07 September 2008

Collectors' Items

by Phil Johnson

'm too busy at the moment to write a substantive blogpost. Here are a few never-before seen Po-Motivators® to tide you over:

Phil's signature


James Scott Bell said...

You and Sarah Palin have got to be the most insensitive Christians in the world right now. Using satire to make a point is unloving, because it makes people feel bad, especially when it's accurate. Stop it. Use swearing instead. A few well placed cuss words to gain attention is much more in line with the gospel, okay? Slightly off color jokes, too. Get with it.

greglong said...

So are you saying I shouldn't get that Pyromaniacs tat I was planning on getting???

donsands said...

That body modification one is unbelievable.
I watched "Apacolypto" last night, and thought Gibson really captured paganism in all it's horror; with the human sacrifices, and worship of false gods, and demonic activity, and all the "body modifcation".

candy said...

Hey! I think I saw those people from the Body Modification poster on their way to the Burning Man Celebration last week!

Becky Schell said...

So Phil, where are you getting the models for your posters? The quality is so consistent, it seems like these must be original photographs.

I love how they make me laugh and then pause and reflect on the sad reality they represent.

Jim Crigler said...

I've gotta admit, when I saw "Know What I Mean," I had visions of one of my favorite actors.

doug said...

Hey Don-
I know this has the potential of highjacking the thread- and that is not my intent- but I have longed to hear someone discuss "Apacolypto" since I saw it in the theater when it first came out and I think you nailed the point of the movie. It seemed to me that Gibson was saying: "To all those complaining about how missionaries impose their views upon the untouched (read innocent) civilizations around the world, this is what civilization looks like before being presented with the hope of Christ (I hope no disclaimer is needed regarding Gibson's Catholicism). See the horrific savagery and now see, here at the end, comes the missionaries bringing freedom from this." He stops the movie where he does to allow the viewer to mull this over and come to the obvious conclusions. I've never heard Gibson or anyone discuss this but it seems to me that it is right and I'd love to hear if anyone as heard Gibson say that was his message.

Solameanie said...

Brutal. Simply brutal.

How DO they get those things into their lips?

Keith said...

Just when I thought you couldn't come up with more...thanks for starting my Monday off right.

Loved the "Belief" poster.

Rob Hughes said...

Johnny Dialectic,

In an earlier post Phil responded to a comment made regarding the "Po-Motivators" posters. His response is fair and accurate.

Jesus' command to love one another by no means entails any duty to tolerate pseudo-Christianity or aberrant worldviews put forth in the name of Christ.

Read Jesus' letters to the churches in Revelation 2-3 (which actually would fit the description "Jesus' last request to his followers" better than whatever verse you were talking about). A running theme in those letters is condemnation for those who tolerated deviant doctrines and permitted the purveyors of false religion to mingle in their midst (e.g. 2:14-15), and blessing for those who tested and exposed the phonies and false teachers (e.g. 2:2).

Also (and we've been over this many times before), Scripture frequently employs mockery and harsh sarcasm against heretics, pseudo-believers, and willful corrupters of the truth (1 Kings 18:27-28; Psalm 59:8; Matthew 23:24). Paul spoke harshly against those in Corinth who undermined the doctrine he had taught--and told them that if they did not repent, he would not spare them (2 Cor. 13:1-4). I don't think he was literally threatening them with phyiscal violence, but surely what he had in mind was something more severe than satire. Paul did use rather nasty-sounding violent imagery in his condemnation of the Judaizers in Galatia (Galataians 5:12). Jesus himself promised to wage war against people in the church who had departed from the truth (Revelation 2:16).


1. In reality, these humorous jabs at the jargon of our emergent friends are a whole lot milder (and certainly "nicer") than what's in store for them if they continue to undermine, question, redesign, re-imagine, and spurn biblical truth.

2. Authentic Christian love looks nothing whatsoever like postmodern tolerance or any other worldly
notion of what seems "nice."

3. Truth is important--often (perhaps always) more important than how we feel about it.

4. Do pray for us that we will be faithful to Christ. Thanks for that.

Rob Hughes said...

