This is part of the blog series on silly controversies that really shouldn’t occupy our energy, but Christians occupy so much of their energy debating them that such topics deserve a series. Almost all such controversies boil down to the simple objections below.
As a matter of review from last week’s blog, the Christian response to tattoos, piercings and other fashion controversies are as follows. First, someone would say, “I don’t like it. Therefore it’s wrong.” Second, “Maybe he’s doing it for the gospel. The problem is why someone is getting ink.” Third, “the body is the temple of God. By inking it, the owner shows disrespect towards God’s creation.” This week I will deal with the third objection.
Usually silly Christians would quote 1 Corinthians 6.12-20 at me.
12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
Quite often they would compare smoking cigarets or cigars are parallel examples. The problem is both exegetical and logical. First, the exegetical problem.
In the chapter 16 of my book, Right Texts, Wrong Meanings, I’ve dealt with this passage extensively, but I’ll apply it to the present situation. By the way of exegetical observation, 6.15 reads, “Do you know that your bodies (plural) are (should be “is” in singular) members (plural) of Christ himself?” The plural combined with singular has much to do with how each member affects the overall health of the Body of Christ. 6.19 reads, “Do you (plural) not know that your (plural) Body (singular) is a temple (singular) of the Holy Spirit, who is in you (plural), whom you (plural) have received from God?” The combination of the plural and singular here goes further than the affect the action of one’s body has on the Body of Christ, but the singular “body” here points to the Body of Christ being the singular temple. The whole idea that each individual Christian being a temple is total nonsense. No Christian individual is a temple. It’s the combined church Body that is the temple. So, before arguing this or that, silly Christians ought to read their Bibles (or necessarily have their pastors who know Greek explain to them the intricacies) first before quoting the text. Yet another example of using the text to further one’s morally hygienic ideology!
Now to the context! 1 Corinthians context deals with the situation of Corinth where one problem exists in its various forms. 1 Corinthians, at the start tells us that there’s division in the church. Thus, unity was the problem. Now, what causes disunity? Surely, not all causes of disunity are bad. For instance, Paul’s letter to the Galatians clearly told the Galatians to separate from the agitators! No, unity isn’t the absolute good. Paul in 1 Corinthians showed various illegitimate causes for disunity. One of them was having sex with prostitutes in 1 Corinthians 6.15-17. But Christians are just THIS silly in misquoting the passage and inadvertently equating tattoos, piercings, smoking and drinking with soliciting a prostitute. A little silliness isn’t harmless. A little silliness makes light of a very serious issue of degrading another human being (i.e., prostitution) via the vehicle of sexual objectification.
It almost sounds silly, but I think my approach to Scriptures is more conservative than many so-called conservative Christians. Sadly, the problem doesn’t end there. Let’s, for argument’s sake, say that the logic of “not harming my own body via tattoos and piercing or even smoking because the individual Christian body is God’s temple” is true. Let’s examine the utter lack of logic of such claimants. Most people eat three meals a day. Most people eat less than optimal when it comes to sound nutrition. In Asia, there’s also the bad habit of midnight snacking. This is very true for many. In the US, there’s the habit of eating chips in front of prime time TV. All these habits do horrible harm to the body. If you’re an Asian reader and you love to eat rice, do you know that white rice does great harm to the body? How about quit eating rice? Most of us could lose a few pounds or could lose our skinny fat dad bod’s (even for young folks). I can put people on a weight training program with good diet and cardio to help them achieve their physical shape. Why don’t Christians denounce the lack of exercise in their preaching and their writings? I’ve yet to see anyone using the above logic to denounce such habits. Maybe I ought to start blogging about eating more vegetables and less McDonald’s while getting rid of white rice from our diet. Maybe we should stipulate this or that diet for Christians to make sure they take care of their precious little temples, but we don’t. Why tattoos? Why piercings? (Certainly, my ear is fine and I’m doing great health-wise) Why those? Is it merely because we don’t like tattoos and piercings and want to use the Bible to bully those who do?
As I always say, Scripture is never the problem. Its interpreters are! Many interpretations are possible, but not every application is constructive!