The next installment from the “Objections” video series comes from 1 Timothy 2:9-10. This is an often quoted passage to encourage modest dress in primarily females. But is that the real message in the text? This short video explains our feelings on the matter.
Mrs. Phil and I have written previously on this blog about modesty:
What passes today for modesty can easily become a false modesty or even a source of pride. Granted many of the proponents of modesty are well intentioned and their motives may be pure, but in our opinion, the general practice is not serving the purpose it claims to address. And with arbitrary standards of what is modest enough, one could go all the way and have a full covering burka, taking that logic to its natural (though unnatural) conclusion.
We have chosen to go the opposite way, because if the logic of the body as obscene is wrong, then the natural conclusion would be that body is and can be right in any state of dress and even undress. This is untenable for some because of indoctrination, tradition, and hyper-conservatism. It takes an open mind and courage to reject lies and embrace truth.
The main focus of this post will be the following video. We, at Aching for Eden, have produced this video to share a very important point regarding the practice of naturism as a Christian. I will leave it at that, and let you watch the video, and then I’ll discuss some more.
The premise of this video is simple. If you were to play the sound clips for any practicing Christian, they would be able to identify the sounds of worship to God. As soon as they learn that everyone in the audio was naked, their knee-jerk reaction will be to protest. To them the two notions are incompatible: one cannot be naked in mixed company and worshiping God at the same time. However, does it sound any different than any worship service in any church anywhere? At face value, if we did a blind test side-by-side could you tell the difference between Naked worship and clothed worship? No! They are the same. More importantly, God accepts them both as worship.
Well this begs the question: can people lust in a naked worship service? The answer, is yes. My follow up question is: Can people lust in a clothed worship service? The answer is also yes, absolutely! Do they? That depends entirely on the person. No external factor should be able to cause a human heart to lust or not. A lustful person will lust. A person whose mind has been redeemed on the issue of lust, who has been healed from the sexual brokenness of our world will remain mature, innocent, and pure in any and all settings. The depraved mind cannot control itself. The redeemed mind cannot be controlled.
I’m not saying we can be perfect, or that we will never sin. But I am saying that I used to struggle with lust a lot over a span of 20 years, and now I don’t anymore (Praise God!). I mean it’s a night and day difference, to the point that I can even worship freely with others of a like mind even completely naked and not fall into sinful thoughts or behavior.
That’s becuase it’s a mind and heart matter. Jesus and Paul seem to agree with that statement:
“There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” Mark 7:15 ESV
“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.” Titus 1:15 ESV
In my experience in various nude worship gatherings, my brothers and sisters are simply worshiping the Lord. No one is there for any purpose other than to worship in that moment, and after that moment, they lead lives of worship. The thought that this concept is so radical and an impossibility is no more than a projection of one’s own imagination, and proof that the objecting person has not worked through the issues regarding the body that plague so many today. I’m so grateful to have this tremendous healing and be able to enjoy a mature purity. Does this come across as arrogant? It may, but I hope it doesn’t. I do not mean to boast in anything but the love of Christ. I would hope rather that it comes across as an invitation to see there is a better way to live, free from the sexual hang ups and brokenness that abounds in the world and frankly in our church pews. I’ve often said I would wish this upon my worst enemy, if I had any. It’s my wish that all who are exposed (no pun intended) to these truths prayerfully consider them and overcome the traditions of men in favor of the mystery of God revealed in our very bodies.
I love the way Christopher West sums up his fascinating book, “Our Bodies tell God’s Story” and this too is my prayer for you dear reader:
Perhaps we’ve been caught up in a thousand lies about the meaning of our bodies and our sexuality. But it doesn’t matter how dyslexic or even illiterate we may have been in reading the divine language of the body up to this point in our lives. As John Paul II boldly proclaims, through the gift of redemption there is always the possibility of passing from error to the truth; there is always the possibility of conversion from sin to sexual purity as an expression of life according to the Spirit.
