Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology

Body Piercing - A Return to Paganism

Christian Action
for Reformation and Revival
2003, Vol 4

In some of the most unexpected places we are confronted by a revival of the old tribal practices of body scarification, body piercing and body mutilation. Nose rings, eyebrow rings, belly rings, tongue studs, multiple earrings, nipple rings, tattoos and other disfigurements are more than an identifiable sub-culture - it is all part of an aggressive fashion statement which is challenging the Christian Church.

"Do not cut your bodies…or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord. " Leviticus 19:28

Unfortunately, most Church leaders have remained silent on this practice, even while some youth leaders and Bible College students are giving themselves over to body modification.

As Christians, we are called to be holy, set apart and different from the world, consecrated to God. "Everybody's doing it" is hardly an argument to justify Christian involvement. The very fact that pagans practice body piercing should be a compelling enough argument against Christians being conformed to the world. (Romans 12:1-2)

The Scriptures are clear that we must treat our bodies with respect, they are not our own to do with as we wish. They belong to God, who made them and who purchased them with His own blood. Our bodies are to be temples of the Holy Spirit. We are to glorify God with our bodies (1 Corinthians 3:16-18 ; 6:15,19-20)

On the other hand, the Bible records how pagans abused their bodies. The false prophets of Baal "slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom until their blood flowed." (1 Kings 18:28). The demon possessed man of Gadara cut himself with stones and ran around naked (Mark 5:5).

It was the custom of the Ishmaelite men to wear gold earrings. (Judges 8:24). Biblically, a pierced ear is a public indication of permanent slavery (Exodus 21:6, 32:1-3).

Part of the Biblical description of a harlot is that "she decked herself with rings and jewellery … but Me she forgot, declares the Lord." (Hosea 2:13).

To draw attention to ourselves with these excessive fashion statements is hardly in keeping with the Biblical commands to be humble and modest (Proverbs 21:4; 1 Timothy 2:9-10, 1 Peter 3:3-4).

After God spoke to Jacob, he instructed his household to get rid of their idols and purify themselves. Along with their stone idols, they buried their earrings (Genesis 35:2).

Our bodies matter. They are to be presented to God as holy offerings - in a way that pleases God. We are not to follow the example of the pagans. Making holes in our bodies is hardly respecting them as temples of the Holy Spirit. Permanently disfiguring our bodies is blatant rebellion against our Creator and Redeemer.

The present obsession of many with body modification is a revival of tribalism. It involves a painful initiation rite, which produces an identification with a certain tribe, clan or sub-culture. The history of body modification is evidenced all over the world wherever animism and spiritism has been the religion.

The Kacipo people in Sudan stretch their lower lips to fit a saucer-sized pottery and they stretch their ear lobes to create huge holes and long earlobes. Amongst the Nuba tribes in Sudan, multiple earrings, nose rings, body scarification and body painting are prevalent. The Dinka and Nuer tribes in Sudan are easily identifiable by the pattern of scars across their foreheads.

Amongst the Hindus - nose studs, belly rings, toe rings, tongue studs and eyebrow rings are common. Tattoos amongst the Amazon tribes identify the various members of a given tribe. In Papau New Guinea, all kinds of body scarification, tattoos and body mutilation distinguish the various tribes.

Among the tribes in Borneo, tattooing is mainly associated with head hunting (a visible sign of success) for men and the coming of age of women - in some cases it symbolizes their social status. Tattoos are part of the "rites of passage."

A pagan view on the subject: "A tattoo is a complex signifier: it signals class; it signals sexuality; and it has specific content as a signifier: a depiction of an animal, a person, an abstract tribal design. The most usual motifs are signifiers of power and masculinity... But what the tattoo signals above all is the power one seizes over one's own body… To be branded or tattooed shows also that you have the requisite guts to join the group...it serves as a sign of pain and hence of resolution." (Crispen Sartwell) To put this in simple terms. It is a form of autonomy (self law) which is idolatry.

"Tattooing is often a magical rite in the more traditional cultures, and the tattooist is respected as a priest or shaman." (Michelle Delio, Tattoo: The Exotic Art of Skin Decoration) And in the same way, eyebrow rings, nose rings, multiple earrings, nipple rings, belly rings and tongue studs distinguish identifiable sub-cultures in New York, London, Paris and other capitals of what is meant to be civilization ("The look on their faces testifies agaist them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves." Isaiah 3:9)

The irony is that while so many Westerners rush into new age religions, body piercing and occultism, many millions in the tribes mentioned in Africa, South America, Asia and the Pacific islands, are being converted to Christ and are abandoning the body piercing practices of their pagan past. It is very clear who are the Christians and who are the pagans in these mission fields. The pagans wear little or no clothing and they engage in a variety of body scarification, body piercing and/or tattoos. On the other hand, the Christians are easily identifiable - they wear clothes and they don't engage in any body modification. Repentance has always been the response of pagan people when they've embraced the Gospel of Christ (Deuteronomy 6:13-21).

Of course, some older people will still have the scars and the holes - testimony of the pagan past before they were converted - but all earrings, eyebrow rings, nose rings and such like have been removed. And their children are free from these pagan disfigurements. It is unheard of in these areas for Christians to voluntarily pierce or tattoo their bodies (Deuteronomy 14:1-2). In fact, they are shocked when Western men visit them with ponytails and earrings.

As so many Christians have immersed themselves in pagan music, immoral videos and worldly amusements, it should not surprise us that so many of our youth are indistinguishable from their non-Christian friends (James 4:4). The mind-rotting, brain-numbing, soul-destroying trash that fills the ears, eyes and minds of our youth should be sufficient explanation for the backslidden, immoral and un-Christian behaviour, which now even includes professing Christians disfiguring their bodies with pagan piercings (Romans 3:18).

It is time for youth leaders and pastors to study what the Scripture teaches on this subject and then to boldly, and without compromise, preach on these passages and call those people who are defiling their bodies to repent. We need to take God's Word seriously.

"Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God." 2 Corinthians 7:1

Other useful verses: Leviticus 21:5-6, 1 Peter 2:9, Galatians 5:13, 1 Peter 2:16, Galatians 5:1, 1 Peter 2:11, Psalm 36:2, Lamentations 3:40, Galatians 2:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:23

This is from an article published in the Christian Action for Reformation and Revival Magazine 2003 - Vol 4, and is originally from a condensed version of a pamphlet on Body Piercing. You may also order a stunning PowerPoint presentation available that is freely downloadable, that was developed by Peter Hammond to show to school and youth groups, from Africa Christian Action.

Christian Action, P.O.Box 23632 Claremont 7735, Cape Town, South Africa, info@christianaction.org.za - 021-689-4481 - www.christianaction.org.za
See more at: http://www.christianaction.org.za

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