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There is nothing shameful about the human body

But there’s something odd about wanting to appear nude in public

By on Monday, 11 June 2012

ARTWORK OF ADAM AND EVE DISPLAYED AT VATICAN MUSEUM

Christian Voice draws attention to a naked bike ride through London that took place this last Saturday, 9th June. Apparently about 1000 people were expected to take part in this “annual protest against oil dependency and the culture of cars, as well as a celebration of the human body.”I did search the Sunday Telegraph yesterday for a mention of this world-shaking event and couldn’t find anything. It obviously didn’t cause much of a stir.

Why bother to blog about it? Well – it did make me ponder a Christian response to this form of annual protest. Christian Voice points out that “despite the much-vaunted antagonism of most participants to oil and petrochemicals, none of those taking part will be stripping off their trainers, which cannot be made without petro-derivatives. Comfort apparently takes precedence over principled opposition to oil-industry products.” It’s hard to be anti-capitalist when you are enjoying the fruits of capitalism.

And the naked aspect? According to the website of the “World Naked Bike Ride” organisation, total nudity is not mandatory; rather like the famous Calendar Girls of the WI, you can employ strategic, coy means to avoid frightening the horses. The dress code is “Bare as you dare”. Given our uninhibited culture, I bet quite a lot of the participants dare quite a lot. The website also informs us that “Most riders also find [bicycling naked] exhilarating, liberating, empowering.” It adds, “It’s about body-positive values; living a healthy life in tune with our environment; establishing and projecting a positive self-image and rejecting shame.”

The little word “shame” sends ripples through my Christian consciousness. After all, what’s wrong with public nakedness? Even the law in the UK agrees that simple nudity is legal – provided there is no intent to alarm or distress; “indecent exposure”, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Yet shame matters. The first book of the Bible, embedded in the Judaeo-Christian consciousness, is Genesis. It describes Paradise, the Fall and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. The first thing they did when they sinned was to cover their bodies with foliage; what had before been innocent had become a source of shame.

We Christians believe that this Original Sin affects every member of the human race – not excluding naked bike riders. So when they speak of rejecting shame it is disingenuous, as is their contention that there is nothing wrong with non-sexual public nudity. Because of the Fall we can’t just separate the two. There is nothing shameful about the human body made by God – as artists throughout the ages have demonstrated. But subjectively we are all prone to a complex response when we see it flaunted publicly in the flesh: ribaldry, alarm and distress, curiosity and so on. We live east of Eden.

The website of the WNBR also informs us that “Seattle has a well-established naked bike ride during the Summer Solstice Parade.” Mention of the “solstice” suggests there is a neo-pagan element to this gathering. Apparently witches’ Sabbaths always include nakedness and lewd behaviour, presumably as a deliberate affront to Christian modesty and self-restraint. So there is a dodgy sub-plot here. Many years ago, when I once edited a quarterly family newspaper, an old gentleman wrote to me, asking why I didn’t include naked pictures of women on the front page. He was Catholic, happily married but somewhat eccentric obviously, and thought a Rubens or Renoir take on female flesh would be a celebratory thing for families to gaze at. I replied with a limerick:

“The Editor says she’s no prude/ for not having pics in the nude/ but since Adam and Eve/ we are taught to believe/that public exposure is rude.”

That says it. Just as all mothers give this peremptory order to their young children every morning, I am inclined to say to these World Naked Bike Riders, “Go and get dressed!”

  • AlexanderTG

    I don’t know where you get the idea that trainers require petrochemicals. Plastics do invariably include petrochemical ingredients, but shoes, boots, trainers do not have to.

    Many riders do in fact ride bare foot anyway.

    If you are looking for a report in the national press you may want to check the Guardian:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/gallery/2012/jun/10/world-naked-bike-ride-pictures?INTCMP=SRCH 

  • http://twitter.com/fl_naturist TheNaturist

    The purpose of the bike ride is to protest the heavy dependence on petrochemicals for energy. The damage extraction (ex oil sands, Gulf oil spill, etc.) and resultant pollution (methyl mercury from coal burning, etc.) are the real issues. I would think God would be rather disappointed at what poor stewards we have become of the beautiful planet He made for us. This is an area the Catholic Church is exceptionally weak on promoting stewardship. God gave us life…that life wouldn’t be very successful if it wasn’t for the planet. We have the knowledge to be far less dependent of fossil fuels, but massive subsidies continue to go to fossil fuel companies.
    The mention of capitalism is a bit weak. Capitalism doesn’t exist in this country. There is no such thing as forced low interest rates and Too Big To Fail banks (or auto companies, etc.) in a free capitalist market. Crony capitalism is what we have. This shifts the result of greed and bad decisions from those responsible, to the people to support and pay off the debt. Low interest rates rob people trying to save and encourages more debt. Debt is slavery.
    As to clothing or lack there of. When God created us, it was without clothes. When we decided to try to know all He knows is when we got in trouble. There are numerous instances of nudity in the bible. Christ stripped away his clothes to wash his disciples feet during the last supper. Job stated:’Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there.’ St. Francis stripped naked to make a point about how one needs nothing but God.

