Thursday, March 1, 2012

1st Reply to Dave

Thanks, Dave, for contributing to my blog last November 17, 2011, and I mean this sincerely, even if you are not yet a card-carrying nudist (just kiddin’!). It took me and Linda literally 7 years to work through all the moral theology we thought was involved, but 99% of it all was just our own cultural (Irish Catholic/Polish Catholic) baggage. People judge so much from their own experience in their own milieu, and since they can’t imagine men, women and children getting baptized naked this coming Easter Vigil, they doubt that anyone ever did so, anywhere, anytime. But as I clearly show in my book, “Nudity & Christianity,” nude baptism was the rule for several centuries in the Church, both East and West.

Oh—and did I say I am sorry for my unforgiveable delay in responding to your comment? My “excuse” is that I am not all that healthy, we are in the throes of house renovations, and I am blind and therefore not as efficient as I might be. But now I am on board and have a firm purpose of amendment and intend to be much more regular with my blog. Actually, I’m still a bit amazed that I even created it in the first place, as Linda and I are very Neanderthal when it comes to the digital revolution. We’d rather be in the garden with our bare hands and feet (and ?) in the soil. But here I am and I intend to reply to each point you made.

I am not trying to “sell” you on anything. I do want to share ideas on TOB, and our attitudes toward the body in general and our own in particular is involved in this, and seems to be avoided in most other TOB discussions. One lady in Our Sunday Visitor even wrote that TOB meant to be “well-dressed”! I guess St. Francis wouldn’t have made her cut!

First of all, you say I am trying to call naturism/nudism “Christian.” If that is so, please show me and I will recant. It is not “Christian,” “Buddhist,” “Jewish,” or anything else like that. It is HUMAN. I never said gettin’ nekkid would get you to heaven. But neither will it get you to hell, but how nudity is used could abet either path. The nudity of a stripper certainly won’t help get her to heaven, and the nudity of St. Isaiah did help him, since God ordered him directly to go starkers for three whole years (see Isaiah 20). Nudity is like anything else, like hammers. We can use them to build shelters for the homeless, or to smash their brains out.

In fact, nudity in itself is not even a moral matter, any more than hammers is.

No, I don’t call it “Christian,” but neither is it “anti-Christian” or “non-Christian.” In fact, I bet you can’t find a single Christian who was never naked and probably who wasn’t naked today, or even right now, reading this blog, NIFOC (Naked In Front Of Computer).

Everybody in the world is a nudist—at least sometimes. It’s just that very few, if any, are ALWAYS naked. Just as we each have our own personal standards of when it is appropriate to wear a tux, so also for wearing nothing at all.

And just what is the definition of “nudity”? Look at the evolution of beach-wear just over the past 100 years. Our great grandmothers covered even arms and legs in wool at the beach, as did our great grandfathers. Some of the latter dared to be so immodest as to remove their tops at Coney Island Beach back then and got arrested for indecency.

How is it different when ladies today get arrested for removing their tops at the beach? Why do we excuse the men but blame the women? What kind of chauvinists are we, anyway? Why do we force them to wear uncomfortable, sweaty bras while we don’t even where a t-shirt beneath our outer shirt? Explain to me how the topless men 100 years ago were not risqué, immodest, unchaste, and all the rest, whereas ladies today who do the same thing are looked down upon as next door to sluts.

If we are at the beach, the name of the game is to wear less, so we naturally try to wear as less as possible, and in some places it’s little more than dental floss around the crotch.

But why wear anything at all? Look—you are going swimming. Doesn’t it make sense to take clothes off and not put clothes on? And if you say, “yes, but not all clothes,” then where do you draw the line—half way down the crack?

All clothing reveals the body. That’s what it is supposed to do. Every artist knows they can’t draw people with clothes on until they know how to draw the bodies beneath the clothes. My wife, Linda, had to draw nudes for 2 of her 3 art school years at Paier Art School in Hamden, Connecticut. You can’t build a house unless you know the terrain you are building it on.

But to your next point:

You ask me if I have any actual Biblical foundation for my points.

Well, I just gave one from Isaiah 20. God told him to go starkers for 3 years. What does that tell you—that God sees naked prophets as perverted flashers? If it were immoral for a person to go naked in public (and remember God is telling him to preach naked—his nakedness is supposed to be a visible sign), then since the all-good God commanded it, it can’t be evil. God can never command what is evil.

My book, “Nudity & Christianity,” cites dozens of Biblical references to show that simple nudity is not immoral. Often the Bible refers to it as routine such as in Deuteronomy where poor field laborers customarily worked in the nude, and this is corroborated by Egyptian archeological findings.

In our own culture, “fighting fair” might mean rules like “no brass knuckles” or knives. But in Deuteronomy it meant also no clothes. It wasn’t just the ancient Greeks who boxed and wrestled in the nude—Jews did also. Deuteronomy 25:11ff implies two rules. The first is that the pugilists are naked, and the second, which is really what the law is all about, is that sympathetic, on-looking sweethearts must keep their hands to themselves and are not allowed to interfere and help their loved one by grabbing and yanking the genitals of his opponent. If they fight dirty, she has her hand cut off (that otta learn her!). Here is the RSV text:

"When men fight with one another, and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand; your eye shall have no pity.”