Come, Holy Spirit, come! Convert our hearts from lust to love. Impregnate our sexual desires with divine passion so that, loving as God loves on earth, we might one day rejoice in the consummation of the marriage of the Lamb in heaven. Amen.
That’s a great place to end, but if I could throw one more grenade of unorthodox truth in the mix, it’d be this one. Frank Viola and George Barna (non-naturists) have in their book “Pagan Christianity” a whole chapter devoted to “Costumes: Covering Up the Problem.”They conclude:
What’s the big deal about “dressing up” for church? It is hardly a burning issue. However, it is what dressing up for church represents that is the burning issue. First, it reflects the false division between the secular and the sacred. To think that God cares one whit if you wear dressy threads on Sunday to “meet Him” is a violation of the New Covenant. We have access to God’s presence at all times and in all circumstances. Does He really expect His people to dress up for a beauty pageant on Sunday morning? Second, wearing attractive, flashy clothes on Sunday morning screams out an embarrassing message: that church is the place where Christians hide their real selves and “dress them up” to look nice and pretty. Think about it. Wearing your Sunday best for church is little more than image management. It gives the house of God all the elements of a stage show: costumes, makeup, props, lighting, ushers, special music, master of ceremonies, performance, and the featured program. Dressing up for church violates the reality that the church is made up of real people with messy problems—real people who may have gotten into a major-league bickering match with their spouses just before they drove into the parking lot and put on colossal smiles to cover it up! Wearing our “Sunday best” conceals a basic underlying problem. It fosters the illusion that we are somehow “good” because we are dressing up for God. It is a study in pretense that is dehumanizing and constitutes a false witness to the world. Let’s face it. As fallen humans, we are seldom willing to appear to be what we really are. We almost always rely on our performance or dress to give people a certain impression of what we want them to believe we are. All of this differs markedly from the simplicity that marked the early church. Third, dressing up for church smacks against the primitive simplicity that was the sustaining hallmark of the early church. The first-century Christians did not “dress up” to attend church meetings. They met in the simplicity of living rooms. They did not dress to exhibit their social class. In fact, the early Christians made concrete efforts to show their absolute disdain for social class distinctions. In the church, all social and racial distinctions are erased. The early Christians knew well that they were a new species on this planet. For this reason, James levels a rebuke to those believers who were treating the rich saints better than the poor saints. He boldly reproves the rich for dressing differently from the poor. And yet, many Christians are under the false delusion that it is “irreverent” to dress in informal clothing when attending a Sunday morning church service. This is not dissimilar to how the Scribes and the Pharisees accused the Lord and His disciples of being irreverent for not following the tradition of the elders (Mark 7:1-13). In short, to say that the Lord expects His people to dress in fine clothing when the church gathers is to add to the Scriptures and speak where God has not spoken. Such a practice is human tradition at its best.
The practice of naturists runs contrary to this and puts everyone at the same level so to speak. It humanizes more than most anything I know. It makes us appreciate the real person, not some facade. Naturists interpret modesty as it used to be defined, as an attitude or state of being, not what we wear or how we adorn ourselves.
I realize God does not show favoritism and accepts all who approach him. But may I be as bold as if to say that those who worship him literally and figuratively uncovered and laid bare (Hebrews 4:13) may be more effectively honoring God over those who dress up in their Sunday best to look good for worship. It’s all in the motive. Maybe that’s just me, or maybe there’s some truth there.
Today’s post comes thanks to the interaction with a reader of the blog. Having written us via our contact page, we corresponded back and forth a bit, and then he sent me some memes he had created on the topic of lust.