     I think there is a bit of hypocrisy from the church regarding clothes (fancy). It is expected for us to wear our Sunday best and the priests wear amazing garments in massive churches. This seems the exact opposite of Christ’s teachings. Modesty is supposed to be applied regarding appearance… Luke..’“Beware of the scribes,
    which desire to walk in long robes…’.

  • AlexanderTG

    And strangely enough, I just noticed that the Telegraph does actually cover the London ride in the “Pictures of the Day” section:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/picturesoftheday/9323897/Pictures-of-the-day-11-June-2012.html

  • C_monsta

     Good points, but I fear they are wasted on Francis – such a disingenuous character who sees nothing wrong with the unChristian displays of wealth, opulance and luxury by the Church, but can’t wait to take a pop at harmless, ordinary people trying to do a bit to protect God’s wonderful planet.

  • JByrne24

    “There is nothing shameful about the human body made by God – as artists throughout the ages have demonstrated.”

    I agree that there is nothing shameful about the human body.

    However since the early days of Christianity the human body, and sex, HAVE been considered shameful, impure and dirty (deriving this notion from Plato and Co.).

    The very painting of Adam & Eve which has been chosen to illustrate your article actually ITSELF clearly shows this feeling of shame etc, by cloaking the genitalia and associated areas, in two different ways. This is typical of almost all religious representations, and the non-religious too where the artist has been obliged to conform to Christian moralising (not “morals”, which are very different) and prudery.

    Thus: “artists throughout the ages have demonstrated”  not the truth, but rather the falseness of your (second) statement.

  • Susan

    ‘Ordinary people’ are unlikely to think of taking off all their clothes to go for a bike ride, nor would they imagine such an event has any connection with protecting the planet. As for the accusation that Francis is ‘disingenuous’, the word applies more to your own accusation. Francis has never applauded unChristian displays of wealth, nor has she disapproved of genuine efforts to protect the planet. Naked bike rides are simply a stunt for extroverts who like to appear daring and I hope they enjoyed themselves and weren’t too cold, but the planet is unaffected by their affectation.

  • C_monsta

     So what efforts have either you or Francis made to help protect the earth from the ravages of humankind? At least the cyclists actions have created thought and discussion on these issues if nothing else, as Francis and her friends sneer on
     - and Francis does in fact support the unChristian hoarding of priceless treasures, the ostentation and luxurious lifestyles within the Church.

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    Not true of Plato (and ‘co’.- which ‘co’?? Surely not Aristotle -who is the deepest influence on Catholic scholasticism). Not true of orthodox Christianity -which reacted to the gnostic denigration of matter.
    But both Plato and Christianity are aware of the tensions between flesh and spirit: that isn’t to denigrate either, but simply to mark a truth about the human condition. And it’s an awareness that’s taken up in the painting: a clear enjoyment of the aesthetic properties of flesh but (as you note) a covering of pudenda (which is also a reminder of their presence).

    You’re again displaying an incredibly simplistic view of orthodox theology here coupled with an immediate assumption that if it’s orthodox, it’s wrong.

  • JByrne24

    I am more concerned here with the falseness of Ms Phillips’ article, in as much as she seeks to show that a healthy attitude to sex and the body has always been a feature of Christian art through the ages.  

    But in the Republic, for example, sex is only an animal appetite and all other aspects of bodily function are animal and inferior to the mind. Sex is one instinct which our bodies happen to have, and one which we need on occasion to gratify in order to secure the continuance of the species. If men could restrain their appetite, so much the better. Sex and the body are irrelevant to everything save base matters.  

    As regards orthodoxy, the very high degree of moral goodness in the teachings of Jesus have always lifted my spirits. Some of the teachings, behaviour and formal actions of the Church though  - even today – make me sometimes feel that I would be better without it [the Church].
    I am well-educated (and for free!) in the normal meaning of the term, but may at heart be simple – as you suggest.

  • JByrne24

    I am more concerned here with the falseness of Ms Phillips’ article, in as much as she seeks to show that a healthy attitude to sex and the body has always been a feature of Christian art through the ages.  

    But in the Republic, for example, sex is only an animal appetite and all other aspects of bodily function are animal and inferior to the mind. Sex is one instinct which our bodies happen to have, and one which we need on occasion to gratify in order to secure the continuance of the species. If men could restrain their appetite, so much the better. Sex and the body are irrelevant to everything save base matters.  

