I do not know if you find that many people, especially Christians, do not wish to discuss controversial topics? Well, one issue that is often never talked about is nudity, partly because it is difficult to ‘draw a line’ with it. Then, it depends on whether we are focussing on male or female nudity.
Part of the issue is whether a part of a body is considered a sexual organ or not. You will notice that in paintings down the ages, including many in churches, men and women were often shown ‘topless’. Yet, today, we find it wrong for women to go topless, that is to show their nipples, yet men do. That seems a contradiction, when one looks at history. What it is about the nipple, that we find shameful, even if the rest of the breast is shown, I do not know. Only 70 years ago, men and women would not be seen dead in any swimming costume unless they were fully clothed! If showing nipples became more ‘normal’, then it would help in changing our current cultural attitudes which says by doing so, is ‘naughty’, and therefore exciting. Also, it would help take away the focus on society’s obsession with the size and shape of bodies, male or female.
To me, the issue is more about whether the body is ‘sexualised’, that is posed to encourage arousal, as that, outside marriage, is saying ‘come and get me’, which means that the person does not consider themselves special.
Then, there is the issue of total nudity. When one looks at history (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_nudity ), one finds this was quite normal and acceptable without a sexual emphasis. People only wore clothes because of the environment, to protect themselves, or to cover their sexual organs. Today, nudity often finds expression in naturism (including Christians) because people like to feel ‘free’ and to connect with nature.
We must not forget that Adam and Eve were totally naked, and when they ‘sinned’, they only covered their sexual organs. In some traditions of the early church, adult believers were baptised in the nude. Covering is often seen as ‘shameful’, instead of liberating as God intended.
Now we come to the command to dress ‘modestly’ (1 Timothy 2:9). If a person’s heart is inclined toward godliness, they will wear clothing that is neither provocative nor revealing in public, clothing that does not reflect negatively upon their personal testimony as a child of God. Yet, deciding what is provocative or not, is very much down to cultural acceptance than having a biblical basis. Hence, the question is where does one draw the line when it comes to what to wear? A lot of what we do wear is to impress others, or to help us ‘feel good’, which to me is more about self than what God thinks. He is more concerned about our heart and the relationship between us and Him. Surely, that also says, we should also be more concerned about our relationships, socially or at work, rather than whether we look great. But, that is not to say, we should make an effort to look nice because that shows we care about ourselves.
The issue now is how does one reconcile what has been said about nudity and what we wear? Part of the problem is that in most countries, it is too cold or too hot not to wear some form of protective clothing, but in others it is not. For example, in many African countries, women are topless and men only wear a basic loin cloth and we have no problem with that, but if a ‘white’ person did that in the same country, we probably would ‘frown’ on it, especially as far as women is concerned.
So, I think the problem is more to do with culture than anything us, and the media bombarding us with the idea that we should be obsessed with sex, and in particularly men having control over women. We need to change our attitudes and see each person as special individual, not an ‘object’ to be used for whatever purpose (at work, in the home or wherever). And also to see them as a person, whatever they look like. Hence, the Church could take the lead in teaching and practicing about relationships in all sorts of situations, including the subjects of body image and nudity. The process of change will be long, but it would be worth it.
Any thoughts on how to develop this discussion?