This interesting debate on Fig Leaf Forum between the editor and a pastor further revealed to me how big of a problem lustful thinking is. For those who have been conditioned to believe that lust is the only “natural” reaction to seeing a naked body, it is almost incomprehensible that this notion is not true. However, we know from experience that there is another response, and it is the more natural response. It is simply to see the other person as a whole person and do so with honor and respect. It’s actually really easy! The pastor in this “debate” (if you can really call it that) is so hung up on the issue of lust throughout the whole exchange (most likely revealing his own personal struggle). The editor tries repeatedly to get him to debate the actual texts in Scripture and points out over and over that we are in agreement over the damaging affects of lust. They should not be debating that issue at all. It’s a classic case of an apples and oranges logical fallacy. I encourage you to read each section of the debate, and you’ll see my point clearly. This pastor is not alone in his beliefs. These attitudes are pervasive in the church. David L. Hatton in Meeting at the River drops this insight, “Widespread religious support for a demonic lie cannot alter its falsehood.”
The following memes are meant to shine a light at the misconceptions of lust, modesty, and purity that are rampant among these churchgoers, well-meaning people intent on following Christ. (I have to keep reminding myself that I went most of my life thinking the same way as they do!)
You’re not going to change my mind on this one, because it has been renewed (See our Renewed Minds blog post). Romans 14:5 states that everyone should be fully convinced in their own minds concerning matters of opinion. I am fully convinced on this issue. For years I tried the body taboo mentality for purity’s sake, but it only ever produced a fetish-like behavior. Strict adherence to arbitrary rules of “morality” brought on a constant struggle to maintain purity of thought at all times– and this in a very sexualized world that does not abide by the same rules. Every man’s battle and bouncing my eyes (popular thinking in Christian circles) would result in some victories and many defeats, and a whole lot of guilt and shame. This is not selling the idea that body taboo works very well!
This is why. Our culture, society, and frankly Christian teaching on the matter has all contributed to us being conditioned to believe that nudity is always linked to sex. Practically the only times people are nude is to shower or to have sex. Folks are even compulsive about wearing clothes to sleep in when God gave us the best pajamas we could ever need (our skin)! With the exception of the occasional doctor visits, there really isn’t much instance for nudity outside of sexual situations. This is where the church goes wrong, thinking that the way to be pure is to limit the visibility of human flesh as much as possible. This completely disregards the incredible nature of the mind to retain and ruminate on images once seen. It negates the face that we have endless limits to our imaginations. It also sets us up for a train wreck of epic proportions when the very thing that it tries to eliminate is being delivered onto the same track of mind. If our minds are perverted, regardless of any man-made effort to the contrary, they will stay that way, UNLESS we renew our thinking.
The problem is that both purity culture and big porn agree on the subject of body taboos. Purity tries to avoid the body as much as it can, calling it dirty, while porn exploits it and makes it obscene. The church and pornographers should not be in agreement, but they are! Again, David L. Hatton explains:
The pornographic view of the body has a twin called “a prudish view.” They come from the same womb. They are two sides of the same coin, and when that coin is spent, whether it’s heads or tails, the purchase is a distorted portrait of our bodies. This is because both views promote an unholy, God-dishonoring treatment of the human body based on exactly the same vain imagination. Prudery hides the body, calling the Creator’s design a lustful indecency. Pornography flaunts it, using prudery’s definition to turn the beauty of God’s handiwork into a stimulus for impure sexual thoughts. Both these ways of treating the body are an unnatural, unrealistic abuse. Though they seem to be opposite, they are conceptually identical. Both are ungodly, and both are based on a dysfunctional view of humanity’s physical embodiment. Wherever a wholesome, godly view of the naked human body is rejected and a shameful, obscene view is embraced, the resultant religious zeal of prudery inevitably plunges a society into the hellish depravity of pornography.