Until recently, our own professional boxers and wrestlers were required to “weigh-in” honestly to prove they were eligible for a given weight class. Honesty meant two things: they had to step up on the scale completely naked, and the weight had to be witnessed by the opponent and his coach. No doubt dozens of others also witnessed it, as locker room nudity was the norm back in those good ole days.

Nude fighting is honest because you know what you are fighting, and no one can conceal any weapons.

But in our own schizophrenic culture, our warped notions of “modesty” require the wrestlers to wear practically a Danskin or leotard tight outfit, yet when the bell rings, they have more physical contact with one another than newlyweds on their honeymoon. Since the name of the game is pinning the opponent, one can’t be fussy about “unseemly” holds and body positions.

But it’s in the Bible, Dave. Our conventional churches simply choose to edit the Bible for “decent” consumption.

I can’t give an exhaustive list of the dozens of other Biblical references such as the Jews setting up a gymnasium in Jerusalem when the Greeks were their masters and, like the Greeks, the Jews did all their physical exercises and sports in the nude (see 1 Maccabees 1:14f). The negative thing about this was that Jews were abandoning all their God-given customs and imitating the Greeks, and even the nudity might have been tolerated except that some Jews were ashamed to be looked down on as “Jews” (in a pejorative sense), so they tried to hide the truth not by wearing clothes (because physical exercise and clothing just didn’t go together) but by resorting to primitive surgeries trying to reverse their circumcisions so the heads of their penises were not always sticking out, which is precisely the sign of belonging to the covenant with Yahweh since Old Abraham cut his own foreskin off with a rock flint) and then did the same to 12 year old Ishmael (and Moslems to this day circumcise males at age 12) and the infant Isaac (and to this day Jews circumcise boys in infancy—on the 8th day after birth).

When you read the letters of St. Paul, circumcision was such a big issue, that many of today think it very curious. The Judaizers were Jews who had become Christians, but still thought they should follow all the Jewish laws, first among them, the very sign of the covenant—circumcision.

Dave, if everybody in that early Christian culture kept their pants on, as you seem to be implying is the “Christian” thing to do, then who would know whether or not the head of a guy’s penis had been surgically exposed or not?

In my day, when all males often were nude together in locker rooms and showers and steam baths, it was obvious who was circumcised and who were not. In our school locker rooms as kids, we all knew who was circumcised and how progressed each of us was in puberty. It was no secret anyway, as other signs of pubic development like a changing voice went along with what was developing “downstairs.” We all envied one boy who was shaving in the 9th grade, and indeed, he had the crotch to prove it. We all just accepted this as factually as the color of his head hair or his height.

In St. Paul’s day there were more opportunities to know whether a male was circumcised or not than there are nowadays. To attempt to bathe privately back then would have been an ordeal. Most families lived in one room, as I myself witnessed on a visit to Jordan. The large family had a one room home with no partitions. It was so small that they kept the beds up against the walls, and lowered them down at night. There was no “dressing room” and not even a bath room. There must have been some latrine outside, and if it was anything like the latrines I saw (but chose not to use, they were so filthy) at a Moslem Bedouin camp near an oasis near Mt. Nebo, there wasn’t any privacy there, either.

I have seen the Holy House of Nazareth during a pilgrimage, and there certainly wasn’t any room for “privacy” even there, for Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I think my chicken coop is bigger.

Tight quarters means that privacy goes by the board. It would be an ordeal to try to have it. When I went tenting and camping through the Soviet Union when I was 18 years old, many in the group didn’t even attempt to change in their shared tents, but just dressed and undressed outside in front of their tents. Many folks who go camping today in America have to compromise luxuries like “privacy.” They change in front of each other and when they come upon a clean stream, bathe openly. I suppose this is one reason why many people enjoy camping. “Normal” life deprives us of these kinds of intimacies. Communal, rustic living occasions the kind of intimacy normally enjoyed only in some non-uptight families.

I was reared to shut and lock the bathroom door even though there were two sinks, a toilet, a bathtub with shower. One guy can’t use all that stuff at the same time. Yet even when I lived at my parents’ after marriage, Linda and I were not allowed to use the bathroom simultaneously—even if we were brushing our teeth in the same sink!

How is it that nobody badmouths my parents’ absurd practice (they even had the contractor install 2 sinks!), and people whisper about families who have an “open bathroom” practice as my own family always did. If Suzie is taking a shower, it is absurd to make little Dicky hold his little dicky and do dances of agony out in the hallway behind a locked door. Don’t Americans need to grow up?

Surely every guy out there has taken a leak in the woods while other guys were likewise relieving themselves. So it must have been back in St. Paul’s day, and at least the guys know who is circumcised or not. I remember a huge, circular urinal at the old Continental Trailways bus station near Boston Common. Boys and men simultaneously stood around, unzipped their pants (or pulled them down if no zipper), and peed away facing each other as the huge urinal constantly flushed. For all anybody knows, maybe the people back in Bible times all stood around a piss pit and did the same.

