Thoughts on that Trophy Wife Sermon

Did you see this? Stop what you are doing and watch this video summary…

As a Christian in the Midwest, I’m saddened greatly by the attitudes of this preacher, Stewart-Allen Clark, from First General Baptist Church in Malden, Missouri. The cringe factor is strong here as this church leader spewed his diatribe for 22 minutes. This wasn’t an off the cuff tangent; these were prepared remarks that he thought somehow his congregation needed to hear. He was talking from his notes, and had a slideshow complete with pictures to go along with each point in his message!

I’m glad this went viral and backfired. In an era of virtue signaling that sometimes can be unfounded, this actually IS an outrage. I’m glad he’s on leave and getting counseling. I’m not being judgmental, I actually empathize with the guy in some small way. I do hope and pray that counseling helps him, although I’m not so sure it will- more on that in a minute. This pastor being accused (and rightly so) of sexism is a tragic reflection on how conservative evangelical churches tend to approach the subject of sex. It’s no wonder the unchurched has a bad taste in their mouth of what they perceive it means to be a Christian today. The most appalling part is that it is not an uncommon stance he took in many conservative Christian circles. I’m standing up to say loudly, “WE AREN’T ALL LIKE THAT!” Thankfully there were those in that congregation that would not give their “Amen” to his crazy rhetoric. Praise God, the leadership apparently issued a statement stating that all people are made in the image of God and “should be valued for that reason.” although I can’t find that currently on their website.

The pastor also issues an apology where he assures people that he has secured an accountability partner who he is meeting regularly. This to me is a tell tell sign that he has a huge lust problem. No surprise there after hearing his mindset loud and clear! In his mind, and he said it many times, “He can’t help himself!” Well, allow me to speak on behalf of the many men who believe maturity is attainable and say, YES YOU CAN! AND YOU SHOULD!

Then in his public apology he says he, “made insensitive remarks about women and made statements deemed unbiblical.” No, they aren’t deemed unbiblical. They ARE unbiblical. There’s a lot that was dreadfully wrong with this guy’s ideas. (I think he forgot how to spell misogyny in his apology.) I see this blog as an anti-virus to his type of thinking. Some of the things I write on this blog seem to be very critical of the church. I mean them to be critical of THE TEACHING and unfounded “facts” that are rampant in many churches, which in turn are contrary to God’s heart, as so evident in this example. He is not alone. He is parroting what has been written in some of the best selling Christian books on marriage! This is one example of many, and just the most recent one that has gone viral. I’m deeply troubled by the repercussions of a perhaps well-intentioned, yet highly ineffective and even toxic “purity culture.” I’m over the artificial modesty standards that do nothing to change hearts that are depraved. Even so, I’m hopeful because there is a better way, and it’s not out of reach as many would have you believe. The solution is a surprising one indeed, unconventional to say the least. But first, let’s analyze what this preacher felt he needed to share with these church goers.

I won’t go through all of the insensitive and demeaning comments you saw in the video. Suffice to say his misogynistic and nonsensical Scripture twisting frankly promotes abusive behavior. He outright body shames women calling them fat and ugly from the pulpit! He’s aware that he is no model himself, but claims that doesn’t matter because it’s men who are visually stimulated.

1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV): “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Apparently this verse and the often misinterpreted (though not in this case) “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1 KJV) is missing out of the preacher’s Bible.

He speaks authoritatively as though all men would agree with his general statements, especially that every man wants a trophy wife on his arm. Umm, I don’t. His insistence that Melania Trump is the most epic trophy wife of all time (and featuring a “sexy” picture of her in his slideshow) displays an unhealthy infatuation in his own heart.

Jesus also placed the responsibility for lust in the proper realm of the man’s own heart. He never suggested that women are responsible for their husband’s behavior, or that they need to protect them from their own impure thoughts, as if that were actually possible! This is simply an abdication of personal responsibility and a cop out for the man. We would do well to look at women through the eyes of Jesus, without lustful intent (Matthew 5:28), and see the whole person. Jesus was not tempted by the prostitutes he ate with. In fact, he was counter-cultural and revolutionary in how he interacted with women.

Jesus was not tempted by the prostitutes he ate with. In fact, he was counter-cultural and revolutionary in how he interacted with women.

Is this preacher pro anorexia and bulimia? Does he enjoy causing more body image problems in women than they already have heaped upon them by impossible standards of what’s culturally seen as “beautiful?” In his eyes, they are just participation trophies.

Makeup was a slide in his presentation and the punchline of some terrible jokes. He extols the virtues of these artificial adornments while Scripture’s teaching runs contrary to his conclusions (see 1 Timothy 2:9-10 and 1 Peter 3:3-4). 

Over and over he chided that he (meaning every man) is gonna look, so you (wife) better look good so he (your husband) looks at you and not [forced to look] at “some hottie” on a screen. Umm, your husband is going to want to look at you regardless of your presentation if he loves you and doesn’t subscribe to these lies that say he can’t help but lust when he sees someone who is attractive. This crazy notion of helplessness also forgets the basic fact that men have imaginations and memories. Averting the eyes physically does nothing to the eyes of our heart. A whole renewal of the mind is needed (Romans 12:1-2) which is also counter cultural in that it is not conforming to the pattern of this world. Lust is not overcome by avoidance or trying harder, but rather by true repentance which literally means having a change of mind.

Obligation and duty sex is not intimacy, but rather a relationship killer. He quotes and misinterprets half of the verse in 1 Corinthians 7:4 and downplays the role of the husband and the obvious principle of mutual submission. On page 46 of Our Bodies Tell God’s Story Christopher West point out that in his Theology of the Body John Paul II concludes that a man commits adultery in the heart not only by looking lustfully at a woman he is not married to “but precisely because he looks in this way at a woman. Even if he were to look in this way at . . . his wife, he would commit the same adultery ‘in the heart.’” We cannot respond the way our “pornified” culture does. We are to be different. Instead of lusting after our wives and using them for selfish gratification, we should give ourselves up for them in service, as Christ did for his bride, the church. And let me tell you, it’s such a joy to be free of the shame and guilt that has ridden this purity culture.

I’m far from perfect myself. I was a bit like this guy in some ways. I’ve invoked the so-called “72 hour rule” in my house in the past. I’ve had my fair share of sexual brokenness and porn addiction, as you can read about on this blog. My point is restoration and wholeness is possible, and I am a living proof.

Some of the many comments from all walks of life on this youtube video are very telling:

  • The awful thing is. He’s not a comedian. He’s not telling an “edgy” joke. He’s giving people what he believes to be sound advice. 🤦🏾‍♀️
  • He’s projecting his pervyness. Men like this are just looking to have their grotesqueness validated.
  • WoW the fact this isn’t satire and men like this exist
  • on todays segment of ”What object am I?”, I guess I’m a participation trophy
  • Ah, the famous bible passage: “If thy right eye offend thee, blame your wife”
  • All I can say is this is probable cause to search all his devices.
  • This dude makes my skin crawl bruh. Actually physically cringing. I just feel so awfully bad for all the women in that church that had to suffer through this extremely shameful sermon
  • This was common to hear growing up in church. It’s nothing new to me. 🤷🏽‍♀️
  • The irony is – is that the Bible says the opposite to what he says, he says women should wear makeup and dress well, yet the Bible says the adornment should be the heart and not the outward appearance.
  • I’m not religious but when i read or heard about jesus talking, I dont imagine that he would be fat shaming married women.
  • I’m not even religious and this feels like blasphemy to what God’s really about
  • This is why people are leaving the church

It’s said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

It’s said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I find this to have some truth, as those seen as attractive to one person, are not found attractive to another. Proverbs 5:18 says to “Rejoice in the wife of your youth.” My wife doesn’t look like the 19 year old I married (Yes, we were so young!). But she’s the wife of my youth. I happen to think she is better looking now, aging like fine wine. The years have taken a toll on her body after 4 kids, but I don’t care about any of that. She’s still the same person I married. No, let me back out of that, she’s a better version of who I married, because now we have 20 years of shared experiences, memories, true intimacy and relationship equity that makes her number one in my book, regardless of anything that could happen to her body. If she had a double mastectomy (extreme example of a body change) I wouldn’t love her any less. It’s preposterous to think that someone would be that shallow. I tell her all the time that she is the standard by which all beauty is measured. But then she asks, “What if I put on weight?” Then the standard changes. It conforms to whatever you are. It’s not even based on and shouldn’t be based on appearance. She is truly beautiful both inside and out, and is the only one who gets my motor going. I tell her, “You’re my favorite everything.” No matter what category is being “measured,” she’s my favorite. This is, to me, a more favorable view than what’s being regurgitated in this trophy wife sermon!