    As regards orthodoxy, the very high degree of moral goodness in the teachings of Jesus have always lifted my spirits. Some of the teachings, behaviour and formal actions of the Church though  - even today – make me sometimes feel that I would be better without it [the Church].
    I am well-educated (and for free!) in the normal meaning of the term, but may at heart be simple – as you suggest.

  • Susan

    We obviously have different ideas about ‘priceless treasures’ and the Church and what is meant by ‘the ravages of humankind’. You sound as if people aren’t meant to live on the earth. And attempts at discussion are useless since we have no ideas in common.

  • C_monsta

    “attempts at discussion are useless since we have no ideas in common” very true – you don’t seem to care for anything but your own blinkered views.

  • Nesbyth

    Francis actually leads a very frugal life and wastes nothing. I don’t see the point in making snide remarks on this blog, which seems to me to be a light-hearted comment on the oddness of cycling in the buff…. while leaving on one’s trainers (made from petro-chemicals).

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    JB, you know I didn’t suggest you were simple! But you do seem to be taking an extremely simplistic view of a very complex tradition. Of course, at times, in 2000 years, some Catholics at some stages have put an odd emphasis on certain aspects. But it’s unreasonable for an intelligent educated Catholic like yourself to fasten onto the most simplistic understanding and then, to cap it all, reject it precisely because it is so simplistic and obviously wrong.

    On Plato, in the Republic, his main emphasis is not on rejecting the body, but on rejecting the desiderative and affective parts of the soul: so it’s less a mind/body opposition than an intellect/feeling opposition. (And that’s certainly not carried over into Aristotle.) [Edit: and, on reflection, even 'rejecting' is too strong for the affections etc in the Republic: more like 'disciplining'.]

    It really won’t do to develop a ‘Horrid History’ understanding of Western thought: ‘It was all rubbish until the Beatles came along and made it all better.’

  • Nesbyth

    People generally have always worn clothes, from animal skins to woven fabrics, as a protection from the elements and to maintain a certain modesty (not a word that you may agree with or like, but people usually look a lot better dressed!)….even in hot countries, some covering is used, and indeed, in many hot countries most are covered almost completely to protect from the sun. There is nothing specifically Christian about it.
    But to take to the road naked on a bike is, when one thinks about it, really rather unusual…

  • Nick in London

    I’m a Christian and concerned about what we are doing to the planet’s natural resources. When I saw that Christian Voice were opposing this demonstration I decided I had to act – by stripping off too and joining the protestors to see what it was about.
    This article is wrong to generalise about Christian attitudes towards public nudity and assume they have always been identical to today. Three examples spring immediately to mind: Francis of Assisi walking away from his father’s house completely naked down the road, Lady Godiva’s ride through Coventry (she was mostly a very devout Christian patroness), and the founders of the Quaker movement running naked through the streets. There are others, and it’s worth adding that public nudity was far more usual at the time of the very early church than it is today.This couldn’t happen in the traditions of some other faiths I’m sure, but in Christian countries there are many precedents for public nudity, as a form of protest and even as a sign of simple innocence (Blessed Basil of Moscow is another). I must admit I was very unsure at the start of the ride – so much so I got dressed almost immediately and thought about heading home because it felt a bit loutish, for want of a better word. It was only after watching the public reaction for a few minutes that I realised nobody was being offended or even looking away, so I joined in again. I’d do it again next year, it was provocative and thought-provoking, but in no way sinful.

  • Reader

    Oh dear, here come
    those deluded nudist apologists who have conned themselves into thinking that
    nudity has absolutely nothing to do with sex, no sir. It doesn’t take too long
    to find the perverted, kinky stuff in the nudist community, despite their false
    mantras and lies.

    Read this to find out more about swingers
    in the nudist community, amongst other things

     

    http://site.themarriagebed.com/christian-nudism

     

  • Mike G

    What makes me wince about it is what could happen if you fell off a bike while in the buff. At least a clothed cyclist would have some sort of protection against the damage caused when bare skin needs road (and I write from painful experience of cycling in shorts and T-shirts in the summer and taking the odd tumble). I prefer less painfully risks forms of protest…

  • Mike G

    Don’t forget Jain monks in the Digambara tradition who do not wear clothes…

  • AlexanderTG

    It doesn’t take long to find sexual scandal in the Catholic church does it! That doesn’t mean that the two are inextricably linked.

  • stevecastle

    I took part in the London WNBR and enjoyed every minute. It raised thousands of smiles, laughs and cheers. Several onlookers asked  what it was about so the message was getting across. There were three negative comments. I did not feel any shame in being naked, in fact it felt right. Yes I drive a car, I also use plastics and other oil-based products. Lets just use less – keep it sustainable. As for my body, I’ve only one so I intend to make the most of it. 