I love this meme, because I’ve lived it out. The averting your eyes “trick”, buddy system accountability, and everything else that is taught to help maintain purity is just plain weak. It doesn’t get to the root of the issue. It’s like putting a small band-aid on a festering wound. I can’t help but think about the Duggars. The reality TV family has shared publicly that if they are out for a walk and the ladies see someone that doesn’t meet their standards of modesty the will use a code word and discreetly say “Nike!” so their men will look down at their shoes and not be tempted to sin. It’s an effort to “protect” the men, but it’s ridiculous! That’s no way to live. It’s also quite prideful to think that your conservative dress code can stop someone from sinning. That’s kind of trying to take the place of Jesus, isn’t it? Was Jesus’ sacrifice not powerful enough to transform men’s lives? I guess in every area except when it comes to lust! In Michelle Duggar’s own words, “By keeping those private areas covered, there’s not any ‘defrauding’ going on. My kids are taught the definition of defrauding as stirring up desires that cannot be righteously fulfilled. We don’t believe in defrauding others by the way we dress.” Defrauding is just a very weird term to me. I sincerely hope Josh Duggar is doing well and no longer struggling, but having grown up with this teaching, it did not save him from any scandal. Only the new purity tactic of seeing everyBODY as made in the image of God is fool-proof.
Our friend took this image from our memes page and added these words over the top. If it were true that false solutions to lust were effective, those who live with the most strict of dress codes would be the purest among us. That is simply not the case! And it’s typically oppressing the women and repressing the men. I’ve met several Christian naturists that come from mennonite and even amish backgrounds. They are so much happier and free as naturists, and they attest that in the strict conservative setting lewd behavior is quite prevalent and always in secret. Sad, but true.
Raise your hand if you conquered lust because women covered up. [insert crickets sound] I’m happy to say that I HAVE conquered lust. I could never make that claim before, but I can now. Trust me, it wasn’t because women were covering up. I had the ability lust, objectify, and dehumanize any woman in my mind no matter what she was or wasn’t wearing! I’m certainly not proud of that, but that’s how it was for me. I did NOT conquer lust because of my own great effort. Honestly, I was surprised into freedom! It was a work of God that he did without my help. I changed the way I thought of the body. I renewed my mind and began to see others as made in the image of God, deserving the honor and respect that they are due as fellow image bearers. I broke the hellish agreements I had made that kept me in bondage. I rejected the lies that say we are wired to respond sexually to visual stimuli. It’s so wonderful to be free from that vicious cycle of lust and shame. If you’ve never read “The Chain” on mychainsaregone.org, do it now!
This one brings up a good point about lust, modesty, and purity. I think that what’s perverted is to see Bathsheba as the guilty one! As Chad W. Thompson writes in “That Famous Fig Leaf:”
The story of David and Bathsheba is often referenced as a biblical admonition of nudity, as if Bathsheba was tempting David by bathing in the courtyard. Yet every other woman in Jerusalem did the same thing. Whether male or female, rich or poor, outdoor bathing was universal to the ancient cultures of both Egypt and Israel. The second chapter of Exodus even recounts Pharaoh’s daughter bathing in the open river while Jewish commoners walk about. Women participating in the culturally natural phenomenon of open bathing was not anything King David wasn’t used to seeing on a daily basis. What led him to rape his neighbor’s wife was not her public bath, but the evil in his own heart. Furthermore, if Bathsheba had committed any sin by exposing her body in public, it would seem odd that Nathan made her the “innocent lamb” in his story. (2 Samuel 12:1-4)
We tend to take Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:27-30 literally, concluding that anyone who looks lustfully at a woman has committed adultery in his heart. We make others cover up to safeguard ourselves from falling into this adultery of the heart. We take the easy route and blame others for forcing us to think impure thoughts. That’s insane. What we have failed to do, is work on our own hearts, and not look upon others with lustful intent. We interpret this passage as not looking at all, but all of a sudden this very taboo creates a powerful allure and temptation. This is all because of a literal interpretation that ignores the fact that you can see another human unclothed without falling into lust. To interpret the very next verse literally would mean we would all have to gouge out our eyes. We’re quick to point out Jesus’ hyperbole here. Can we be consistent? He didn’t say if your right eye causes you to stumble, force women to cover up so that you aren’t tempted, and if you are tempted, get onto them for not being modest enough. He simply said not to look lustfully at other women, and if you can’t then it’d be better to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown in hell. No amount of covering is going to purify your mind for you and stop you from objectifying women! It’s better to ask God to help you see others as a work of art, the pinnacle of His amazing creation. I don’t respond sexually to a beautiful sunset. No, I praise God for it. Human beings as the crowning glory of His creation deserve the same respect and admiration, do they not?
