The on-going current issue of child nude photos intended for display in a Sydney art gallery prompts me to clarify again the Biblical position regarding nakedness. Sacred Nakedness is the term I am now using to help us recognise the moral issues behind this debate.
It has long been suggested that nakedness is something which mature adults should have no problem with. Adults are well informed about the differences between male and female physiology and married couples can enjoy open sexual intimacy and share their nakedness without shame or recourse. So, it is suggested, it is prudish and childish to make too much of nudity and nakedness.
Advocacy for the open display of nudity, at least to adults, goes along the lines, “We’re all adults here. If you’ve seen one naked body you’ve seen them all. There’s no need to be ashamed of the human body.” Evolutionary influences add to the debate such thoughts as, “Clothing is a recent invention. We are just a ‘naked ape’ and we can display our unclothed bodies just like other animals do.”
Then come the big guns of mockery and intimidation, such as, “How Victorian and prudish to be ashamed of the human body. We should celebrate our bodies and be unashamed to display what nature gave us.”
So goes the sales pitch. That’s why people who anchor their beliefs in cultural voices become confused on this issue. Instinctively their conscience warns them that nakedness is not such a casual issue. Life experience signals that nakedness is indeed a deeply moral issue. Yet these other voices of cultural reasoning challenge our instinctive perceptions.
Consider these obvious signals that nakedness has a sacred and moral quality. Imagine a person choosing to turn up at work stark naked for the day. If nakedness is such an over-rated issue, made special only by outdated, prudish ideas, then why does such a situation raise so much concern? Is it not true that most people in that workplace will be distracted, some being sensualised and others being offended? Is it not true that the parents and family of the naked person will struggle with their actions and the family of the others who turn up at work will hold concern for how their family member will be affected by working around someone who is naked?
While some ‘enlightened’ people will assert that they have no problem with their child, spouse or friend showing off their naked body, the vast majority of people, including those of no apparent moral convictions, will find such nudity distracting, inappropriate, embarrassing or otherwise out of order.
We each know, at a societal level, that the open display of nakedness is socially inappropriate, even if we can’t articulate why.
Here is the reason why nakedness is not for public display. Nakedness is sacred. Nakedness is a personal, private gift given us by God, signalling our special place as God’s creation, made in the image of God. The animals are not made with that unique quality and so their bodies do not have sacred nakedness. Humans are made in the image of God and are given a conscience which alerts them to the sacredness of their nakedness. Exposure of nakedness causes shame and is a violation of our moral being. While it is possible to become desensitised to our conscience, such cavalier attitudes do not change the reality of our creation. Neither do philosophy classes, protestations by ‘artists’, demands that we be ‘grown up’ and ‘realistic’, etc.
It is possible for people to push past their pangs of conscience and become hardened liars, thieves and even killers. So the evidence that some people can be arrogantly hardened in their stance on nudity is no case for arguing its inherent value. A gang or thieves celebrating their freedom to steal without pang of conscience has not changed the fact that theft is wrong.
Shaming ourselves by exposing human nakedness is not ‘enlightenment’ but rather it is the journey into darkness. Professing themselves to be wise and elevated, libertines become fools and debase themselves. They throw away their sovereign uniqueness and reduce themselves to animal status.
Ancient Greco-Roman art did not change our created reality. Michelangelo’s statue of David did not change our created reality. The modern addiction to pornography, nudity and immoral living does not change our created reality. Appeals to the cause of ‘art’ and ‘free speech’ do not change our created reality.
I remind you that from the earliest record of human experience, Genesis Chapter 3, we are shown that humans have a conscience about their naked bodies. Adam hid himself because he was naked. I remind you that Noah’s married adult sons, who knew all about what naked bodies looked like and could make every claim to being ‘adult’ in their choices and actions, took pains not to see their father’s naked body when he lay in a drunken sleep in his tent. Instead of thinking that nakedness was of no consequence these men carefully covered their father’s nudity, ensuring that they did not see it themselves.
Every human body possesses Sacred Nakedness. When we make public display of the naked body we are rejecting our own sacredness and the dignity which we have by divine mandate. Those who have no respect for God, and thus are happy to demean and debase themselves, wish to undermine us all. Any and all displays of nudity and nakedness debase our human dignity. Artistic expression is not above our moral realities. It gives no authority to those who wish to act outside God’s moral requirements.
The naked children photos are an attack on the dignity of us all. They are base in their moral impact. They are an offence to humanity in general and the innocence of children in particular. It does not matter what the pose or the level of sensuality implied or aroused by the images. The violation is not principally based on the age of the children or the suggestive nature of the images. Any and all display of the naked body is at its core a violation of human conscience, because it is a violation of our divine personal preserve, our sacred nakedness.
For the record for those who may protest the need for exposure within medical procedures, even in the context of medical treatment, which at times necessitates medical evaluation of people’s private nakedness, we should maintain the dignity of sacred nakedness, rather than allow callow attitudes toward that which violates the conscience.
The child nude photos issue is not a debate about the bounds of art. It is not a fuzzy issue with competing claims and counter-claims. It is a time to focus on our abandonment of foundational reality. It is time to remind ourselves of the moral boundaries which God has imposed on us. It is time to stand for what is wholesome and healthy, in the face of those who wish to drag us all into their own violated state.
Note: I posted an earlier review of this subject under the heading Nudity, Purity and Sex, May 31, 2008.