Spring 2004  Vol. 7, No. 1

Table of Contents
Spring 2004

Quick Links:
Articles in this issue

From the Editor:
Journalistically Ignorant

God the Poppa

Gendering the Religion Gap

Hindus and Scholars

Godawful Numbers

Georgia Evolves

Bare Naked Christians



Bare Naked Christians
by Lisa San Pascual

The words Christian and nudity rarely appear in the same sentence. So when a Florida Quaker named Bill Martin announced in January that he planned to open a Christian nudist resort called Club Natura, a “modern-day Garden of Eden,” reactions ranged from newspaper hilarity to right-wing Christian outrage.

“The Bible very clearly states that when Adam and Eve were in right with God, they were naked,” David Blood, executive director of the project, told the Orlando Sentinel on January 6. “When people are in right with God, they do not have to fear nudity.”

Most publications treated the story as a mid-winter opportunity to lighten things up. Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post quipped on January 11, “I was warming up to this idea of religious nakedness, imagining what sort of Ten Commandments a Christian nudist community might have: “Thou shalt not cover thy neighbor’s wife….Thou shalt not lie (without a towel on the clubhouse sofa)….Thou shalt not bow down to anyone—without giving fair warning….Thou shalt not quilt.”

Some writers called into question the extent of this return to a state of nature. “I guess some people just don’t feel comfortable worshipping the Creator unless they’re in their natural state,” wrote Dan Tyree in the January 16 Columbia, Tenn., Daily Herald. “So I’m sure all hairpieces, breast implants, false teeth and contact lenses will be discarded at the gates to the camp. And instead of courting the naked ladies, the men will wait for a wife to spring from their ribs.”

Even certain conservative Christian publications found amusement in the story.  “Who exactly is going to want to sit on a pew that some sweaty old Floridian just removed his backside from?” the website Evangelical Outpost ( joked on January 7.

Situated on 240 acres in Pasco County (suburban Tampa)—and with a $1.6 million price tag—Club Natura reads like a twisted Disneyland brochure. In addition to a water park, plans call for 500 homes, a marriage retreat, a massive nude baptism ceremony, and a clothing-optional church. Oh, and nude volleyball. Things it will not include, according to Martin, are inappropriate sexuality or alcoholic beverages.

“We desire to bring children back into naturism—and this will be a very family-friendly resort community,” reads Martin’s website.

Never mind that the site has a history of racism (its previous owner barred blacks). Never mind that the site is looking more like post-destruction Sodom and Gomorrah than untouched Paradise, with its murky lakes and piles of trash. With God on his side, Martin plans to reclaim both the site’s problematic history and the human body in all its unashamed nakedness, which, according to Martin, God saw as good.

Nudism is nothing new to the people of Florida. The state is a mecca for nudist resorts: besides Club Natura there are six naturist camps in Pasco County alone. But none of the others dwell on the Biblical basis of nudism.

Martin addresses the question of divinely sanctioned nudity in the pre-lapsarian state in his camp’s mission statement. “As evidenced by Adam and Eve, we believe that when God’s children are in a right relationship to him they will be naked and unashamed and that through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice we have been restored to a right relationship with God.”

But for many other Christians, the consequences following the Fall of Man are indelible, and society as a whole is not yet purged of the evil that set in with the Fall. “I don’t think it’s a good idea at all, simply because when we worship God we have all the distractions in this modern age. That would be one great distraction,” observed Rev. Jack Taylor of the nearby United Methodist Church in a January 7 news report on WFTS in Tampa.

In response to Martin’s precept that the “redeemed” may return to the Edenic state of unashamed nudity, a fundamentalist Christian website (, said, “Sure, but the world wasn’t fallen before Adam and Eve sinned. Now it is fallen and sin still has reign in the world despite one’s relationship with God. The first thing Adam and Eve did was clothe themselves….Creation ceased to be perfect because sin had entered in. We still bear that consequence today.”

The crux of the conservative Protestant argument against nudity is that Adam and Eve lived in a world where sin did not exist. Although the individual may be “right with God,” the propensity for sin still exists. To return to a state of complete ignorance is impossible. It is then the duty of the Christian to continue to work towards a life of purity and separation from fleshly lusts, not to settle back into a state of Nirvana and claim license to sin.

On the flip side, proponents of Christian nudism view “textile” communities (the nudist term for clothed communities) as plagued by an unnecessary sense of shame that comes from being under the bondage of Satan. “Body shame is an indicator of our alienation from God, self, and others; it is a bondage from Hell, and according to the Bible a direct result of Satan’s deception,” Martin’s website (  reads. “Body shame is at the root of low self-esteem, depression, sexual abuse, addictions, and more.”

“Fundamentalist Christians and the Southern Baptists may object to us, but I will meet with them anytime to talk about both Natura and nudity,” Martin said on January 23. “It’s funny that some Southern Baptists oppose us, because for about the first 500 years after the death of Christ, mass baptisms were done nude.”

Newsweek, which picked up the story in its January 26 issue, quoted Martin as also claiming that “early Christians were nudists. Christ was nude when he washed apostles’ feet. Peter rode nude in his boat.”

“Preposterous,” sputtered the Rev. John Revell of the Southern Baptist Convention in that same article. “There is no historical support for that.”

Perhaps most flabbergasting of all for Christian conservatives was Martin’s goal to de-sexualize nudity and reclaim it as something perfectly natural in the public sphere. Particularly in the aftermath of the Justin/Janet Superbowl nipple-baring extravaganza, the Christian taboo against public nudity has been brought to the media forefront. In a statement to the Baptist Press, Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham described the Superbowl fiasco as “a public exhibition of the disregard for virtue, innocence, purity, and true love in our present society” and proof of a “sex-crazed culture.”

This bare-all debauchery for solely sexual purposes is precisely the brand of nudity that Bill Martin seeks to keep out of his Reconstructed Paradise. “There is absolutely no relationship between nudity and sex,” he told the January 11 Palm Beach Post. “We have turned nudity into sex.”

It is evident that America has yet to catch on to the casual and non-sexual nudity of European beaches. Says, a conservative Christian website: “In the U.S., there are a few nude beaches, but they are almost exclusively visited by either:

A) Hippies & New-Age types, B) Old men and women who come to covertly glance at the younger crowd,

C) Curious, and often obnoxious, folks who come (fully-clothed, of course) to gawk at everyone. In other words, nudity in a semi-public setting just hasn’t caught on as a popular trend in the U.S.A. The only people who actively participate in fully nude events in the U.S. are almost always hippies or those who have a non-Christian ideology.”

America hasn’t always raced to embrace radical approaches, especially where religion is concerned. But perhaps Martin’s vision of reviving a fallen Paradise is not only socially impossible, but a theological hard sell. On, Merle Harton, Jr, concedes that his fellow Quaker Martin “has a point. Before the Fall, we were not ashamed of our nudity; after the Fall, we were. Therefore, in a restored relationship with God we should not have to be ashamed of our nudity.”

However, he goes on to rebut Martin’s claim that in the post-lapsarian twenty-first century, Eden is somehow attainable. “I understand that, but it doesn’t at all follow from this that we ought therefore to be nude, and it surely doesn’t follow that by accepting Christ we automatically get Eden back. I think it’s another excuse to get naked.”•



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