I stumbled across this article which was posted on an Orthodox Christian Facebook group which I found to be very interesting. Before reading the wisdom below, please note that no one is condemned as only God can condemn, but tattooing is a growing popular activity which is decidedly anti-Christian. Those who are humble enough need to hear the truth about tattoos. Sometimes the truth hurts, but tattoos forever brand a person as a member of an underclass.
A word at coffee hour after Divine Liturgy from Hieromonk Joshua to a spiritual child showing me a fresh tattoo of an Orthodox cross on his arm:
“Well, is that a tattoo of Christ’s Cross on your arm? Don’t tell me. You want me to say it is ‘cool?’ or something? Right? Why would you be so daft as to even show it to me?
“We Orthodox don’t do tattoos. Ever. It is a pagan practice – something imposed upon slaves (and drunks) as a sign that they have no freedom but only compulsion and addiction. Some people who get tattoos are deluded into thinking that tattoos of the cross, a saint or some religious saying is ‘pious,’ but it is not. Not at all. It is prideful and delusional and a sign that the person tattooed is more informed by the World, the Flesh, the Devil and their irrational desires and transitory fads (fashion?) than informed by Jesus Christ and His Holy Orthodox Church!
“People who think they are pious and get tattoos are nothing but fruitcakes at best and deceived at worst. PRAYER is the way to piety, not tattoos! How infantile to get a tattoo and think it is pious? Think! Think!
“Whoever does tattoos on their own skin needs repentance. Simple. Tattoos are not of God, and no Church Father, no scripture and no saint ever sanctioned or ever would sanction such a thing.
“In ancient times, a slave was branded, like an animal or possession. But you have received freedom in Christ! You have become a “bond slave” of righteousness! You belong to the Lord Jesus Christ! Who are you to defile His creature, in this case, yourself? Holy Orthodoxy has always considered tatoos and the like as a desecration of the Temple of the Holy Spirit –a kind of self-mutilation. You are Baptized into purity and holiness and who do you think you are to defile and scar yourself, His servant?
“How grotesque it is to see tattoos on people knowing their cost and their permanence. It is what wanabe rock stars do. It is what rebelling is all about. It is what sailors do and then show it off to the girls (sex slavery) in the brothel so he can get compliments. There is something wrong and something missing in a Orthodox persons reality when tattoos are even considered. It is not our way and there is nothing in our Orthodox tradition allowing such a thing as a “pious tradition” apart from tattoos being a response to oppression, slavery, etc.
“As your spiritual father, I say you need to pay a ransom in alms to the poor in reparation for abusing Jesus Christ and His Holy Cross by this ridiculous and sacrilegious tattoo! I say pay alms to the poor and the needy, that is the combined price of the tattoo and its removal. Yes, REMOVAL! Then, double this calculated price in repentance for even getting this tattoo in the first place! Therefore, pay alms for the price of the tattoo, the tattoos removal –then double this calculated price as a double ransom for your stupidity!”
AND NOW THE COMMENTS:
Unid: “Copts and Ethiopians tattoo because they are an Islam-oppressed people and I was told by both Copts and Ethiopians I know that no “good” Muslim would rape a Coptic or Ethiopian women with a cross on her forehead, breasts, eyes, etc. Men would also have their hands tattooed with crosses so their hands would not take bribes or engage in any immoral thing. I hope you see the distinction? Also, when and if they were enslaved and taken from their families and Church they would be identified as Christians. The child would never be able to forget.”
Fr Gregory Naumenko: “Every American has the right to do whatever one wants with one’s body, disfigure it any way one pleases. But is this proper? Is it permissible for an Orthodox Christian to pierce his or her body, to discolor it with tattoos? First of all, there is a direct and clear prohibition of this in Holy Scripture (Leviticus 19:28). Further, if we look at the history of tattoos and piercing we can clearly see that there is a direct correlation with paganism. Terry Watkins explains, ‘Throughout history the tattoo bears the mark of paganism, demonism, Baal worship, shamanism, mysticism, heathenism, cannibalism and just about every other pagan belief known. And whenever and wherever, in history Christianity appears, tattoos disappear. The only exception – 21st century, lukewarm, carnal, disobedient Christians.’ Piercing and tattooing are not without their medical hazards. The high risk of transmission of blood-borne diseases has been clearly defined and extensively documented by the CDC. A good example of this is the 1961 hepatitis B outbreak in New York City after which the tattoo was outlawed there until 1997. To this very day the American Red Cross will not allow you to donate blood for 12 months after you have had a piercing or tattoo applied, because you are too high a risk as a transmitter of disease. If this is not enough, let us consider the following: The holy apostle Paul tells us: For this corruptible [body] must put on incorruption, and this mortal [flesh] must put on immortality (I Cor. 54:53). The Church Fathers tell us that the bodies of the righteous will be like the Body our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ after His glorious Resurrection. They will be transformed, more spiritual bodies, but they will retain characteristics that they had in the previous life. ‘Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have’ (Luke 24:39; cf. John 20:19; Luke 24:42). The Lord’s Resurrected Body was a transformed, more spiritual body, yet it retained the scars from His Passion upon the Cross. The imprint from the nails and the scar from his pierced side are clearly visible. Does it not stand to reason then, that any marks with which we imprint our bodies, any holes we make in our flesh with pins and nails will be visible on our resurrected bodies? These will be remnants, scars of sinful, defiling behavior. And we know that nothing defiled can ever enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Now I know that this note will be read by some faithful who at some point in their life, impetuously decided to get a tattoo or piercing. The Lord is merciful. There is no sin of which we sincerely repent that the Lord will not grant remission. If one has a tattoo that can be removed without risking one’s health, it should be removed. If one has pins in some part of their body, they should be removed at once. Then one should go to their spiritual father and ask God forgiveness for this sin and God will forgive, for He is Merciful. But those who have been contemplating tattooing the name of our girlfriend or boyfriend on our ankle or putting that spike through our nose, let us once and for all realize that is not pleasing to God.”