Back in the one-room schoolhouse days in New England, the pupils had to use outhouses attached to the school building. There was no privacy, but just a long row of holes in a board. I believe the one at the old schoolhouse in Belvidere, Vermont is still standing to prove this.

If nudity were ordinary in our society, as it was in Biblical times, we would be a lot better off. Adolescent boys, instead of sneaking Playboy magazines, curious about female anatomy, would have no call to look except for pure lust, because they would have seen their mothers and aunts and sisters breastfeeding their siblings, cousins and nephews, rather than dancingo out in the hall,they would have used the toilet while Mom was drying off after her shower, and so on. Nudity is such a huge deal because our stupidity has made it so.

As I said, I could give dozens of other examples of nudity in the Bible such as St. Peter fishing in the nude (John 21:7), but it’s all in my book.

Next, you bring up Adam & Eve, and what a can of worms that can engender! Do you really presume that the reason why God made leather tunics for them was because it is wrong for spouses to see one another naked? Well, that is the logical conclusion of your implication.

And did you ever note thatt when Adam and Eve made their own pitiful attempt at clothing, that it was only loincloths of fig leaves that they fashioned? Why, then, are so many Christian women so reluctant to go topfree, even at a beach?

Then we et ingto the question of why Adam and Eve even covered their loins. Just why were they ashamed? Just a minute before they were “naked and unashamed” (Genesis 2:25). God never told them they were naked; that was their own bright idea after they sinned.

Hmmm, then just what must have been that first sin? Eating an apple? There is so much more here in the first three chapters of Genesis, and it is all so deep and wonderful!

Why would eating an apple disobediently all of a sudden make them cross their legs and get all ashamed? Have you ever eaten an apple disobedienytly and even thought of your crotch? Well, maybe Sigmund Freud and Arthur lKinsey did…

I have also dealt with this extensively and, I think, conclusively, in my book, “Nudity & Christianity.” I plan to make the theme a book in itself one day.

I am always frustrated by brevity; there is so much to say. I know when I say something, questions and objections naturally arise in your head, and it takes time to explain everything and put all those objections to rest. Even having to deal with the Biblical use of euphemism can be a goodly chapter in itself. So many pafrts of the Bible we find confusing and even mind-boggling can be understood if we only understand the use of euphemism and idiom, just as we use every day and all day. Despite my better judgment, II will give one example:

Is it a sin to go to bed with someone? Literally, ofcourse not! The Bible itself says “They keep warm who sleep two together.” (Ecclesiastes 4:11) Sleeping is no sin, whether you do it alone or with hundreds of folks after an outdoor concert in Stowe, Vermont. My two sisters shared a queen bed until they grew up and left the house. If people today even think of lesbianism at mention of this fact, it is they who need a shrink or something. A hundred and more years ago friends, family, neighbors and even strangers routinely shared your bed. In the beginning of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick,” a seaman wants to stay overnight at some inn in southern New England (Newport?) and he is charged and is shown a bed upstairs someone else is already using. People today jumpto the absurd conclusion that surely they were going to have a homosecxual that night—how else can two men sleep together? But the fact is that back in those days people believed only in heterosexuality. Seamen aboard ship with Captain Hook did not even have sex with themselves, rightly seeing that as next to bestiality in decadence. No, thy were far from chaste, but at least they waited for the babes in beautiful Hawaii and Tahiti before, as they say, they “got their rocks off.”

My point is that we usea zillion euphemisms which we do not intend to be taken literally, yet somehow, fundamentalists refuse to accord the language in the Bible the same license. Everything there must be absolutel literal, and thinking people rightly despise such nonsense, and many sadly thrrow th baby outt with the bathwater (no! not literally!) and have nothing to do with Christianity or all religion.

St Thomas Aquinas taught that we should tend to interpret the Bible literally, unless there is clear reason not to. In the historical books of the Bible (e.g. I Kings & II Chronicles) contradictory figures can be given for the same battle casualties. For some folks, they slam the Bible shut and become atheists. Fundamentalists say they believe it just as written. But most of us, following Aquinas, know both figures cannot be correct, and that obviously something like hyperbole is at work here.

Genesis is full of this kind of writing.

Xo suffice to say that Adam and Eve are no help at all to the argument that God wants us to never be naked. But pleas see my book.

Then you bring up old Noah and his “nakedness.” If you read this purely on a literal level it makes no sense at all, and if God is Wisdom itself, we should expect His words to make sense.

Do you really think that Noah cursed forever Ham’s son (Canaan)s, who was not even born yet, just because Canaan’s Dad, i.e. Ham, walked in on the old man when he was naked?

And will you preach that it’s a sin for father and son to take a shower together? And all those Catholic and other Christians schools were wrong to have all us boys shower naked together? I believe you have to be smarter than that.

Again, as with Adam and Eve, there’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye at first, especially if we are reading in translation, millennia removed from the time.

