The Official Journal of the Ensign Trust, London



BODY PIERCING – A Return to Paganism


Aggressive Fashion Statements

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

A Scandalous Silence

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.

“Priests must not shave their heads…or cut their bodies. They must  be holy  to their  God and  must not profane the Name of their God… they are to be holy.”  Leviticus 21:5-6

Conforming to the World

As Christians, we are called to be holy, set apart and different from the world, consecrated to God.“Everybodys doing  it”  is hardly  an  argument to  justify Christian involvement. They very fact that pagans practice body piercing should be a compelling enough argument against Christians being conformed  to the world.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging  to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”  1 Peter 2:9

Respecting What Should be a Temple of the Holy Spirit

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.

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ Himself? ..Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, Who is in you, whom you have received  from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price.Therefore honour God with your body.”  1 Corinthians 6:15, 19-20

Abusing Their Bodies

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).

A Mark of Slavery

Biblically, a pierced ear  is a public  indication  of permanent slavery. When the Hebrews were led out of slavery in Egypt by Moses, they were urged  “take off the gold earrings …so all the people took off their earrings… These are your gods, 0 Israel. Exodus 32:1-3

Idols to Forsake

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. “So  Jacob said to his household  and to all who were with him,’Get rid of the  foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes’  …so  they gave Jacob all the  foreign gods they  had  and  the  rings  in  their  ears,  and  Jacob buried them.” Genesis 35:2

Practices of Paganism

This has always been the response of pagan people when  they’ve embraced the Gospel of Christ. From Papua New Guinea to the Amazon jungle, pagan tribes engage in body scarification, earrings, nose rings, tongue studs,  multiple piercings and tattoos. Once converted to Christ, however, these tribes abandon all these body modification practices.

“Fear the  Lord your God, serve  Him only… Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you;  for the Lord your God…is a jealous God and His anger will burn  against  you… Do not  test  the Lord… Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees He has given you. Do what is right and good in the Lords sight, so that it may go well with you…in the future, when  your sons asks you, ‘What is the meaning  of the stipulations,decrees and laws the Lord your God has commanded you?’ …We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand ..”  Deuteronomy 6:13-21

You are Called to be Free

It is completely inappropriate for a Christian man to wear  an earring  – the mark  of slavery. What  may be appropriate for a woman  is not necessarily appropriate for a man. What  is practiced  by the world is seldom acceptable for a Christian.

“You, my brothers, were called to be free.But do not use your  freedom to indulge  the sinful nature, rather serve one another in love.”  Galatians 5:13

“Live as  free men, but do not use your  freedom as a cover up  for evil.”  1 Peter 2:16

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm,  then, and  do not  let yourselves  be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  Galatians 5:1

Fashions and  Fads of the World

If something is prevalent and accepted in the world, that alone should be a compelling argument against Christians adopting their fashions and fads. We are called to be different. We are to honour God with our bodies.

“Therefore, I urge you,brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the  patterns  of this world, but be transformed by the renewing  of your mind. Then  you  will be able to  test  and  approve what God’s will is His good, pleasing and  perfect will.”  Romans 12:1-2

Respect or Rebellion?

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 to our Creator and Redeemer.

“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.”  1 Peter 2:11

Forgetting the Lord

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)

“For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.”  Psalm 36:2

“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.”  Lamentations 3:40

Excessive Fashion Statements

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).

“Your beauty should not come  from outward adornment…instead it should be that of your inner self,  the  unfading beauty of a  gentle  and  quiet spirit.”  1 Peter 3:3-4

A Revival of Tribalism

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 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 Papua New Guinea, all kinds of body scarification, tattoos and  body mutilation distinguish the various tribes.

Rites of Passage

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” and next to blackened teeth and long ear lobes, intricate tattoos on fingers, hands, lower arms, thighs, calves, and feet served as important elements of beauty for women.

Pagan Explanations of the Significance of Tattoos

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 masculinityBut what the tattoo signals above all is the power one seizes over ones own bodyTo be branded or tattooed shows also that you have the requisite guts to join the group. It is not the most extreme or painful form of initiation, but it serves as a sign of pain  and hence of resolution. ” (Crispen Sartwell)

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, p. 73)

Sub Cultures

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 against  them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it.Woe  to them! They have brought disaster  upon themselves.” Isaiah 3:9

Stark Contrasts

The interesting thing 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.

Distinguishing Features

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.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by  faith in the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself  for me.”  Galatians 2:20

Testimonies of Transformation

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. Their children are  free from these pagan disfigurements. It is unheard  of in these areas for Christians  to voluntarily pierce or tattoo their bodies. In fact, they are shocked when Western men visit them with ponytails and earrings.

“You  are  the  children of the  Lord  your  God. Do not cut yourselves or shave  the  front of your heads  for the  dead,  for you  are a people  holy  to the Lord your God.”  Deuteronomy  14:1-2

Paganism in the Church

How  then can we   explain the   widespread toleration and  even  practice of body  piercing  in far too many Christian Churches and even Bible Colleges and ministries in the West?

“Don’t you know  that you yourselves are God’s temple and  that God’s Spirit lives in  you?  If anyone  destroys God’s  temple, God  will  destroy him;  for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.  Do    not  deceive  yourselves …”  1 Corinthians 3:16-18

Egalitarian Assumptions

Generally it starts off by assuming that if an earring is appropriate for a woman, then it is appropriate for men as well. Some women then reasoned that if men were going to wear an earring,  then they would wear multiple earrings. As so many in the world are wearing nose  rings, eyebrow rings, belly rings, tongue  studs, etc. then why shouldn’t we?

“You  adulterous people,  don’t  you know that friendship  with the world is hatred  towards God? Anyone  who  chooses to be a  friend of the  world becomes an enemy of God.” James 4:4

Worldly Christians

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. The mind-rotting, brain-numbing, soul-destroying trash  that  fills the  ears, eyes  and minds  of our youth should be sufficient explanationfor  the  backslidden,  immoral and  un-Christian behaviour, which now  even  includes professing Christians disfiguring their bodies with   pagan piercings.

“There is  no    fear   of  God   before  their eyes.”  Romans 3:18

Back to the Bible

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

“May God Himself, the  God of peace, sanctify you through and through.May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming  of our Lord Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23