Have you no shame?

Let me use this meme from our ever-growing memes page as a springboard for today’s post.

Have you no shame?

Why would I want any?

I absolutely love that attitude and believe it to be the godly response to an ungodly question. What really is a shame is that we as a society ask such questions and think this way. We’ve equated a portion of the image of God in us (the body) with the feeling caused by our wrongdoing. Allow me to try to explain a bit better…

It sounds a whole lot like the scene way back in Genesis with our first ancestors in Adam and Eve. Shame is not of God. However, it shows up on the scene fairly early in the human narrative. Let’s examine this phenomenon.

God utilized the refrain “it is good” after creating something, but after creating both the male and female form in his image, he says “it is very good” in Genesis 1:31. They are the crowning glory of creation and were so in the unclothed state in which we are born and the same state in which we shall depart this life (see Job 1:21).

Genesis 2:25 states that Adam and Eve were naked and without shame. In fact, shame did not exist at this time, neither did the concept of clothing, or the word “naked” when you think about it.

The crafty serpent convinces both Eve and Adam to eat of the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and their eyes were open to a whole new world. 

When a child does something strictly forbidden by their parent, what is the first thing they do? They want to hide the evidence, cover up the infraction, bury their face in their hands. Not much has changed.

Adam and Eve miss their regularly scheduled walk with God, so God calls out to them. They are hiding (Gen. 3:8-10). In my “Personal Manifesto of a Christian Naturist” point #11, I maintain that they covered themselves out of fear, not shame. The editor of fig leaf forum argued this point with a critic:

There we have it—right from the mouth of Adam. It wasn’t shame at all.
It was fear. They realized that they were vulnerable, open,
unprotected—and guilty—so they ‘covered’ themselves and hid. They were
attempting to cover and hide themselves from what and whom they feared
(Genesis 2.17; Genesis 3.9-10). I believe Scripture categorically
states within these passages that fear is what was motivating Adam and
Eve after their fall, not shame.

The text could easily have had Adam saying, “I was ashamed because I
was naked, so I hid.” Then my critic would have some ground to stand
on. But it doesn’t say that. The Hebrew word that is translated
“shame” in Genesis 2.25 occurs 114 times in the Old Testament, yet
it’s not used again to indicate shame until Judges 3.25! The text says
that Adam was “afraid.” The Hebrew word translated “afraid” in Genesis
3.10 occurs 192 more times in the Old Testament. Not once is it ever
translated as any word even remotely close to meaning “shame.”

Genesis 3.21 does indeed tell us that God clothed Adam and Eve with
“garments of skin.” Again, my critic seems to insinuate that mankind’s
shame was the motivation behind this action. If we are to rely
strictly upon what is actually revealed by Scripture in our search for
understanding, and not on tradition or presumption or speculation,
then I must conclude that there is no evidence that Adam and Eve were
ever ashamed of their nakedness. Not before the fall. Not after the
fall. Rather, they were fearful because they were naked. Are we then
to assume that God covered them because He was ashamed of their
nakedness? I don’t see how Scripture would support this possibility
either. Only two chapters earlier, in Genesis 1.31, “God saw all that
he had made, and it was very good.” Scripture says “all”—including the
naked man and the naked woman.

Humans are the only creatures that cover up. My dog may hide if he understands that I am displeased with him. My kids? Well, as a parent, I am more pleased by the better response of my kids owning up to their mistakes than hiding or trying to cover it up. There is something about being uncovered and laid bare before the one to whom we must give an account (Hebrews 4:13), because after all, nothing is ever hidden from God’s sight. It’s always better to be open and vulnerable, not just in the outer garments, but also in the inner spirit (which is of great worth in God’s sight – 1 Peter 3:4).

An example is from church history of genuine and complete openness devoid of shame would be in regards to baptism. Dr. Michael Wilson writes: In the first four centuries of the Church many of our Christian forbears found no contradiction whatsoever between nakedness at worship, and holiness. Rather, they found deep theological significance in nakedness at baptismal rites. These were not private occasions. Baptismal candidates found themselves ‘naked in the sight of all, and unashamed,’ as Cyril of Alexandria reminds his flock.1

Our experience at naturist parks and nude beaches is that shame is practically absent. What’s often in its place is an innocent joy. In this regard, it’s really quite different than the public pool or a “textile” beach. This is one of the parts of the lifestyle that I love so much! We can be naked and unashamed and full of joy and life. It’s almost as if it’s the way we were created! In a fallen world, can we restore the innocence of Eden? Jesus says in Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

We hold on to that promise, knowing that we too are being made new. The sins we commit in the body are forgiven and removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Jesus bore our guilt and our shame and nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:14). We can live free in the knowledge and experience of close relationship with the God of Eden, without the need to hide a thing.

