Naked and unashamed. These are the words that came to my mind this morning as I contemplated the controversy in my home city the last few weeks. A local nude recreational community had tried to book a Family Swim Event at a municipal leisure centre and many of the public have protested citing concern for children and the exploitation of sexual offenders. While I sympathies with those who are protesting, I am trying to honestly look objectively at the positive & negative values to both communal polarities, and the differences they may have.
While I can't honestly say I know the true reasonings for this particular local nude recreational community; when I was younger, I thought these sorts of groups were attempting to embrace an "Adam & Eve" creational culture. In essence, we should not be ashamed of our body's as God created them pure and we should not view them as being profane or immoral. At the same time, seeing the human body in the natural sense would hopefully install a greater understanding for health and wellbeing while educating us in proper care for our personal and communal humanity.
I remember several years ago when Micheal Frost was speaking in town and he told the story of a local art event being held in his church in Sidney Australia. As the neighbourhood artists began to set up their exhibitions, the congregation became alarmed and franticly urged Mike to come and shut one of the art displays down. This local expressionist had taken a number of nude photo shots and was placing them on display in the sanctuary for those who would be coming into his viewing space. Upon closer inspection though, Frost became vividly aware that the portrait models had a dramatic theme; they were all disabled and marred in some form or fashion! Horribly burned, missing limbs, crippled through disfigurement or scoliosis; the artist wanted people to see that beauty can be found in all people if we are willing to look through, look beyond the disfigurements and our own cultural bias expectations for perfectionism.
While I'm not quiet ready to strip down and bare all just yet, especially in this climate & season; perhaps I can be a little more open minded and understanding to those who might like to pursue healthier practices of seeing beauty and purity in the nude human body. But I also still have reservations and questions to the security and dignity of such events; particularly to the well being of children.
I was naked and you clothed me. The words of Jesus also came to mind this morning and I couldn't help but reflect on the act of giving dignity to one's nakedness through the act of clothing. Is there such a thing as healthy shame? Should our appearance in community reflect brazen nudity with the absence of thought for dignity and the difference of others?
There is a story in the Jewish writings of 2 Samual about a women named Bathsheba, who was a nudist. For those of us who know the story, we don't often think of her this way, but it is true! It was in the middle of the day, a hot middle eastern afternoon, and Bathsheba had decided to disrobe and bathe upon the rooftop of her house. Not below in the privacy of her home, but in the open public air of the upper deck. Unbeknownst to her, King David was walking his terrace nearby and he was awestruck upon seeing her naked before his eyes. Filled with the coveting temptation of her possession, the story would play out to a horrible end.
Who is to be at fault in this story? I mean, sure, David should have exercised better self control and averted both his eyes and his actions on more then one occasion but, was Bathsheba really that naive not to be cognitive of the surrounding higher terraces around her home? Should she not of been more sensitive to the contexts of her neighbourhood and the dignity of her neighbours?
Our actions and appearance in our neighbourhoods must take into account not only our own needs & values but also reflect a responsibility to the needs & values of those who live and are present around us too. To cloth one's self for the dignity of others is just as much an act and awareness to the healthy beauty of nakedness as the bare expression of authentic pure intentioned exposure.
I think particularly of this last point with regards to the education and health of our community's children. My friend Jeff this past week argued that the issue of public nudity is cultural in nature. After all, there are many European and African countries that openly display nudity without an audience of disapproval or moral outrage. But as I shared with him, our North American audience, particularly our children, are constantly berated with an amoral "Harvey Weinstein" culture of sexuality that brings confusion and the potential of immoral exploitation to public nudity & nakedness. For the sake of greater dignity and healthier identity development, would it not be better for youth and the children of our society to be absent of such public expressionism and displays?
I cannot say that children who grow up in such community's as that of nude recreationists are necessarily irreverably harmed psychologically or physically. But I do think we need greater research into the understanding of a child's physical & psychological understanding of sexuality and identity within a North American culture and society before we openly begin hosting public "family" nude swimming events. For me, this is the authentic naked truth of the matter.