Tag Archives: Argument

Tattoo or not Tattoo

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jesus-tattoo-by-dennis-wehler-728x868Let me lay all my biases out from the beginning:   This opinion comes from both a Catholic/Faith perspective, but also deeply on my own opinion of tattoos.   And I have yet to hear any argument that has convinced me that getting a tattoo – especially one of visual prominence – makes any sense whatever.   I think they are stupid, pure and simple.   I know that rankles people, but I have a right to my opinion.   So, I’m going to be evaluating the question from the perspective of someone coming from a good, Catholic, family who is debating the relative merits of getting a tattoo, but wanted to make clear my initial bias in this question.   I admit I will not be able to refuse my opinion of it from my personal bias, and actually I am not even going to try all that hard to do so, because quite honestly I think the reason I already feel that way (and always have) is because I did the more balance, honest evaluation of their merits years and years ago.

So, anyway, my wife has these occasional get-togethers with other homeschooling Catholic moms.   The families range in various sizes and in various stages of where they are in life.    Some have large families (8+ kids) with some kids already graduated and in adulthood, and it goes all the way down to those with a couple young kids just getting rolling.

Without exception, every family takes their faith life seriously, and it is important to them to pass on their Catholic faith to their children.   Of course, we all have our own approaches and styles, and one could debate the strategy of trying to make this happen all day long.  Ultimately, all this really tells me is that none of us our perfect and it shows the importance of relying on God all the more in our journey as parents.   One of my favorite little prayers to utter is “God, please help these kids turn out OK despite my own stupidity and laziness.”

One of the moms is struggling a bit because her 2nd oldest son has a couple tattoos.   And now the third one has a sizeable tattoo on his forearm and wants to get one on his other forearm.    She has tried to argue for why this isn’t a good idea, and as is typical of young men, they think they know better than their mom.    Now, these young men, to my knowledge, have not strayed in their Catholic faith, still find it important, and still practice it.   They do not see any conflict with the faith and getting a tattoo.

And this is where my opinion comes in.

First, let me be clear.    I do not think, nor will I suggest, that there is anything intrinsically evil or sinful with tattoos.   Like many things, the real question is a matter of what is driving someone to do something.   But I do think that someone really needs to be honest with themselves in evaluating why they want a tattoo if they are indeed considering one.   This shouldn’t be problematic – we really should do this with everything we do.  Why do a I want ten million dollars?   Because I want to give it away to the poor or because I want to have an easy life with little or no responsibility?   Most of us would fall somewhere in between those two extremes, and while most of us aren’t going to get ten million dollars it’s still a worthy mental exercise to go through an honest evaluation and promise yourself and God what it is you would plan to do with it if it ever happened.\

Here are my opinions and responses to some of the clever (or not so clever) arguments on the matter.