Oh, just wanted to also say that the "Belief" and "Individuality" posters are BANG ON TARGET! (English vernacular)

donsands said...

Doug, real quick, so not to go on a rabbit trail.
Gibson is a very talented director. I thought the movie was a great piece of film making.

But I couldn't guess what went on in Mel's head. He's a bit flakey, if you ask me.

May the Lord open the eyes of his heart to the truth, as He did mine. Amen.

Stefan Ewing said...

Rob: Johnny was being tongue-in-cheek, although you have done a service by preemptively forestalling any serious comments in the same vein.

Stefan Ewing said...

"Preemptively forestalling" is a tautology. I should have just written "preempting" or "forestalling."

David Rudd said...

sometimes, even when it's your own children, the whole "look what i can do" routine becomes tiresome...

it seems the creativity of these (even to someone who cares not for them) is slipping.

just my 2 cents.

DJP said...

Hm; inflation must be hitting Michigan pretty hard....

David Rudd said...


now that's creative.

and true!

Kim said...

Love the "individuality" poster.

Phil Johnson said...

David Rudd: "it seems the creativity of these . . . is slipping."

I'm so disappointed you feel that way. "Belief" and "Body Modification" are two of my favorites.

I'll try to do better on the next batch.

David Rudd said...


i know criticism can sometimes be crushing...

just remember, "the wounds of a friend"

i'm sure you'll now be motivated to do unleash much more creative posters.

Rick Frueh said...

Many kids like the ones pictured on the Individuality poster have stories of abuse, molestation, neglect, broken homes, and a plethera of other domestic issues. Most turn to drugs and alcohol, some girls become cutters, some turn to homosexuality, and many commit suicide.

Their looks uncover a cry for help from those of us who do not look like them but have the message of God's grace. They need sacrificial love that sees more than their outward masks.

Daniel said...

I made a po-motivational poster once, it was on Semi-Pelagianism.

Solameanie said...


While that is true, there is also a healthy contingent of them who do it just to be in someone's face. Some also claim to do it as a witnessing aid. Not all of them are acting out from pain.

Whenever I see stuff like this, I often think of the Mount Carmel incident when Baal's prophets cut themselves as they "raved."

Interesting how some hard-rock music oriented shivarees are called "raves" these days.

Rick Frueh said...

"Not all of them are acting out from pain."

Yes, I agree. So would we say that a healthy contingent are just acting in a generally depraved mode? And I do not believe anyone can accurately identify which are which. The answer is, as always, a compassionate presentation of the gospel. The same gospel we should present to the unsaved banker, the unsaved policeman, and the unsaved goth teenager.

Just to add a perspective without commiting thread diversion.

Chris said...

My first choice in this batch is for the "Righteousness" poster, then for "Sensitivity"! While the graphic art is fantastic (I don't think the creativity is slipping at all), what is most poignant about so many of the ones with faces are the expressions they give. If you have had the unfortunate experience, like I did a few years ago, of discovering yourself in an ec church before you ever even knew what ec was by name and/or definition, then those facial expressions resonate strongly...as does the accuracy of the whole text-to-image relationship for that matter. Spot-on! And, as Beck asked the question, where do you get these subjects for the posters? The whole package is so accurate, I'd be tempted to ask if you recruited them from my old church?

Susan said...

Solameanie said: "How DO they get those things into their lips?"

Talk about body modification. I recently saw two people in two distinct places (a young man at Ikea and a young woman in a train) who both sported those seemingly incredibly painful "earrings"--yeah, the ones you see in Phil's poster that I absolutely refuse to wear (look at that guy off to the left of the "body modification" poster). And with that I echo Solameanie's sentiments!

Phil Johnson said...

Susan: ". . . that guy off to the left . . ."

What you have to notice about that guy is his nose. Zoom in on the large graphic and take a look. It gives meaning to the look of serious regret on his face.

Zachary Bartels said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Rudd said...


you certainly have my sympathy. i cannot imagine a worse person to have had in your classes... if he was?

totally boring, rarely contributed, and clearly couldn't wait to get out!

what classes did we have together?

