There are a few things I feel I must be thankful in my everyday life. I am thankful that I have a good job that pays well, I’m thankful for my friends, and I’m thankful for Christ my savior. Those are everyday things. Admittedly, my appearance doesn’t present me as one who would be a team player, a social person and, oddly enough, a Christian. At least, to the world “out there”. One thing I guess I should also be thankful for is that the Christians I do know well and spend time with are not judgmental about the 8 extra holes I have in my face and don’t gasp in surprise in regards to the tattoo on my chest. Even though they can’t see it, for some people, just knowing it’s there is enough. I guess I should also be thankful for those at my church who do not know me well and, if they do take issue with my many modifications, they’re nice enough to say anything. It makes it easy to be what Demon Hunter’s Ryan Clark calls a “sheep in wolf’s clothing” in the liner notes for the song “Follow the Wolves”:
The idea behind Follow The Wolves comes from a thought I had about being “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” and how you could very well refer to us (a Christian heavy metal band) as “sheep in wolves clothing.” And in conjunction with that thought, I thought of how the term “sheep” was often used to deem someone a mindless follower. And if someone were being a “sheep” by mindlessly following the flock of worldly desires, then again, we must be the wolves.
This idea got me thinking about some of the fans that have written us that feel like outsiders in their schools or churches. There are a lot of Demon Hunter that feel very alone in their principles and convictions within their environment, and they’ve written to thank us for being a source of inspiration and stability for them.
This song is for all of the fans out there, pressured to follow the rest of the world and fit in with the crowd. The pre-chorus says “Shed rejection, learn to follow the wolves,” which means to forget about the ridicule from your peers. Follow us, the outcasts. We understand your struggles and we will overcome this world.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”-Matthew 7: 13, 14
So, why do I bring this up? While I do suffer from random fits of inspiration every now and again, I actually have to give credit to a friend’s wonderful article on Tattoos in the Workforce. There was a comment made that sort of sparked the memory of a conversation I’ve had a few times before regarding Christians and tattoos, piercings, etc. But first, let me tell you some stories about my life and the many additions I’ve made to my body.
When I was 18 I was in a band and our drummer fancied himself an amateur piercing artist. He had nicely placed a ring in the lip of our vocalist and I thought to myself, “Hey, why not me?”. You must understand, of course, that I had been wanting to get my lip pierced since I was probably 13 or 14 which was in direct correlation with becoming a fan of the band AFI. When you’re young, dumb and impressionable you want to emulate your heroes. I saw the video for “He Who Laughs Last” over at my friend Brian’s house and from the start of that video where Davey Havok is sitting on a bus, staring out a window and enjoying a tootsie-pop, I can remember wanting so bad to have that extra hole punched in my face.
So, fast-forward through my high school years where my fashion evolved [or devolved, depending on how you look at it] from baggy blue jeans, chuck taylors and baggy t-shirts to black dickies, Vans and smaller shirts. I’m talking to the drummer of my band and he tells me he’ll pierce me for free if I go buy the needle and the jewelry. Sounded like a sweet deal at the time, so I went and got the necessary materials. I’m going to preface the rest of the story with a “DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME” despite the fact that I pierced my little brother’s ears myself a couple weeks back. Ears are easy.
So, we get everything prepped in the bathroom in the basement of the drummer’s house and away we went. I don’t remember what we did first. I remember the ears were painless and easy. The lip was probably one of the more painful experiences in my life. What I didn’t know at the time is that any well-trained piercing artist uses something similar to a surgical clamp to cut off blood flow to the piercing site and for grip. We didn’t have those. So, in the process of sticking the needle through it got stuck. With a bit of upward force and me almost tearing the towel rack off the wall, the needle went through. And, while that hurt like nothing I’ve experienced since, the release of adrenaline and endorphins was nothing short of amazing.
I wouldn’t say this triggered an addiction because I didn’t get another one done for another 6 months or maybe a year. I can’t remember for certain. But that was the beginning. I now have 4 more holes and one tattoo 5 years later. Here’s an idea of the layout:
So, now that you have some idea of what I’ve done to myself I’ll get back to the conversation I’ve had a few times that I mentioned earlier.
How can you have piercings and tattoos if you’re a Christian? Well, the first time this came up it was some random scene guy who thought he’d give me a rub by tossing at me via a myspace message the verse that seems to ALWAYS pop up whenever it comes to piercings, tattoos and the followers of Christ:
You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.