Are there verses that equate nakedness with shame? I would say no, but others who only look on the surface, would say yes. However, upon closer examination, taking the verses in context, you will discover that there is always something else at play that is causing the shame other than the simple state of nakedness. (Read this article from nakedandunashamed.org about each of these verses.)

Much can be said on this subject, and semantics do play a part. However, the subtle distinction between fear and shame, hiding from nakedness or because of wrongdoing is an important one. David L. Hatton puts this whole scene from the fall in such beautiful poetic form:

ORIGIN OF BODY SHAME

Dressed up as a serpent in crafty disguise,
A demon attempted, by using his lies,
To blot out the beautiful image that God
Had made of Himself out of hand-woven sod.

As naked as truth from the day of their birth,
And destined by God to be rulers of earth,
Both Adam and Eve were alive by God’s breath,
But Satan used knowledge to put them to death.

The serpentine liar pretended to heal
Their blind faith in God for what’s moral and real.
His trick by that Gnostic fruit opened their eyes,
Remaking their minds independently wise.

“You see for yourself, God left both of you nude!
Your unhidden bodies are shamefully lewd!”
Our first parents listened to what Satan said,
For now their life-bond to the Maker was dead.

The diet of conscience controls how it guides,
Which sins it allows, or what goodness it hides.
So, God found and asked them, with leaves round their waist,
“Who said you were naked? What fruit did you taste?”

Some call it God’s will to keep chewing that fruit,
Embracing its scruples in zealous pursuit,
Maligning His gift of our wonderful skin
By calling the sight of its nudity sin.

But others discover a godlier view,
Rejecting this prudery’s body taboo,
Resisting the porn that is wedded to shame
Passed on from the devil’s original claim.

These temples are sacred, not sordid, unclean.
If you would be holy, don’t call them obscene.
Our hearts can be dirty, or lustful and bad,
But bodies are closest to truth when unclad.

— David L. Hatton, 1/23/2009from Poems Between Birth and Resurrection ©2013 by David L. Hatton (www.pastordavidrn.com)

_____________________

1 Margaret R Miles, Carnal Knowing – Female Nakedness and Religious Meaning in the Christian West. (Boston: Beacon Press. 1989) p 33

David L. Hatton’s “Meeting at the River”

David L. Hatton’s “Meeting at the River” is a sort of parable-like fictional narrative with opportunities to present ideas throughout. I liken it to William P. Young’s The Shack, in that regard, although a completely different subject matter. Here is Hatton’s own description of the book:

“In this semi-autobiographical, fictional tale and intellectual treatise, my divided view of the body is challenged by an encounter with the past. As a bivocational pastor and nurse, I’m shocked when some from a religious crowd in ancient dress disrobe at my favorite swimming hole to be baptized totally naked! Antiquity offers a fatal blow to the old wall in my mind that keeps my experiences of hospital nudity from confronting the taboos of my upbringing. When that wall topples, I gain a new perspective on life in Bible times, a deeper theological appreciation of human embodiment, and a pricked conscience about the root cause of our culture’s obsession with pornography. Join me in unlearning deceptions as old as Eden, in relearning truths as relevant as our children’s future, and in facing the test of my transformed thinking by the further challenge of four skinny-dipping Bible college students.”

With that backdrop, I’d like to share some of my favorite selections from my reading of the book and what it means to me. 

“When certain portions of the body are concealed and considered evil to look upon, the normal curiosity of youth about what is hidden leads to temptation.

Then, upon exposure, the sight of those forbidden areas can wound the conscience. Even worse, these conditions empower the wicked to make a show of those hidden parts for truly corrupt purposes, even to enslave young souls in lustful thoughts.”

