Well, time to get as close to the edge as I can without hopefully falling over. You cannot know precisely how people will react however, so I offer this disclaimer. I am not a nudist and I don’t go around being naked in front of people other than my wife. I have never been to a nudist colony or resort. I suppose this does not make me very qualified to post something like series, but this is causing part of my mind to explode with ideas and I have to get them on digital paper. In theology pub terms, I have to get this out of the barrels before it explodes and makes a mess in the wine cellar.
Nudism has many forms and I do not think that nudism is for everyone or appropriate in all situations. However, the purpose of this post is a positive one as I am examining the benefit of nudity’s influence on activities that promote spiritual growth. The question is: Does physical nudity enhance or improve spiritual reception in spiritual activities such as prayer, meditation, study, worship, etc.
For the reader, it would be helpful to review and go back to some of my older posts and series. If you have not read them I encourage you do so as they provide some of the backdrop for this series as well as some of my assumptions. To date the following series and posts have been written on this topic:
1. Series 9 – The Bible and Nakedness remains one of my most complete examinations of the Bible and the issue of nakedness. My conclusion that nakedness is more of a spiritual state than physical one and that the Bible has no clear indication that nakedness, in and of itself, is sinful still draws a lot of attention. Not much has changed as I look back this series as far as my viewpoint.
2. Originally I got started with this topic in Series 2 – Nudity, Modesty and Culture where I was first examining this issue. My initial conclusions were mostly focused on what modesty really is. It was actually my conclusion that modesty was actually more focused on the spiritual side of a woman and had really nothing to do with actual dress is what got me asking the simple question: “If modesty is basically spiritual, then is it possible that nakedness is basically spiritual as well?”
3. In my initial post of Sexuality, the Church and America was this post: Sexuality, the Church and America – Part 1 – Public Nudity that examined more of what was happening in America as regards the issue and how I thought things would pan out on the topic.
In large part, because of the nature of this topic and openness of the blogger sphere, several nudists bloggers have discovered me and followed my site. I want everyone to understand that I am OK with this and being polite, I have followed all of them back. Whenever they or I post, we get each other’s stuff. Yes, they include pictures and video. I am not upset with this because I am actually glad to have people around that are taking the issue of human nudity seriously from a non-sexual point of view. I feel very much that nudism and being a nudist falls under Paul’s advice on matters of conscience found in 1st Corinthians chapter 8 where he deals with the issue of Christian liberty and one’s responsibility in not making a brother stumble because you are at liberty to do certain things but their conscience would be bothered by it. If you can practice nudism without violating the conscience of others and yourself, I don’t think it is inherently evil or sinful. One has to exercise caution and use wise discretion. It may well be that being physically naked is no different than being fully clothed from a spiritual point of view, but that does not mean everyone can accept this and there are some people where this would be truly dangerous.
For example, allowing a former pedophile around naked children at a family nudist resort would be bad business from everyone’s point of view and I think even the most ardent nudist activist would recognize this. Nudists are not stupid and when it comes to nudism and human relationships regarding nudism they actually have a lot more wisdom regarding this and other related issues than people who wear clothes all the time. I have actually read many nudists who acknowledge these issues and they are very much cautious about them. A good chunk of them are also aware that the naked body can be sexually arousing to the opposite sex and so they are not living in some fantasy world where nakedness has no effect on human sexuality at all. They are simply more conscious that a lot of this is a matter of perception. (See why nudists like my pub? 🙂 )
All this I am saying to get to a topic that I am now examining which is the spiritual benefits of nudity and how it can be used to build our relationship with God. Not everyone can benefit from this and not everyone should or can practice this. Much greatly depends on what your relationship with God is based. Nudity has some positive spiritual aspects, if a person is willing to both acknowledge them and accept them:
1. Vulnerability – While it could be argued that vulnerability is a weakness and at times it is, there is a positive side to it. In the Garden of Eden we see this in Adam and Eve as they are completely vulnerable to God’s presence, each other and the world around them. Because of this, they have to develop interdependency with each other and God. In all person to person relationships vulnerability is the key to opening up intimacy and ultimately love. To love someone, you must make yourself vulnerable to them and take risks that they will take advantage of this vulnerability, but when vulnerability is rewarded with returned vulnerability from the other person intimacy and love grows.