I had the great misfortune of watching all 22 minutes of this nonsense. My blood was boiling and my neck got tired of my head shaking!

Reagan Williams posted it on her Facebook page which put the minister in hot water. I pulled a few direct quotes that didn’t make the edited video shown above:

At the 4:22 minute mark, he said “You can call it juvenile, you can call it immature, you can call it sexist, whatever you want to, but here’s another secret you need to know: Ladies, it’s the way God made us, it’s the way we are.”

Yes, I’m calling it juvenile and immature and sexist, even! I’ll address the immaturity shortly. It sure does sound like he’s heard these accusations before and is disregarding them. That’s a tactic to face disagreement head on and attempt to dissuade it. It didn’t work this time! He is clearly justifying the behavior by claiming God made him like that. Way to throw God under the bus! How convenient is that? I’m really sick of this lie and the damage it creates in its wake. It makes a mockery of our faith giving all Christians a bad rap.

At 7:22, “What’s the difference between a man’s girlfriend and his wife? About 60 pounds. Well, maybe so. How important is this? Let me tell you something. I have a friend. He has put a divorce weight on his wife. That’s how important this is.”

An abysmal joke! Why are people in church laughing at it? And to threaten divorce on this sort of thing? How is that pastoral in the slightest way possible? No wonder he doesn’t do marital counseling anymore. He never should have in the first place.

It continues at 9:49 with him saying of his poor wife, that “One of her favorite expressions is ‘Food never tastes as good as skinny feels.’”

I doubt that’s really her favorite expression. Maybe you’ve manipulated her into saying that it is. So sad. I feel terrible for her.

At 14:35 he makes the mistake of quoting the Bible, which renders his whole message unbiblical and forces him to retract the sacred words he just read. The verse he read is Proverbs 31:30. The verse reads, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” This contradicts everything he’d been saying, so he quickly makes the point again that men still are gonna look, so you need to look good for him! Ridiculous.

At 17:13 “It’s just the way it is. So every man has this need and here’s the deal. We can’t help it. Women spell affection T-A-L-K and men spell it S-E-X.” At 19:20 “We are not lust monsters. Chase you around the bedroom every night. We can’t help ourselves. God made us this way… It’s the main reason he married you.”

Again, the deflection is projection. The reason I know, is because I, too, used to buy into some of these ideas. And I was pretty much a lust monster. It was easy, because it was expected and a given. It’s not. The way out is as easy as rejecting that notion as false. Yes, God gave us a sex drive, and my mine is high, but it doesn’t have to dominate me. Search this blog for “lust” and see many articles about how it doesn’t have to be a problem. It’s definitely not a problem God cannot restore and redeem!

Then there’s an awful story as a conclusion delivered with many dramatic pauses. It’s about a knight that was going to slay a dragon to save a damsel in distress, and got his sword out, but she yelled to him to take this noose and strangle him instead. The dragon dies, “but he doesn’t feel admired. He doesn’t feel adored. He doesn’t feel like he’s done anything because she told him how to do it. Sometimes you just gotta let a man be your knight in shining armor… and sometimes you just gotta stand back and let him do it.”

I don’t throw these terms around very often, but that’s just downright chauvinistic. Are we supposed to feel sorry for him because she told him to do something? For another disturbing article showing how pervasive this type of teaching is, read this shocking piece.

The day I was finishing up this article, I came across a post shared from Alexa Danielle Kolbe. Perfect timing because her writing is so contrasting to that of the oratory skills of Stewar-Allen Clark. She wrote:

“You’ve gained weight” said the doctor at my annual checkup. 

I haven’t weighed myself in over a year, but I can tell you things don’t fit the same. 

I’ve definitely noticed it. 

I see it in pictures. 

I see it in videos. 

I can feel how my clothes fit differently. 

Everything still fits, but it fits differently.

1 Stretch mark has appeared on my abdomen. 

I go over in my head all the comments I believe people think of me. 

“Wow, she’s packed it on.” 

“She’s really let herself go.” 

“Look (friend) she’s gained weight!” 

I mean, the list goes on in my head. 

I believe people think I’m lazy or eat too much. I cry sometimes to my husband thinking over and over in my head these thoughts. Even though they’re not true, I still believe it. 

Wow, the mind is super controlling. 

We bring ourselves down & judge every inch. We praise other people for having positive body image, but we can’t praise ourselves for just taking a small step. 

We are all for others, so why can’t we be for ourselves? 

Childbirth, death, gut issues, moving, heartbreak, abuse, diseases, finances, relationship with food, etc. all affect us in some sort of way, & the stress of it all affects the reaction of each body differently. 

Our bodies do so much for us. It fights for us, protects us, & can do just about anything as long as the mind & it agree. It’s so beautiful, & we judge it’s capability by its appearance. 

I believe this weight gain has been a fighter response for my body. Deaths, moving, career change, & healing my relationship with food from restriction has all been what my body has gone through this past year. With all this people would say “you’re so strong” but my mind thinks all people are saying is “you’ve gained weight.”  

I’ve learned most people don’t “let themselves go.”

Most people are just going through something that we have no idea about. 

We need to give each other grace. 

Darling, you need to give yourself grace. 

Gaining weight could be a reflection from the weight life brings. 

A good book isn’t defined by its cover, but the life it gives when it’s read.

Someone commented on this post, “Beauty is the Godly characteristics of a woman – in the end its how much Love we gave and freely received – my grandmother used to say what most people judge as “beauty” is only skin deep and will fade with age .. as I’ve grown more mature, that is so true! It’s who you are ; your character that makes for beauty at any age, size, skin tone ect … love is the key. and from it all other beauty traits flow.. kindness, goodness, patience, tolerance for others, grace. We are an eternal beautiful being,in a temporary “ earthsuit” having a temporary journey on earth .. but we are all created by God individually and majestically created .. because he apparently likes variety just look at all the flowers.“

I agree wholeheartedly. And I’m sorry for this unfair treatment.

A new song from The Choir, one of my favorite Christian bands, would convey my sentiments to any lady (daughter of the Most High King) who is hurt by these attitudes:

Never mind, never mind yesterday’s night
Step outside, turn your gaze to the sky
Feel the morning light
never mind yesterday’s lies
Please realize you’re even more wondrous in my eyes
When the sun shines bright
Illuminating your scars
I adore the wounded creature you are

Are you troubled by your own reflection?
Searching for a friend to trust?

Does it feel like forever won’t be time enough
to heal your heart from the deepest cuts?
Child, you are love, you have always been loved
May one divine kiss be enough to heal your heart from the deepest cuts!

Never dread, never dread tomorrow’s sun
Let it come when it comes
This glorious night has just begun
Never cry tomorrow’s tears
Right now in here, shut your eyes, open your ears
Listen closely, a spirit stirring song is playing
And you’re beautiful, that’s all that I’m saying

Made-made methods have never worked in my experience and that of many others I know. And they won’t ever work, not fully, that is.

I really don’t think the traditional ways of dealing with lust and objectification of women is gonna help this guy. Made-made methods have never worked in my experience and that of many others I know. And they won’t ever work, not fully, that is. Here’s a big twist! While I do own and have taught from many of these best-selling Christian books that are indeed very harmful, how did I break free from the clutches of this toxic view? Simply put, I rejected the lie and I began to see others as God sees them. What served as a catalyst for this redeemed view came from the unlikeliest of places- Christian naturists with their ethical naturist philosophies. This may come as a complete surprise to you and stir up more rage inside you, but hold on a second. I get it! I used to think that family friendly Christian naturists were perverts and pedophiles trying to justify their wrong beliefs. I’ve since learned and also experienced first-hand that the exact opposite is true.