Adriane Adams: “Ethiopian Orthodox ladies sometimes have a cross tattooed on their forehead. They did this to keep Muslims from kidnapping/raping/marrying their children and raising them Muslim or forcing them to convert. It would be obvious they were Christians, and no Muslim would be marked with a cross like that. There is no pretending to be Muslim to save one’s life. This is VERY different from the kind of reasoning we hear in the U.S. for getting tattoos, which are often placed where they can be hidden. Often people get tattoos to make statements about themselves. A cross tattoo simply doesn’t mean the same thing here. It is not an act of humility and sacrifice. For us, if we wanted to get a tattoo, it would be more of an act of humility to refrain out of respect for God, in whose image we are made… Converts can do a lot of misguided things out of their uninformed zealousness. The fact of the matter is, I am not my own. I don’t get to make the rules. I have willingly decided to submit myself. So why would I fight and argue for my right to “express myself” by permanently marking my body? As far as tattoos gotten before conversion, it is like anything else done before conversion. It can be repented of. However, it is still a mark on the body and can prevent a man becoming a priest… People need to understand that it is not a good choice and that the Church strongly teaches against it. If it has already been done, however, there is always repentance. A tattoo itself is not going to condemn a man… Recognizing sin is not the same as condemning another or thinking ourselves better… Humility is the answer to the tattoo problem.”
Chris Stevenson: “The cross that Coptic Orthodox get is not considered a tattoo but a cross. My priest told me that putting a tattoo on your body is like putting a bumper sticker on a Rolls Royce.”
Juliana Machevski: “You are permanently marking the temple where you invite Christ to rest! Why not simply wear a cross around your neck to show your faith and heritage?”
(This comment is particularly interesting since tattoos have historically been associated with sailors – ed.)
Val Finnell: “My experience as a physician with military members who are tattooed is telling. I am speaking of retired WWII vets that I had the privilege of caring for some years ago. Many of them had tattoos in their younger years, of various types. All faded and distorted now. I asked them all a simple question, “Do you regret getting a tattoo?” Every one of them, to the man, regretted their tattoo. Some told me that they warned their children (in genuine repentance, I believe) not to get one. I never met an older vet who did not regret his tattoo. “Fast forward to today…Many of our younger troops are tattooed and some of these tattoos identify them as Americans. If they are doing Black Ops work, our commanders will refuse to send them on missions because their tattoos can compromise the mission if captured. It’s a real problem in our military and our uniform regulations say that they cannot be visible while wearing the duty uniform. “So many are “inked” that it has made it’s way into the military newspapers and lobby groups are forming to protect military members who are tattooed. A very bad sign, I think. These are not the kids of yesteryear with ‘Mom’ tattooed on their biceps or a Popeye tattoo on the forearm. These kids are marked on the back of the neck, torso, thighs, legs, ankles, etc. I’ve even noticed ‘tramp stamps’ during physical fitness training. Trust me when I say, as a 17+ year veteran, that it is a problem.
“What’s worse is that some Protestant churches are having tattoo discussions –really bravado, storytelling sessions– as outreach in an attempt to get people to come to Christ.
“What it boils down to is authority. Holy Orthodoxy is not a free-for-all. Repentance involves turning away from sin and reaching toward God’s grace in obedience. Again, I am the worst of sinners in this regard and judge no one.”
Theophilus Riley Floyd: “The Bible is clear regarding the sanctity of the body: You shall not mark or mar your bodies. (Leviticus 19:28 “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh…or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”)
Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?
It is not I who live, but Christ who lives through me.
When I became a man, I put away childish things.
Do not follow after the detestable customs of the nations.
You are a kingdom of priests.
Be Holy as the Lord your God is Holy.
Do not enter the path of the wicked And do not proceed in the way of evil men.
So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind.
Picking and choosing what one wishes to follow, and what one wishes to ignore is not orthodoxy. It is serving the flesh. Being offended that a priest of God is pointing out sin is foolishness. It is their job to point to our sin and to encourage us to do what is righteous. They are not judging, but through the Holy Spirit, guiding and shepherding the flock… We do not refuse to baptize someone because of their past sins. We counsel them in repentance and in making recompense. Christ did not refuse the harlot, nor the diseased, nor the adulterers, nor the tax collectors. He told them, ‘Go and sin no more.'”
Chris Roper: “St Maximos the Confessor said, ‘Almost every sin is committed for the sake of sensual pleasure; and sensual pleasure is overcome by hardship and distress arising either voluntarily from repentance, or else involuntarily as a result of some salutary and providential reversal. “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged; but when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, so that we should not be condemned with the world.” (I Cor. 11:31-32).’”