2. Openness – It is really hard to be closed off to people when you are naked. In the case of God, this is not so much our taking things off to be naked before him and open but acknowledging that we are already naked before God and everything is already open. Sin likes to conceal the truth and cover it over. Righteousness seeks to reveal the truth. Reading the testimonies of practicing nudists, particularly people who are sharing their first time is interesting on this spiritual aspect of nudity. Even naked, they try to cover themselves up and present themselves in ways where their perceived ‘bad features’ are less noticeable. In the end they give this up and just allow themselves to be themselves. This is a trait more Christians should have when they approach God or other relationships. It is amazing how many times I hear Christians pray to God and I can know they are hiding something from God or leaving something out that is uncomfortable to them. The Psalmist’s cry of “Search me, Oh God!” and all its implications is missed when we do this. God already knows what your sin is, the issue really is are you going to give up attempting to hide it from him and just be yourself, sin and all, instead of putting on your own version of ‘fig leaves’ over your naked spirit.
3. Intimacy – Clothing prevents intimacy and in our world this is often by design. I am not going to say this is bad in certain contexts. Clothing is a barrier that is used to prevent people from knowing things about you. Intimacy ultimately results from people discarding barriers and defenses. In personal relationship, you don’t necessarily have to shed your physical clothes to be close to someone but you do have to let your guards down and let people know things about yourself that are sometimes uncomfortable and awkward. In a real way, intimacy is achieved when you allow others to see that you too are human and you also allow them to show their humanness to you without judging them in return. In marriage, this is especially seen in the act of love and there is something about the expression “Adam KNEW his wife” that is particularly telling in more than a physical sense.
4. Genuineness – Hard to be false and deceptive about anything when your naked. Everybody sees the truth about what you are. This is particularly true with yourself. I wrote a post about how to stay motivated in fitness – The Naked Truth: The Secret to Staying Motivated in Bodybuilding and Fitness. In it, I point out that real motivation for fitness comes when you face the real truth about your body by standing in front of a mirror naked until you get motivated in some way to change. The question I now pose is: would the same thing work spiritually if we change the mirror to the spiritual mirror of God? I think so, like physical health, spiritual health can be seen if we have the right mirror and if we stand naked in front of that mirror, it is going to be very hard to lie to ourselves about what we really are.
5. Wholeness – It is very difficult to see yourself compartmentalized when you are naked. You actually see everything that you really are. Clothing is used to define ourselves but in very limited senses. We dress in work clothes to define our work. We dress in athletic clothes to go work out. We dress in casual clothes to relax. We dress in sexy clothes to be romantic and make love. We dress in formal clothes to impress people with who we are. In a very real way clothing is used to compartmentalize our life. When you are naked all that is gone and the reality of ALL that your truly are is there: body, soul and spirit in one package and there is no compartmentalization at all. We simply and truly are what we are.
6. Equality – It is very difficulty to see yourself as better or worse than someone when your naked. Want to make everyone socially, economically and culturally equal? Take off their clothes. The housewife, business woman, prostitute and debutant suddenly just become women when you strip them of clothes, make up and jewelry and make them stand in a lineup. Without their clothes you can only define them by their bodies, personality and actions and none of that necessarily reveals economic, social or cultural status. Nakedness forces us to realize that we all came into this world naked and we all will leave it naked. That is the great equalizer.
The rest of this series is about the relationship between physical nakedness, spiritual nakedness and spiritual practices. I am going to cover meditation, prayer, worship, and study in detail with some references to other spiritual practices. I may have a post on communal spiritual practices, although I feel very unqualified to talk about that, but it may generate some interesting discussion. First however, I want to show everyone how all of us are already in some way practicing spiritual nudism and we are not even aware of it most of the time.
Next: You’re Already a Spiritual Nudist; You Just Don’t Know It.