Naturism is freedom and body positivity carried out to its natural extreme. If a mature purity is indeed possible, then when pushed to its limits, that truth should remain true. The respect and dignity with which it approaches everybody is healthy, wholesome, and even godly. Aside from the many physical and emotional health benefits, naturism demystifies so much of what culturally has ensnared us, as evident in the case of our wayward pastor friend. The many resources on this blog help to provide a theological framework of what is a better way, both on paper (theoretical) and in the experiential practice of those beliefs.

There is a hundred year old book on “gymnosophy” by Maruice Parmelee entitled, Nudism in Modern Life. One century ago, this volume made the following observation: “It is true that childbearing is prone to injure the figure. The swelling womb distends the skin of the abdomen, and after delivery has taken place and the abdomen has sunk to its usual size the abdominal skin may remain flabby and wrinkled. Mother’s milk distends the breasts and sucking elongates the nipples, so that after nursing has ceased the breasts are not so firm and may become pendulous. But much of the injury done by childbearing could be averted by a healthier mode of life… In a more humane age men will overlook these physical marks in remembering the valuable service rendered by these women and in honouring them for it.

Did you catch that word? Humane? The opposite of dehumanizing. Honor over objectification. Love, not lust. Relational and physical intimacy, not marital rape (yes, I said it). I’m advocating for mature purity over artificial modesty and immature excuses. 

I’m advocating for mature purity over artificial modesty and immature excuses.

David L. Hatton laments on page 47 his book entitled, Who Said You Were Naked?: “One group of topless women in Mali, upon hearing about the fascination American men have with women’s breasts, fell down rolling with laughter, saying, ‘You mean, men act like babies?’ If these women heard this breast-fascination being religiously taught as intrinsic in men, they might stop laughing and start suspecting its preacher of being a pervert and his religion of being a deception. False doctrine in this area isn’t funny. It’s profoundly sad… My culture had fed me a despicable lie, and that falsehood came most insistently from the same lips that preached God’s Word. Indeed, we really have acted ‘like babies!’– not with a silliness that made bare-breasted women in Mali laugh– but with such utter immaturity that we should be shedding tears.”

Many are starting to see and speak out against this epidemic. However, there are not many solutions given beyond identification of the toxic behaviors. I’m not saying that the philosophy of ethical naturism is the answer, but it was certainly the catalyst for me that eradicated any semblance of these terrible ideas in my own life. Naturism in its pure form (and not the misconceptions of its practice) is antithetical to the attitudes on display in this sermon. They are in agreement with God’s intent at Creation and in the restoration of all things. Innocence can be restored, just as any other sin that twists and distorts a good gift. Seeing yourself and others as made in the image of God is a viable solution to all the ills of society, not on a large scale as not everyone will properly adopt this view (which would be a utopia), but on an individual basis. Imago Dei is the better way. I’ve lived it and it changed everything. It would even change Stewart-Allen Clark if he were brave enough to believe.

But what if…

I remember growing up one of the most awesome book series to read was the “Choose your own adventure” books. For those of you who may not know what I’m talking about, I’ll explain. You would begin the book like normal, but a few pages in you were given 2 choices. If you chose #1 you would turn to page 15, if you chose #2 you would turn to page 36 and the story would continue from there depending on what you chose. You were given choices throughout the book so you could read the book over and over and get somewhat different stories every time. If you didn’t like where you ended up, you could go back and pick something different. It was so much fun!

Unfortunately in life we rarely, if ever, get to go back and take a different path if we don’t like where we’ve ended up. If we do have the opportunity, there are usually consequences that we have to deal with from choosing wrong in the first place. I am a processor in my thinking, almost to a fault. I like to over analyze the situation to death and sometimes think so long about something that the opportunity passes me by and I end up kicking myself for not making a decision quicker. 

Unfortunately in life we rarely, if ever, get to go back and take a different path if we don’t like where we’ve ended up.

One of the hardest decisions I have ever been faced with was the decision on how to handle the information Phil shared with me about naturism. As you may have read in our first post he presented me with 3 options:

  1. Forbid him from participating in any way.
  2. Allow him to participate, but not participate myself.
  3. Go on this adventure with him (he didn’t word it that way).

During my time of processing I considered many “what ifs.”  What if he is just doing this to justify seeing naked women? What if this really is a sin in the eyes of God? What if someone finds out? What if he loses his job? What if our church kicks us out? What if our families disown us? What if our children hate us? And the list could go on and on!!!

Once we discussed all of these questions at length and were able to come up with answers for most of them I was able to make the decision that the thought of Christian naturism was ok by me. When I was coming to grips with what that meant for me practically a whole new set of “what ifs” came up. What if I’m fatter than everyone else? What if it’s super awkward for me but Phil is ok? What if Phil is not ok (if you know what I mean)? What if people stare at me? What if no one likes me? What if it’s horrible? That list could go on and on too!

Discussing those reservations, the only answer we came up with was that we weren’t going to know the answers until we tried it. So we did! After jumping in and experiencing many naturist group activities and just going to a park near us, I have the answers to those questions. 

-What if I’m fatter than everyone else?

Sometimes I am and sometimes I’m not. But you know what’s awesome? NO ONE CARES WHAT I LOOK LIKE!!!!

-What if it’s super awkward for me, but Phil’s ok? What if Phil is not ok?

There are moments where it’s been awkward, especially the first couple times, but that’s normal. Doing something new is always awkward, even fully clothed. Phil has never had any issues and neither have I. 

-What if people stare at me?

Never once has anyone looked long enough to make me feel uncomfortable. 

-What if no one likes me?

I have met the nicest people! So far everyone seems to think I’m ok. 

-What if it’s horrible?

Trust me, it’s not!

There are still many what if questions that come up from time to time and we try to figure those out as they come. In thinking back, some of those have been difficult and some of them have been reflective. What if I had forbidden Phil from participating? What if I’d allowed it but refused to entertain the thought for myself? I am confident that our marriage and relationship would not be as strong as it is now, and our relationship with the Lord would not be as solid.

During the last 9 months as we have written this blog, we have had many men reach out to us asking how they can encourage their wives. Here are the questions I would ask them:

  • What if it’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be?
  • What if no one cares what you look like and loves you in spite of all the flaws YOU see?
  • What if your relationship with your husband could be stronger and more intimate (not just physically) than you could have ever hoped?
  • What if you actually feel more confident nude? (I know you don’t think that’s possible, but trust me, with first hand knowledge, it is!)
  • What if you actually really enjoy it once you get past the little bit of awkwardness?
  • What if you miss out on the best friends you would ever have?
  • What if you let your own insecurities get the better of you?
  • What if it’s nothing like the fears you have in your mind?
  • What if it’s one of the best things that ever happened to you?

Consider these questions and then choose your own adventure!

Onions are terrible!

Onions are terrible! Sounds like something a kid would blurt out definitively. But are onions really terrible? Though it’s the predominant view among children, you certainly find throngs of people who would claim the opposite to be true, that onions are awesome! Diced raw, sautéed, julienned, onions are celebrated by many a trained palate. Perhaps it’s the immaturity of children, or the fact that they haven’t even tried onions, that prevents them from enjoying such a delicacy. And it’s not just onions, but also vegetables such as brussel sprouts that would also demand protest (I may be inclined to agree on that one!).

You may be asking what the point of all of this is. The same way that many children believe and are almost encouraged to perpetuate the opinion that onions are terrible, that statement falls very short of being true, especially across all demographics. I wonder if we do the same  with other more important things than food based on spiritual immaturity or popularly held beliefs or traditions of man.

Adam Young is a counselor with a podcast called, “The Place We Find Ourselves.” Episode 59 is part of a powerful series on spiritual warfare. It introduces the concept of making and breaking agreements. I’m convinced that a big part of our story boils down to agreements that we made and maintained until we realized they were a bad deal. Like a bad contract, they are binding until the agreement is terminated. “Onions are terrible!” is an agreement, however it is not one that causes much trouble. My issues with lust, objectification, and porn stemmed from much more nefarious agreements:

  • As a man, I’m wired to be stimulated visually.
  • When I see bare skin, the only “natural” response is to be tempted to react sexually, in deed or thought.
  • This is every man’s battle, so it will be a constant struggle.
  • Anyone who says he’s conquered lust has to be lying or delusional.