  • Argument: Getting a tattoo today is like getting your ear pierced years ago.   It has become much more accepted, and is not looked at as a big deal.    Full disclosure – I got my ear pierced in my college days.   I was in a rock band, admittedly liked the looks of it, and I did it.   I don’t even regret it.   I thought it looked cool.   There was no more motivation behind it than that.   But I am not being a hypocrite here, in my opinion, with that comparison.   Because even back then, I considered the questions, and even then there were people getting tattoos and doing all sorts of other things.    I knew and considered that at any time this was reversible.   I knew that at some point in my life, I may well consider the wearing of an earring silly or immature.    I knew I could take it out at any time if the situation called for it without needing to mask it.    It may or may not have been a dumb thing to do, and I may or may not have had other opinions of me diminished because of it, but the impact was minimal.    Also, I could switch it up for the right occasion – a simple stud for normal wear or something gaudier for a show, or nothing at all for a trip to the parents who I knew didn’t love it.    So, I get the comparison, and the social attitude may be comparable, but the reality of what you are doing is not comparable.
  • Argument: But <insert morally upright individual> has one, and if he has one, it can’t be all that bad!     In Catholic circles, the argument du jour is Father Stan Fortuna , who is a Catholic Priest with tattoos.    OK, this is always a stupid argument for many reasons, and I’ll address why.   Before I do, let me go on record as not intending in any way to disparage Father Stan Fortuna.   I honestly have no qualms about him doing what he does or having a tattoo – again, he knows why he does.    But whenever someone points to “a” person as the example among a sea of counterexamples, it is in no way an honest argument.   If you are truly going to make your life decisions based on the example of others, then you don’t look for exceptions to justify your own behavior.   You look for what the majority of people are doing that you admire and respect.   Exceptions are just that – exceptions.   And there’s a reason why they are exceptions.   Now, lest you think I am making an argument about just following the crowd, that’s misreading what I am saying.   Being a devout Catholic in and of itself is already not following the crowd.   But once you commit yourself, then you do want to follow the examples of other devout Catholics.    Most importantly, Venerables, Blesseds, Saints, and the other holy men and women we meet in our life should be very important role models, emulators, and mentors for us.   We should follow this crowd whenever the question is something that has a moral or spiritual component to it.    And in this case, the vast majority of examples in this group have not littered their body with tattoos.   Exceptions exist, of course.   But you have to acknowledge the predominant behavior and consider why that is the case.   And it is  a much stronger case.
  • Permanence Matters: My opinion.   But while young people don’t like to consider getting older or meeting other people or needing to be a good example for future children and all that, time moves quickly.   I’m 48 and I can still very clearly remember my high school and college days.   I remember how I thought about things, felt about things…   young people today have a difficult time thinking we can relate but I can tell you those youthful memories are very clear – we do get it.    I may think it’s stupid to color your hair pink, or pierce your nose, or wear some of the clothes you wear.   And I may argue why those things are stupid, and you may ignore me because I’m older and I don’t get it (even though I generally thought the same thing when I was young).    But ten years from now you won’t have that hair color any more, you probably won’t have the nose piercing, and you won’t be wearing those same clothes.   Because you’ll grow and mature and change the way you think, and for your own reasons decide that it’s time to move on from that experimentation.    But you ink a huge Eagle – or even a Cross – on your forearm or your back and it’s there forever unless you go through the agonizing and expensive experience of having it removed.    To not even rationally consider this element of getting a tattoo shows a lack of maturity and foresight, in my opinion.
  • Desecration of the Temple matters: OK, I want to reiterate that the heart is what matters.   And someone may really think and believe that they have a good reason for doing what they are doing.   And they may even think God likes them getting a religious tattoo.   But God still made you the way you are – without them.    Relating this to permanence, you are purposely changing yourself.    Others may disagree with me, but this smacks of someone thinking that they can improve upon what God has made you.    This isn’t trying to keep you healthy or fix a medical condition.   It’s fundamentally changing the intended design of who you are and how you were made.   Sure, it may be cosmetic in nature, but it’s also readily apparent for all to see.
  • Size matters: I am against all tattooing, but like all other things of questionable nature there is scale as well to consider.   If I see someone with a pierced nose, I may think it unnecessary and a bit silly, and I don’t really get the draw, but it’s not an overwhelming shock.    If I see someone with a nose, lip, eyebrow, and cheek pierced I am going to form an unfavorable opinion of that person in some way.   I try not to be judgmental, and I am not supposed to judge the heart, and I try my best not to.   But this person is also bringing a bit of this upon themselves by publicly mutilating their body.    My judgment isn’t really one about the salvation of the person.  It is more a general feeling that something is really missing in this person’s life that they are trying desperately to fill.    Others may go to other unfavorable thoughts of what that person might be like it.   And you can lecture as much as you want about that being wrong, but it is also human nature, and quite frankly it’s not 100% wrong.   We are given the discernment to separate out right from wrong and right things from wrong things.   Without even judging the heart of a person, I am not going to apologize for knowing that there is something wrong or problematic about the actual act and display of getting multiple piercings.   I will just try not to jump to conclusions about the person – though it can be very hard to separate the two.      Likewise, I could probably live with a small tattoo that may have some unknown personal meaning, but the more there are and the bigger they are is going to directly impact my first impression of you.   And as to the argument that it’s my problem and not yours, that’s dead to me.   Sure, any judgment may be my problem to an extent, but it’s also yours.   Whether endearing yourself to future in-laws, applying for work, making new friends, etc.  these things are all your problem.   And unless you never judge anyone for anything, you can’t expect others to act any differently.   And if nobody ever judges anything, then God help us all.

I could actually go on.   Believe it or not, there are still additional points I could make.   But I’ll leave it to this last thing:

  • Find older people in your Church who you know to be faithful people, who also have predominant tattoos. Get to know them and then ask them if they are glad they have them.     I have done this on a few occasions, and in most cases there is regret.   In some cases there is acceptance that they did what they did and it doesn’t bother them.    In no cases yet have I heard anyone thrilled to death about how great their tattoo is, and they’d do the same thing all over again, and only regret that they don’t have more.

 

Of course, I could be completely wrong.

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Determining Political and Charitable Donations Using Facebook

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A little while back I mentioned that I was getting irked by all the junk showing up on my Facebook timeline from “friends.”