This is the elder speaking at the river to explain what a healthy and godly view of the body is. His words certainly resonate with me. This was my experience growing up. From the first time I saw “certain portions of the body” at an early age and was taught to avoid it, temptation abounded. I was a young soul enslaved in lustful thoughts, and grew into a man who was equally enslaved. After embracing a renewed view of the body, I was elated that these problems vanished. As Hatton so eloquently put it, “Prudery lays the groundwork for a pornographic mindset.”

“When sermons teach that [Bathsheba’s] beauty caused King David’s lust, they expound not the words of Scripture but the minds of preachers.”

I had been conditioned to only react one way (sexually) to any sight of nudity. This nagging issue stunted my spiritual growth, strained my marriage, and affected how I saw members of the opposite sex (even fully clothed). I hated myself for how I would objectify women and wanted to rid myself of this bondage once for all. But common methods afforded by the church world didn’t work. The problem was never in the dress or undress of women around me or on screens. The problem was my own mind.

“When people teach that the human body is dirty or obscene, it creates fertile ground for pornography. This is why porn addiction is so strong in our society, even among Christians. Our culture is inundated with a sexualized view of the body. I’m sorry to say that the church has been a key player in spreading that idea.”

I’m sorry to say that so have I. But that will be no more. As a Christian leader, I used to think I was a pretty good guy with a bad secret. But now I know that in reality, I’m a pretty bad guy with a great secret. The great secret is that God forgives and renews, and lustful thinking does not have to be a lifelong struggle. I used to think I’d never kick my bad habits. I’d hear older men speak of ongoing issues with their thought life. I didn’t want to be that, and by God’s grace I won’t be. 

Then comes the issue of prudery for the sake of modesty. As if there’s not enough guilt and shame going on without adding a bunch on top. Hatton addresses what modesty actually is and should be understood as being:

“Holy humility is the divine modesty humans need. When fully embraced, it brings death to shame. By humbly and gratefully accepting what we really are, we never feel less than we are when naked, nor more than we are when finely dressed. This bathing at the river, where nothing is hidden, quickly unravels the immodesty of pride. At the same time, being accepted in your humble nakedness, by friends and family and others, is healing. It breaks the bondage to ungodly shame over the size or shape or blemishes of the body that God has given you.”

Some of the modern attempts at modesty actually fly in the face of what Paul was instructing Timothy and the church in the New Testament. They are a source of pride, and not humility, which is the point. Simply covering certain body parts may actually incite more lust, drawing attention to it and stimulating the imagination, than if the mystery were revealed and the humble unclad body were seen in its entirety. 

It’s sad how much of an effect our culture has on us. Without a renewed mind, we could be tempted to think that anyone who does not look like a model is less beautiful. I reject that notion outright. Body shame is shameful. All humans are God’s image bearers and deserve respect as such.

“Christians will never have a radical reformation in how they view the naked body, until they can distinguish their devotion to culture from their understanding of Scripture.”

The twisted part of Christian thought when it comes to the body is that a girl in a bikini in a suggestive pose is somehow more decent and less obscene than a woman wearing no clothes just going about her day as normal. Which is natural and which is unnatural? The thinking is backwards. I’ve been complicit in both spreading that idea and falling victim to it’s deceitful outcomes. I used to always repent of my secret sin. Now I must repent of having taught the dangerous ideas that once entrapped me and enslave so many today. As Hatton summarizes: 

“God cannot bless the deception of body shame. Nor does He ever cease to bless our naked flesh as a sanctuary for His presence. He never calls what is good evil. Nor will He sanction errors about His incarnated image, even if His own children preach them. Such lies are a great stumbling block, leading multitudes to trip and fall into the very pit they warn against. And because church leaders have adopted and spread this as though it were part of the Gospel itself, then it is their duty to repent and make restitution.”

From Fat & Prideful to Beautiful & Holy

Ever since I can remember, I’ve taken issue with my body. I’ve always compared myself to the “skinny” girls around me. I remember as early as 5th grade a particular girl in my class that for some reason I always compared myself to body-wise. “She’s so skinny. Gosh, I wish I could look like her.” I compared myself to her all through high school and beyond. Even now as a 30 something woman I would see her pictures on Facebook and think to myself, “Having kids didn’t ruin her body. If only I had more self-control not to eat the pizza or the scone.” 