  • Nick in London

    Yes, people should read that article you’ve linked to, because it contradicts your opening sentence. Even its author, who is rejecting nudism, writes: “First off, it really is not about sex (for most). There are some men who get interested for the wrong reasons, but they are soon disappointed.” I’ve only known one couple at a naturist club who were into swinging, and they always criticised the place as being boring, then eventually left.
    You can find “perverted, kinky stuff” in any community: naturists are a very easy target and do need to remain mindful of that fact. I personally don’t believe in the idea of Christian naturism, or nudism, because the two don’t inform each other, like being a Christian and a golfer or a Christian and a train spotter. Nudity per se does not violate any fundamental Christian beliefs.
    I would add that naturism is mostly a European phenomenon so might not fit so comfortably in other cultures at this point in time.

  • Reader

    AlexanderTG – Stop repeating the Pedophile Church fallacy. The rates of abuse were no higher than anywhere else, and in fact lower than that found in families.

    Nick In London – I see you’ve cherry picked from the article. Glad you agree with the rest that states that nudism has inherently perverted elements such as swinging.

    As for it being a European phenomenon, a quick Google search will tell you that it’s going into terminal decline over there.

  • AlexanderTG

     I don’t know where you got the information about paedophile rates in the catholic church being normal. In any case, I’d have thought you might hope for the church to be setting an example to the rest of society, The real issue of course is that the church was apparently caught trying to gloss over the problem. Something which you too appear rather eager to do.

    It does seem rather strange, since we’re on the subject, that accusations of sex scandal in the catholic church are according to you all “fallacy” whereas the same accusations against the naturist community are all perfectly valid, based it seems entirely on some article which which you’ve dredged up.

  • Nick in London

    As Alexander TG has also spotted, I did enjoy the irony of being accused of ‘cherry-picking’ through the article about naturism. I only got as far as the second paragraph before realising it contradicted your opening statement. I do agree with you on one thing: tarnishing everyone in a community with the same brush is indeed a fallacy.
    I’m hazarding a wild guess here, but I suspect I have more experience of naturism, and know more naturists, than you do – including a Catholic priest and an elderly monk. I am certain as can be that neither of them are perverts. I even knew one lady who was given some sort of papal knighthood – she passed away a couple of years ago, a lifelong naturist and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. She might have had an obituary in the Catholic Herald in fact, I must see if I can find it.
    And I am European, so I don’t need to rely on quick Google searches to find out about the extent of naturism here. As it happens my final statement will now come up in a Google search, so I can cite it as evidence for my own case because I’m developing a taste for circular logic: naturism in Europe is not going into terminal decline.

  • frank

    There are cogent reasons for the requirement that we wear clothes in public.  Children are often upset by the behavior of naked adults.  Also, there are those who use their bodies to act in a threatening way towards others.  One example – there are popular public beaches in our community, which have sections called “nude beaches”  Sometimes families stroll down these beach strands, enjoying the ocean.  As they reach the nude beach section, naked men rise up and start running towards them.  The reason for this is intimidation – these naked folk want to reserve these stretches of public beach for their own usage, and they realize that ordinary people, strollers, and families, if left alone, will open the beach for all.  We need to understand this – that there are real and important reasons for wearing clothes in public places – it is for the protection of women, children, and the weak, and it eliminates the threatening behavior of these nude bullies. 

  • http://twitter.com/fl_naturist TheNaturist

     Rates of abuse vs other groups is a sorry excuse. There is no excuse. The priest is the most trusted person in the Church community. Abuse rates should be non-existent. Instead KNOWN offenders were moved around..and committed more crimes. Granted now, the Church seems to have a better handle on the issue, but damage to children has been done…naked cyclists are not responsible for this.

    As to painting naturist/nudists are perverted… God created us nude..plain and simple. Yes, in the US, nudity seems to be associated with sex unfortunately. Other countries (such as the UK where this article was written) have a better control over their hollywood associated attire. There are also some remaining indigenous populations around the world that wear little to nothing. If one follows your logic, they should be locked in sexual mode 24/7. This is not the case.

    Clothing orginally is a matter of practicality. Cold=clothes….hot..not so much. Naturists/nudists revolt against the stigma that clothing represents. This about how barraged we are day after day about style…what to wear, what brand is popular, what star is wearing what. This IS perversion. This is Vanity. This is the fancy ‘cloaks and robes’ spoken of in the bible.

    The purpose of WNBR is to draw attention to an area the Church (in my view) lacks dramatically….stewardship of our most wonderful planet. Though lip service is paid occasionally, I have never heard of a ministry for nature (save for St. Francis). God made the planet and then us….I think we should work harder on taking care of it as well as each other.

  • Reader

    TheNaturist and AlexanderTG

     

    Please see Nikki Craft’s research on her website Nudist Hall
    of Shame about paedophiles in nudism for additional information.