Mrs. Phil (who likes brussel sprouts, by the way) also made some agreements for most of her life. Here are a few of the agreements she had to break:

  • I’ll never be good enough.
  • I’m the fat sister.
  • She (anyone) is so much prettier than me.
  • Self love is arrogance, and I’m supposed to be humble.
  • I’m solely responsible for protecting my husband’s purity.

As you can see, these are all statements far more terrible than onions could ever be. How damaging to our relationship with each other, with God, and even with ourselves!

On the surface, many of these agreements appear to be noble (see Colossians 2:23). They are even taught passionately in our evangelical Christian circles. How messed up is this?  If our enemy, who despises the image of God, wants to destroy that aspect of our thinking, he’s done a tremendous job, right from the start.

The good news is that our minds can be renewed! We can wage spiritual warfare by breaking those bad agreements and the bondage that comes with them! From one kid who grew to love onions to the next, we can change our minds on any and all ideas that need renewing! That’s true repentance, changing your mind.

That would be the end of my article usually, but I may include one bonus agreement that I entertained years ago, and succumbed to it’s falsehood instead of rejecting, and exchanging it for the truth:

  • Anyone who calls themselves a Christian naturist is probably a pervert, a pedophile, or at the very least someone who is justifying their sinful nature.

The truth is, I’m none of those things, and I’m writing this article from inside a hot tub at a naturist park. I’m fully convinced this is one of the best places to write!

Sharing the News

It wasn’t long after Phil shared with me that he was a naturist and I decided to join him that we started talking about telling our parents. I have a very close relationship with my parents and I knew this wouldn’t be something I could keep from them. I think it was probably around 2 months in that we decided to have the conversation with my parents. We asked if we could come talk to them and they immediately asked if we were moving. We assured them we weren’t. We went to their house and spent the next 3 hours small talking and naturism was never brought up. I was waiting for Phil to start the conversation and he thought since they were my parents that I was going to start the conversation. We ended up leaving without doing what we had gone over there to do! We were both kicking ourselves, so we called them up and said, “Ok, we didn’t even talk about what we wanted to talk about because we chickened out. Can we come back?” They laughed and said they thought we had and of course we were welcome to come back. We turned the car around and began to pray for courage for us and understanding for them. We spent the next 2 hours telling them our story and sharing with them our understanding of Scriptures that we felt not only allowed us to be naturist, but convicted us to be. They didn’t say much. My dad asked a few questions, but my mom was pretty quiet. I have seen that face before. It’s her, “I’m disappointed” face. It broke my heart. She kept saying, “you are adults”, but I knew she was struggling. Who could blame her?! I had struggled too. I knew it would take some time. My mom is my best friend and I prayed this wouldn’t change that!

Over the next couple weeks my mom was very distant. Usually we talk several times a week if not daily, but she stopped calling and when I called she was short and tried to get off the call quickly. It was awkward. My dad told me that she was struggling because she was fighting what she had been taught her whole life too, and what she had taught me. He told us to temper our excitement when we were around her and probably not even to talk about it. I was devastated and continued to pray that this wasn’t a permanent change in our relationship.

Over the next few weeks God gave Phil and me a couple opportunities to talk with my parents again. My dad has had a much easier time dealing with the news than my mom and for that I am so grateful. I could sense my mom beginning to see my heart behind this decision and how it was making me a more confident woman and how my relationship with Phil was thriving. Slowly she began to call again and our conversations returned to normal. A couple of weeks ago we spent the day together and were able to make some jokes about being naked and had a couple good spiritual conversations. It was a great time!

We told my parents quickly, but it took quite some time to build up the courage to tell Phil’s parents. Phil’s family has been in ministry forever. Currently his dad is a Bible college professor. We were anxious about how they would react. We didn’t decide to tell Phil’s parents until several months later. Phil called and asked if we could come talk to them, but they ended up coming to us to watch our daughter’s basketball game. After the game we came back to our house and sent the kids upstairs. We shared basically the same thing we had shared with my parents, but with even more conviction. They were shocked, but seemed to take it pretty well. However, the next morning I called my mother-in-law to ask her a question about something unrelated. She sounded like she was emotional. I asked if she was ok, and she said she had just gotten off the phone with my mom. She need to talk to someone and my mom was the only person she knew she could talk to. I was grateful that she felt comfortable enough to reach out to my mom, but really wished I had been able to give her a head’s up at least! My mom was caught off guard a little bit. We decided later that it was a God thing because if she had known that we had told them she may not have taken my MIL’s call. My mom was able to share with Phil’s mom about the changes she had see in us, and that while it’s scary, she felt we had matured and were being smart. I think this gave my MIL a little bit of peace of mind. We have been able to make a few jokes about it now with Phil’s parents and things seem to be fine. We haven’t had another opportunity to talk seriously about it with them again, but I know eventually God will provide the time for that.

I am grateful for the way God has prepared the path before us in having these conversations. At the moment, only our parents, our children, my friend, and one of Phil’s friends are the only ones who know about this journey outside of our naturist friends. We look forward to the day we can share this journey with others, but like we’ve said before, because of our situation, we are unable to right now.

I am so grateful to our parents for their continued love and acceptance of us, even if they don’t full agree with us… yet! God is good and I rest assured in the confidence that He will continue to be good, forever and ever!

Instant Family

Have you ever met someone in person for the first time and felt an instant connection? I’ve only had that experience a few times in my life. Once as a 3rd grader at a new school, I met my best friend. We are still friends today. The others have been when I have met my fellow Christian naturists. If you have read our other blogs you know we went to Florida last year to a Christian naturist marriage retreat with some other couples we had been talking to online. When we showed up in Florida and were greeting each other, one of the ladies introduced herself and as she hugged us she said a phrase that has stuck with us, “Instant Family”. That phrase has become what we use to describe how it feels we have met others who are of like mind concerning the body.

It might feel this way because, well, they’ve now seen me nude. Although, most of my family hasn’t seen me that way and it doesn’t make them any less my family. And I have friends who don’t yet know about our naturism that I consider family, so I don’t think this is why.

I believe it is more about the spiritual connection. Many of these people we have chatted with online and have built up a friendship long before we have been able to give them hugs in person. We have had silly conversations and joked with one another. We have had deep spiritual conversations concerning many different topics. We have mourned with one another in times of loss and rejoiced in times of celebration. They know things about me that only a few outside of my naturist friends know. When we are given the opportunity to meet up in person it is something we look forward to with great anticipation!

There was a time maybe a year ago as we were really just starting our journey, that because of some internet glitches, we lost contact with some people (one in particular whose story is similar to mine and was helping me deal with the emotions and struggles I was having). I was devastated! I remember telling Phil through tears, I don’t know if I can do this without her to help me through it! She had literally become like a big sister to me! Thankfully, this glitch didn’t last long and we were able to get back in contact, but it did confirm in my heart that there was something special about the relationships we were building on this road.

This same friend was one that met up with us in Florida and after that experience she wrote some beautiful words about the experience. One of the things she said was this, “I am convinced that there is an intimacy that we are missing out on walking around in our clothes. It is an intimacy so deep that we don’t even miss it until you experience it. But it is there buried deep in our core waiting for us to come home…”

We have heard other friends say the same things. That this connection is very rare in the outside world especially so quickly. During these times we can be naked physically and spiritually and emotionally. During these times, I have never been more vulnerable. I’ve also never felt more safe. It’s here that I am accepted for who I am in so many ways. I am loved without having to prove my worth, because to my Christian naturist family, I am worthy just because I exist. God feels the same way about me and you. We don’t have to work hard to impress Him. We don’t have to say the right things, or look the “right” way, or go through the right motions to prove our worth, because in reality we never could anyway. God wants us as part of His family so much so that He offers us a lifeline through His Son. He loves us just as we are and desires a relationship with us that is so deep that we feel safe being vulnerable and naked in every way before Him. We should live in the confidence of His love for us!

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven. Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:13-16

What’s so good about Christian Naturism?

How has my life changed for the better since adopting this lifestyle? For one, it’s like coming home. It feels like I am the way God made me to be all along. Growing up and through my teens, I skinny dipped, and went out streaking in the woods. Then I came to believe the lie that such activity is childish and slightly deviant. I since have broken that agreement, and am thankful to embrace the naked truth! The other day when walking a trail at our park, I felt so alive and appreciative of God and his blessings (forget the fact that it was only 50 degrees out and I didn’t have a stitch on!).

