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What About “Christian” Nudity?

omphaloi

 

Nudity.

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.

Photo:  Yersinia / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

6 comments

  1. I thought I was the only one who felt this way. So many times I have been tripped up by publically acceptable pornography. I would really like to take classes in art as an adult, however I don’t want to be exposed to the nude model. Why can’t you teach me to draw people wearing clothing???? Why do they have to be naked? I digress…
    The point is that as a child I was first exposed to hard-core porn at 6 years of age and was quickly hooked. I then had no access so I turned to things such as paintings, statues, and other art as a substitute (this was pre-internet days). I wish that substitute had not been available. I hurt for the children like me who now have ready access to hardcore porn and wonder how much more broken they will grow up to be than I did. It saddens me.

  2. I don’t believe that the human condition is inherrently evil.Jesus has raised us up.However,sin still exists.The sin is not nudity ;it is lust.Can nudity be a precursor to lust?Yep,gateways to sin are abundant.It is especially dangerous to those for whom an addiction to lust has become a personal demon.For some M’s David is just a beautiful rendition of a young strong human.For other’s it is dangerous.For some peanuts are deadly.For others they’re just a nutritious part of reality.

  3. I’m a Christian, and I go to a Southern Baptist church in Texas. I’ve also been a nude model for college art classes for almost 29 years. So I have to respectfully disagree with much of what you say in this post.

    This attitude that nudity somehow equals sex or that viewing a nude body will lead someone into lust is a lie. Our bodies were made in the image and likeness of God; therefore, our bodies, in and of themselves, are good and wholesome, clothed or unclothed. It was Adam and Eve who tried to cover themselves after their fall, not God. Why would God want to cover His own image? And once God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, He gave them animal skins to use to protect themselves from the now sometimes harsh environment outside the Garden (and by killing the animals for their skins, He gave Adam and Eve their first taste of the wages of sin, death).

    Nudity, even public nudity, was never condemned as sinful in the Bible. In fact, God commanded the prophet Isaiah to go naked throughout the land for three years. “…at that time the LORD spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and loose the sackcloth from your waist and take off your sandals from your feet,” and he did so, walking naked and barefoot. Then the LORD said, “As my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and Cush…” (Isaiah 20:2-3 ESV). Apparently, Isaiah wasn’t the only one who received such a commandment. Look at King Saul in 1 Samuel 19:24 (ESV): “And he too stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay naked all that day and all that night. Thus it is said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”” Judging from the people’s reaction, prophesying and public nudity seemed to go hand-in-hand in Old Testament times. Would God command someone to do something that was sinful? I would say no.

    I believe that Jesus Himself was crucified naked. The Bible says that Roman soldiers cast lots for His clothes, and the historical record tells us that it was a standard practice of the Romans to crucify prisoners naked. Personally, I find it interesting that before mankind’s original sin, man was naked, and that the One who redeemed us from sin did so while naked.

    When I step onto a modeling platform in a life drawing class and drop the robe, I am both humbling myself and practicing the most extreme kind of modesty. Whenever I read the word modesty in the Bible, I have to define it, based on contextual clues, as avoiding the practice of putting on adornment (braiding of hair, putting on of gold jewelry, etc.) to show off one’s stature, as if one were boasting. Today’s parallel would be the wearing of expensive designer clothes, displaying expensive jewelry, or any other way in which people dress to show how well off they are, either socially or financially. 1 Peter 3:3-4 (ESV) says “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” What then could be more modest than removing everything that might, in someone’s eyes, elevate my own status? Isn’t that what being humble is all about? Wasn’t Christ showing true humility when he allowed himself to be stripped naked and hung on a cross to die for our sins when none of us deserved it?

    When I’m on the model stand nude, I am pure. I am there just as God created me, with nothing artificial. Most life drawing rooms have a skeleton available both for drawing and for study, and I am always fascinated whenever I look at one. The structure of the shoulders, with the clavicles in front and scapula’s in back, seems impossibly complex when you also consider the muscle structure that has to be involved to make the bone structure work. And the pelvis is a wonder, with its complex shape, the way that it supports the internal organs above it and how the rounded tops of the femurs fit inside to make the hip joints which enable us to walk. The human body truly is God’s greatest creation and is worthy of artistic study. In fact, I can’t think of a subject in creation more worthy. It is, after all, made in that image of God. I love allowing art students to study my body, to draw the shape of my spine, the curve of my hip without the interruption of a waistband or any other apparel.

    There is a website called mychainsaregone.org put together by several ministers. On it, they describe what most in the church would call unorthodox methods for overcoming a pornography addiction. The first thing they try to do is debunk the “pornographic view” of the human body. I probably don’t have the space to go into everything they say, but the site is worth checking out…

    1. Dan, I appreciate your perspective. I disagree with it, but I have read it.

      I don’t think my post ‘pornified’ the naked body, in fact, I agree with you that the human body is beautiful, and we are right to want to celebrate that beauty. I also want to point out that many tribal cultures, even those with no exposure to pornographic culture or ‘modesty’ at least cover the genitals after puberty.