Again, to do this story justice, it would take another chapter. But let me just refer you to where the euphemism of “seeing nakedness” ought to be clear to a thinking person—Leviticus 18.

Here it is an abomination to “uncover (see) your father’s nakedness. Then it goes on to define who that is—“your mother!” (cf. Leviticus 18:7)

Nowadays we don’t have the same euphemisms as back then. I call Linda “my better half,” yet this expression is nowhere literally in the Bible. If I lived back in those days, I’d call her “my nakedness,” and just as “better half” does not literally mean she is the part above my belly button while I am the half below, so also a man’s “nakedness” back then had nothing at all directly to do with literally having your skin exposed.

In Leviticus, if you committed the sin of “uncovering your father’s nakedness” it meant that you committed incest; you had sex with your mother. And that is the unspeakable crime that Ham committed that was so abominable that Noah cursed, not the guilty Ham, but beyond him, he cursed the innocent bastard fruit of that illicit sexual union—Canaan, who wasn’t born yet. And this explains why the sons of Ham (African blacks) and the Canaanites got such a bad rap back in Bible times. And guess what the Canaanites were famous for? Incest!

So you ask good questions, Dave, and I also asked the same questions. But you jump to illogical conclusions sometimes, trying to read Scripture on a level it was never intended to be read on, just as your conversation today is not intended to be taken absolutely literally. If you tell somebody today that it’s not right for kids today to go to bed with each other, you are not saying you really give a hoot whether they are doing “it” (another euphemism) in a bed or on the roof of your car; they simply should not be having sexual intercourse till marriage.

Next, you allude obliquely to the Bible somewhere saying, “Be modest,” but don’t give the actual chapter and verse. That’s okay. I don’t argue your assertion anyway, but why assume that “modest” means being dressed? Shouldn’t we be modest also when we are naked, however rare an event that may be?

We should always conduct ourselves becomingly, and never to arouse lust in others. A stripper is immodest. She dresses or undresses and dances with the intention of “entertaining” men. She gets paid to turn them on.

But what has that got to do with me stacking my firewood in the summer heat naked? A teenage girl in Maine was arrested when a neighbor called the police, complaining she was “indecently exposed.” The girl was simply mowing her lawn (which is already commendable for any teenager!), and because it was hot, and boys got away with going topless, she whisked her shirt off and tossed it on the lawn. As far as anybody knows, her motive was not to cause auto accidents or to cause onlookers to lust after her. She was simply hot, and it makes sense to dress down when it’s hot, and if boys can do it, why shouldn’t she be able to do it?

Another girl whom I interviewed in one of my NLI magazines, Kate Logan, was graduating from Long Trail Academy in Dorset, Vermont. During her graduation speech, in front of many families, friends, faculty, press and townspeople, she stripped off everything from her cap on down, completing her speech in the nude.

Her motive was anything but to arouse anybody. In fact, when Playboy called her to take advantage of her, she turned them and their money offer down. She turned Jay Leno down. She did not even strip for sensationalism. Do you know why she stripped?

For the same reason why God told Isaiah to strip in Isaiah 20. She did it as a prophetic witness, to illustrate the message she was delivering about the necessity of total honesty and openness in the pursuit of truth.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Yeah, it was an attention-grabber, and that was part of the effect she wanted. Who wants a sleepy audience? When I studied rhetoric back at U. Mass. in the 70s, one student began his speech wearing a urinal on his head, and another pulled out a handgun, leveled it at the professor’s head, and must have got his attention, judging from the perspiration on his forehead. Another student, talking on female equality, might well have delivered her speech with her chest exposed; it would hae illustarted effectivel her point )NPI) and would have gotten her audience’s attention.

Than you ask whether we really need a definition of modesty. I suppose you are implying that it is (or should be) obvious. But is it?

Would it be immodest if I painted a mural at the bank lobby depicting as many nudes as Michelangelo’s nudes in the Sistine Chapel? Is it modest in Rome, but not in these United, civilized States? Michelangelo’s “Creation of Eve” shows both from the front, and Adam’s uncircuncized phallus is as clear as his nose. Immodest?

A devout, Catholic, male friend of ours agreed to help us out with our first do-it-yourself homebirth without any midwives. His main job was to be available just in case we had to transfer Linda to the car to rush to the hospital, but also to help out at the birthing itself, not only as a gopher but also to do things like pass the hot chamomile compresses used to help Linda’s perineum and vaginal lips stretch and not tear (which was successful!).

The #1 thing in such a D-I-Y homebirth is Linda’s total peace and comfort. She is the boss, and whatever she wants, goes. She must, above all, be relaxed. But how many good, Christian ladies would be relaxed while doing a spread-eagle, naked with three people watching?

To insure that both our strong, male assistant and Linda were both unanxious and peaceful and unselfconscious, I invited him to join us for a very late vaginal and cervical exam as a trial run. He agreed, and all went well.