What else? There’s a lot more. For instance, nudity has become totally and utterly demystified. This paradigm shift breaks the conditioned link between the body and sex, as well as the dualistic view that the soul is good and the body is inherently bad. Relearning for myself that the body and soul are intertwined and made for good has been revolutionary for me. This means I no longer objectify anyone or lust in my heart. Before, it was automatic, and if I was aware of it, then I felt guilt and shame over those thoughts. Simply put, I’m a better person, a better husband, and father. Before, I was powerless to help protect my boys against filling their minds with porn, as so many do. My weak instruction would’ve been “do as I say, not as I do!” But now I’m able to be honest with them and tell of my former struggles and how I’ve been surprised into freedom by changing the way I thought about the body, the image of God, and the renewing of your mind.

I now see everyone as beautiful and a fellow image bearer. Judgmental attitudes are greatly reduced, as a result. Instead, a healthy (and holy) respect is elevated in the place of judgment. You begin to see the whole person, not just the outward appearance. (Didn’t God say that while man looks at the outward appearance, he sees the heart? Yes, according to 1 Samuel 16, this is a godly trait!)

I did not care for legalism before my change in embracing naturism, but even so, I probably was legalistic in places. Now I really can’t stand either legalism or libertinism, but I feel compassion for other believers who are trapped in this type of bondage. It truly saddens me now, and not just in the area of body positivity. I’ve seen how attitudes against a wholesome theology of the body stem from deep man-made traditions and ignore solid biblical exegesis and historical context. 

I have a deeper appreciation for grace than I did before. Far too many Christians accept the grace and love of Jesus, but instinctively hold on to a system of law that has already been fulfilled in Christ. Gratitude for the work done on our behalf, that we could never do on our own is a much better way to live and please God, over a rules-based behavior that stems from unwanted guilt and shame.

I have a keener awareness of the enemy’s schemes and how he deceived the whole world (John 8:44; 1 John 5:19). Since the very beginning, our adversary has viciously attacked the beauty and innocence of the spousal union as God’s ideal. He hates the image of God, and so tries to distort and pervert it however he can.

In the relational arena, I’m more open and honest than ever before, and long for others to enjoy the deep and rich blessings God offers like I do. Because shedding clothes is an act of vulnerability, they are oftentimes not the only things to fall off. Small talk, triteness, and phoniness are likely to vanish from conversations with those of a like mind. Instead, our conversations are with substance and from the heart. Some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet are naturists (Christian or not). I think this is one reason why. 

While interacting with those who are not Christians, there is an opportunity to shine a light and to dispel some of the baggage that people associate (in many cases rightly) with this term and those who claim it. With true Christ followers, the fellowship with those brothers and sisters who are free with their bodies in non-sexual social nudity is a thing of beauty. It’s rare to achieve that level of unity in the textile world.

My wife and I have both gained a greater confidence. This is an area I didn’t not lack as much as Mrs. Phil did. When you can be naked around other people and be unashamed, there’s not much you can’t do!

On that note, we are not the most in shape people. Body acceptance has been a huge blessing. Naturists are on a mission to put an end to body shame, and are accepting of all body types. That said, we do see the importance of taking good care of our bodies and want to improve that area for reasons of good health. Our word for this year (see our blog about our words for the past two years here) is “temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:16 proclaims that our bodies are the temple of God. This implies so much more than the “don’t drink or smoke” and “get in shape” declarations that often come from this verse. However, there is some good sense in taking care of our bodies as we also care for our souls.

It seems obvious, but this “city boy” is much more appreciative of God’s creation and I feel more drawn to be in His nature He created for us. I have less need for all the extra trappings and materialistic distractions people become obsessed with and need to accumulate and maintain. I focus more on what is important and not on the things that may steal my joy for no reason. I realize how insecure the general population can be, and appreciate knowing and being secure in my identity in God. 

These are all very good benefits. What’s not so good? The misinterpretation and undue judgment against Christian naturism is a truly unfortunate reality we have to deal with. My friend Matthew Neal’s words from his blog really resonate with me:

Right now, people perceive of my wife and me as a godly couple who serve the Lord faithfully and are raising a family to love and serve God. This, I trust, is genuinely true. It is not diminished in the least by the fact that we have visited naturist resorts and have no requirement for clothing in our home.

But if those facts were known, the same people who view us as godly now might begin to perceive us as perverse and ungodly people who are damaging our own children and leading them astray—ideas which are patently false.

  • So by withholding some information, people continue to believe the truth.
  • By revealing information they are not prepared to comprehend, people would believe a lie.

I genuinely wish I could tell everyone about my beliefs about the body and my practice of naturism. I don’t think there has been any other decision in my life (besides my faith in Christ and my marriage) that have had a more profoundly positive impact on my life. And while I’m constantly alert to opportunities to invest related truth in others’ lives, I’ve determined that—at this point in time—full disclosure would be more of a hindrance to truth than a help to it.

If this got out to the wrong people at this stage in our lives, we would sadly suffer for it. We have several friends who have had to endure various levels of persecution because of this lifestyle that is misunderstood and where intentions are grossly misconstrued. Those friends, like us, have weighed the pros and cons and have come to the conclusion they will not compromise their beliefs due to the ignorance of others.

Speaking of friends, here is what some other friends think is the good stuff when it comes to naturism. 

One friend said:

For me it is a self-selected symbol or token of my openness and humility before Him and His will, in preparation of my knowledge that one day I will stand naked before Him at the judgment day, not being able to hide anything from Him, inside or out. In like manner it is also a symbol or token of my love for Him, choosing to shun the influence of shame where God never intended it to be. I choose Him over culture, I choose Him over the masses, and I choose Him over myself. I am one with Him.

Another said:

We have grown closer to each other and to God. We are more open with each other and with God, we don’t seem to try to hide as much from Him (I know not possible anyway). We have developed deeper, more meaningful relationships with our naturists Christian friends than our textile friends and we believe closer to God because of that. Probably the biggest area is that we have learned to study God’s Word better and deeper for ourselves rather than simply trusting the church’s / pastor’s / professor’s response.

One friend got straight to the point saying:

Connection. Connection to God. Connection to self. Connection to others. Connection to creation.

One friend confessed the following:

Choosing to think and live this way with no shame nude before the Lord ultimately freed me from the last residue of porn deep in my mind, heart and soul and for this I am so thankful to the Lord’s holy light shining on the deep dark part of me in order for it to be expelled permanently. This is part of the nude journey with the Lord that so many believers in Christ are afraid to take, but looking back it was worth the spiritual struggle for this true God and Christ centered freedom.

Another also testified:

I’ve had much less issue with lust, because when you desexualize the nude body, it beautifies God’s original design of being “very good” and frankly, I believe it has created a deeper intimacy with my wife and I due to the fact that in a very tangible way, there’s even LESS between us. We’re better connected as spouses and as followers of Christ!

Lastly, this friend said:

One thing that being nude around others has shown me is that God’s creation is good, and He called it good, not me, and his creation includes me and everyone else around me. God’s creation isn’t just good, it’s also beautiful, and nudity makes me appreciate God’s creation!

We wholeheartedly agree with all of these. We are grateful for our friends who share not only our opinions on the body, but who also have the same conviction to live out those beliefs and model them to others. Having studied, prayed about, experimented, and lived out this lifestyle for a while now, we are fully convinced in our minds that it is God’s will for us. I wish others would be open-minded enough to explore it as honestly as we have.

Don’t Look Here!

(The problem of lust, part 2)

There’s a theme park that has an iconic building with a small hole in the exterior wall. Above the hole are the words with an arrow pointing to it saying, “Don’t look here!” Of course, that’s exactly what everyone does. You look in the hole and there is some creepy picture or something. I don’t even remember what’s in there, but it’s funny anyway!

It’s true of human nature that when you make a rule you get almost nothing but infractions! Take this sign as another prime example. This poor “No target shooting” sign has been nothing but a target for shooting! And this bird pictured atop a “no birds” sign is not unlike the behavior of its human counterparts.

Let’s keep thinking along these lines for closer examination. The prohibition era made liquor illegal, but did nothing to curb the drinking problem. It gave rise to the black market and launched many homemade moonshine operations.

