With all of the research that I do on body modification, I always happen to find the most fascinating information when I’m looking for something else. While exploring the role of medical professionals in many modern extreme modification procedures, just such an inadvertent discovery occurred. I happened upon a website entitled “Church of Body Modification,” and clicked the link, thinking what a clever name this was for a tattoo and piercing shop. I was utterly shocked to see that the website was not filled with the customary artist galleries and contact info, but instead with links to a doctrine and a thorough FAQ section for a federally recognized church. My first thoughts in realizing what I had just stumbled upon included wondering why I had never heard of this church before! I was aware that there are, and have been historically, many religions which incorporate various forms of body modification into their worship practices, but the existence of a church that is based around the spirituality of body modification is a new and truly extraordinary concept to me.
The symbol that represents Mind, Body, and Soul and is tattooed on all CoBM reverends.
As I explored the website further, the modification-oriented area of my brain began to tingle. I was quite pleased to see that the site includes a public message board that is host to such post topics as “What do your modifications mean to you?” and “Why do we do this?” both of which I have myself been pondering for quite some time. Two themes that rang common among church members’ answers to these questions were the importance of body modification in the relationship between the mind, body, and soul; and the connection that modification allows between the past (return to one’s heritage, “keep the old ways alive”), the present (“stand together and create a stronger foundation for the future”), and the future (“the petty differences of the past and [present] evolve into a future of understanding”). Both of these topics caught my interest immediately, as I sometimes see the start of my modification pursuits as the turning point in my outlook on life. It is almost as if body modification was, for me, the missing link that now connects all of the broadest aspects of my life (mind, body, soul, past, present, and future).
One view of the church with which I don’t necessarily agree is their goal to gain the acceptance of mainstream society. It is wonderful that they have created an organization with the power to go after any employer that fires a member of the church based solely on his or her modifications. However, the CoBM must realize that mainstream society will never and cannot be expected to understand modification in the context that we (the body modification community) do, for the very reason that they are mainstream society.
As a final note, I’d like to mention one message board poster’s assertion that body modification allows him to feel as if he has control over his life. When one steps back and considers what any religion truly has to offer the people of earth, isn’t it really just a sense of control?