Linda was naked, as she planned to be at the actual birth, wearing only knee socks. I checked her cervix for dilation and effacement, fetal heartbeat, etc. Later that evening I asked him how it had gone, and he said he had had no prroblem with it. Neither had Linda. So he was there at the real thing and I think it was he who took that great photograph we published in our very first issue of Divine reflections (DR I,1). Our firstborn son is seen half way out, facing up, his right hang over his heart as when pledging allegiance (he is now a Marine officer!), and his left hand is holding his mothers hand. What a gorgeous photo! In my humble opinion, it is a far holier picture than any that the nuns ever gave me for winning aspelling bees and soloing songs in front of the class (that one took a piece of candy too!).

Immodest? To me, the very thought is vulgar. It is deserving of any living room wall or in an illustrated Bible to illustrate John 3:1ff about birth and rebirth.

Life magazine once published a shot like that—another “mother & child.” Many of us 50-somethings and older will remember the photo of a naked blonde mother lying on a large bed, playing with her diapered infant as he tried to scamper away from her grasp, impishly. She was naked from head to toe, and you saw her from the rear, but turned as she reached for her baby, thereby showing her right breast and nipple. Exquisite! And it was one of Life’s photo contest winners. Change some of the background, and it could be an image of Mary and Baby Jesus, taken by Joseph on a playful Sabbath afternoon. The reason I myself might object to this is that her nudity might imply also a natural, vaginal birth, whereas we know Scripture says it was a virginal birth. As many Fathers of the Church described it, Christ was born “as light through glass.” Many Christians suppose the conception alone was virginal, and the birth was vaginal. But no Catholic can agree with this as the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear in N. 499. Even C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity,” makes the mistake of calling the virginal conception a “virgin birth.” But no. A virgin birth is a virgin birth, and a virginal conception is a virginal conception. The same God who wrought the miracle of the virginal conception was not impotent to also bring about such a miiraculous birth. This whole theme is very deep, and again, I cannot keep writing books on this blog. But this has always been the teaching of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, and we attest to it every Sunday at Mass during the Nicene Creed. But if it’s recited with similar lacklustre to what was done in my parish last week, probably nobody is even paying attention to the amazing dogmas they are stating, every single line being as preposterous as the one before, which we are men of real faith.

St. Thomas Aquinas does define modesty, along with everything else short of a megabyte. He says that nothing in itself is immodest, but both the situation and intention must be taken into consideration. A handsome lady lickiing her lips at a bar may be licking the mozzarella stuck there from her last bite of pizza, or she could be making a suggestive gesture at some hunk across the room. The latter is immodest because of her intention, but if she was swimming naked for the sake of swimming naked, there is no immodesty—no suggestiveness. Some observer would have to be making that up in his own mind.

The medical profession shows us that no exposed body part can be in itself immodest. At least I hope no one was lusting when I had my last colonoscopy!

Then, for a definition, you turn to some dictionary, which is okay, but there are a lot of terms—especially theological—that I would never trust a dictionary to provide. But here is what you got from some dictionary, and you quoted it as if it somehow proved your point which, I guess, is that nudity is immodest:

You: Check out the second of these definitions
mod•es•ty (md-st)
1. The state or quality of being modest.
2. Reserve or propriety in speech, dress, or behavior.
3. Lack of pretentiousness; simplicity.

JimCC: I can’t find anything about nudity there at all.

Propriety in dress.” Yeah, so? What do you suppose is “proper” at a nude beach—skivvies?

Pfropriety is precisely my point. I do not walk up gto Holy Communion naked. I also don’t swim, bathe, do sauna with clothes on.When people are at Lake Willoughby nude beach near here in Westmore, VT, they are immersed in pristine nature. Lake water 400’ deep and clearer than can be believed. Cedar et al. forests, opposing cliffs of Mt. Hor (west) and Mt. Pisgah (east) hundreds of feet high. No jet skiis or any of that obscenity. Few camps, and none on the Mt. Hor side. Peregrine falcons circling above, loons doing their eerie calls somewhere uplake. Most or all of the people pon the beach with you are as natural as the rest of the scenery. The very vibes of the place practically tear your cclothes off as if they were on fire or full of fire ants (of which Vermont has none). The whole scene is beckoning you to join it in natural purity. If you remain clothed, you might well feel like you are some pervert. Even if almost everyone else were not nude, don’t you think everybody has a pretty good idea what they’ll see once you don your birthday suit? Does a lady in a bikini really hide anything? Fool anybody? The only difference seeingher (or yourself) makes is that it rids the beach of the pollution you were wearing. Everybody has reclaimed their natural (and supernatural) right to be the way God created them originally, and they are just as “naked and unashamed” as Adam and Eve first were. It’s obvious that they are naked, and it’s almost just as obvious to see that nobody is ashamed of simply having bodies. The honesty and lack of pretentiousness is more breathtaking than the natural mountain scenery. Everyone is exposed for what they are, God’s children (if not yet in Christ through faith, at least in nature). In such a situation, what can show more propriety than nakedness?