Andrew Farley has a book called “The Naked Gospel” (not a naturism book) that points out the futility of the law to save one’s soul. Yes, we say only Jesus saves, but then we try to go back to a pseudo law-based form of Christianity. It’s not working very well! I heard Farley use this illustration in a message the other day: the law is like a mirror. It points out problem areas like a mirror would show we need to care for our teeth. The mirror will not fix anything, it will only show where our needs are. You don’t chip off a piece of the mirror and use it on your teeth. That’s not why it’s made!

I saw this quote the other day by David A. Holland in “Praying Grace” that was quite insightful: “Adam and Eve’s labor to create fig leaf garments to cover their shame represents mankind’s very first religious work. Cain’s rejected offering was the second (and that rejection led to the first murderous rage.) From the Tower of Babel, to the meticulous rules and regulations of the Pharisees, to all of the world religions, right up to our modern day– fallen man’s impulse has been to work or earn our way back into the Garden of Eden.”

I used to suffer from a problem with porn. Of course that was because I had a problem with lust. This developed in part because of youth groups and other Christian guys telling me that we all had this problem and needed to work hard to fight against it. The very prohibitions and warnings made me curious and wanting to see for myself how bad porn really was. I realize I can’t blame anyone else for my own behavior. James 1:14 (KJV) says, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” This is true, however, the “laws” against such actions, were a factor for creating the very problem with lust which they intended to prevent. We are already programmed in our culture to respond sexually to the sight of bare skin. The church in its teaching (though well meaning) reinforces these ideas and makes it seem as that’s the only “natural” way for men to respond.

So that’s how I responded. I did not like porn, but I couldn’t ever quite shed it from my life. I knew it wasn’t good for me or my relationship with my wife. But even that knowledge and the “rules” did nothing to stay my desire. It was like Romans 7:7-8 (KJV) “I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.” And a few verses later, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15 NIV) I was indeed asking the final question in this passage, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:24 NIV) I felt like a dog returning to its vomit. I felt so much guilt and shame. I felt like I was a disappointment to God. As a result, I hated the body God gave me because of my actions toward it and the impure thoughts in my head. I wondered why most of the Christian men I know also expressed this lifelong struggle?

The solution seemed to be more will power and more rules to safeguard against the power of lust working against us. Like the Pharisees, we’ve added more regulations to God’s ideals and created man-made traditions and “solutions” that have solved nothing. Also, like with the Pharisees, the law becomes a breeding ground for hypocrisy. “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:23 ESV)

Indeed it’s as futile as wiping away a spider web. It won’t solve your problem if the spider is still alive. They will surely reappear. Man-made attempts at defeating porn may wipe away the webs, but the spider of lust is at the ready to come right back unless you kill it.

Then something surprising and unexpected occurred. I saw that naturists had an aversion to porn. They were adamant that nudity does not equal porn. It seemed they had a greater respect for the body then everyone else. They were also less judgmental towards others than most Christians, who should excel in these virtues. Even Christians were naturists and held the body and everyBODY in a sort of holy esteem that is more biblical than our present day dualistic views, where we see the world through spirit=good and body=bad lenses.

Could it be that some people don’t fall into lust at the sight of nudity? Or are their hearts hardened? No, from what I’ve observed firsthand, these people are more passionate about the Lord than the average church goer. This baffled me, but I was so drawn by it. What’s the worst that could happen? I gave this lifestyle a try, and found those claims to be true. There’s an innocent beauty in these people. They are not perverted. The way I used to be was perverted (at least on the inside). Now that way of thinking has completely vanished as my mind has been renewed.

Is my conscience seared? Am I desensitized? No, the body is simply demystified for me. It’s lost its allure. I no longer fixate on body parts that our culture has deemed purely sexual. Do we not all have the same parts? Is the body only for sex? Isn’t there more to a person than their body?

Jesus said in Matthew 5:28, “If your eye causes you to sin gouge it out.” What if it doesn’t? I reject the notion that my eye will cause me to sin. This seems unbelievable to those in the church because they teach it’s an automatic reaction, so we need to avoid any sight of anything that could be tempting. They haven’t worked through their own views of the body, not realizing that they are projecting their own impure thoughts onto everyone else. They would rather have a set of rules and follow them as best as they can. They would rather cover up the women with phony and arbitrary modesty standards that do nothing to curb men’s lustful thoughts. It only serves to excuse their behavior and place blame on the clothing choices of others instead of taking responsibility for their own thought life.

Lust is not a sight problem, it is a heart problem. As Jesus himself declares in Mark 7:21 (NIV), “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come.” 

I’m done with all that! I’d rather focus on relationship with the Lord instead of rule keeping. I’d rather please him out of my own desire, not as an obligation. It’s better to let Christ rule, instead of being bound by rules. There is a big difference there! He’s taken away the guilt and shame that used to hover over me unrelenting. He’s made me free because I have believed the truth (John 8:32), and that freedom is a gift that I do not take for granted. As Galatians 5:1 (NIV), “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

The compulsion I could never seem to control is gone for good, and so is the bondage that came with it.

Porn is the last thing I want to see now. My mind has been renewed and transformed (Romans 12:1-2). I don’t objectify others. Instead, I see everyone as a beautiful creation of God, worthy of respect as a fellow image bearer. I would never be in the healthy place I find myself through a system of rules. It’s a rejection of culture, tradition, an embracing of God’s truth, and a desire to live righteously out of gratitude that has made all the difference. The Lord is gracious to me, and I’m happy to honor him and others around me. I no longer serve the Lord with a double mind out of guilt and shame. Now I serve him out of a heart of joy. Relationship will always yield much better results than rules ever could obtain for us. 

Ending this addiction was so easy, I could hardly believe it.  That’s because God did the work, and I stopped trying. Indeed I was surprised into freedom!

The Year of the Locust

What a year, right? It has been such a difficult year for so many. That’s why we kind of feel bad that for us this year hasn’t been the typical 2020 experience. In fact, it’s been pretty great. But let’s rewind and go back to 2019 to explain.

Way back in January 2019, Mrs. Phil did something she hadn’t really done before. She picked a word of the year. She prayed and asked the Lord to give her a word that would be a sort of “theme” for the whole year. The word the Lord gave her was “transformation.” She had no idea what that meant, and it really didn’t apply for most of the year. Then in October, one conversation rocked her world completely. (You can read about this day on our “In the Beginning” post.) She learned that I, her husband, was a Christian naturist. Then I suggested it might help her with her own body issues. There is a whole lot more to the story, but she did a 180 and agreed. The Lord knew a huge transformation was going to take place in our lives, and that most definitely came to be!

Right before the calendar switched to 2020, I prayed the same prayer for the Lord to give me a word that would shape our new year. I was led to the word “Joy.” So for 2020, our word was “joy.” This was before Covid, before the heightened racial tensions, before the political frenzy. Again, the Lord proved to know what he was doing. Despite all these things that threatened to steal our joy this year, it has been a year of profound joy for us!

For me personally, there was the joy of being completely free of any draw to pornography, which had plagued me for most of my adult life. For Mrs. Phil, she came out of her bondage of extremely low self-esteem, and finally learned to love herself. Naturism played a huge part in our transformations which resulted in great joy. We celebrated our 20 year anniversary on a nude beach. We became annual members at a naturist park. We’ve enjoyed a deeper and closer relationship with each other and with God. We are teaching our children new and better principles for life, so they will not experience the years of bondage that we lived with for so long.

We started this blog to tell our story and encourage others. We called it “Aching for Eden” because we long to restore the innocence of Adam and Eve in the garden, naked and unashamed, enjoying sweet fellowship with their Creator. The phrase “aching for Eden” comes from a song from singer/songwriter Andrew Osenga. The song is called “The Year of the Locust” and comes from Joel 2:25 where God promises to restore the years the locusts have eaten.

Life is hard, and everyone has struggles and seasons of locusts and times of joy and celebration. The year 2020 will go down as one of the craziest and “worst” years for many people. For us, we had almost two decades where we had a good marriage, ministry, and family, but I was hindered because of my secret sin of pornography. It hurt my wife, and contributed to her own issues with her self concept. These were times where looking back, the “locusts” were eating. After the Lord helped to free us from our bondage and liberated us from guilt and shame, and brought us so close together, it felt as if all those years had been restored. That’s one of the reasons we love Revelation 21:5 where Jesus says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” As the song says, we can now, “Celebrate and take joy as the dry bones dance.”

