Christian naturism

Christian naturism
Baptism of Jesus, Bordone, Giotto 1276-1336

Christian naturists are Christians found in most branches and denominations of Christianity who practice naturism or nudism. They find no conflict between the teachings of the Bible and living their lives and worshiping God without any clothing, believing that covering the body leads to its sexualization. Thus, the common notion that nudity and sexuality go hand-in-hand is seen as a worldly point of view. The Christian definition of the human body should be separate, distinct, and non-materialistic. If clothing truly controlled lust and immoral sexual activity, then these would not be occurring to any great extent.[1]

Many Christian naturists have very little disagreement with the core beliefs of long-established churches, and may even be a member. They feel the error of obligatory dress is cultural, rather than anything related to salvation. Nor is such an error unprecedented. For example, in the 20th century, churches largely abandoned any teaching which promoted racial separation and segregation.[2] In addition, Christian naturists perceive a gap between scripture and Victorian era modesty (which to some extent is still observed today).

Organized Christian naturism is known to exist in the United States,[3] Canada,[4] United Kingdom,[5] the Netherlands,[6] and Brazil [7] mainly as a parachurch. Public rules of conduct are similar to those of family-oriented naturist resorts. Any inappropriate sexual activity (including lust) is considered to be against God's Word.[8] Although Christian naturists may frequent public beaches and secular resorts, most do not accept New Age and humanist philosophies which sometimes occur in other aspects of naturism.[9]



  • Christian naturists believe that much of Christianity has misinterpreted the events of the Garden of Eden story and the Fall of Man. According to this interpretation, God could see the sin that Adam and Eve had committed by eating the forbidden fruit. It was for this reason alone that the couple was ashamed, and therefore tried to hide this sin by covering their bodies with fig leaves. They were not motivated to dress by being able to see one another nude. (If that were true, Adam and Eve would have immediately run off in opposite directions, rather than remain together.) When God subsequently clothed them with animal skins, He made no mandate for humans to be dressed in public, but left a reminder of the severe nature of sin requiring a blood sacrifice.
  • The human body was God's final and greatest earthly creation. Requiring the body to be covered rivals the legalism of the Pharisees. Many people have been deceived into thinking that their clothing keeps them from sin, when in fact the opposite is true.[10]
  • Other prominent figures in the Bible also participated in social nudity (see scripture below). Being nude is a wholesome way of life, and an acceptable state of dress which was never condemned by God in the Bible. Christian naturists note there is no command in the Adam and Eve story, or elsewhere in the Bible, to wear clothing.[11]
  • While "openness" and "loving people for who they are" are common concepts throughout Christianity, they are especially emphasized in Christian naturism through "body acceptance." Having a perfect body as the world sees fit is totally unimportant for both males and females of all ages.[12]
  • Many of the prohibitions of present-day nudity (both within Christianity and society at large) originate from the 19th-century Victorian era, rather than scripture. Two centuries ago, except for a Puritan minority, Christians did not generally equate nudity with sexuality.[13]

The Garden of Eden

Adam and Eve, by Albrecht Dürer (1507).

Christian naturists view the story of the Garden of Eden as a model for their beliefs.[11] When Adam and Eve were created and placed in the garden as a couple by God, they were both naked and "felt no shame". (Genesis 2:25) They see Adam and Eve being in the blameless state that God had intended them to be. God knew that they were naked, as this was how He had created them.

Even before Eve's creation, God had warned Adam "...but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." (Genesis 2:17) Despite God's warning, first Eve, then Adam, eat the forbidden fruit after being persuaded by the devil in the form of a serpent. (Genesis 3:1-6) Upon doing so, they immediately realize that they are naked, and sew fig leaves together as coverings.