Susan said...

Phil said: "What you have to notice about that guy is his nose."

Um, I think I see it, but I don't know if I understand it or believe it. Maybe if I saw a live one in real life I might understand how it's done...but then again, do I want to...?

(As for those "earrings", I realized that the ones that I saw on those people were big [and hollow] but nowhere as HUGE as the guy's in the poster. His "earrings" take the cake, I'm afraid.)

John said...

I think i read about an anthropological study someone did, where they were trying to figure out why some African tribes went in for facial mutilation, etc, while other tribes that were in some way related didn't. Their conclusion was that the tribes that did it were in areas that slavers frequented, and the mutilation was a way to make them, especially their wives and daughters, less attractive to the slavers. Sorry, no link; I think it was something I read while I was in college, over thirty years ago...

MadTownGuy said...

@ Jim Crigler: Yeah, but it was actually funny when Ernest P. said it. That Righteousness poster creeps me out. Is that James Carville in the photo?

Pitbull78 said...

Honest question...

what of people like me? people who are heavily tattooed (not in the emergent church "look how cool I am for Christ" sort of way), but those like me who were tattooed before (military/gang related)coming to truly know Christ, who have had their eyes opened to truth and have repented.

should i never wear t-shirts? should i wear long sleeves to cover my arms?

I am not at all being argumentative or sarcastic, but i really don't know what to do with myself.

i feel like i have to hide myself from fellow believers, because i worry (i realize worry is a sin) that they will look at me with disgust or disregard me because of my apperance.

I was under the impression that we are to stay in the circumstances we were in when Christ saved us, or does that not apply to someone like me?
I would really like to hear some honest feedback.

Thanks :)

Rachael Starke said...

Hey there Pitbull78 -

All the really sensible Pyros are probably asleep, while I am awake waiting for my hardworking husband to come home from a fifteen-hour day, so I'll take a leap of faith at what I'm guessing Phil or Dan might say (Frank I'm sure will have something all hilarious all saved up, so won't even try to go there).

You are by no means the target here, although I'm going to hazard a guess that this may be the very first time that Phil might feel just the teensiest pinch of guilt, as I did as I read your story. (And that, BTW, would be an enormous accomplishment of which you should be most proud, most proud indeed sir!)

I would personally offer up the same counsel I give to my daughters when they are wearing the loveliest of outfits and the dourest of expressions, or to myself when I have to go out in public but am neither makeuped, hairdoed or showered -

When you look at people with Jesus' eyes, and smile at them with Jesus' smile, you are as beautiful as He is. When you don't, nothing else will help.

Rachael Starke said...

Although, if I may also suggest somewhat delicately, if there are any that are of the female form in a less than, ahem, appropriate state of dress or demeanor, a slight ammendment to them my indeed be appropriate, say through the addition of one of those lovely smocky-jumpery type garments so popular at Phil's church and others throughout Christendom...

Rachael Starke said...

Okay, is it my imagination or am I starting to sound like I'm channeling some odd combination of Austen, Bronte, and Dickens????

That's it. I love my husband, but I gots to go to sleep. :)

Phil Johnson said...


I don't believe either tattoos or piercings are inherently sinful. I think they can be (and often are) expressions of sinful attitudes, etc. And sometimes they are merely the scars of past sins.

We've had this discussion several times. Google the blog for the word "tattoos" and you'll find it. Here's one of my favorite posts on the subject.

David Rudd said...


If the Christian brothers and sisters you are sharing your life with are:

"look[ing] at me with disgust or disregard me because of my apperance."

that is their problem, not yours. i know that is probably of little consolation, because it does nothing to allay the very real disappointment you feel when people judge you for what is on the outside, not the inside.

perhaps is is helpful to remember that God looks on the heart, and regardless of what any men think, he has declared you to be righteous (ink and all!).

while you can pray for God to change their hearts and their attitudes toward you, you can also remember Paul's thoughts in Galatians 1:

"Who am I trying to please? God or man?"