     

    As for indigenous populations, many of them have heinous
    practices such as female circumcision, and child sacrifice. We shouldn’t necessarily
    look to them for our moral compass. Also, their child brides, and practice of
    having multiple wives would suggest that sex is far freer in countries with
    more nudity. Additionally, many cultures that wear little clothing still wear
    some form of protection, such as a gourd and mark their bodies as a form of
    status. One of the reasons for nudism is egalitarianism, which would fly in the
    face of that (tribal, chieftain status).

     

    NickinLondon –

     

    Your personal anecdotal evidence about some religious people
    being nudists, and your own personal knowledge of the nudist numbers in Europe doesn’t really cut it. Firstly, check the stats in
    news sources. Secondly, religious people are humans like the rest of us (despite
    priests, monsatics and nuns having an office worthy of respect) and the vice of
    hypocrisy undoubtedly tempts them. I respect the priesthood but definitely not
    the person behind the collar if they are vile sinners, some of whom should be
    cast into the dankest prison for the rest of their lives.  I consider being a nudist while proclaiming
    oneself as holy as a major form of hypocrisy and dishonesty, but I will leave
    God to judge the person. I can still detest their sins and wish to stop them
    afflicting others. Hate the sin, love the sinner. I wonder if these nudists
    would dare tell their congregation about their lifestyle. Probably not!

     

    Nudism violates the natural law because it denies the stain
    of original sin. Genitals are still genitals. Genitals are used in sex and are
    therefore attractive. Cover them up. Also, consider this: The flagship nudist
    magazine in the UK
    had an article in it defending swinging in the nudist context. Many FKK
    wellness spas are actually brothels in Germany. In nudist literature,
    resorts are advertised along side “Adults only” swinging hotels. It’s just bizarre
    stuff.   

     

     

     

  • AlexanderTG

    Listen to yourself you lunatic. You’ve gone from accusing all nudists of being perverts and swingers, based on some dodgy article you found, to blaming female circumcision on a population’s propensity for nudity. Everything you say seems to fall somewhere between hilarious and insane.

    I’m not going to read Nikki Craft’s research since I almost lost the will to live reading the last drivel you recommended, which incidentally didn’t even come close to defending your point of view.

  • AlexanderTG

    Oh look at that, I’ve been moderated for questioning Reader’s sanity.

  • AlexanderTG

    Oh look at that, I’ve been moderated for questioning Reader’s sanity.

  • AlexanderTG

    I’ll put this another way in the hope that I don’t get deleted this time. Reader, we’re talking about a couple of hundred people having fun on bicycles in London. How do you get from there to nudity being responsible for female circumcision and child sacrifice? Is this a rational argument?

  • http://twitter.com/fl_naturist TheNaturist

    “People generally have always worn clothes,”
    I disagree. there are (the few remaining) indigenous tribes in warm climates wear very little to nothing, save for items they carry with them ( Mursi, Surma, Nuba, Karimojong, Kirdi, Dinka and sometimes Massai
    people in Africa, as well as Matses, Yanomami, Suruwaha, Xingu, Matis
    and Galdu people in South America.). Certainly colder climates clothing was/is used for protection.
    Historical accounts from Egypt, Greece and Rome (original Olympics) are quite clear the status of clothing (or lack there of). Norse cultures had the same for saunas, swimming, etc..
    There are numerous accounts (ships logs) when new peoples were discovered (warm weather/climate) by European explorers, they wore little to nothing. Modesty had nothing to do with it…it was practicality. Garments/adornments worn were/are for status symbol (wealth/power/prowess) than modesty.

  • http://twitter.com/fl_naturist TheNaturist

    “Nudism violates the natural law because it denies the stain
    of original sin. ”

    God made us in His image…nude. Original sin occurred when man/woman desired the knowledge of God and disobeyed Him, not because they were nude.

    Labeling every naturist/nudist a pedophile is the same mentality as labeling every priest as one. A child has an exponentially higher chance of being molested by a relative than a nudist/naturist.

    As to Nikki Craft:”

    Craft was arrested in August 1984 while sunbathing at the Cape Cod National Seashore; she refused to put on her shirt.[6] She later organized a class action suit funded by the Naturist Society
    against the federal government, which manages the Seashore. Later in
    the proceedings, she and others withdrew from the case because the
    Society’s attorney had made concessions to the respondents related to
    clothing requirements for Seashore visitors that included gender
    distinctions, specifically, the covering of women’s breasts.

    Yes she did later disassociate herself with some organizations.  There is the unfortunate move of porn purveyors to corrupt natruism/nudism and have events, claiming to be NN when they aren’t….it is promotional for their ‘products’.