Shortly thereafter, Adam and Eve hear God walking in the garden, which results with them fearfully hiding among the trees. God queries Adam, "Where are you?" In spite of the fig leaves, Adam replies that he is afraid because of his nakedness. God further asks Adam, "Who told you that you were naked?" Only God, Adam, Eve, and the devil are a party to this matter, as there are no other humans on the planet at this time. Therefore, Christian naturists believe it was the devil who told Adam and Eve that they were naked. Their shame was not of God; nor would the fig leaves cover this shame, regardless of their genitals being covered. God was displeased not only by their disobedience of eating the forbidden fruit, but also with Adam and Eve's subsequent attempt to cover up their bodies.[11]

Christian naturists maintain the fig leaves were worn in a futile attempt to hide what the couple had done from God—not each other, noting they were married, and equally guilty of the same original sin.[14] The second sin was to cover parts of the body.[15] The devil had chosen the sexual organs as the area of shame because, unlike God, he has no ability to create life. As the next chapter begins with Adam and Eve engaging in appropriate marital sexual relations,[16] they conclude the couple would have seen each other naked subsequent to the fall of mankind. Having thus sinned, and no longer living nude by their own accord, God expels them from the Garden of Eden. He also made garments from animal skins to replace the fig leaves. (Many Christians, both naturist and non-naturist, believe this was the first instance of a blood sacrifice.)[17]

Other scripture

Painting Madonna and Child with St. Anne showing Christ unashamed to be naked, being without sin. The Virgin Mary is with her mother. Caravaggio, 1606 [18]

There are other references to nudity in the Bible, such as:

1 Samuel 19:24 He (Saul) stripped off his robes and also prophesied in Samuel's presence. He lay that way all that day and night. This is why people say, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" [19]

2 Samuel 6:20-23 As the Ark of the Covenant finally arrives in Jerusalem, King David dances nude within sight of slave girls. For this he is strongly denounced by his wife, Michal. David replies "I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor." The Scripture immediately following adds: "And Michal (daughter of Saul) had no children to the day of her death."[20]

2 Samuel 11 While King David was rebuked by God for his lust of Bathsheba (a married woman), nothing was said about her nude bathing.[21]

Isaiah 20:2 The Lord says to Isaiah: "Take off the sackcloth from your body and the sandals from your feet." And he did so, going around stripped and barefoot.[22]

Micah 1:8a Because of this (Jacob's transgression) I will weep and wail; I will go about barefoot and naked.[23]

Matthew 6:25 and Luke 12:22-23 Then Jesus said to his disciples: Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?[24]

Mark 10:15 and Luke 18:17 (Jesus speaking:) "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." In most cultures throughout history, small children are not subject to the same standards of dress as the rest of the population, and nudity is not a problem.[25]

Mark 14:51-52 "A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind."[26]

John 19:23-24 Christ, who is sinless, allows Himself to be publicly crucified completely naked on the cross in front of his mother and friends demonstrating that public nudity is not a sin. "When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, ... "Let's not tear [the undergarment]," they said to one another. "Let's decide by lot who will get it...." Many paintings and movies depict Christ's crucifixion with Him wearing a loin cloth, but this is neither consistent with scripture nor with the normal method of a Roman crucifixion.[27]

Gospel of Thomas Although no major Christian group accepts this book as canonical or authoritative (its translation was unavailable until the 20th century), the possibility exists that the following conversation took place between Jesus and his disciples:

His disciples asked, When will you become revealed to us and when shall we see you? Jesus answered, When you disrobe without being ashamed and take up your garments and place them under your feet like little children and tread on them, then will you see the son of the Living One, and you will not be afraid.[28]

Where nudity is forbidden

Despite the aforementioned beliefs, there are three areas in which Christian naturists may feel nudity is condemned by the Bible:[29]

  • Where it is forced on a person against their will (e.g. prisoners). God did not strip Adam and Eve of their fig leaves leaving them naked, but rather made them garments from animal skin requiring a blood sacrifice.
  • When associated directly with sin (orgies, temple prostitution, etc.) or indecent exposure (in the modern sense). In particular, situations where a person has completely undressed causing surprise and shock to those not expecting such an encounter. (Some indecent exposure laws may be considered by naturists as too stringent, however.)
  • Where people are suffering from the lack of food, clothing, and shelter. The need for clothing could be due to a cold climate, hostile environment, and/or cultural necessity.

In addition, there are certain requirements in the Old Testament where those performing priestly duties were made to wear linen undergarments (Exodus 28:42-43). For most Christians, this ritual, and many others were superseded by the New Testament. However, some denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement wear a temple garment. (This is not necessarily limited to temple worship, but may include all or most activities during the day.) Regarding the Jewish faith, the Temple in Jerusalem has not been rebuilt since its destruction by the Romans during the siege in 70 AD.