When we hear this song, it brings up a lot of emotions. We usually tear up, but they are happy tears. As we hear the guitar instrumentals throughout the song, we remember how God does his work in our lives. We remember where we were and where God has now brought us.

We hope you enjoy the song that means so much to us. We wish you a happy New Year, and pray for you, our friends and readers. May 2021 bring you unexpected blessings as you strive to follow Him wholeheartedly!

Song Lyrics:

Try our hardest not to think about it
Who are we fooling? We never stop
The longing, the hurting, the doubting
Worn out from waiting for a parachute drop

Hey you, in the reflection of the rearview
of a hit and run at the drive through
Slow down, what you’re chasing isn’t something
It’s a screenshot of a rumor in town
And the Spirit moves upon the waters

Take comfort and rest
In the heart of an uncivil war and you’re taking a beating
Blood red on your chest
He will restore the years the locusts have eaten
The locusts have eaten

Don’t know how to really talk about it
We smile over coffee and turn to go
Too worn down to reach out to another
Too dried up to tend the ground where we need to grow

Our plans are a lost key to a hotel
Where we checked out to go find ourselves
It’s time, and it always was,
And it will again, but we’ll never be who we were back then
When the Spirit moved upon the waters

Take comfort and rest
When the heart is an uncivil war and you’re taking a beating
Blood red on your chest
He will restore the years the locusts have eaten
The locusts have eaten
We’re aching for Eden

Celebrate! Take joy!
As the dry bones dance
I’m on a rock in the river
In this moment, I have a place to stand
And the Spirit moves upon the waters

Take comfort and rest
When the heart is an uncivil war and you’re taking a beating
Blood red on your chest
He will restore the years the locusts have eaten
The locusts have eaten
We’re aching for Eden

Open letter to Christian leaders

First of all, you have a very difficult and often thankless job, so I want to thank you for your dedication and ministry. I know what it’s like and I can attest to the fact that it’s not easy, but it’s an important responsibility we have. To best serve those under our care as undershepherds, we need to be spiritually fed and above reproach ourselves.

You don’t need any statistics to know that pornography is a huge problem and not just outside the church. Within our congregations are many men (and some women as well) who seek out pornography to try to fill a void in their life. Knowing it’s not God-honoring, and trying to quit, they are trapped by the allure and subject to it’s bondage. Many also are addicted and feel they will never find freedom. Even church leaders are not immune. Because of their position they are scared to be open and honest about it. I know because this once described me.

Our attempts at curbing this issue while noble are weak at best. Especially if we ourselves are also struggling, how do we expect to help anyone else? Calling it “every man’s battle” is simply admitting defeat! Conventional Christian wisdom on the matter places the burden of the task on the powerlessness of man-made tactics. They perpetuate guilt and shame rather than providing a way forward to a new form of thinking which brings sustained and perpetual freedom from bondage. This is God’s work, which is done without our help or cooperation.

  • No amount of confession, accountability or software will cause a man to not look lustfully at a woman if he is intent on doing so. There are always ways to get around it. You can always fake it. 
  • No amount of promises made at an inspiring conference will stop a man from his own evil desires and impure motives. 
  • No amount of pancake breakfasts will help him resist the constant struggle of objectifying other people.
  • No amount of self-imposed modesty will help a man change his thought life. It’s prideful to think that way, as if Jesus’ work on the cross was not enough to save a man’s soul. This is the practical application of this thinking: Since Jesus isn’t powerful enough to change your animalistic behavior, we need to set an arbitrary length of skirt or “proper” coverage of shoulders or chest to help you out!

The church tries to address this issue but fails as its methods are ineffective. They are like treating a virus with a band aid and do nothing to address the root issue of the problem. In fact, one of the factors for my interest in pornography came from how youth groups talked about it. Instead of preventing me from seeking it out, it got me curious about it.

My point, coming from my own experience and that of many others, is that the heart and the mind of the individual need to change (be renewed) for a lasting transformation to occur. 

It angered me so much the other day to see a program being offered to pastors with porn problems for $199. The true and lasting solution should be and IS free! It doesn’t cost the price of internet filters and accountability software (that can always be circumvented anyway). It is not a man-made attempt to work harder or do better through will power. It does not thrive on guilt and shame. It is not confession-based to another human. It is solely a work of God, and he does it without my help.

This vice does not need to be every man’s battle. Nor do we need to bounce our eyes at the sight of anything that can become a trigger for actions that dishonor God and others. Temptation is all around us, but it doesn’t have to be temptation. James 1:14 (KJV) is quick to point out that, “every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” Temptation isn’t the fault of who you lust after. You and your heart are the only one to blame.

The goal of a recovering alcoholic should be to be able to go to the grocery store and walk down the liquor aisle without a single urge or desire to indulge. Likewise, someone who has been conditioned to respond in lustful ways needs to change his/her mind, with God’s help in order to have lasting freedom from bondage.

Should we hide and cover the cupcakes so as not to cause someone with a gluttony problem to sin? Do we need to ban money or close banks for those overcome by greed? Lust seems to be one of the few sins we practically label as hopeless to overcome in a fallen world. With everything else, it is assumed that we can grow, mature spiritually, and conquer with God’s help.

Let’s take this concept to an extreme. Imagine you and your wife (if you are married) are having a dinner party with your best friends. Then all of a sudden everyone’s clothes disappear and everyone is completely naked (inexplicably). Aside from the initial shock and possible embarrassment, would you be able to control yourself around your friend’s wife? Or would the animalistic urges kick in and it becomes an all out orgy? I’m thinking that after a few minutes of awkwardness, everyone may carry on as normal and no one would cross any moral lines. Why? Because you have a healthy respect for one another and a love and deep friendship. It would be wrong to act on any impure thoughts in this non-sexual setting. Why is it any different with a stranger in a picture or a video online? When it’s a person on a screen, where we don’t have that relationship built or a mutual friendship, and we act out sexually, we excuse it as a natural urge. See the problem?

Jesus said in Matthew 5 that anyone who looks lustfully at another woman had already committed adultery in his heart. He did not say seeing a woman was sin, otherwise men would be sinning all the time. This would be cruel on God’s part! He said looking with lustful (coveting) intent is the sin. 

According to Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc., lust means, “to have an eager, passionate, and especially an inordinate or sinful desire, as for the gratification of the sexual appetite or of covetousness.”

This is desiring that person in a way that isn’t rightfully your place to enjoy. God meant for sexual expression to be in context of a married relationship. Looking lustfully is equating a person who is not your spouse as a piece of meat, a collection of body parts that you are objectifying, selfishly for your own gratification. This can occur with full nudity, partial nudity, or a fully dressed person! You are making a fantasy relationship or escapade with your impure thoughts, as if they were true. 

Pope John Paul II is one of the few theologians in history to address the evident gap in our theology with his “theology of the body.” He has posed many great truths and one of my favorite quotes of his is this: “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.” (John Paul II [Karol Wojtyla]. Love and Responsibility. Rev. ed. Trans. H.T. Willetts. New York: Farrar, 1981.)

This can be illustrated with David and Bathsheba. Bathsheba was bathing on the rooftop like many people did in those days. It was commonplace. David, with the highest point in the city could see many people bathing, but with this one, he had to have her in a sexual conquest, even committing murder to cover it up. David was the guilty man according to the prophet Nathan. Bathsheba was the innocent lamb. So why do we place the blame on the ladies, saying they should not tempt men with how they dress? It’s not logical or right.

Jesus also said in Mark 7 that nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them. He continues saying for it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, adultery, lewdness, envy and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.

This also indicates that the mere sight of someone is not the sin, but rather thinking improperly about that person, is the sin. We need to worry less about what visual stimuli we receive and more about how we think about it!

I write passionately about this because of my own story of failure after failure. I won’t go into all of it suffice to say that I battled the ongoing mystique and pull of pornography for over two decades. I tried everything with varying degrees of success, but never finding full freedom and a clear conscience before God and my wife. I thought I’d never grow out of it and it would always be a constant struggle. 

