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Teens & body piercing: What’s a parent to do?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Parents and youth ministers who would rather their teenagers not yield to the body piercing fad are best armed with one question: Why?
“My oldest son wanted an earring, and I said, ‘Why?'” recalled Ken Freeman, San Antonio, Texas,-based youth evangelist. “I said when you can give me a good reason, we’ll talk about it.”
Freeman, 45, has a cross shaved in the hair on the back of his head, which he does as a means of witness. His ministry includes speaking in public schools in cities where he is leading evangelistic rallies. While he isn’t permitted to talk about Jesus Christ in the schools, students “invariably ask me, ‘What’s with the cross on the back of your head?’ I invite them to come tonight (to an evangelistic meeting) and hear the rest of my story and more about the cross.”
Freeman reminded young people considering body piercing they will have to live with the message it sends. “My cross symbolizes what I live for,” Freeman said. “What does an earring stand for?”
Tony Rankin, a former youth minister for 13 years, said the issue of body piercing is raised about once a week in his practice as a clinical therapist in Nashville, Tenn.
Rankin agreed with the importance of parents understanding why their child wants to pierce an eyebrow or their naval. “Ask, ‘What is my son or daughter trying to prove?’ and deal with some of those issues,” he said.
Be prepared, however, for teenagers’ rationale to be “everybody’s doing it.” Adults may never hear an explanation they find reasonable.
“I have good friends and I know great, godly young people who wear earrings, and I don’t know why,” Freeman said.
A male who did not reveal his age posted a detailed description of his three body-piercing experiences on the Internet. Expecting readers to wonder why he did it, he wrote, “I dunno (sic) to be quite honest … . The truth is I got them done ‘cos (sic) I thought they would look good.”
In addition to asking youth why they want to pierce their bodies, parents who are against it need to examine the rationale for their opposition, Freeman and Rankin said. Parents may think they will be embarrassed or humiliated if their children pierce various body parts, Rankin noted.
Body piercing is not always a statement of rebellion against parental authority, he said; some youth do it to shock others; some use it to express their uniqueness.
“Some of it is just a fad; parents don’t need to freak out,” Freeman said. He warned parents against taking such a strong stand against body piercing that they break down all communication with their children or miss the more important insight of what is in a youth’s heart.
“If you think your child is being rebellious, it’s not about an earring. It’s something deeper than that,” Freeman said. Rankin noted people no longer identify men who wear earrings as homosexuals, so parents cannot protest male earrings on that basis. While risk of infection may be a concern to parents, neither the Centers for Disease Control or the National Center for Health Statistics keeps track of illness caused by body piercing.
The Bible issues definite warnings against Christians harming their bodies, Freeman noted, citing 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 as passages referring to believers’ bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. He added the admonition in Romans 12:1-2 to “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” applies to the issue of body piercing.
Yet Freeman noted Aaron told the Israelites in Exodus 32 to take off the gold earrings that their wives, sons and daughters were wearing. They were condemned for making an idol from the gold, he said, not for wearing the jewelry.
Scriptural teachings about modesty relate to body piercing because the accessory draws attention to that body part, Freeman said.
Ephesians 6 admonishes children to obey their parents, but it also commands fathers to not exasperate their children, Rankin said, noting both principles are at stake when it comes to body piercing.
One thing parents and youth ministers should discuss with teenagers is the legitimate impact of first impressions, Rankin said. Help youth realize others may judge them based on their jewelry, and that first impression cannot be recreated.
“Parents are still in control,” he said. Parents who do not want their child to have a body part pierced can determine the consequences for that action and be prepared to follow through with the punishment if the child does it without parental permission, he said.
At the same time, “parents have got to decide what level of conflict they want to put up with,” Rankin said. Determine what you want to accomplish with your child between now and the time he or she graduates from high school, he said, and decide whether an ultimatum on body piercing will help accomplish your goal.
Likewise, youth ministers need to carefully consider what they say about body piercing, Rankin advised. Realize a stand against body piercing may alienate some youth you are trying to reach, he said.

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  • Sarah Zimmerman