Doug Wilson recently did a post condemning tattoos:
For the record, I don't have any tattoos, so I don't have a vested interest in this dispute.
I will skip his first objection because I've dealt with that in the past:
I wish to hone in on four of his objections:
The tattoo removal business is a multi-million dollar industry, and growing. Most of their clients are in their 30’s and 40’s. How confident are you that you will not be in that number a decade from now?
Certainly there are people who impulsively get a tattoo, only to regret it later on. Of course, that can be a problem with impulsive behavior generally.
If, on the other hand, you get a Christian tattoo, why would you wish to remove it at a later date–unless you became an apostate?
All the energy in the tattoo industry is coming from the world. This is a thing, it is a fad, it is a fashion, and it is all these things because of what the world is doing. If no unbeliever in the last hundred years had ever gotten a tattoo, you can be assured that it wouldn’t be such a thing among us.
i) That's a hasty generalization. There are Christians who get Christian tattoos. Is the world getting Christian tattoos? Even if it did, that might be a promising development.
People get tattoos for worldly motives…except when they don't get tattoos for worldly motives. It's true…except when it's false. A useless generalization because it's so unreliable.
ii) In addition, God uses preexisting customs like circumcision, communal meals, and sacred ablutions, as covenant signs. These didn't originate in Judaism or Christianity. Does that make circumcision, baptism, and communion worldly?
Given the proliferation of tattoos in the general culture, we need to be careful not to prejudge people by tattoos. Not to form our first impression of people by tattoos–even inappropriate tattoos. In terms of Christian outreach, we should avoid making hasty, superficial prejudgments. It's automatic to judge people by their appearance. While that's not always wrong, it's something we need to be much more guarded about.
And last, one of my fundamental concerns has to do with the relationship of tattoos to ours baptisms. The fundamental external mark of a Christian is baptism, and it is striking that this is a mark that dries invisibly.
By that logic, it would be wrong to wear a T-shirt with a Christian message or Bible verse.
I saved his worst objection for last.
The chances are excellent to outstanding that if you are a Christian contemplating a tattoo this would also mean that you are a Christian contemplating distressing your parents. When factoring this element in, don’t allow yourself to argue to yourself that a tattoo “doesn’t necessarily dishonor them.” The Bible doesn’t tell you to not necessarily dishonor them. It says to honor them. It says to listen to their wisdom. “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, And forsake not the law of thy mother” (Prov. 1:8).
I don’t believe that any human authority is absolute, but parental authority and wisdom is certainly significant. In deciding to get a tattoo, are you granting your parents’ reluctance and distress the weight and significance that you should? And how do you know?
That objection is bizarre on so many levels:
i) It begs the question. If getting a tattoo breaks the fifth commandment, then, by definition, tattoos are forbidden. Yet Wilson assumes the very thing he needs to prove. He offers no exegetical evidence that getting a tattoo dishonors your parents. Instead, he takes that for granted, then uses that loaded definition as a prohibition against tattoos. But that's getting the cart before the horse.
ii) He equates dishonoring your parents with making them experience reluctance or distress. Again, though, he offers no exegetical justification for supposing that's how Scripture defines dishonoring your parents. By that logic, if a child converts from Mormonism or Roman Catholicism to evangelicalism, he violated the fifth commandment. Imagine how distressed his parents will be by his repudiation of their Mormon or Catholic faith.
iii) He equates honoring your parents with submission to parental authority, yet he says nothing to restrict that to underage children or minors living at home. I agree that honoring your parents is a lifelong obligation. But it hardly follows that obeying your parents is a lifelong obligation. Does he think grown children living on their own have a standing duty to submit to their parents? What about married children? What about married children with their own kids? Does he think grown children have a duty to seek parental approval or permission for all their decisions? Perhaps that's part of his patriarchal philosophy.
iv) It's presumptuous of him to suppose that parents generally will be distressed by a child (what age?) getting a tattoo. What about kids who get tattoos because their parents have tattoos?
v) Even with respect to minors living at home, given all the dangerous or depraved things that minors can be involved with these days, if getting a tattoo or Mohawk represents the limits of their teenage rebellion, parents should be grateful.
vi) Not only are there commands to kids, but commands to parents: "Don't exasperate your kids" (Eph 6:4; Col 3:21). Prudent parents draw the line on things that really matter.