The same is true in my garden, or when, before winter, friends joined us to burn brush and renovation scrap in the yard. It was too hot for clothes, and the most proper thing to do was gto work in only foottwear to protect feet from nails (and Debbie even did away with that!). Two men and two women burning sccrap naked, retreating occasionally to a sprinkler to frolic like three-yr olds in their lawn sprinklers. Should we admonish Junior for frolicking naked in the sprinkler? What will we tell him if he asks the big, truly embarrassing, “But why, Mommy?” He knows something doesn’t add up, that you are not being honest with him, and that you yourself don’t know the answer to his simple question. Three year olds know all that kind of stuff.

And what would you tell us and our two helpers? Put jock straps on? Underwear? Bathing suits? Formal wear? And like Junior, we stare back confusedly, “But why?” And if you try to answer it will be as hollow and dishonest as Junior’s mother.

Propriety in dress reigned at our little bonfire, and true modesty always reigns at the Cunninghams’.No one was shocked. No one was “scandalized.” And if anyone had driven into the driveway unsuspectingly, he would probably have been moved by our purity and innocense.

Before I went blind, I was paingting a secluded house in West Berkshire, Vermont for tthe older Montreal couple who owned it. I asked them if they had any objection to me painting naked, and they told me to go right ahead. I’d work in the sun on a 32” extension ladder, wearing only old sneakers and my brown scapular ( a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary) around my neck. Paint vchips would stick to my sweatty skin, but at break time, I just hosed them off and refreshed myself.

Far from being shocked or scandalized, one Saturday they departed forr a wedding in Quebec, and unbeknownst to me ahead of time (though it would have made no difference), they returned that afternoon with another couple from the wedding. Far from being ashamed of their naked, all-over-bronzed painter, instead of using the front door to avoid me, they came to the back door, where I was working on a ladder in their kitchen garden. They stopped, and asked me to come down and introduced me to their friends. I felt engtirely unashamed and “proper” standing theire in my sun tan and paint chips, making small-talk.

You said you would be “honored” if I were to provide you with some Biblical support for the belief thatt nudity itself is not immodest, and II have done this. I could go on and on, but that is why I wrote my nearly 600-page book. If interested, you can get it straight from me cheaper than you can at Amazon, eBay or anywhere else, and I will even autograph it!Pardon my asking, but are you Catholic or do you belong to one or other of the many offshoots throughoutt history? For example, if I knew you were Lutheran, I could quote you texts from Dietrich Bonhoefer on the body that support what I teach. If you are Orthodox, I could quote you straight from your own liturgical texts where it says that Christ was baprtized in the Jordan naked, and that is how all catechumens were baptized. I could refer you to St. Basil of Moscow, who lived naked—often in winter also. If you are a Billy Graham style Christian, I could show you how his own movie studios produceda movie about the awesome Corie Ten Boom which included a few naked scens, including one with seemingly a hundred naked ladies shown from every perspective, scrambling about after their delousing shower in the concentration camp, waiting for their deloused clothes to be dumped in the room where they waited, nude. Or Pat Robertson, who recommended (if not produced) a movie (“At Play in the Fields of the Lord”) which included male and female full frontal nudity. But I wouldn’t doubt that, iff you get these movies today, someone hasn’t edited them to make them what he considers “family” fare.

OR, if you are Episcopalian, I could tell you about one of your own very high up bishops joined us for a skinny-dip at Lake Willoughby a few years ago. He regularly attends a nude beach in his own diocese. If you are a Quaker (as I myself once briefly was), I could tell you about the Quaker children’s camp called “Farm & Wilderness” where the founders, Kenneth and Susan Webb, allowed campers and counselors to enjoy what he called “the 5th freedom”—freedom from clothes. I know one man from Montpelier who was a camp counselor back in those good ole days, and a local teacher who said she went to camp there as a teenager and she and most all the other boys and girls chose to experience the 5th freedom. But if you look the caamp up online today, you will sadly learn that others have taken over and the new powers that be have revoked the 5th freedom. If you are Unitarian, I could tell you about their clothing optional, “Ferry Beach” in Maine, or their “Rowe Camp” in western Massachusetts. A friend of mine, the former superintendent of schools in Walpole, NH, and his college professor wife, both children of Christian ministers (Congregational, I think) told me thay were skinny-dipping with dozens of other people at “The Ledges” on the Harriman Reservoir in Wilmington, Vermont one day, when dozens of kids from Rowe Camp arrived, stripped off, and joined the other naturists. He knew they were from Rowe Camp because their school bus was in the parking lot waiting to take them back to camp.

If you are not Christian, but Jewish, I could tell you about the United Nations film on kibbutzim I showed my world religions class (high school juniors) which included the kibbutz custom of having boys and girls shower together naked,, and the film used no cute angles or black squares.

Well, this is my reply to your first comment last Nov. 17, 2011. Again, I repent of my inexcusable delay in responding and promise gto be a good boy from now on. You sgtll have a couple of other contributions since then I have yet to reply to, and I will get right on it. I was hoping that somebody else might reply to you before me, as I prefer to de more passive and not do all the talking.

You said you have a friend who is leaning in the direction of naturism, and maybe you want to nip his nudie attraction in the bud before he gets too sucked in? Well, I hope you share this blog with him, and that you both read my book.