To recap:   When I finally took the plunge and got onto facebook (under my real identity, not the diatribical pseudonym), I pretty much decided that it would a benign entry into the social media world.   My general mental rule of thumb was “If I were hanging out with all my facebook friends, what would I choose to talk about, how wouold I talk about it, and why would I talk about it?”

I mean, here this is my blog.   I’ll write what i want, and I don’t really care because you’re choosing to come here and read it.

And while it’s true that I don’t have to click on anything on Facebook, I just find it annoying that people update their profile pic with rainbows and it’s plastered on my timeline.   Yeah, whatever.   I try to ignore it, but I’m human, and to me it’s just shoving a particular stance in my face.   I want to shove it back.   But then I think of my rule and I don’t.

But then I see a post in the aftermath of the gay marriage ruling and some friend of mine shared a link that basically made fun of Christians.    I mean, really?   You’re going to share this?   So, I’m more peeved.

Straying into politics a bit, I’m a conservative.   I don’t “like” and “share” every anti-liberal or pro-conservative thing that comes onto my page.   But apparently others do this, especially when it comes to teachers and Scott Walker.   Egad, my brain wants to explode.

Well, I mused on this blog about whether or not it might make sense to let people know that I would donate to causes in opposition to things that – pardon the french – piss me off.

At first, it was just a musing.

And then it happened.   Another shared link to “Occupy Democrats.”

Now, I don’t want to offend my Democratic friends out there.  I know there are Catholic Democrats, though how you can support a party that is in bed with Planned Parenthood, has entirely embraced all things abortion, same-sex marriage, and transgender…   I could go on, but now I’m straying from the point.   So, suffice it to say that I guess you have your reasons, and you will need to wrestle with that yourself.

Anyway, back to Occupy Democrats.   Seriously, these guys are loons.   Yeah, I said it.

I couldn’t take it.    I finally posted “New rule:   Every Occupy Democrats link showing up on my timeline will initiate a donation to whoever they hate the most.”   Now, that isn’t specific, and it’s subjective, but basically anyone good, moral, and conservative will do.   Occupy Democrats hates anyone that satisfies those three categories.

Well, that’s as far as it went for a while, but someone finally posted a ridiculous anti-Scott Walker post.    I already donate to Walker.   “New rule:  Every anti-Scott Walker post showing up on my timeline will add $1 to the donation I will already be sending him.”

I’m just getting started, I think.   I was thiiiiiissss close to declaring that any rainbow flag showing up on my timeline would initiate a donation to the Family Research Center.   I still might.

So, as is obvious, I’ve started to give up on my utopian dream of just getting family updates and catching up with friends.   If people want to be political and anti-religious, well then game on.   But facebook debates are generally fruitless and often devolve into a lack of charity.   So I’m trying to find a creative way of making my point.

Hopefully it’s not too expensive.

How Did We Reach a Point Where Disagreement = Judgment and Hate?

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“Love won today!”

I saw this statement and claim made shortly after the 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court that legalized gay marriage.

A couple days later, my wife posted a video on Facebook.   The purpose of the video was to once again lay out the case for the traditional definition of marriage.   It was not in any way presented hatefully, but it was not apologetic, either.   It simply presented the facts about what marriage has been considered forever, why it was considered that way, and why same-sex marriage doesn’t properly fulfill the requirements to be considered marriage.

Responses to her sharing this were that it made someone “sad that you feel that way.”   In a followup response, once again the idea that “well, I just choose to love people” came up.

Whether intended or not, these responses and reactions have as a premise that if the Supreme Court did not rule as they did, then love would have lost.   Or that thinking about this issue in the traditional sense must mean you don’t love people – at the very least, you don’t love them as much as someone who supports redefinition of marriage.   They’ll say “oh, that’s not waht I mean, or what I’m implying.”   That’s a shallow retort.   You can’t make a statement about love winning and then backtrack and say that you don’t mean that others are haters, or at least not as loving as you.   It’s a logical impossibility.

This, of course, is poppycock.

It has long been a tactic of those engaged in policy, social, and moral debate to appeal to emotion and the impugning of character in order to advance an opinion or agenda.   And while neither side of any issue is immune to that temptation, I do think there is a definite difference in applicability of that approach.   In general, the more “conservative” position on an issue is an argument based on the logical or rational merits of an idea.  This may be to a fault in many cases, where the human side of things may not be fully considered, and it’s something that conservatives need to guard against.    That is not to say the right cannot get emotional and accuse others of this thing or that, but I would venture to say that the underlying view of an issue has more of a logical train of thought to it.   The more “progressive” elements try to paint their side much more as on the side of compassion and tolerance.   This is a very emotional plea – one of inclusiveness and love (except for those who disagree, anyway).   I am not saying there is never anything deeper to have formed their opinions, but the overriding element is feelings.