Rest in the knowledge that Christ's work has already found you the pleasure of God, and nothing you have done to your body can change that!

one last thought: it's sad that some believers think of "body abuse" as such a great evil, while they continue in over-eating, sedentary life-styles, and obesity...

donsands said...

"As the dry earth covets the rain, even so the law makes afflicted souls thirst after Christ. To such, Christ savors sweetly; to them, He is nothing else but joy. comfort, and life." -Martin Luther

The Law is God's hammer, and it strikes terror into our conscience, and we then either cry out for Christ, and His mercy, which is the Gospel, and find forgiveness, comfort, and life, or we try to better ourselves, and wash up the outside of our vessel.

James Joyce said...

Came across this post on tatoos & body modification from First Things blog via Tim Challies website.


R.R. Reno asks,“...is it surprising that in an age with so few binding commitments postmodern men and women seek symbols of permanence etched into their bodies?”

"Individuality. Everybody's doing it."

Mike Westfall said...

When I was a kid, my mom strictly forbade us to draw or put decals on our skin. Leviticus 19:28, you know. It's a sin to put tattoos on your body, therefore it's a sin to even pretend it.

Now-a-days, it's quite common for kids to be handed decal "tattoos" all the time, even at church events, and nobody blinks an eye.

What's everybody's take on pretend tattoos?

Solameanie said...


Aside from all of the theological questions of tatting, I have to wonder . . . why in the world would anyone in their right mind want to look like a cave painting?

As for studding and piercing, I'd love to see a few of these people walk through the junkyard while they have the electromagnetic crane turned on. If the junkyard was near a church, the assembled congregants might think the Rapture was taking place.

Mike Westfall said...

From the R. R. Reno article that eastendjim linked to:

"To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr., it’s the content of your character that matters, not what you do with your skin."

Solameanie said...

Does what you do with your skin open a window into one's character?

I think it's worth asking on occasion.

BJ Irvin said...


I notice NO slip in creativity! And I have to ask, did that guy in the Righteousness poster know he was posing for this, cause if not...yeee!

Thanks I appreciate both the humor and the serious commentary of them.

Pitbull78 said...


Thanks for taking time to respond to me. Although I must confess that I am a bit lost as to why you directed me to that older post of yours. I hope that I did not present myself in the ignorant fashion that the man from your previous post presented himself.

I am in no way condoning tattoos, I also am in no way making it, or my overall apperance for that matter, the centerpiece of my life. I know that true evangelism is to be done in our comings and goings as Jesus said during that great commision and that every good work that we will do in this life has been prepared for us before hand by God Himself that we may walk into them. So, my tattoos have and never will be some sort of tool to reach anyone, I know that it is God's Word alone that pierces the heart and convicts the lost to cry out for a Savior.

My tattoos are merely a byproduct of the life I once lived, they were memories that, at that time, I wanted to record on my body, of things I thought were important to me, but now, for the most part they remind me of the sinful state of mind I was once in and of a time in which I lived in total rebellion toward God.
Not only do they bring me grief because of the various looks I get from fellow believers, but they make me feel continually shameful because of the various comments I hear from fellow believers, and the nagging worry in my mind that my son will grow up embarassed that his dad looks like some sort of freak while all the other dads at church are "normal". Believe me when I say, I have absolutely no concern with trying to fit in with any "culture", "subculture", or "counter-culture". I couldn't care less about such things. I am a grown man, a father, and as a believer, I realize life can not be wasted with a preoccupation of such worthlessness, but we are to set our minds on the things above, and not earthly things that will pass away.

I brought the subject up because I really do value your opinion so much and am curious how you would advise me. I have been a believer for a little over 3 years, and a member of a church for a little over 2 years. The entire time I have worn long sleeve shirts as not to offend anyone, and to avoid the uncomfortableness of being stared at. Because of this, however, for some reason I feel like I am hiding or not being myself. I avoid church picnics and some other get togethers when it will be extra uncomfortable to wear long sleeves because of the hot weather or what not, even though I really desire to be around the body. I don't want this to be the case, but fear rejection, and what may happen if I show up in a t-shirt. Is it my Christian duty to continue with the long sleeves as not to offend? Could I be accused of stumbling a weaker brother by wearing a t-shirt? Should I even care about this at all? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? I just really don't want to be pre-judged as part of the Emergent crowd when I am not.