I would avoid looking at myself in the mirror when I walked by it naked as I got out of the shower. I was disgusted by what I saw. Thick thighs, stretch marks, a belly that hangs, boobs that sag, so many dimples in places I thought there shouldn’t be dimples. 

My family has always told me I was beautiful. My husband has always been so kind to lovingly adore my body. He would tell me things like,

“You are the standard by which all beauty is measured”.

So sweet and romantic, but in my mind, total lies. There is no way he loves my body at 230 pounds. He’s just trying to make me feel better. The way I spoke to myself not only affected my own self-worth, but also the way I saw others. I was either terribly down on myself or I would put others down to make myself feel better.

My thinking has changed. I no longer look at myself in disgust. Now I see stretch marks and thank the Lord that my body grew life 4 times! I see my sagging boobs and thank Him for allowing me to feed my babies. I see my thick thighs and thank Him for good food and a strong body that I can use to continue on a journey to health. Last week I went to a public pool with my family. It was the first time I had been since I had changed my thinking. As I sat there enjoying the cool water on that very hot day something occurred to me. Not once had I looked at the skinny girl and wished I was her. Not once did I judge the heavier girl! Not once did I compare myself to anyone else at that pool! I was completely confident in who I was in my own skin. It must have shown too because my sisters commented on how good I looked. Confidence is attractive! I am beyond grateful for my renewed mind and heart concerning my body!!

I grew up in a Christian home. My family bounced between churches during my childhood. At one point my dad was even the pastor at a church. All my life I was taught “modesty.”

“Make sure you don’t show too much cleavage.”

“Make sure your shorts aren’t too short.”

I took pride in my “modesty” because “our bodies are temples”. I was protecting the boys and men around me from thinking lustful thoughts. There was no way they were going to lust after me anyway because I was “fat” and covered up. My parents taught us the way they thought best. That’s what they were taught after all. For generations parents have been teaching their girls to cover up and their boys to be good because “that’s what the Bible says.” I have been teaching my own 4 children the same. But is this really what Scripture teaches? Is this really what the Lord had in mind and desires of us? I believe the church is missing the mark and we are debilitating our kids in the process.

Let’s get real! No more masks! No more “we can’t talk about that!” No more tip toeing around what’s really going on!

The way the church approaches the body is doing way more harm than good! By the time our boys bounce their eyes, the image is already in their head. It doesn’t take staring at it for the lust to begin, because we are conditioning our boys that the sight of the opposite gender is going to automatically trigger a sexual response. Wearing modest clothing isn’t keeping our men and boys from lusting and wondering what’s underneath. I have talked to several men who said it didn’t matter what someone was or wasn’t wearing, the curiosity was still there. But when everyone is bare, nothing is remarkable. I’ve seen this first hand recently while visiting a nude beach. I saw many people being modest and none of them were wearing clothes. They were showing a mutual respect for not only bodies around them but also the person as a whole. More on that in a future post!

We girls can do all the right things, but if someone’s mind is in the gutter, we could still be lusted after. I have recently been introduced to a group of people who believe, like me, that we can do better. We need to start showing our children that they have been created in the image and likeness of the Most High God! That word means a picture. A physical and spiritual image of the Lord! No matter what we look like, our bodies are a gift from God and the pinnacle of His creation. If we can begin to put that into the minds and hearts of our children, I believe that we could begin to change the current course the world and the church is on. The current methods aren’t working! We give the boys a pass with phrases like, “Boys will be boys” and “every man’s battle.” We put blame and guilt on girls because their skirts are too short and their shirt is too low cut. It’s wrong, and it’s not fair to either group!

I will not lie down and surrender to the notion that my boys are sentenced to a lifetime of bouncing their eyes or installing barriers on their computers in order not to lust! That is bondage! We need renewed minds and hearts!

I refuse to lie down and surrender to the notion that my daughter will forever feel inferior and ugly because she’s comparing her body to the ones she sees in the magazines or on TV! That is bondage! We need renewed minds and hearts!

This is a work in progress for our family because this way of thinking is fairly new to us, but I will do everything in my power to help my children live in freedom as they reject bondage to the lies of Satan! I will not give up this fight! Satan will not win! IN THE NAME OF JESUS, NOT ON MY WATCH!