    As to your claim about indigenous…you are blatantly wrong (for the most part…there are few African (northern) that practice this..none in the south). No indigenous in South America or Indian Pacific practice this. The largest group that has female abuse/circumcision isn’t indigenous tribes…it happens to be a major religion (Christianity and Judaism were also practicing in the past). Historical accounts of Europeans discovering new islands lands, show the people wore little to nothing. The abuse came at the hands of those claiming to be doing God’s work and conversion of those people. This is extremely well documented. This was the perversion.

  • Nick in London

    We were at a monastery recently and there were some very artistic photographs of a monk facing the sun setting over the sea – a silhouette but my wife spotted that he was actually wearing nothing. The same monk appeared in adjacent shots with a loose robe on sitting on rocks – they were lovely photos that conjured up the ancient history and traditions of the place in a charming and very innocent way. There is a great world religion that would perhaps describe him as committing a sin, but it isn’t Christianity.
    Nude bathing was not only widespread in the early medieval church it was occasionally seen as proof of sanctity among a few who practised it in the cold winter months. In fact according to your comments, baptismal candidates in the early church were in the process of committing a sin at the same time that they were being baptised, which would take quite a dextrous theologian to explain.Most naturists are fairly discreet about their interest, probably because they fear reactions from people like you. I personally have spent years promoting the church very publicly, and everyone knows I’m a naturist too – I’ve never had a negative reaction from anyone, Christian or otherwise. I know it’s a bit different in America, but you’re not all of Puritan tradition.The human body can’t be inherently indecent, sin-provoking or offensive for one simple reason: Jesus had one.

  • Reader

     

    NickinLondon

     

    You mention the medieval period, and the period of late
    antiquity when early Christians were baptised.

     

    In certain countries in earlier centuries, bathing was done
    naked, as were some early Christian baptisms. In the medieval period, more
    people were connected with the soil. Many were farmers. They saw animals
    mating, and defecating in the open. They wouldn’t have sheltered the eyes of
    their children like today. It was a time of little privacy. There would have
    been no separate bedrooms, and large families lived in close quarters. There
    was no privacy. Times have changed. People have a greater understanding of
    privacy, and most people crave it. People who aren’t married don’t want to
    share rooms. Given this greater understanding of privacy in today’s world, I
    don’t believe you can apply what was custom hundreds of years ago (due to
    necessity and atrocious living conditions) to today’s world.

     

    As for the ancient world, nudity was still considered to be
    shameful because it represented poverty or a low profession rather than being
    necessarily sexual. The Greeks made fun of the Spartan practice of nudity (their
    sexual practices were equally as bad as the Greeks) and the reason why
    Archimedes running down the street naked was memorable to the Greeks was
    because he was naked, not because he was simply running around. Odysseus was
    ashamed when he washed up on the shore naked and tried to cover himself with
    leaves. For sure, the Greeks were liberal with nudity, but that was typically
    at one of their many Symposiums where aristocratic men would get quite blind
    drunk, and typically commit the sin of sodomy.

     

    The Roman Empire wasn’t
    much different, but they were more heterosexual. The Romans indeed had public
    baths where people were naked. However, they were quite sexualised. St Augustine writes of
    getting “excited” while bathing in a public bath at the sight of an attractive
    woman, and his parents congratulating him for his virility (see Confessions of a
    Sinner).

     

    The Christians, in the Classical context, clearly saw nudity
    as being a sign of poverty, lowliness and vulnerability and indeed something
    one wouldn’t flaunt outside of the ceremony, unless you were “one of those
    pagans” or you had one of the poorest professions that people looked down upon.

     

    Clearly then, time has moved on. We live in a pornographic
    age. Walking around naked is no longer a sign of poverty or a low profession
    such as being a fisherman, or an accepted fact of life due to atrocious living
    standards, but either a sign of mental illness if you aren’t attractive, or
    something sexually daring (nudge nudge wink wink) today. Again, we live in the
    pornographic age. The vast majority of adult men, sadly, look at pornography. The
    models there are naked. Clothed pornography one would imagine, wouldn’t sell
    very well. Nudity is very much sexual. Nudists are causing a scandal.

     

    And if we want to quote scripture “Therefore,
    if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again,
    so that I will not cause him to fall” – 1 Corinthians 8:13

     

    Also, Jesus having a human body was mainly a sign of his
    humility and the weakness of the human body.

     

    The
    Naturist –

     

    Original
    sin meant that Adam and Eve were aware of their nudity and ashamed.

     

    I’m also
    well aware of the nudist interpretation of this, which isn’t found any where
    else in Christianity, and quite frankly, doesn’t make sense.

     

     

    Alexander TG –

     

    I was referring to TheNaturist’s post where s/he stated that there were still indigenous
    populations that went without clothing. My counter-argument was that these
    indigenous populations practice some quite vile things without feeling that
    they are doing anything wrong. Clearly, they shouldn’t be used as a moral
    compass.