Thanks again for your time,


DJP said...

Hey Shawn, pardon me for interrupting. Whatever Phil says will be better-said than anything I can say.

But I was just wondering: have you talked with your pastor about your concerns? What did he say?

If you haven't, I'd think that'd be a great place to start.

Chris said...


I'll take a stab at responding to your concerns, although I'm just a layman like yourself when it comes to doctrine/theology; also, what I'm going to say is likely going to be taken by the emergents I so frequently make comments about as somehow confirming their strange notion of what it means to be "missional". Do I care? No. Because they generally only hear what they want to hear anyhow-- even when Phil or Dan are talking! So, here goes:

Just as Phil said, these marks are reminders of PAST sins. Like Paul the apostle, you can use every drop of that ink, and the story/scenerio that is likely behind every tattoo for that matter, for God's glory when you share the Gospel with those to whom you are likely going to relate and/or whom God directs your way and they find themselves comfortable with your whole person. In other words, God 's sovereignty allows for no mistakes and He is not in need of a tattoo removal specialist in order to remove the sin associated with every one of them. Remember: God can and will use even our sins for His glory! What we intend for evil, God makes good; even that which "the locusts have eaten" God can replenish! Take heart, brother!

**For emergent ears that may have been tickled by the previous paragraph: please notice that we are talking about this man (Pitbull) who has clearly repented, seeks to follow Christ in sincerity of heart, and now needs to work with this present-day matter of practical concern because of the logistical and financial challenges associated with tattoo removal, which may very well never be possible. I am not talking about emergents who are running out and getting tattoos in the present as a means to go out into those communities where tattoos are commonplace.

I've already said a whole lot in the past about emergent wannabeeism and the silliness of seeing these guys and gals trying so desperately to meet the world's artistic/intellectual standard, of which they never achieve because they should really just be honest about the medicrocy they produce in therse areas and let the life-long pagans be the ones to do paganism. Why? because they do it better than church kids who are bored with God and who just want to be "a little different" (of course, the real problem is in emergents' strong desire to meet the world's standard in the first place).

By contrast, when I hear your cautious concerns, your commitment to absolutes truth, your fear of the Lord, your desire for personal holiness, your dread of the thought that you might cause a brother to stumble, and your desire to be used by God, I hear someone who need not worry about those marks whatsoever because God knows you have them, and you've repented.

Pitbull78 said...

Hey Dan,

You are not interupting at all, I totally respect your opinion as well.

The tattoo conversation came up one time at our Tuesday Bible studies and there were a few comments made about Christians that have tattoos with people snickering and what not. Now I realize that the comments were refering to those from the liberal emergent church camp, however, i hope you understand how it can make me feel slightly uncomfortable. So, I talked with my pastor briefly about it, privately, and he reassured me that no one should be recognizing anyone according to the flesh (2 Cor 5:16) and that I am a new creation in Christ. This brought me comfort, however...

Since that time, there were a few occasions in which a small portion of my forearms were exposed (at a summer "all-church" picnic) where it was so hot i had rolled up my sleeves a bit and as I talked to him he never once looked me in the eye but stared at my arms with a very concerning type look (there is no nudity or profane things tattooed on me).
Outside of that, there has been a few times where he has, along with another man, thanked me for my modesty in keeping myself covered.

Because of this, and because I don't want to make this huge issue of it, I have just kept on going with the long sleeves. I am not the type to make waves, I don't want to distract people or cause them to stumble, and our focus shouldn't be on our problems or pet peeves but on the glorification of Christ, so i feel guilty for having talked about it as much as I have now, but at the same time it does bug me. I just don't know what to do going forward. I just feel as if I'm some sort of outsider when it comes to the body because all this, if that makes any sense at all . Am I being wrong or just being stupid?

