Monday, April 19, 2010

Naturism and Gender Identity

Can a biblical view of naturism contribute positively to the issues of gender confusion and gender identity in our culture today? I believe that it can. In fact, I believe that naturism has much more to offer towards a healthier understanding of these issues than that which is provided by the traditional view and treatment of our bodies practiced by the church at large.

As with all issues critical to our understanding of ourselves and moral issues, when addressing the issue of “Gender Identity,” we must start with what the Bible says…

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; MALE and FEMALE He created them.” (Gen. 1:26 – NASB, emphasis mine)

There it is. The definitive expression of gender for all humanity—for all time: Male and Female.

Some seem to imagine that that the text should read, “…male and female, gay and lesbian He created them.”

Let’s be clear. God makes no “gays.” He makes no “lesbians.” He makes boys who become men, and he makes girls who become women.

Gender is not determined by tendencies or behavior; it is determined genetically. And our genes can be depended upon to show us clearly by our very physiology that we are either male of female. Every baby ever born has been announced as “It’s a boy!” or “it’s a girl!”… there are no other options.

If this is so, why is there so much confusion about gender? There’s no confusion at birth; why should there be any confusion later in life?

Gender Confusion

In our culture, we recognize gender in our babies at their birth by their physical attributes. They either have a penis, or they don’t. But almost immediately, we slap diapers on them and are then compelled to identify their gender artificially.

Nobody likes to go up to a newborn and tell the mother, “Oh, he’s so cute!” only to have embarrassed mother say, “Yes, she is.” (oops!!) And every mother works hard to dress her baby in pink or in blue just to ward off the gender question before it ever gets asked! (Except my mother… she brought me and my two brothers all home from the hospital in a little yellow dress. I have it here in my closet…)

So, by the time our babies are home with us, we have already begun to use an artificial indicator—clothing—to identify gender.

But it gets worse…

As our children grow, we continue to buy “boys’ clothes” or “girls’ clothes.” But when it comes to play time, practicality often demands the more gender-neutral “shorts and T-shirt” with sneakers. Since the clothing distinction is blurred, now we look to other artificial indicators of gender.

Enter “behavior”…

“Boys will be boys” they say. Boys like danger and rough-housing and fighting and sports and adventure and worms. Girls, of course, like softer things and dolls and playing house and cooking and dressing up and having “tea.”

For the most part, I suppose, it works…

But… what about the boy who doesn’t match that “boy” description? What if he likes to cook and doesn’t care for wrestling? What about the girl who is more fascinated by bugs and sports than dolls and dress up? Is he a “momma’s boy” and she a “tomboy”? Do we actually begin to identify the boy with a feminine term and the girl with a masculine term based on preferences and behavior alone?

Preferences and behavior are false measures of gender. Not all males naturally gravitate towards stereotypical “male” behaviors, but they are no less male. Not all females are naturally drawn to “female” behaviors, but they are no less female. When preference or behavior becomes the measure of gender, it will inevitably lead some to gender confusion.

True Gender Identity is found between your legs.

The only reliable measure of gender is right there between your legs. You either have a penis or you have a vagina. Case closed.

Look around you. Half the population has one option, and half has the other. Every person reading this knows which half they belong to. It’s permanently stamped on their physical being.

Except… we can’t look around us and see what the rest of the population has… they’re all covered up!

We have convinced ourselves that those distinguishing body parts are actually “indecent” and unfit to be seen by others. Whether by intent, example, or neglect, we have even taught our children to be ashamed of those specific body parts!

So, not only does the “momma’s boy” wonder why his nature is more “feminine” than “masculine” (based on preference and behavior), the one part of his body that should proclaim to him and everyone else, “I’m a BOY!” is instead treated as shameful, never to be seen by anyone else. No wonder he’s confused!

Clearing up the Confusion

James Dobson has written a book called Bringing Up Boys. While addressing the potential development of homosexuality in boys, he quotes an extended passage written by psychologist Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D., whom Dr. Dobson considers the foremost authority on the prevention and treatment of homosexuality today.

Dr. Nicolosi mentions the fact that as boys, many of his homosexual clients… “displayed a ‘nonmasculinity’ that set them painfully apart from other boys: unathletic, somewhat passive, unaggressive and uninterested in rough-and-tumble play.” In other words, they became confused because gender identity was measured by behavior instead of their actual physicality.