My initial response is two-fold. First, this is in response to the pagan practices outside of Israel which included tattooing and cutting of the flesh in response to the dead. I found a great post on Sacred Ink that explains the reason behind this first. To summarize it for you, the cuts that are referred to are deep ones that would cause bleeding in the belief that the blood would sustain the spirit of the dead. My second, initial response is, “Yes, but it also tells me I can’t trim my beard in the verse before it.” This, according to Sacred Ink’s article, was also a response to pagan activities. The thing that really gets me is that the people will profess to be loving Christians but will drop nothing but hate on those who don’t fit the mold of their ideal Christian. But wasn’t it the people considered to be pagans and sinners the ones that Jesus hung out with all the time?
That verse gets applied to tattoos as well as piercings and I guess I don’t really understand why. There are a few instances in the Bible, also OT, that show the use of body piercing as a symbol or as an accessory of sorts. The first one comes from the story of the servant sent to find a wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac. The servant is waiting for the sign, a woman who would respond to a request for a drink by giving him water and also drawing water for his camels. This woman would be Rebekah [bolding is mine]:
Genesis 24:47, 48
47 Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her arms. 48 Then I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to take the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son
So, as part of his celebration in having found what his master had requested, the servant adorned this woman with gold which included a ring in her nose. He then worshiped and praised God. And, oddly enough, God let it slide and didn’t torch either party involved in putting the ring in her nose.
This next example is probably my favorite example of the use of piercing in the Bible, aside from what was done on the cross which, of course, involved some serious body piercing. It comes from a section of laws concerning slaves. Now, slaves have a negative connotation to America and other places where slavery was a brutal and dehumanizing system. In this case, they were more like servants and were almost considered a part of the family. They weren’t usually ill-treated, but were usually slaves because they were broke or in debt to someone. They would also be able to leave once their time of servitude was up [bolding, again, mine]:
4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out alone. 5 But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.
So, in that scenario, piercing was a sign, for a slave, of allegiance to his master on earth. Interestingly enough, in Romans, Paul refers to himself as a servant of Jesus Christ and tells in his letter the following:
16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
The connection I’m trying to make here is that we are slaves of righteousness through the teachings of Christ and the love of God. If we connect the two, if we wish to be the good and faithful servant and serve God, we could consider at least the piercing of the ear a sign as servants to our Master.
The true issue here turns out not to be an issue of what is and isn’t sin in this situation but a lack of willingness to accept something that is counter-culture to them. It is not all that uncommon to see tattoos and piercings just wandering through the mall or a book store. But the ones who tend to get their feathers ruffled over this are the ones who grew up in a time where such things were considered wrong or weren’t very prevalent. The problem with these people is they grew up in that time and never left. Sadly, for some, we are not living in a 1950’s, “Leave it to Beaver” re-run. The issue is not that these people think that I am sinning but they don’t understand. Culture is something that stays outside their finely pressed suit jackets and slacks and, for them, their “helmet of salvation” is more like a cone of silence. We love these people anyways, despite the fact that, as much as they don’t understand us, we don’t get them. Mark Driscoll had this to say in his book The Radical Reformission:
“… Christians will have differing personal convictions in matters of culture and welcomes those differences that are not sinful, because what pleases God is unity, not uniformity. Uniformity undermines reformission and often is promoted by erroneous restrictive and permissive theologies. Restrictive Christians go too far and name everything a universal sin, forbidding some cultural activities that the Bible does not, such as listening to certain musical styles, getting tattoos, watching movies, smoking cigarettes, consuming alcohol and body piercing. Conversely, permissive churches are prone to naming everything a particular sin and bless activities which the Bible forbids, such as drug use, fornication, homosexuality, and cohabitation before marriage.”
Driscoll points out what I had alluded to. There are two sides of this coin. He also goes on to saying that one is not better than the other, but that an immersion into your surrounding culture is the best way to get a better understanding of it.
Where do you stand on this issue? Are you a hazard to metal detectors everywhere like I am? Do you think that a person is at liberty to be culturally liberal insofar as being yourself without giving yourself license to sin? Or are you the Restrictive Chrisitan that Mark Driscoll writes about? Personally, I believe that my body is a temple for the Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 6:19] and I have decided to decorate it.