      The question I tried to answer in this post, since it is the one I was asked, is if we can, post-Fall, truly celebrate the beauty, and even still, after reading your argument, my answer is no.

      Not because the human body is ugly or because nudity=lust, but because of sin. Because of sin, viewing a naked body CAN lead someone to lust (which is why I’ve disabled the link to your page, for the record). Does it always? No. Is that why it’s wrong? No.

      Let me try and respond to some of your points, not wishing to start a debate but wishing to answer them.

      “Why would God want to cover His own image? And once God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, He gave them animal skins to use to protect themselves from the now sometimes harsh environment outside the Garden.”

      That reason is not provided in Scripture. Neither is mine, fair enough. However, if history, Scripture, and creation science is to be believed, the environment didn’t change until the Flood. Adam and Eve would have still lived in a paradise, of sorts, yes with a little more grunt work, but there is no indication that there was a climate change at all. In fact, the lack of rain until the Flood would indicate a mild, unchanging Pre-flood climate- no snow, no rain, no change in sun intensity, no drastic change in temperature and little wind.

      “Nudity, even public nudity, was never condemned as sinful in the Bible.”
      Nor is it praised as Godly. I would draw your attention to Exodus 20:26, and Exodus 28:42 where God gives instructions specifically for the purpose of not revealing nakedness to those who were worshipping Him. If nakedness were OK, then why wouldn’t the priests minister naked? Why would God give specific instructions to the contrary? I would also draw your attention to Leviticus 18.

      In fact, in the Bible, most cases of nakedness are tied to shame. This is not some new 21st century conjuring of ours:
      Isaiah 47:3
      Lamentations 1:8
      Ezekiel 16:3-37
      Micah 1:11
      Nahum 3:5
      Revelation 3:18
      Shame seems to be Adam and Eve’s initial reaction to their nakedness, and again, God never removed that shame. In fact, throughout Scripture, He continues to use that shame as an illustration.

      In response to your examples:
      Isaiah- the remainder of the passage reads “As my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and Cush, so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptian captives and the Cushite exiles, both the young and the old, naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered, the nakedness of Egypt. Then they shall be dismayed and ashamed because of Cush their hope and of Egypt their boast.”

      First off, God had to specifically command Isaiah to walk around naked. Isaiah wasn’t already doing this. The reason God had him do this was for a sign that exiles would be led away naked, and what would that lead to? shame.

      For Saul- the other prophets referenced were the ones with him, so the case cannot be made that down through the ages prophesy and nudity go hand in hand. Did it happen? Yes. By specific commandment, just as Hosea was commanded to marry an active prostitute, as a sign.

      Yes, I likewise believe that Jesus was crucified naked. That was standard for crucifixions, but not for the beauty. It’s highly unlikely that the Roman soldiers said, “Let’s strip the prisoners down so we can celebrate the beauty of their bodies.” No, everything about the crucifixion, especially that of Christ (crown of thorns, beating, plucking out his beard) was centered around mockery and shame. So again, nudity is associated with shame, and STILL God never removes that. Even when Jesus shows Himself after He has resurrected, He’s clothed.

      I recently stumbled upon a great article about how our need for clothing reminds us of the Fall (when I track it down again, I’ll share the link). It’s not about lust and being over-sexualized. Adam and Eve weren’t over-sexualized and still felt shame.

      Like I said in the post, it isn’t a popular opinion, and I’m OK with that. I have many friends who see nothing wrong with nude art. There’s even a man who runs a Christian erotica blog coming from your exact perspective- it’s sex; it’s beauty; why not enjoy it!? He stops by every now and then to comment and we’ve agreed to disagree. He thinks I’m a sexually-repressed female and I think he’s lost his mind.

      I know, based on the fact that you’ve been a nude model for 29 years, that you aren’t going to agree no matter how I spin it, but I want to make it clear that I don’t believe the human body is ‘pornified.’ I believe that, like our ability to enjoy intimate, unhindered fellowship with God, our ability to enjoy the human body without shame is also tainted by the reality of sin.

    2. Thank you Dan for so ably stating the case for the Christian enjoyment of nudity. You speak from years of experience, a pure heart, and from having studied the issues well. This is an issue about which the Church needs fresh thinking and more clear theology.

      And while I disagree with her and have taken the opposite position completely, not only has Jessica stated her position well, she has been kind and brave enough to leave your well reasoned post intact.

      1. One thing we are gravely missing in the church is the ability to discuss topics about which we have differing opinions. At the end of the day, each of us only has one perspective. The only way we gain other perspectives, and therefore empathy, understanding, and ‘three-dimensional’ view on a topic is to discuss it with each other, especially those who we don’t agree with. To that end, I try to be fair. If someone approaches me with an opinion that is well-thought out and supported and they are open to discussion, I see no harm in sharing it. I feel like those discussions help everyone grow, even if it doesn’t change either party’s opinion. Agreeing to disagree about issues of unimportance is a grace for the most part missing in our circles.