Among other things that Dr. Nicolosi recommends that a father can do to help his sons to be confirmed in their maleness, he suggests that “He can even take his son with him into the shower, where the boy cannot help but notice that Dad has a penis, just like his, only bigger.” (Both of these quotes can be found online here)

I see this as a very positive step in the right direction. I would even suggest that the openness to see God’s real “measure of gender” can and should extend beyond just seeing “Dad in the shower.” There’s no reason why innocently observing the the gender attributes of brothers, Mom, and sisters cannot be a normal and natural part of home life. All of this would make it abundantly clear to every member of the family which half of humanity they really belong to.

Not a “Cure-All”

No, openness to family nudity is not a “cure-all” for gender confusion and the sexual identity problems that can come as a result. However, it would be a huge step in the right direction if we could actively supplant behavioral gender-identity notions with healthy exposure to the true measure of gender distinction found right in our bodies.

Naturist contexts offer the opportunity to see and experience the clear and unambiguous recognition of males and females. Instead needing to say, “boys will be boys” (behaviorally), one can simply look around and observe that “boys are boys” and “girls are girls.” The confusion is gone.

Or as one friend rather aptly noted…

“There are no transvestites at a naturist resort!”

Matthew Neal

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Unclothed and in His Right Mind

Do you remember this story from the Bible? It goes like this…

  • A man is under such deep demonic influence distorting his mind that he is literally a mortal danger to others.
  • One day, however, he comes near a man full of God’s Spirit and power. Instantly, the demonic stronghold in his life is broken.
  • As a result, the formerly demonized man is overcome by the power of God and begins proclaiming the truth of God.
  • One more detail worthy of note… While his mind was under the demonic control, he was fully clothed, but when the power of God’s Spirit controlled his actions, he stripped naked. He was, quite literally…

    …Unclothed, and in his right mind.

Did I get the story right?

I think I did.

If you are thinking that I did not, then you must be thinking of a similar New Testament story found in Luke 8:26-39.

Actually, I’m describing an Old Testament story that is found in 1 Samuel 19:9-24.

  • The demonized man is King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14-23), and he was influenced by the demon to kill David (1 Samuel 19:9-10)
  • When Saul heard that David was with the prophet Samuel, he himself went to Ramah where Samuel and David were staying. Even as he approached the camp, he was overcome by the power of God (1 Samuel 19:23).
  • In the power of God’s Spirit, Saul began to prophesy, speaking God’s truth (1 Samuel 19:23-24) and much more fully “in his right mind” than he had been before.
  • While under the direct influence of the Spirit of God, Saul stripped naked and remained naked for a full day and night while prophesying with Samuel and the other prophets (1 Samuel 19:24).

Obviously, I told this story in this way to intentionally point out its parallels with the story of demoniac in Luke 8. Here’s why…

Those who try to use Scripture to say that social nudity is wrong are quick to jump on statement found in Luke 8:35 which declares that the demonized man, once healed, was found “clothed and in his right mind.” They then proclaim it as proof that going around naked must be a sign of demonic delusion, but that when one is healed and set free by Christ, it will be evidenced by the rejection of public nudity. In other words, they conclude…

… Demonized and naked — Spirit-filled and clothed.

But that’s not the only story in the Bible about a demonized man and nudity. As I have pointed out, Saul’s story is the exact opposite…

Demonized and clothed — Spirit-filled and naked.

Which story gives us the definitive understanding? Both!! Public Nudity is not evidence for the presence of wicked spirits or of the Spirit of God!

It simply is not honest treatment of God’s Word to attempt to make either passage more important than the other in reference to nudity and the presence of God’s Spirit in a person’s life.

A Few Objections…

Before I close this post, let me address a few likely objections regarding how I have treated the passage in 1 Samuel 19.

  1. Objection: Saul wasn’t fully naked… he probably had on a loincloth.

    The Hebrew word used to describe Saul in 1 Samuel 19:24 is the very same one used to describe Adam and Eve in Gen. 2:25. Adam and Eve were completely naked. The same word is also used in other passages (Job 1:21, Eccl. 5:15) to describe the nakedness of newborn children. Nowhere in the rest of its biblical usage does the word ever refer to anyone who is wearing anything at all. The word means “fully naked.”

