NUDISM, NATURISM, GYMNOSOPHY, AND BODY FREEDOM
IS NAKEDNESS A SIN?
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IS NAKEDNESS A SIN?
I've heard that sometimes... "Don't you know that nakedness is a sin? Adam sinned and was ashamed of his nakedness. God saw fit to clothe Adam to cover the shame of his body and exposing ourselves to other people is a sin!"
There is only one response to this.
You are absolutely right! Adam through his sin, was ashamed of his nakedness. You believe that this is still the case, but I have good news to declare to you! Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, gave himself as a ransom sacrifice to redeem us from the sin of Adam and to fulfill the Law of Moses. Adam's shame is no longer upon us.
Why haven't you ever heard that in Church, I wonder?
Galatians 5:24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
Just like ideas like men wearing skirts, this society frowns on nakedness, considering it 'indecent'. This is an aftertaste of Victorian prudishness, however, and not entirely Adam's fault.
It's interesting to note God's response to Adam's shame: Genesis 3:11 "And he said, "Who told you that you were naked?"
Since there weren't any other people, who were they hiding from? From God. They weren't spiritually mature enough to appreciate that we are ALL naked in the sight of God. God can see you naked right now. Kinda creepy, ain't it? God made garments of skins for Adam, but the Bible does not say the state of nakedness is being condemned. Because of the Fall, Adam and Eve were no longer in Eden and were thus subject to the varieties of weather and climate, and God knew they would need clothes. God loved and cared for them even after they had sinned.
Some interesting questions arise in the context of Genesis. If I am created in God's Image, who can call the Image of God shameful or sinful? If I am created in God's Image, who would call that image indecent except for the Evil One? If God made Man in His image, how can the image of God be obscene? How can you say that the creation of God is obscene? Only the Devil would say that any part of the creation of God is evil or obscene. In Isaiah 20, the prophet Isaiah goes about prophesying for three years while naked. Was the prophet of God a pervert?
The human body is the final Creation of God. We are the pinnacle of Creation. Did God do such a bad job as an artist and a creator that we have to hide his work from public view?
If you still think that nakedness is a sin, consider that in all of the Law of Moses there is no injunction on nudity itself. There is no, "Thou shall not go naked!" law.
Most Christians today are unaware of major chunks of history - and major portions of the Bible. This isn't really their fault, though. The social clubs of spiritual famine that pass for Churches in the modern era just teach obedience and conformity while vampiric priests sink twin fangs of guilt and sin into the parishioners and suck the joy out of their lives. Keeping the idea alive that our very bodies ARE A SIN is in the best interest of controlling the masses.
For those who wish to educate themselves, here are some relative tidbits:
Saul prophesied naked.
1 Samuel 19 23 So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came even upon him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth. 24 He stripped off his robes and also prophesied in Samuel's presence. He lay that way all that day and night. This is why people say, "Is Saul also among the prophets?"
David danced with hid genitals exposed.
2 Samuel 6: 14 David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might.... (An ephod is a tshirt that comes down to the hips.) ...20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, "How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!" 21 David said to Michal, "It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD's people Israel - I will celebrate before the LORD . 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor." 23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.
Isaiah prophesied naked for three years at the command of God.
Isaiah 20 2 at that time the LORD spoke through Isaiah son of Amoz. He said to him, "Take off the sackcloth from your body and the sandals from your feet." And he did so, going around stripped and barefoot. 3 Then the LORD said, "Just as my servant Isaiah has gone stripped and barefoot for three years, as a sign and portent against Egypt and Cush,
Micah did the same thing.
Micah 1:8 Because of this I will weep and wail; I will go about barefoot and naked. I will howl like a jackal and moan like an owl.
Recent Western civilization stands almost alone, in the entire known history of humanity, in its repressive code against nudity.
Old Testament ceremonial washings, including baptism, were performed in the nude. (See Miles, Margaret R. Carnal Knowing: Female Nakedness and Religious Meaning in the Christian West. Boston: Beacon, 1989, page 34.
Rimini, active second quarter 14th century "The Baptism of Christ", probably 1330/1340 tempera on panel, 49.1 x 40.8 cm (19 1/4 x 16 in.) Samuel H. Kress Collection
Christ, too, was probably baptized naked as depicted in numerous early works of art.
The famous Ravenna mosaic, shown right, clearly depicts Christ being baptized nude as does Giovanni di Paolo's 15th century painting "The Baptism of Christ.", detail of which is shown below.
All of these paintings were approved by the Church.
For the first several centuries of Christianity, it was the custom to baptize men, women, and children together nude. This ritual played a very significant role in the early church. The accounts are numerous and detailed. Margaret Miles notes that "naked baptism was observed as one of the two essential elements in Christian initiation, along with the invocation of the Trinity. . . . In the fourth century instructions for baptism throughout the Roman Empire stipulated naked baptism without any suggestion of innovation or change from earlier practices." A typical historical account comes from Cyril of Jerusalem, bishop of Jerusalem from A.D. 387 to 417: "Immediately, then, upon entering, you remove your tunics. . . . You are now stripped and naked, in this also imitating Christ despoiled of His garments on His Cross, He Who by His nakedness despoiled the principalities and powers, and fearlessly triumphed over them on the Cross." After baptism, and clothed in white albs, St. Cyril would say: "How wonderful! You were naked before the eyes of all and were not ashamed! Truly you bore the image of the first-formed Adam, who was naked in the garden and was not ashamed." J.C. Cunningham notes that "there is nothing in the present rubrics of the Roman rite against doing this today. In fact, in the Eastern rites the rubrics even state the option of nude adult baptism."