The gay marriage argument is really a very easy case study on this, and I’m sure people will disagree with me on it.   Well, it’s OK to be wrong, because this is about as simple as it gets.    The main argument that the progressives have on this is “we just want people to be happy and have a companion, and be recognized for it so they are not viewed differently and they can get the same benefits other people get.   Because we LOOOOVVVVVEEEEE them SOOOOOOOOO much!”   It really is that simple.   I have yet to hear any gay marriage supporters really even attempt to suggest there’s more to it than that.   “We want what you have” is pretty much what it was all about.

Those on the other side of the argument seldom thought all that much about the individuals enough to say that we love, like, dislike, or outright hate any given person or group.   The simple fact is, this has never been about emotional and personal feelings as much as it just simply doesn’t make one friggin’ bit of sense to us at any rational and reasonable and intellectual level.    It’s about a series of facts and observations:  (1) who do we think we are to redefine an institution that’s thousands of years old into something new? (2) Men’s parts are made for women’s parts by natural design or order or however you’d prefer to characterize it; (3) the sexual relationship is pretty much designed for one purpose – procreation.    Yes, it feels great, and we’ve turned its purpose into a self-serving thing of pleasure, but most people recognize that the entire reason there are men’s parts and women’s parts is so that there end up being more people.

Of course, morality and religion come into play, and it’s somewhat ironic that this generates protests from the progressives who claim that there should be no place in the debate for religion, when their entire platform is not actually based on anything of substance on any level.

Attempts to bridge this chasm usually do not go all that well.  Let’s focus on the Christians who have both purely rational reasons for believing what they believe, and also the affirmation of the good book to boot that really solidifies their position.  One of the problems that will occur on the one side of the debate is that, even though the root of the belief is based on sound judgment and logic, the emotional element does kick in for an entirely different reason than the progressive side.    It could be a few different reasons, but it’s generally something in this universe:   I love God so much and want others to love God, and this is so wrong that my head’s going to explode, and I JUST CAN’T UNDERSTAND HOW OTHERS CAN’t SEE IT!; or there are numerous reasons and examples already that create a fear/anxiety that my own religious liberty will soon be at risk; or it just flat out makes so much sense that anyone who can’t see it is completely rationalizing in their opinion for some purpose or another (likely to appease the conscience of a loved one, or they can’t bear to believe that someone they know or love may be sinning), or just flat-out stupid.    So, because we Christians are not impervious to sin, these emotions do move us past the “hate the sin, love the sinner” frame of mind and we become uncharitable.   And this causes all sorts of issues that make us sound like haters.

But before the progressives get all puffy, you’re at fault too.    Because you simply cannot tolerate dissent, or anything other than complete complicity in both thought and action, you are unable to have a reasoned and rational debate.    A Christian can be utterly loving and charitable, but let’s face it…   if we believe something is sinful, there really isn’t a way to say that, even in the most loving way, that isn’t a little bit harsh.   And a Christian can present this without talking directly about “you” and recognize that God alone ultimately judges, and can throw all the caveats under the sun in there, but once the word “sin” is mentioned, every other word that has been said is forgotten.   All the love, compassion, delicate weaving of the argument or opinion…  gone.    After all, we dare not use the word “sin” these days.    YOU THINK I’M SINNING?!!!!   (even though I never said “you are sinning”)   YOU HATEFUL BIGOTED CHRISTIAN LOOOOSSSERRRR!!!    JUDGER!   JUDGER!

Don’t get me started on the perversion of the “Though shalt not judge” scriptural reference, which has been transformed into such a meaning that it eviscerates Paul’s requirement that we admonish the sinner.    But that’s a digression I won’t get into right now.

Sigh.

As a Diatriber, I guess I’m a judger.

All we can do as Christians is continue to strive for our balance point.   We must love, yet admonish.   But we must admonish with utmost charity.    But we cannot judge, especially without looking at the log in our own eye.    We must not capitulate our beliefs and participate in something that is wrong, but we cannot discriminate against people unfairly in our day-to-day lives, nor should we withhold our assistance and generosity to them either.   We must stand firm, publicly if necessary, in favor of what is good and right, while not being unnecessarily confrontation and mean-spirited in the way we make our stand.

That is a tough balancing act, and most of us will stumble around – possibly our entire lives – trying to figure out how to get it right.