If parents forbid children to ever be seen nude outside of their own family, generally such a prohibition begins within the months or years leading up to the age of reason or accountability. The exact age and circumstances may vary by denomination and culture. Quite the opposite of what Christian naturists believe, non-naturists (whether Christian or not), may feel that if children were to see others nude and be seen nude themselves, that is precisely what would cost them their innocence.[30] See also the article: Nudity and children.



Chapel at Cherokee Lodge

Non-denominational services are the most common among Protestant Christian naturists. Often someone's home or a portion of a secular naturist resort is used (with permission). Three annual Christian Nudist Convocations (AANR) are held regionally during the summer months.[31] In the U.S., a few resorts have chapels on their grounds for the purpose of providing worship services:[32]

Friends (Quakers)

While not officially a position of the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers are the only religious denomination in America where naturism has been the accepted norm in one of their camps for children and teens. The camps started in 1939 and sometime in the 1950s naturism among the coed campers was the norm for such activities as swimming, sauna and other appropriate activities.

The founder of the Quaker camps (Farm and Wilderness Camps in Vermont) later wrote in his book entitled “When Sparks Fly Upward”:

A study of comparative cultures leads to the suspicion that it could be, that our culture is wrong in this regard; that the evil that has falsely imputed to nudism is in fact an evil in our own minds. It has cut us off from a health-given, wholesome and joyous practice in which children thrive and adults may find an honesty and straight forwardness, and even a spiritual surety and strength that we grievously lack at present. This “piece of work” that is man, how are we to become convinced of its wonder if by the fetish of hiding the body we deny and destroy some of the health and most of its godlike beauty?

LDS naturists

Some individual members of the Latter-day Saints movement practice naturism or nudism.[33] Like other Christian Naturists, LDS Naturists believe it is acceptable to remove their clothing and enjoy wholesome recreation without experiencing God's judgment.[34] However, the doctrine of the church as outlined in official church literature clearly states that church members should always dress modestly to show respect for God and themselves, and that revealing attire or appearance in public is always inappropriate.[35]

Body as a temple

Latter-day Saints reject the Gnostic teaching that the human body is intrinsically evil and the spirit is good (see History below). Rather, they believe that the body is a sacred temple that houses the spirit.[36]

Latter-day Saints do not believe in the concept of original sin, i.e., that human nature is inherently sinful because of the fall of Adam. However, LDS scriptures confirm the understanding found in Genesis that it was God himself who properly and fully clothed Adam and Eve when the fig leaves were found to be lacking in Eden.[37][38]

One of the Thirteen Articles of Faith instructs members to obey the law: "We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law." Thus, where the law does not prohibit nudity, some LDS may participate in naturism. However, LDS church leaders have condemned displays of nudity [39] and specifically cited nudity on public beaches as an example of social decay, especially where legally permitted.[40]


By far, the most frequent biblical argument against Christian naturism is that if God approved of people being nude, He would not have clothed Adam and Eve after they sinned, thus making it a reminder to man that we had, in fact, sinned.[41] The counter-argument is Adam and Eve had already clothed themselves upon sinning, and God merely replaced the fig leaves with animal skins. In other words, granting them free will, but demonstrating sin requires a blood sacrifice.[11]

Due to cultural tendencies to equate nudity with sex, many Christian denominations and groups are not supportive of naturism and nudism. Such groups may feel that the temptation of lust is too difficult. Christian naturists counter that the notion of Christians being unable to avoid lust where non-sexualized nudity is present has no scriptural basis whatsoever.[42][43] Furthermore, they believe Christ has given mankind the power to avoid all sin.[44]

Christian naturists have been criticized for being nude around non-Christians (in the sense that some contact between Christians and non-believers takes place), given that they might have no inhibitions against lust and other carnal sin.[45] The best way to avoid such lust, naturists believe, is to live nude and be accustomed to bodies of various shapes, ages, and ethnicities in a non-sexualized setting. Furthermore, virtually all sexual abuse of minors, and rape among adults is initiated while both offender and victim are dressed.[citation needed] Other believers contend that nowhere does Scripture state to practice nudism to prevent lust. Naturists counter it never speaks of both lust, and the need for clothing in proximity to one another, either.