“That’s someone’s daughter” which you often hear as advice against this type of behavior didn’t ever stop me even though I have a daughter of my own. My mind was messed up and not renewed. My view of the body was skewed and distorted, as it is with so many today. As Titus 1:15 says, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.” This was me, WAS, being the operative word.

There needed to be a renewal of the mind in terms of how I viewed the body (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:22-24). For too long, I allowed the way the world views people and their bodies to influence my own view. The worldly view is not God-honoring or holy. It agrees with the pornographers in its shallow view of what is and isn’t attractive and how sexualized we are today. The religious notion is to agree with pornographers (yes, you read that right) that “nude is lewd” and react to the opposite extreme of puritanical prudery. This body=bad, spirit=good is a dualism that the Bible does not teach. Rather it is gnostic heresy, and it damages our cause to maintain purity. As Colossians 2:23 (ESV) points out, “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” Pornography and prudery feed off each other in a vicious cycle, giving the other what it is missing- a godly view that honors, both the body and the someBODY who dwells in it.

Our enemy, the ancient serpent, has been crafty since the beginning. He hates the image of God (Imago Dei) reflected in humankind as much as he hates the God they represent. He adamantly attacks this whole concept and seems to be winning! What God crafted as his most precious masterpiece, Satan has twisted and distorted to the point that it no longer is seen in the same way. Like a priceless work of art, crumbled up, it needs to be rediscovered for its natural and pure beauty. It can, however, be restored as Jesus’ wounds heal our wounds and he makes all things new again (Isaiah 53:5; Revelation 21:5).

The enemy is deceiving the whole world as he has from the beginning. We’ve been conditioned in many ways by society and by evil itself. For me, I agreed with several lies:

  1. When I see a woman I find attractive (nude, scantily clad, or fully clothed), because I’m wired as a visual person, I can’t help myself but respond with a sort of sexual fantasy and lustful thoughts. (Like Pavlov’s dogs or something!)
  2. This is bad, but it’s the way everyone is and there’s nothing I can really do about it. I’ll never be free.

I’m sure there were many more agreements made, but the point is the lies took precedent over the truth. I lived as though the lies were true. Jesus said in John 8:32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 

True repentance according to the meaning of the greek word refers to a changing of the mind. I changed my mind about all of this, which seemed counterintuitive at the time, because I was so depraved in my thinking (Romans 1:18-32). I started to see humankind as the pinnacle of God’s creation, made in His own image. I saw the body, not as lewd, dirty or obscene, but as beautiful and holy, worthy of respect and honor. I also saw other people for who they are, all fearfully and wonderfully made. I appreciated the diversity of God’s design of people as the crowning glory of his awesome creation, more grand than the most magnificent sunset. I no longer “worshipped” created things rather than the Creator as does an idolater (Romans 1:25; Ephesians 5:5). I focused on the whole person, not just certain parts (that in our society get extra attention). Arousal took its rightful place as belonging only to my wife based on our deep relationship.

Once I made the switch in my mind, it was smooth sailing. I was amazed. What I never thought possible was not only possible, but easy. As stated, I rejected the lies, and God did the rest. This constant issue of 20 years simply vanished. I felt different. It wasn’t like moments of “victory” before where there was still a struggle and then I inevitably would fall off the wagon with a binge. This is true freedom, and it’s incredible! I then came across the “My Chains are Gone” website which confirmed everything I had experienced. If you have tried everything and nothing works to rid yourself of these thoughts and habits, read through www.mychainsaregone.org.

This nagging, but ever-present problem was affecting me in many ways. Without it, I’m a better minister, but more importantly a better husband. And being the father of sons, I’m no longer impotent to help them with these issues. The cycle is broken, praise God!

What am I asking of you? First of all, if you yourself are struggling, take another hard look at my testimony and ask yourself if you are believing some of the same lies. Where are you missing God’s truth that’s been staring us in the face ever since the beginning? Secondly, maybe you are blessed to not be affected by this vice, but think about how you teach on this subject and what message you are sending, especially to young people? Does it agree with society’s view or worse our true enemy’s view of human beings and their bodies? Are you relying on man-made methods that fall short of true and full redemption as it relates to lustful attitudes and actions?

My hope and prayer is that this blesses you, and you experience the joy and closeness to God and others that I have found since embracing this more healthy, natural, and godly way of thinking.

Respectfully,

A co-laborer in the Lord, Phil O.

P.S. For a printable pdf of this letter click here.

Image credit: V0034184 In the Garden of Eden, while the serpent curls around the tr Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org In the Garden of Eden, while the serpent curls around the tree of knowledge, Eve is about to taste the apple. Coloured etching. Published: [n.d.] Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Commanded to Clothe?

This is a Christian naturist blog. So, naturally, we like to take our cues from the Bible, which we interpret as God’s inspired word revealed to us. If it commands us to be clothed, then we would do well to obey this instruction. But is that what it is saying?

Much has been written, by others smarter than me, about Adam and Eve sewing the fig leaves, and God then making animal skins. This shows the coverings were man’s idea. Either that, or the other character in the garden, the serpent. We also believe the serpent was the “who” of “who told you that you were naked?” It was either man’s idea or the serpent’s, and not God’s. God however improved upon the fig leaves and gave them skins out of compassion, that would provide them both warmth and protection for the harsh environment they would meet when expelled from the garden paradise.

That is a quick summary that can be further explored elsewhere. However, for this post, I want to list the things in which the Bible does command us to clothe ourselves. (I got this list from natman55 on a forum in naturist-christians.org.)

  • Lk 24:49 (Jesus) “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” 
  • Rom 13:14 “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” 
  • 1 Cor 15:53-54 “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’” 
  • 2 Cor 5:2-4 “Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” 
  • Gal 3:26-27 “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” 
  • Col 3:12 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 
  • 1 Tim 2:9-10 “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” 
  • 1 Pet 3:3 “Do not let your adornment be merely outward-arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” 
  • 1 Peter 5:5 “And be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” 
  • Rev 19:8 “And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”

What is clear from this biblical instruction is that the clothing we are commanded to wear is symbolic, metaphorical, attitudes, decent qualities, good deeds, virtues, and Christ himself. The last reference actually interprets the symbolism of those white robes of fine linen for us as our righteous acts. The symbolism in Revelation is often a cause for confusion to many, but it cannot be mistaken here!

What is absent? Threads. Textiles. Brand names. Fashion. Outfits. Why? It’s not necessary or even desired by God or by man in this state. The pre-fall state will be the post-curse state, as we see in the bookends of Genesis and Revelation. Job 1:21 makes this clear, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.”

Our clothing-compulsive brothers and sisters seem to know this, but can’t get past the fact that in this fallen world, there can be such an experience devoid of lustful thoughts. They think we cannot walk around other people in a socially nude setting without falling into sin. As I, and many others can attest to, you can, and it is good, perhaps even “heavenly.” We have even experienced a kinship that is deeper than in the textile world. 

Still, there is a cognitive dissonance here that is hard to shake. Ironically, the same people who have trouble with these ideas (even presented biblically) have no issue with the idea that we will lose our clothes at the end of time. This is not a blog on eschatology or end times theology. I don’t subscribe to the millennial view of a pre-tribulation rapture (what people see as the rapture, I simply see as the second coming). Regardless, the idea that we will one day vanish and our clothes will be left behind is met without any real argument. If we want to experience heaven on earth right now, it’s like we are crazy all of the sudden?

I realize that in a fallen world, things can go wrong because of sin. But things are way wrong because of sin in the textile world! Visit a family-friendly naturist park for one day, and seeing is believing! There is safety because people have changed the way they think about the body and the way they see everyBODY (redeemed minds which we write about often). There is a great respect and dignity that is sorely lacking in the “real” world.

In our lives, we want to dress appropriately for the situation in which we find ourselves. If we are in the “real” world, where people are not of like mind, nor are they mentally able to separate the body from sex, we wear clothes. As the saying goes, “Nude when possible, clothed when practical.” If we are home, we like to get comfy and be “as God intended” as long as it’s not too cold. In a safe setting like a nude beach or family-friendly naturist park, we can be free from the clothes and cultural norms that weigh us down. Are we sinning? I have worshipped and prayed with other nude Christians inside chapels and by hot tubs in such places. I believe in these cases, we aren’t sinning, but rather we are clothed in what the Bible instructs us to “wear.” As one song we like to sing says, “Dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.”