I published another book entitled “Our Wonderful Bodies!” which is a 100 page photo celebration of the body from South Burlington, Vermont to Novosibirsk, Siberia. It is an attempt to compensate for all the innocent nudity we never were allowed to see. It depicts ordinary people of all, shapes and sizes and ages, naked and unashamed, doing ordinary things like washing the dishes, swimming,, chopping wood, etc. The topfree teen lawn-mower from Maine would have fit in well there. We did manage to interview and photograph the other teen girl who performed her graduation speech in the nude at Long Trail Academy in Dorset, Vermont. She was so comfortable with her body that she wanted us to shoot her and her male friend at a site in southern Vermont where the view in the backgground was fantastic. Friend sof hers happened to be driving by, tooted the horn, and she just waved back, naked and unashamed.

After all, just what is there to be ashamed of?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Nudity and Christianity - Jim C. Cunningham

Welcome to my blog where I invite posts concerning the topic of nudity and Christianity. The more general theme is the theology of the body (TOB) promoted by Pope John Paul II, but most people who claim allegiance to this TOB seem to omit the body part and dialog about other TOB themes that actually ought to be based on the body itself. By creating this blog I am trying to provide a forum for people who want to back up and begin with the body. For example, just what is the body? Is it a blessing or a curse, a gift or a burden? Is it good or evil, dignified or disgusting, wholesome or obscene? If it is good, is it all good--even those "unmentionable" parts? What about pornography? If you photographed a naked person, would that necessarily be pornography? What is modesty in dress? Is it a matter of covering the body or those "unmentionable" parts? What is immodesty? Is it immodest to swim nude where such is the custom? How about where the custom has not yet been established? Was it immodest for the first person to begin the custom by swimming nude, but not immodest, once many followed his example, for others to swim nude once the custom had been established? What about nudity in art? Should all art containing nudity be condemned? If the famous "The Thinker" ancient Greek sculpture is acceptable, is it unacceptable if you were seen deep in thought in the same pose? If that statue is acceptable, then was it also acceptable for someone to assume that pose naked before artists? A 2-frame cartoon shows an old lady with her gray hair in a bun, wearing old-lady-type clothes, oohing and ahhing in admiration of Michelangelo's famous statue of David outside the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. The 2nd frame has the same lady, later, on the beach at Ostia, outside Rome, dressed in an old-lady-type, skirted bathing costume, looking at a naked man on the beach who happens to be in the same pose as Michelangelo's David. But here she exclaims how disgusting, indecent and obscene he is. Does this make sense? Should modesty make sense? 100 years ago males were arrested on Coney Island Beach in New York for going "topless." Beachwear once covered almost the entire body of both men and women. Very few today consider a bare-chested man at the beach to be sexually immodest. What's the difference? Is it just that times have changed? Most people today seem to think it immodest for a woman to go "topless" at a beach, and like men at Coney Island Beach, several decades earlier, some topfree women have been arrested for "indecent exposure." But is a woman's breast "indecent"? In some Moslem countries, women must veil even their faces in public. Is this right or wrong? What if the authorities in America required women here to veil their faces in public? What is the difference between requiring the veiling of breasts and faces?

Some say it's because those "unmentionables" are "sex organs." But does that make any sense? If breasts are sex organs, does that make plastic baby bottles obscene toys? How is a real nipple somehow indecent, but a rubber one is okay to display in public?
And if the breast is to be defined as a "sex organ" in order to put it in some kind of category of obscenity, how is it that no one seems to mind if they happen to see your tongue or lips or hands and fingers? Why aren't these also categorized as "sex organs"? These other parts are perhaps more involved in sexual activity than even genitalia themselves, yet no one in America looks at a woman's bare face, hands and fingers and calls her immodest. What is going on? A Catholic pastor in Rhode Island once insisted that mothers not nurse their babies in church, but if they had to, to go to the "cry room" at the back of the church. Was he shielding "obscenity" from his juvenile parishioners when "cry rooms" are usually full of other, weaned children anyway, and can witness the "disgusting" act of breast-feeding, and maybe also even see naked babies having their diapers changed? Suppose the lector was reading Isaiah 66:11 where God's love is compared to something everybody supposedly knows--sucking fully of breast milk from "abundant breasts"? So we could have another 2-frame cartoon. Frame #1 shows the lector and the balloon coming out if her mouth is precisely Isaiah's beautiful image. Frame #2 shows the priest giving a lady in a pew hell for defiling his holy temple by unbuttoning her blouse to give her baby what he wants so they don't even need a cry room since junior is as consoled by his "ninny" as we should be by God's love.

In that same Catholic religion, for the first several hundred years of her existence, not only did mothers nurse their babies openly, but they, their babies, husbands and other children would all be exposing not only their chests, but their entire bodies during the ritual of baptism. Can you imagine this in our churches today? Why not? Have we progressed or regressed? Has Manichaeism distorted the sacramental life of the Church, or is it somehow holier to simply trickle water on foreheads of fully clothed people rather than dunk them naked thrice in the name of the Blessed Trinity?

Should nudity be automatically identified with sex?