Phil Johnson said...

Pitbull: "Thanks for taking time to respond to me. Although I must confess that I am a bit lost as to why you directed me to that older post of yours. I hope that I did not present myself in the ignorant fashion that the man from your previous post presented himself."

Sorry. I wasn't very clear. The comment-thread under that post had a longer discussion of tattoos and body mods where I think some of your questions were dealt with. I certainly wasn't suggesting there's any comparison between you and the guy I was replying to in that post.

Bottom line: Unless your tattoos are obscene or blasphemous, you have nothing to be ashamed of. If they are blasphemous, erotic, or otherwise dishonoring to Christ, you can check into having them removed or covered with bigger tats. But otherwise, I think you should not be so concerned with what people think of them. A couple of the finest preachers I know have massive tattoos. As I said, there's nothing inherently sinful about ink on or under your skin. Narcissism, deliberate self-mutilation, exhibitionism, and overconfidence in your own flesh are sinful, as are certain other motives that sometimes are associated with extreme body mods. But tattoos and navel-piercings themselves aren't sinful. You should be able to wear short sleeves to the church picnic.

My criticism is not about tattoos and piercings per se, but the mindless insistence of Christians who think they can't "reach" a certain segment of the culture without "contextualizing" their bodies in some dramatic way that seems "cool" to emos and cutters. The above poster is aimed at people who assume that if tattoos and piercings aren't inherently evil, then there is no limit to the amount of self-mutilation we are permitted to practice (or obliged to sanction in others).

Still, I don't care you did to your body before becoming a Christian, as long as you're not deliberately doing sinful things to it as a Christian. Your tattoos certainly wouldn't be a barrier to fellowship with me.

In fact, if you need to get an ungodly tattoo covered up, I have always thought the Pyro-logo would make a nice-looking arm-tat.

Solameanie said...


For whatever encouragement it is, the critical remarks I have made here about tattooing and body piercing do not apply to someone in your situation. What someone does prior to becoming saved is under the blood.

Solameanie said...

Oh, mercy me. After posting my previous comment, I realized that it could well cause someone to think that I am Arminian. No, no, no, no, no. Not what I meant.

All our sins as believers are "under the blood." What I meant to say -- and hope I am making it clear enough -- is that when people become saved, we ought not to keep recriminating them for what they did before they became saved. Salvation and maturity bring about an entirely different worldview.

However, if people do questionable things after salvation, then fine..off to the woodshed, or at least let's have a decent dust-up about what's permissible or not. Arguments over what constitutes legalism are always fun.

Okay, I'm half-kidding. The act involved -- whether it's tattooing, tongue-studding or other oddball practice -- is one thing. The attitude behind it is entirely another.

I guess the long and short of it is, I don't have much patience for the Emergent crowd. They seem to revel in all sorts of practices, for all sorts of dubious reasons.

James Scott Bell said...

"After posting my previous comment, I realized that it could well cause someone to think that I am Arminian..."

How horrible! We wouldn't want that! Thanks for your clarification!

Only...huh? It is not Arminian theology that sins committed after salvation are not "under the blood." The ol' yo-yo view (you're in; you're out; you confessed, good, you're back in again) is simply a gross error (like, say, hyper Calvinism would be over on your side of the fence).

As for tats, they are not sinful per se, as Phil said. They do have content, and are thus a permanent message of a sort. Once on, the message stays. It makes it hard to change one's mind...and thus, while not sinful, may be extremely unwise.

Like when football stars marry models, and they each mark their cabooses with the other's name...and the marriage breaks up four months later.

Solameanie said...

No offense intended, Johnny. It's just that I am known as a fairly strong Calvinist, and what I had posted could have seemed inconsistent with that to some people.

Prolly shouldn't derail the thread with John and Jacob ping pong (smile).

James Scott Bell said...

I know...just a little free will humor this morning.

Back to our regularly scheduled (decreed?) program.

Anonymous said...

I love this batch probably the best. Body modification- I link to that at least twice a week =)