In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul speaks of the need for women to wear a head covering. However, it only applies to prayer and prophecy, and says nothing about covering the rest of the human body. Conversely, according to the passage, men must not have their heads covered. This due to man being the image and glory of God, and should not cover his head, as that would be figuratively covering the glory of God. The woman covers her head as she is the glory of man, and the glory of man ought to be covered when in the presence of God.[46] Today, many Western churches which are not naturist don't require women to cover their heads in church.

In the Book of 1 Timothy, Paul urged the women in the Christian church to dress modestly, with "decency and propriety".[47] Critics contend it is in contrast to the beliefs of Christian naturism that the apostle urges them to dress at all. Christian Naturists counter that Paul was disallowing outlandish and/or expensive clothing (which is prohibited in Christian Naturism as well), and not referring to those who choose not to dress.

Other criticism, while it may not oppose naturism per se, is concerned that it will hinder witnessing, divide spouses, promote secrecy to prevent embarrassment, excommunication, etc.[48] As a result, some Christian naturists are isolated from other Christians and their churches. In their effort to find fellowship, many have formed local fellowships, while others are still accepted by their own church groups even though they are known as naturists.[49]

  • In May 2002, a pastor in southern California was terminated due to his Christian Naturism beliefs. The church was affiliated with the Grace Gospel Fellowship and Grace Bible College.[50]

Several well-known organizations which specialize in new religious movements, including the Watchman Fellowship, Bob Larson Ministries, and the (John) Ankerberg Theological Research Institute have, to date, taken no official position on the beliefs of Christian naturism.


3rd c. baptism, St. Calixte Catacomb


Originally, Jewish mikvahs, and later, early Christian baptisms[52] were performed with individual naked. This included mass baptisms involving men, women, and children. They signified the participant's restoration to man's original sinless condition, having their sins blotted out. Others claim that children were baptized first, then men, then women, all separately.[citation needed]

Public bathing was the common practice through the time of Jesus and still occurs today in a few cultures, including the Turkish bath or hammam, the Finnish sauna, Japanese onsen or Sentō, and the Korean Jjimjilbang. With the exception of the family-focused Finnish sauna, most public baths are gender-segregated today. Entire families took part in the public bath—including Christians. Jesus even preached at the public baths in Jerusalem [53] (John 5:1-7).

Some historic religious sects, both Christian and syncretist, have made nudism a general practice. Probably the best-known of these were the Adamites, though some of their beliefs were contrary to orthodox Christianity.[54] The post-resurrection belief of the unclothed body being evil or sinful may originate in Platonic asceticism (founded largely on the works of ancient Greek philosopher Plato) which was adopted and passed down by "Christian" Platonists in early church history. Platonism is a dualistic theology which proposes a realm of forms to include, on the one hand, "pure ideas", which are good; and, on the other hand, "matter", which is evil. When applied to humans, the soul is necessarily good, and the body is necessarily evil. Therefore, according to this philosophy, our "evil" bodies must be covered by clothing. Christian naturists reject such notions as unbiblical.[55]

Plotinus (ca. 204–270 AD) was a major philosopher of the ancient world who is widely considered the founder of Neo-Platonism (along with his teacher Ammonius Saccas). His metaphysical writings have inspired centuries of Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Islamic and Gnostic metaphysicians and mystics. About 150 years later, Saint Augustine (354-430 AD) was heavily influenced by the teaching of Plotinus.[56] As one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity, St. Augustine strongly endorsed asceticism, which meant self-denial of worldly pleasure and total sexual abstinence. Eventually, this reached its peak in monasticism. Those pursuing a monastic life are usually called monks or brethren (brothers) if male, and nuns or sisters if female. While similar activities existed previously in pre-Christian times, early Christian monasticism attracted a large number of followers due to its enormous prestige and high social status in the period where the Roman Empire was near collapse.[57] St. Augustine is one of the very few saints considered important not only by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox religions, but by many Protestants as well (including Martin Luther and John Calvin).[58] Christian Naturists do not believe that monasticism, along with its clothing requirements and isolation, is how Jesus taught us to live. If asceticism is practiced, it begins by living nude.


