Thursday, June 2, 2011

Illegal Tattoos . . . maybe not

I have never been and will never be a guy who sports a tat.  Nothing wrong with them . . . most of them - some are just plain ugly . . . like this one:

She's pretty, the tattoo is scary.

Some aim at creative but end up creepy, like this one:

Can you imagine being this guy's wife?  Having that stare at you all night long?

In the end, I can't help but thinking that it is all going to look like this someday:

. . . which is exactly why I will never have one.

The government of Thailand is trying to outlaw tattoos, for a different reason (and only a specific variety).  It seems that the Thai people are a little annoyed that tourists are coming into town and getting tattoos of the Buddha.  I imagine that ladies think it is cute and perhaps the guys think that it shows how well-versed or open-minded they are.  I can just imagine it now:

Guy #1: Hey, you got a new tattoo.
Guy #2: Yeah, I just got it inked.
Guy #1: You must really like Pillsbury
Guy #2: That's a Buddha you bonehead
Guy #3: Are you a Buddhist now?
Guy #1: You don't have to be Buddhist to have a Buddha tattoo . . . I just thought I would get it while I was in Thailand . . . you know, broaden my horizons a little.
Guy #3: Yeah, and as you get older, that Buddha is going to broaden too.

Well the problem with Buddha going on someone's belly or back is that the truly devout Buddhists are a little annoyed that Americans and other tourists are taking the issue so lightly.  They are worried that their religious symbol will be turned into a fashion item.

The culture minister Niphit Intharasombat issued a statement that they have received complaints from residents that visitors are putting objects of sacred worship on their skin.  This is offensive to the Thai people because the image is a way to worship - not a cute symbol or a mark of how sophisticated you are.  The crazy thing is that I can imagine Christians who would argue the same thing about the cross - that we should not allow people to use the sacred symbol of Christianity to be used as a fashion item.  

I say that it is crazy to think this way because it was God Himself who told us not to create images of God to be worshiped.  Perhaps it is okay for Buddhists to worship at images and idols, but that is not our deal.  Think about it, Jesus never told us to treat the cross as a venerable object.  Nothing is sacred in Christianity - the cup of communion, the bread, the crown of thorns, the spear in His side, pages of the Bible - all of these things are instruments that lead us to the God who is sacred - they are not sacred themselves.  So that is why you find crosses on scantily clad guys and girls in the Clubs of the city.  We don't worship the path to the divine - we worship the divine who resides outside of form.

That is a major difference between Christianity and Buddhism.

As far as I know, no one has . . . but just in case someone gets the brilliant idea to try to imitate Thailand and try to introduce legislation about the cross, the ichthus fish or the Bible or whatever - just remember, God in His good wisdom headed all of this off at the pass when He said, "don't make images to worship."  He's a pretty smart God.


  1. Both of my parents were born and raised in Thailand (and are Buddhist), so I obviously grew up immersed in the culture. I can completely understand why some Thai people would be offended by the concept of a Buddha tattoo (for the record, the common "fat" Buddha isn't the one normally idolized in Theravada Buddhism, the majority sect of Buddhism in Thailand).

    Odd thing is, growing up, I never really thought of the Buddha as being an idol. It was something/someone to be revered and honored, and whenever you go to a temple, you pay respect to the Buddha. You honor him because of his teachings, not because of who he is. I guess to me, there is a difference between idolatry and respect. HM the King is also treated with such reverence; nobody would dare dream of getting a tattoo of any of the royal family. In Bangkok, there is a statue of the King in a location similar to the square in Lancaster. Any time you drive past it, you're supposed to raise your hands in a wai (a traditional Thai greeting) - drivers included. Given the amount of traffic in that area, it's a little frightening sometimes.

    And really, the Buddha image has been a somewhat mainstream icon for quite some time now - perhaps not so much on the body. I guess there is a part of me that still has a hard time labeling my parents' beliefs as "wrong". We have a mutual disagreement about our faiths, but my parents are still happy for me because I am spiritually fulfilled. I learned a great deal from my Buddhist upbringing as far as philosophy of living, and that was one of the things I had a hard time reconciling when I became a Christian.

    And now that I've totally taken over your blog post with this comment... I'll stop rambling now :)