It’s more of a debate than you may actually think. Since I started to tell my story and started to speak out about the dangers of lust and pornography, I’ve had to deal with the ‘nude art’ debate. I have some great friends in ministry who find nude art beautiful. I, personally, find it awkward.
Still, there are some Christians who do not have a problem with the “beauty of nakedness” displayed in public.
Personally, I don’t see the difference between a statue standing there and a person standing there buck naked. It’s always great to walk through a museum with people from church only to run face-first into a painting of a woman completely naked. It seems like a double standard, doesn’t it, Christians?
One moment we’re telling men to divert their eyes if a woman walks by in spaghetti straps and a mini skirt and to clear all questionable websites off their computers. The next, we’re telling them to stare at a painting of a naked woman (who is not their wife), and telling them to see the beauty in it.
Now, honestly, we all know the real thing is always more ‘beautiful’ than a picture of it. I’m not justifying pornography or erotica; I’m pointing out the ridiculousness of the argument for nude art. The Grand Canyon is better in person. A sunset is better in person.
It would follow that nudity is better in person. So, since we’re all about ‘celebrating the beauty of the naked human body’ let’s just line up a bunch of real life people, strip them down and stare at them all day.
Anyone else see the bizarre logic in this?
Which leads me to an e-mail I received enlightening me to the existence of Christian nudist colonies. According to the author of the e-mail, there are camps where “Bible-believing, spirit-filled, born-again Christians” enjoy life without clothes in pure, non-sexual nudity. He was even so kind as to send me a link to pictures of one such colony and asked if I would consider that pornography.
That’s a loaded question.
First, let’s tackle this idea of ‘pure non-sexual nudity.’
The Christian defense for nudist colonies and nude art stems from the same argument:
We were created naked, and enjoyed that without shame.
Nude art, nudist colonies, and even erotica (in a sense) can all be seen as a way to get back to that state. We want to get back to the place where we can be completely exposed and unashamed. We want to be in a place where we can enjoy the human body as God created it.
I don’t deny that the human body is beautiful, but I cannot deny the effects of sin on our world.
The very first thing Adam and Eve noticed when they sinned is they were naked. They recognized this as a ‘bad’ thing and attempted to cover it up. They were the only two humans on the face of the planet; so it’s not like they were embarrassed because the rabbits were checking them out. Even though they were husband and wife, and had likely been intimate, the presence of sin in their lives added an element of shame to their nakedness.
They created coverings in order to cover that.
God never removed that covering. When Adam said that they hid because they were naked, God never said, “Oh, no big deal! Come on out. Take off those fig leaves, and enjoy the beauty of my creation.”
Instead, God Himself made coverings for them. In a sense, He affirmed the shame.
The human body is beautiful. The presence of sin destroys our ability to enjoy that beauty. Adam and Eve had not been harmed sexually. There was no presence of sexual abuse or misuse, still God covered them. So, pornography isn’t what makes nudity shameful. Nudity was ‘shameful’ long before pornography existed.
(Note: I hate using shameful because I feel like it confuses the meaning of ‘shame.’ Think of it, in this context, as embarrassment.)
Further in the Old Testament, there are laws about uncovering other people’s nakedness. Needless to say, nudist colonies were not approved. In fact, right after the Ten Commandments are delivered in Exodus 20, God says this:
“And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.” (ESV)
So, public displays of nudity were not acceptable, even accidental displays (which would be the case when ascending steps to an altar). It sets this sort of sacred boundary around our nakedness, not even for sexual purposes, but just by principle.
Our clothing is a reminder of our fallen-ness.
That’s an encouraging thought for the next time you get dressed in the morning!
As for the other part of that question:
Do I consider nude art and pictures of Christian nudist colonies pornography?
Yes, I do. Why? Because I consider things like Playboy to be pornography, and one size fits all. A naked woman is a naked woman. I don’t care if she’s half-silicon, photo-shopped, stenciled, or featured in her natural habitat.
No, it isn’t pictures of people having sex, but it is nudity. So, I would say such content falls in the genre of soft-core/erotica and needs to be treated as such. That might offend some of you, and I’m sorry, but if Jesus didn’t undo a ‘symptom’ of the Fall; I don’t think we can either.2