This one is a bit strange, but it sort of summarizes what I’ve been saying throughout this post. I guess it’s pointing out which is the most strategic position. If we would embrace the created value, beauty, and goodness of the whole human, things would be a lot better. Think of the whole world adopting this view. Gone would be the porn industry, human trafficking, pedophilia, etc. That’s not going to happen, but it can one by one, on an individual basis as has been the case with me.
If you stumbled onto this page not knowing what to expect and these thoughts have surprised you in any way, I want you to know that there IS a better way. It’s only better because it’s the way God intended us to be from the very start. Sin has so marred a world and twisted and perverted all that He made good. In fact, he called the first man and woman who were naked and unashamed “very good.” Did God change his mind? Or did we?
We often quote and make references to David L. Hatton on this blog. His writings have helped and challenged us both in many ways.
Today, we will feature a wonderful poem of his with added visual elements. I have produced this video with David’s permission with the hopes that it blesses those who see it and would agree with its powerful message, and challenge those who may be startled by its assertions.
To that end, if you would want to share this video with others, please do so! Copy and paste this link where you would like:
A printable PDF file of “Christians and Nakedness” is available here via David L. Hatton.
CHRISTIANS AND NAKEDNESS
Today we are not used to the body when it’s bare, The skin beyond our face and arms beneath the clothes we wear. Untaught to see its beauty, we’ve learned to label “lewd” The “birthday suit” we started with, which God created nude.
It’s true we make exceptions for toddlers full of glee Who run around in pure delight, stark naked, clothing-free. But those who rediscover this liberty so clean Are called, when they come back to it, “perverted and obscene.”
Yet artists, who observe it in models posed unclad, Acknowledge how the human form is beautiful! Not bad! When health-care workers view it, no decency is gone. A patient’s dignity remains when seen with nothing on.
It’s found by missionaries, to naked peoples sent, That “porn” invades a culture’s land to which “our clothing” went. It’s known by skinny-dippers who bathe in sea and sun That recreation in the buff is simply healthy fun.
The church has failed her duty to guard and to proclaim That God’s own image in our flesh is free from body-shame. Instead, the naked body is marketed for lust, Relinquished into sordid hands by pulpits breaking trust.
Are human bodies “sinful” without their textile wraps? Must children have to look for them in pornographic traps? Can’t we who praise our Maker sustain our hungry youth Whose natural curiosity God meant to feast on truth?
False modesty is shameful! It sends the lovely breast Into a realm of carnal thoughts when mothers nurse undressed. It bans the Sistine Chapel, where nudes are plainly shown, And censures Michelangelo for sculpting them in stone.
We’ve grown quite unaccustomed to normal nudity. We even hide ourselves at home from friends and family. Some people hate their bodies, despising God’s design, Embarrassed if they must disrobe and let His glory shine.
Yet most of our ancestors all bathed in open air. They lived and dressed in one-room homes and saw each other bare. We trim for sports and work-outs. Greek athletes did so stripped! And Christians went to Roman baths with just their towels equipped!
The ancients often labored like Peter, in the nude. When prophets preached without a stitch, nobody called it “Rude!” The early church’s converts were naked when baptized. Though Bible scholars know these facts, they’re never advertized!
Have we made better progress in our morality By pushing man-contrived taboos on human nudity? Did God create His likeness to foster sinful lust? Do we confirm the Serpent’s scheme for souls God sheathed in dust?
If we could just recapture the ancient attitude That saw no scandal in a field of gardeners working nude, If we more often witnessed God’s image on display, We might regain a wholesome view of nakedness today.