I am pursuing a Fine Arts degree, and I am having trouble reconciling my Christian faith with this environment. Specifically, I have been asked to draw nude models and peruse through nude artwork. I know that many Christian artists, even ones during the Renaissance, painted nude portraits (including Michelangelo). But I think it’s pornographic and shouldn’t be portrayed as “art.” What’s your perspective? – K. R.
Pat Robertson’s response was excellent:
|Life Drawing Class|
As an L&D nurse, I see real-life pregnant bodies as nude as artist’s models are in “life drawing” classes. But when I made the following artistic representation of pregnancy, a devoted sister-in-Christ called it “pornographic.” My firm reply to her was that nothing in God’s beautiful design of the human form is indecent or pornographic.
Pregnancy by DLH
Why is this pornographic view of the naked human body so popular and widespread among Christians in America? Pat Robertson’s hint that pornography “has to do with sexual intercourse” gives us a clue. But a quote from Madeleine L’Engle’s book, Walking on Water (pp. 187-188), offers even more insight:
I would not hide the human body . . . , as though it was something to be ashamed of—though neither would I flaunt it. Let it be natural and holy. The incarnation was a total affirmation of the dignity of this body, and Paul goes on to emphasize that we are, moreover, the temple of the Holy Spirit, and if we abuse or reject or ignore our bodies we are abusing and rejecting and ignoring this temple. // I was both amused and appalled in a rotunda in the Prado, filled with Greek and Roman statues, to see that all the genitals had been removed, and covered with some kind of leaf. This prudery is in itself a form of pornography. (bold emphasis mine)
Her observation nails it! God did not create porn. We did, by creating a sexual focus when it comes to the nude body. In the beginning, this was not so.
Scripture’s very first description of humans implies gender-distinguishing genitals: “male and female He created them” (Gen 1:27). We still identify newborns as “him” or “her” by looking between the legs. God’s first command was for us to use that equipment properly: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). By creating us naked, God made our procreative and gender-identifying anatomy fully visible. He included human nudity in evaluating “all” His handiwork as “very good” (Gen 1:31). Believers overlook this at great cost to themselves and to society, and they do so with the same diabolical help that misled our first parents into adopting a pornographic view of their own bodies.
|The Original Sin (Sistine Chapel)|
I challenge anyone to find a Bible commentary that honestly addresses what God asked Adam when He found him “afraid” of his nudity: “Who told you that you were naked?” (Gen 3:10-11). Great Bible scholars either entirely skip over it or boldly change His words to mean “What made you conscious of nakedness?” Why did they avoid God’s direct implication that Satan played a role in the adoption of body shame by the first human sinners? Does this divine question embarrassingly expose the deceptive source of our own fear of nudity? What could salvage Christian prudery if it was actually a liar “who told”our first parents that naked genitals should be hidden (with fig-leaf “loincloths,” Gen 3:7)? Is our religious devotion to a sexualized view of the nude body so sacred that even Christian teachers feel free to ignore the light God shed on its satanic origin?
Judging from modern body-image dysfunctions, our society’s porn-addiction epidemic, the objectification of the body in human trafficking, and the contemporary trends of gender-confusion in politics, Satan had an extremely far-reaching strategy in his original deceit. Hiding gender-distinctive body parts objectifies them, creating a sexual focus on what’s hidden. Satan knew this would create a doorway for pornea. His informational influence after getting humans “opened” to decide “good and evil” on their own—apart from divine guidance (Gen 3:5)—has been the fountainhead of human sexual waywardness ever since.
The root-word definition of pornography relates to a picture (imaged or written) of fornication. God’s own portrayal of the human body is very clear: “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psa 139:14). So, who is the gatekeeper on depicting it as a stimulus of unholy passions? The success of those who shoot and sell nude sex scenes depends on a much more fundamental portrayal of the body’s obscenity: the view held and promoted by popular Christianity. Society’s investment in Western Christendom’s perpetuation of Satan’s original lie is the sustaining power behind our culture’s exploitation of nudity. Commercial pornographers exist for business only because conceptual pornographers persist in painting this perverted picture.
From art students claiming this porno-prudery as part of their “faith” to preachers exhorting men to “bounce their eyes” at women, the bulk of American believers need to abandon this ungodly, Creator-dishonoring deception. Only by eliminating what porn profits from—the church’s pornographic fantasies about the nude body—can we effectively fight the naked obscenities of the porn industry. Either we stand with the Original Designer of beauty and glory in the unclad human body or we join as accomplices of the original pornographer who deceived us in the first place.
(for further reading, see my blog article Prudery and Porn Addiction, my website article Incarnational Truth about Humanity’s Sexual Nature (Doing Body-friendly Theology Free from Gnostic Prudery) or read my novelette Meeting at the River to explore the biblical research behind my reason for treating this issue of body acceptance so seriously.)