What do you do when your teenage son asks to have his tongue split for the summer?
A few years ago, the American evangelical subculture might have dismissed such a question as best posed by the cultural fringe of “The Jerry Springer Show.” Not anymore. As tattooing and body piercing, and “tongue splitting” have entered the mainstream of some sectors of youth culture, more and more evangelical churches and parents are asking whether these issues are matters of Christian liberty, or of clear biblical conviction.
Listeners to “Truth on the Line“, the weekly radio program hosted by Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler, recently lit up the telephone wires to discuss such issues on the air, and it turned out to be quite a lively exchange. Mohler challenged evangelicals to get beyond the “yuck factor” (or the “ouch factor,” as the case may be). He laid out what he sees as basic biblical elements of a theology of respect for the human body, and applied these principles to contemporary teen culture. He also pressed evangelicals to identify the kind of despair that would lead teenagers to seek refuge in what many would consider nothing less than self-mutilation. Mohler called for evangelicals to give attention to these matters—not from prejudice or apathy—but from the standpoint of a worldview informed by divine revelation.
The one hour program is archived on the “Truth on the Line” (now the Albert Mohler program) website, and it is well worth a careful hearing. Not all evangelicals may agree with all of Mohler’s conclusions on this one, but the questions can’t be ignored by churches serious about ministering to teenagers and their families. More and more parents will face issues like these, even from kids actively engaged in the most conservative of church youth ministries. And our churches must be willing to think through theologically what is going on in the minds and hearts—and bodies—of a generation we are called to evangelize.