By the middle of the 19th century, Queen Victoria had come to power in the United Kingdom.[59] The queen's influence was legendary, even spreading to other areas of Europe and America, which were outside of the British Empire. (Her ancestors were mainly German.) Due to previous sexual and other scandals of her predecessors in the House of Hanover, Queen Victoria placed a strong emphasis on her idea of morality and family values. For the first time, burgeoning middle classes could begin to identify with the reigning king or queen. At this point, it became quite unacceptable to be seen nude in public for whatever reason. Missionaries even brought clothing to various indigenous peoples who lived nude in humid, tropical climates. After her death in 1901, naturism and nudism began to emerge in northern Germany, and gradually spread elsewhere.

In the United States, the Christian naturism movement (which was the first naturism movement of any sort in the U.S.) began in the late 1920s. This occurred at nearly the same time as the start of the Great Depression, under the leadership of New Jersey Dutch Reformed minister Ilsley Boone.[60] Initially, he was vice president of the American League for Physical Culture. By October 1931, Boone had taken over as president, and renamed the club as the "American Sunbathing Association" (ASA). Soon, naturism began expanding nationwide.

In Rome, Pope Pius XI strongly condemned the naturism movement throughout the early 1930s, calling it "paganly immodest".[61] This prompted the head of the New York Legion of Decency, former New York Catholic Governor Alfred E. Smith, to try to outlaw all nudism. A recent court ruling had declared private social nudity to be legal per current law. Eventually, their efforts failed in the state legislature.[61] After Boone's passing in the 1960s, the ASA became more secular, along with American society in general. In 1995, the ASA was renamed as the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR), which currently has its headquarters in Florida.

Until the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) converted to co-ed facilities in the early 1960s, men and boys, including the swimming instructors, swam in a state of complete nakedness. Nylon was a relatively new invention at that time, and allowing cotton or wool swimsuits in the pool would clog the filtration system. The word gymnasium means to train in the nude. This is derived from the standard practice of athletes who used to train and compete without any clothing (though it originates from pre-Christian Greece).

Pope John Paul II began his papacy in 1978, becoming the first non-Italian pope in four and a half centuries.[62] His views on naturism differed substantially from that of his predecessors. Authoring the book Love and Responsibility (1981), he wrote: Nakedness itself is not immodest... 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.

With the beginning of the modern internet in the mid-1990s, Christian Naturism became much more organized in the U.S. than ever before. The website founded in 1999 is the largest website devoted exclusively to Christian naturism. Annual Christian Nudist Convocations began early in the decade of the 2000s.

Timeline of requisite dress in Western civilization

Nudity and historical Christian sects

  • Adamites - A sect in North Africa in the 2nd through 4th century that believed they were "re-establishing Adam and Eve's innocence".
  • Naaktloopers ("naked walkers") = A group of 11 Anabaptists in Amsterdam who, on Feb 11, 1535, stripped and ran naked through the streets proclaiming the "naked truth". They were later executed.[75][76]

See also


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  2. ^ Encyclopedia of religion in the South, Samuel S. Hill, Charles H. Lippy, Charles Reagan Wilson, p.190-191
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  21. ^ Fig Leaf Forum (peer reviewed section) Objections To Becoming A Nudist Issue 11—November 13, 1995
  22. ^ Fig Leaf Forum (peer reviewed section) A Path Of Healing, A Spiritual Journey Issue 5—April 17, 1995
  23. ^ Fig Leaf Forum (peer reviewed section) Second Negative By John Kundert Issue 55/Issue 56—May/June 2000
  24. ^ Fig Leaf Forum (peer reviewed section) Greg Responds To The Skeptic Issue 85—May 2003
  25. ^ Fig Leaf Forum (peer reviewed section) A Path Of Healing, A Spiritual Journey Issue 5—April 17, 1995
  26. ^ Fig Leaf Forum (peer reviewed section) Clothing, Textile Culture And The Bible Issue 79—October 2002
  27. ^ Fig Leaf Forum (peer reviewed section) Unveiling Glory: Revealing God's Workmanship Issue 80—November 2002
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