John the Deacon, in about 500 A.D., wrote: "They are commanded to go in naked, even down to their feet, so that [they may show that] they have put off the earthly garments of mortality. The church has ordained these things for many years with watchful care, even though the old books may not reveal traces of them." (Miles 34) St. Hippolytus, presbyter of Rome circa 215 A.D., said that total nudity was required. The rule ordered, "let no one go down to the water having any alien object with them," and directs women to remove even their jewelry and the combs from their hair." There are many theories as to the reason nudity was an important part of early Christian baptism. Most interpret nudity as symbolic of spiritual rebirth in the Christian faith. Margaret Miles explains that it symbolized "death to former commitments and socialization and birth to a new existence. . . . The stripping of clothing followed by nakedness . . . was a paradigm of the deconstruction of secular socialization." (Miles 36) Alternatively, but in a similar vein, Jonathan Smith writes: "Being naked and without shame [in baptism] is . . . a typological return to the state of Adam and Eve before the Fall."
Repressive morality was developed by the state and the Church as a tool to maintain control over otherwise free individuals. Seymour Fisher writes: "The implications of nudity as a way of declaring one's complete freedom have often elicited strong countermeasures from those in authority. Nudity is punishable by death in some cultures. The Roman Catholic church has taught in convent schools that it is sinful to expose your body even to your own eyes. The wearing of clothes represents a form of submission to prevailing mores. It is like putting on a 'citizen's uniform' and agreeing to play the game." Repressive morality has often sought to control not only nudity, but sexuality in general. Margaret Miles observes that "the regulation of sexuality was a major power issue in the fourth-century Christian churches. Regulation of sexual practices was a way to inject the authority of church laws and leaders into the intimate and daily relationships of Christians.
Don Mackenzie notes that Christ and the very earliest church, in contrast, emphasized a message of freedom--"from demonic powers, from tyrannical governments, from fate. . . . [and] a prevailing commitment to the separation of secular and ecclesiastical power. . . . [The Church] adopted asceticism, not in obedience to its founder's teachings but as a bid for support in the face of competition, offering spiritual solace to people whose material world (the Roman Empire) was collapsing. Once the Church was officially recognized, it promptly discarded Christ's dedication to poverty, but it clung tightly to sexual asceticism as a disciplinary tool in a disintegrating society."
Has this changed in modern times? Well, a little bit. Pope John Paul II agrees that nudity, in and of itself, is not sinful. "The human body in itself always has its own inalienable human dignity," he says. It is only obscene when it is reduced to "an object of 'enjoyment,' meant for the gratification of concupiscence itself."
Many historical church leaders have disassociated nudity with sexual immodesty. St. Thomas Aquinus, for example, defined an immodest act as one done with a lustful intention. Therefore, someone who disrobes for the sole purpose of bathing or recreating cannot be accused of immodesty. Pope John Paul II writes: "Sexual modesty cannot then in any simple way be identified with the use of clothing, nor shamelessness with the absence of clothing and total or partial nakedness. . . . Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person, when its aim is to arouse concupiscence, as a result of which the person is put in the position of an object for enjoyment. . . . There are certain objective situations in which even total nudity of the body is not immodest."
What are we to think about the subjugation of the Image of God - the very Pinnacle of His Creation?
Let's get some advice from Saint Paul, shall we?
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
20 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21 "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
So, examining the long answer, NO, nakedness is not a sin. The Biblical proscriptions about the body revolve around sexual misconduct - not simple nudity. The idea that the image of the body itself is a sin is a tradition of the tyranny of evil men that would deny you the freedom of Christ.
Now you might be saying, "Ok, Shane. I buy all this, but what's the point? What are you asking me to do? Are you asking me to go to work naked tomorrow? Go to church naked? What?"
That's not my point at all. My point comes down to something very simple. Every Christian has heard this scripture:
Matthew 22 36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Now what does that mean? When asked that, everyone barfs up the Sunday School answer and never really thinks about it. The Churches only teach the first two ideas: Love God. Love your neighbor. That isn't what Jesus said, however. Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as yourself." There are two teachings there. The one everyone teaches while ignoring the second. Can you figure it out? In order to love your neighbor, you must first love yourself. I've never heard of a Church that teaches you to love yourself - and you must. It is extremely important to exercise loving kindness towards yourself. How can you do that if you think that your body is a sin?
So, no I don't want you to stroll naked into Church. God wouldn't mind, but some people aren't ready for that kind of direct exposure to the image of God, and we wouldn't want to give grandma a heart attack. When and where I can, I do enjoy the gifts God gave me, and I recommend that to you highly. I invite you to storm the gates of Eden and walk in the presence of God.
For a more esoteric presentation of the above, I invite you to read "This is My Body" a work about the naked body and its relationship to the Earth.
If you finally decide to walk with God in the manner of Adam, I invite you to read "On Being Human" an article on nude or naked hiking.
Shane Steinkamp - April 21, 2004
"What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful that the garment with which it is clothed?" - Michelangelo
I am indebted to the document 205 Arguments in Support of Naturism as a resource for some parts of this article.