  • AlexanderTG

    Every civilisation does awful things, often in the name of some God, believing that it is the right thing to do. What’s your point?

  • Nick in London

    How can you describe the ‘sin’ of nudity as a major form of hypocrisy and dishonesty in one post, and then go on to admit it is so culturally dependent it wasn’t even a sin at one stage in the Christian era.
    If you do believe we can change the notion of sin so completely and ought to live only by today’s standards, then following a 2,000 year-old religion must present quite a few other challenges too. And in any case, there are countries in the world where outdoor nudity remains acceptable in the appropriate context – as a walk through Berlin’s parks would quickly demonstrate. America’s puritan-inspired values are not the benchmark for the rest of the world to follow, nor the benchmark to judge all of human history. The early church did emerge in a simpler and more innocent age, and I for one refuse to allow modern-day pornography to dictate any of my values.

  • Reader

     

    NickinLondon -

     

    Following a 2,000 year old religion like Christianity
    doesn’t pose any problems in terms of worship. The most problematic field is in
    terms of morality. Problems with morality are extremely important in terms of
    eternal life, as the wages of sin are, indeed, unmentionable.

     

    As for Berlin (and also Munich) having clothing optional “sections” of parks, Berlin is probably the most notorious city in Germany
    in terms of morality. Berlin was the centre of
    the Weimar Republic where there was so much excess,
    and a shameful rejection of Christianity amongst the cultural centres. Importantly,
    it was out of this quite pagan, völkisch back-to-the-land environment that the
    FKK arose. By their fruits ye shall know them. As for Munich, nudity was only practiced as a result
    of the hippie movement in the 1960s. The hippie movement was terribly
    anti-Christian and its gloomy effects are still very apparent today.

     

    Regarding your last point, with all due respect, I think you
    need to be a realist. We live in a pornographic age. The Bible exhorts you to
    do nothing which could lead anyone else into sin. “Therefore, if what I eat
    causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will
    not cause him to fall” – 1 Corinthians 8:13”. 

     

    Nudism isn’t worth it.

     

    Alexander TG –

     

    Nudists very often use arguments that “so and so people do this”,
    and “historically so and so people did that”. These are not conclusive
    arguments, especially when they are based on a faulty understanding of history
    (unfortunately, nudists often get their “historical facts” wrong). It’s not
    good enough to say that nudity is acceptable in one cultural group or was
    acceptable in one historical epoch, especially when its moral influence has
    long since ceased (other influences, say, could still exist).

     

    We need to consider something in light of our reason and the
    faculties God has given us to deduce whether it is right or wrong along with
    following the wisdom and the guidance of the Church. History and cultural
    relativism (moral relativism has rightly been called an erroneous form of
    meta-ethics by the Catholic Church) is quite far away from establishing whether
    something is right.

  • Nick in London

    I’ll have to tell my elderly German aunts then that they are sinners for sunbathing at their local lakes and in their gardens. It will surprise them greatly as they are all active churchgoers, and have been telling me very sadly that their churches are empty these days. If they’re cast out too then soon there will be nobody left at all, just you in America and that’s it! One of them lives in a town called Regensburg in Bavaria, which has FKK bathing in a nearby lake where I first encountered it – would you write off the residents of that entire town too?
    Anyway, I’ll never accept that the human body has to be surrendered as a pornographic object only. There is absolutely nothing sexual, indecent or sinful about the nude beach environments I visit. I know there are said to be some bad ones but I don’t go to them so am not in a position to comment.

  • Reader

    My advice
    is – Do or do not do something based on morality, not because people you know do it.

     

    And, I
    never said that the body is solely pornographic. I’m saying that nudists will
    be judged by God for being a temptation to others in totally avoidable and unnecessary
    situations. The Bible is quite clear. You seem to want to take risks on a topic
    that the vast majority of Christians find sinful. You can’t say that you were
    never told.
     

  • Nick in London

    “The vast majority of Christians find sinful”.Well, there’s you and that’s just about it: simple nudity is not considered sinful by any Christian I know. And I must be the only Christian in the world guilty of a sin that I’m unable to confess about, because my priest (very much NOT a naturist himself) has told me many times that it’s perfectly OK if it’s just nude swimming and sunbathing. Which indeed it is.

  • Reader

    NickinLondon

    Regarding the Bible verse about doing nothing that will cause your brother to sin, perhaps you and your associates have overlooked that requirement.

    Also, all the Biblical commentaries I have ever read (Catholic and Protestant)
    link Adam and Eve’s awareness of nakedness and original sin (including concupiscence) together.
    I’d imagine you could find these commentaries quite easily online on Bible websites. Also, I’m aware of the Christian nudist interpretation, but these have absolutely no support outside of the nudist Christian community.