  2. Objection: The company of the prophets with Samuel was comprised of men only, and no one else saw him.

    Answer: While it is probable that the prophets were only men, it is clear that Saul was seen by more men than just the other prophets. The reaction to Saul’s prophesying naked for a day was the the reason people were asking, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Samuel 19:24). Had he not been seen by others that day, they would not have wondered such a thing. Of course, I cannot claim that women saw him, but neither can anyone else claim that they did not; the Scriptures do not say either way.

    Interesting Note: It is worth observing that the public sight of a prophet prophesying naked must not have been a notable departure from the norm for prophets, for the people did not wonder why their king was naked, they wondered when he became a prophet!

  3. Objection: Saul was in a trance and was actually out of his mind when this happened. It wasn’t true prophecy, but rather mindless babbling.

    This is the most egregious error of these three objections, for it contradicts the clear words of Scripture. 1 Samuel 19:23 says that “the Spirit of God came even upon him, and he walked along prophesying…” The suggestion that this was not truly God’s Spirit at work borders on the blasphemy of attributing to demons that which is actually the work of God.

    (For the record, I did not make up this third “objection”… I’ve actually faced it in discussions with other people!)

It is possible to be naked, yet fully in one’s “right mind.” My purpose for this post is to demonstrate that—for the honest student of the Scriptures—Luke 8 cannot be used to prove otherwise.

Matthew Neal

(This post is in partial fulfillment of my intent to more fully answer the “rebuttals” listed in Does the Bible Ever Condone Social Nudity?)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Redemption, a Work Accomplished by Christ’s Body

As I write this post, it is Saturday evening before Resurrection Day.

My thoughts turn towards our Savior and the salvation He purchased for us by His death, burial, and resurrection. There is no greater work in all of History. There is no more significant event that we celebrate in the Christian year. There is no more personal and life-changing act that has ever been performed by one person on behalf of another. There is no truth more central to our faith than the fact that Jesus died for us, taking our sin away; and physically rose again, Victor over death, and Lord of all Creation.

For this reason, I love holy week, and especially Resurrection Day.

A truth that has captured my attention in recent years has been the fact that in God’s eternal plan, a human body was required to secure our redemption.

Think about it…

  • Incarnation:
    Couldn’t God have made a way for salvation without taking on a human body?
    Evidently not, since Jesus came to us, “born of a woman” (Gal. 4:4) just like every one of us. God with us. Wow!
  • Anticipation:
    Couldn’t Jesus have simply declared that we were forgiven?
    Well, He did declare some people “forgiven” during His ministry on earth, but we know from Heb. 9:22 that “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Even those declarations must have been given in anticipation of His sacrifice of Himself
  • Substitution:
    Couldn’t Jesus have cleansed us of our sins by allowing an animal to die?
    Here again, Heb. 10:4 states clearly that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” It required a human sacrifice.
  • Propitiation:
    But didn’t Jesus bear our sins in His Spirit?
    No, he actually bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24 & 1 John 2:2). If Jesus had not had a literal human body, we would not have salvation! For this reason He broke the bread and said, “This is my body, given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
  • Intercession:
    But Did Jesus really give His blood to redeem us?
    Yes, Jesus entered the Holy Place in heaven as our High Priest and obtained an “eternal redemption” for us “through His own blood.” (Heb. 9:12
  • Resurrection:
    Was Jesus’ death sufficient to purchase our salvation? 
    Well, as odd as it may sound to say, evidently not. Paul made it clear in 1 Cor. 15:17 that if Jesus had not risen bodily back to life, then we would not have any hope for salvation, and we would still be in our sins!
  • Ascension:
    Does Jesus still have his human body even today?
    He sure didn’t leave it behind! In Acts 1:9-11, we read that Jesus ascended bodily into Heaven. What’s more, the disciples are told that Jesus would someday return in the same way they saw Him go. Jesus will also return bodily to this earth when He comes to reign forever.

This is what Jesus did for you and for me. Thanks be to God!

…Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Phil. 2:5-11)

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!