile?” But, if someone does decide too, the images of a tattoo should not be immoral. It should not be sexually explicit, Satanic in nature, or go against the truths and teachings of the Church. If someone is wanting to get a tattoo, my advice would be to be prudent. Pray about it for several months beforehand, and if they still feel very strong about it, then you would consider it. Maybe, just maybe though, the urge will pass away.
Until next time, God bless.