    As
    for your simple nudity argument, finding the boundaries would be quite
    difficult I’d imagine. If the human body isn’t shameful in its simple
    state, why do people cut their hair, clip their nails, and close the
    bathroom door when they need to go to the toilet?

    Regarding
    confession –I’d find another priest. Unfortunately, there are
    uninformed priests out there who make a mess out of moral theology.

  • Reader

     NickinLondon – I have started a new thread.

  • Nick in London

    With around a billion Catholics on the planet it may be that by lucky chance I happen to have encountered the only one who is actually perfect in every regard, but the odds are rather stacked against it. I don’t believe in quoting short Bible verses at other people to prove they are sinful, so I’m not going to enter a tit for tat exchange with you. There is nothing in the Bible that gives anything like a judgement about the specific issue of naturism, it’s only been around for 150 years or so at most. Attitudes towards nudity were so different in earlier times you can’t simply map the two on to each other. We might as well argue about whether the Bible condemns or approves of lightbulbs or toothpaste. You should read the Koran’s version of the Garden of Eden, perhaps, because it does shed some light on your interpretation.
    As for confession, I’m hardly going to start hunting around until I find a priest who is prepared to pronounce a blanket condemnation of nudity when swimming or sunbathing. Apart from anything else I don’t live in America so the search would take rather a long time. There are plenty of medieval churches within a short drive of my home and all the ones that have wall paintings show naked figures, sometimes dozens of them. You will just have to accept that some differences are cultural, and that not everybody has identical opinions to your own.

  • Reader

     

    I believe
    that you’re glossing over the most important event in the history of humanity
    before the coming of Christ – the fall and original sin. Comparing human
    sexuality and original sin to toothpaste with regards to Biblical exegesis comes across
    as disingenuous. The Bible contains holy texts inspired by the Holy Ghost. You
    cannot dismiss them like a secular anthropologist.  

     

    As for
    naked figures in art, artistic works with nudity have a long history. To cut a
    long story short, paintings are no where near as titillating as a real, naked
    human being before one’s eyes.

  • Nick in London

    As you know, I compared skinny-dipping to other morally neutral developments in modern life. None of them can be compared to original sin, or even to Christian and early church teaching on sin generally. You’ve hijacked the concept of sin and distorted it to your own cultural preferences in order to pass judgement on me. But as I say you also have to pass judgement on many past generations of Christians too.

    St Francis of Assisi was according to your narrow view of the world committing a sexual sin when he publicly stripped off his clothing to renounce the rich life of his father. That is all that nudity means to you – sex – even though it is used at several points in the Gospels and rest of the Bible to mean something different, particularly poverty (which isn’t a sin either). There is nothing whatsoever that makes a nude beach more titillating than an ordinary beach – I’ve been to dozens and actually find them more relaxed and natural than the scantily clad ones. St Francis of Assisi also used to strip off in order to counter the ‘promptings of the flesh’: much as you hate the idea, this is still possible today if approached in the right spirit.

  • Reader

     

    Here is where I think you’re wrong. You can compare nudity
    to sex because it has a permanent association. Toothpaste, to refer to your
    earlier post, doesn’t. Carnal knowledge came out of original sin. The awareness
    of nudity was linked to that. Before, they were naked and unashamed. After …
    you know the rest. Once more, I direct you to Bible commentaries on the
    passages in Genesis. Undoubtedly, they would have been inspired from earlier
    interpretations. The fact remains – you have a very rare and unique
    interpretation of the matter. The reason it is so rare is because it is
    completely counter intuitive. I must admit, I find it amusing they you believe
    that my views are limited to myself, or words to that effect.

     

    As for St. Francis of Assisi
    – note: he wasn’t taking of his clothes for naked leisure and the feeling of
    comfort. He was doing it as a sign of extreme, extreme poverty. He didn’t “enjoy”
    or experience bodily pleasure in doing it.  Remember how in a previous post I talked about
    the association, amongst common people, of nudity with shame.  Remember, St Francis called the body “brother
    ass”, not some beautiful instrument in its own right on which the nudists wax
    lyrical about. Nudists take off their clothes for enjoyment, not asceticism
    like St. Francis. Pagan Greco-Roman theology, the Völkisch movements, and crypto-Christian
    ways of thinking are another matter entirely.  

  • Reader

     And by crypto-Christian I mean pseudo-Christian, not “hidden Christians”.

  • Nick in London

    Compare and contrast the following statements in your post: “you can compare nudity to sex because it has a permanent association”… “St Francis wasn’t taking off his clothes for naked leisure and the feeling of comfort… He didn’t ‘enjoy’ or experience bodily pleasure in doing it.”
    One or other of these can be correct, but not both.