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Marked for life

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Picture a boy dangling from meat hooks, his flesh torn by the hooks jabbed into his backside. This shocking image could come straight from Dante's Inferno, or from a woodcut depicting prisoners tortured in the deep, dark dungeons of a medieval castle. But this modern young man's wounds are self-inflicted — a bizarre example of the new-age art form of self-mutilation.

Anthropological magazines over the years have shown the ritual mutilations in primitive cultures. Western teenagers have always, to some extent, marked themselves, as a sign of their inner turmoil and rebellion, struggling for freedom from parental restraints; looking for their adult identity. These marks resulted in tiny ink pen tattoo scars that, for young men, later gave way to the real thing in squalid tattoo parlors abutting military bases.

But a new horror has emerged in our society, as pre-teens, teenagers and a growing number of adults take spiked orange or purple hair, dangling chains, buckles and studs adorning their clothes to new, dangerous, and totally alarming, levels. The chains, buckles and studs are now implanted into their bodies – the clashing colors of hair give way to elaborate total-body tattoos that would make even primitive South Sea natives envious.

Lip sewing, knee suspensions, ritual cutting, superman suspensions, bell dancing are some of the terms used in describing the sick new trend of so-called self-expression through mutilation of one's own body. And "how to do it" is easily available on the Internet, at websites devoted to the practice, complete with thousands of color pictures and testimonies of how wonderful it is to destroy and disfigure your body. Web catalogs feature a variety of needles, hooks, inserts, ritual blades and other implements; the types one would expect to find in torture chambers of secret police bent on extracting information or confessions.

Yes, you can do it, but it comes with a price – an enormous price. Donna I. Meltzer, M.D. (State University of New York at Stony Brook School of Medicine), in her article Complications of Body Piercing, reports: "The trend of body piercing at sites other than the earlobe has grown in popularity in the past decade. The tongue, lips, nose, eyebrows, nipples, navel, and genitals may be pierced. Complications of body piercing include local and systemic infections, poor cosmesis, and foreign body rejection. Swelling and tooth fracture are common problems after tongue piercing. Minor infections, allergic contact dermatitis, keloid formation, and traumatic tearing may occur after piercing of the earlobe. 'High' ear piercing through the ear cartilage is associated with more serious infections and disfigurement. … Many complications from piercing are body-site-specific or related to the piercing technique used. Navel, nipple, and genital piercings often have prolonged healing times" (Am Fam Physician 2005; 72:2029-34, 2035-6. Copyright © 2005, American Academy of Family Physicians).

The full article can be viewed at https://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/1115/p2029.pdf.

What does the Creator God say about these practices, many which are nearly religious in nature? The Prophet Elijah faced such ritualistic challenge: "Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table ... And they [Baal's prophets] cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them" (1 Kings 18:19, 28; c.f. Leviticus 19:28).

Christians should consider the principle of taking care of their bodies (the temple of the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 6:19) and not do anything that might cause scarring or mutilation, as do rings in the mouth, tongue, breast, etc., and the practice of multiple piercing of ear cartilage, eyebrows, nostrils. Christians should remember that nothing should be done to excess, being modest (having humility), not calling undue attention to oneself (Philippians 2:3; 1 Peter 5:5) and being sensitive to those things that may offend others (1 Corinthians 8:9–13).

God did not create human beings to engage in self-destructive behavior. He has a plan for them as part of His family. That is Your Ultimate Destiny.