And what about sex? That was, after all, what John Paul's TOB was all about--taking a different approach to sexuality. Is there anything "dirty" about conjugal love? If people are reared to regard their bodies as indecent and evil, are they likely to have John Paul's positive view of conjugal love? If all your life you have been told that your genitals are dirty, on your wedding night are you going to be able to flick a switch and all of a sudden see your body as something holy?

What about sex and body education? Might today's plethora of sexual perversions be at least partly due to attitudes that regard sex and the body as dirty? How can a child not regard them as dirty if those responsible for his formation never speak about them, or maybe briefly, once, during that "birds and bees" talk?

If the nudity in culture is always negative--of the "Playboy" variety--and always sexually titillating, how can anyone see the body as something positive and good? Shouldn't our culture have opportunities where bodies can be seen that are not trying to titillate? If society accepted nudity as, well, "natural," wouldn't that accustomization form people to see the body in a new light and not just some kind of lust-bait?

Many girls fear pregnancy--even in marriage--because they dread seeing their bodies "distorted" like that.

But like what? Have they ever seen one pregnant mother unclothed? How can pregnancy be seen as beautiful is it can't be seen? Wouldn't it be "pro-life" to let people see you naked when you are pregnant?

I once showed a birth movie in religion class which I obtained from my diocesan religious education office here in Vermont. It showed a live birth, vaginal view and all. It also showed the mother giving her baby her breast for the first time. Is this something only obstetricians and midwives should see, or should every born person know what he once went through? After all, just what are we celebrating on "birth"-days? At someone's birthday party, what if all the guests watched a video of the actual birth? Why not?

One reply might be because people simply aren't accustomed to seeing even naked bodies, let alone naked bodies with babies coming out of them. But my answer to this, is "Shouldn't they already be accustomed to bodies? Just as we are each accustomed to our own body by showering naked (and sometimes daring a peek in the full-length mirror), and just as in my generation all males  were accustomed to male bodies in locker rooms and YMCAs (where we all even swam nude), shouldn't everyone be accustomed to bodies in general?

Either I was sheltered, or in my childhood sexual perversions hardly existed. In my day all males saw each other naked, and often females also saw one another naked as many school locker rooms back then had gang showers for girls as well as for boys. It seems to me that aberrations such as homosexuality began to prosper at about the same time as those same-sex gang showers began to diminish--beginning in the 70s and dying out completely in the 80s. Nowadays elementary school kids are "coming out" with their publicly stated so-called "sexual preference." Is there a connection or is this just coincidental?

Should children grow up learning about the body openly? They naturally peel the bark off a tree to see what's underneath, and they also are curious about bodies, and before anyone told them it was a sin or naughty, they took turns watching one another use the toilet, possibly because that was the only time a person had an excuse to pull his pants down. Shouldn't John learn what's beneath Mary's "bark" and vice versa? Shouldn't such an innocent thing be accepted as nonchalantly as seeing the same children play in the lawn sprinkler?

And, speaking of which--wouldn't that be a jolly time to let the neighborhood kids get naked an frolic together, seeing each other's bodies while they are playing?

Shouldn't parents supervise such innocent naked frolics? If not, won't children seek opportunities to "peel bark" when Mommy isn't watching, and might this unsupervised nude learning lead to evil just as other unsupervised activities can and do?

I confess that when I was just beginning puberty (but still endeavored in vain to find a whisker of a pubic or underarm hair!), some "more experienced" boys in the neighborhood took me into a room in a basement where we all either got naked or at least exposed our "unmentionables" to each other. Entirely unsupervised, it did not stop at the "show and tell" stage, but some boys explored further and ended up masturbating each other. I wonder whether such boys--or other boys who behaved similarly--eventually grew up and are now homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, and maybe even practice bestiality. Maybe they grew up to prefer doing sexual things with other males because it was easier? More "sexually fulfilling"? True, conjugal love is a far cry from mutual masturbation. It involves not only the coital act, but the whole lives which contextualize that physical love. There are places where homosexuals go where they "have sex" through a hole in the wall. There is no relationship at all. One guy puts his phallus through the hole, and the other "has sex" with "it." "Sex" is either masturbation, fellatio or buggery. And we wonder why so many people have AIDS? Sure, maybe AIDS can be contracted in other ways, but surely such holes in the wall are one way.

I have seen children at nudist parks, from toddlers to young adults. Their body knowledge is always in a family context and always adult supervised. Everyone is seen with his bark off. Everything I have seen is above-board. They play like other kids, the main difference being that while doing so, they are naked, and no one considers it strange or dirty, or anything like that. Instead, they all consider it natural to go au naturel. And isn't it? At least sometimes?

I will end my first blog post here. I simply wanted to establish some threads to get this new blog off and running. Share what you think, what you have experienced, etc. I will not tolerate any obscenity, whether verbal or photographic. You are free to upload photos as well as text. Nude photos are acceptable (as they should be), but anything in the least suggestive will be edited out. Yes, sex is a positive thing, but it belongs between the husband and wife it is intended to join together as one flesh.