Christian naturists are Christians who practice naturism or nudism, and are a part of the clothes-free movement. They can be found in almost all branches and denominations of Christianity, and find no conflict between the teachings of the Bible and living their lives and worshiping God without any clothing. Organized Christian naturism is known to exist in the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, and Brazil  mainly as a parachurch. Rules of conduct are similar to those of family-oriented naturist resorts.
Although there is some variation in their overall Christian beliefs and worship, a common theme is that much of Christianity has misinterpreted the events regarding the Garden of Eden (particularly the aftermath of the fall of mankind). God could clearly see the sin that Adam and Eve had committed by eating the forbidden fruit. For this reason alone, the couple was ashamed, and tried to hide this sin by covering their bodies with fig leaves. Adam and Eve were not motivated to dress by being able to see one another nude. 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 following beliefs highlight the greatest differences of Christian naturism relative to their clothed counterparts. However, they account for only a small fraction of what Christian naturists believe in totality. See the Wikipedia article on Christianity for an extensive summation of the Christian faith, as well as individual Wikipedia articles of any specific denomination of interest (Baptist, Catholicism, LDS Church, etc.) Some Christian naturists have no denomination.
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. 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. See also the article: Nudity and children.
Christian naturists view the story of the Garden of Eden as a model for their beliefs. 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 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. This question was given priority by God who asked it first, before any discussion regarding the fruit. At no time were Adam and Eve commended for their self-discovery of being able to hide their nude bodies with fig leaves.
Christian naturists maintain the fig leaves were worn in an attempt to hide what the couple had done from God - not each other, noting they were married. 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 sexual relations, 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.
Christian naturists note there is no command in the Adam and Eve story, or elsewhere in the Bible, to wear clothing. The making of garments by God was an act of love to protect them from the harsher elements outside of the garden, to which they are being banished. As Genesis 2:25 shows, there was no reason why Adam and Eve should be ashamed of their bodies; only of their sin. The use of animal skins implied that sin requires a blood sacrifice. As Jesus Christ is the blood sacrifice of Christians under the New Testament, there is no need to wear clothes to cover sin. However, God does not forbid clothing, and it may be worn where needed.
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?"
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."
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?
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.
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."
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 consistent neither with scripture nor with the normal method of a Roman crucifixion.
Revelation 12:1 A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.
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.
Despite the aforementioned beliefs, there are three areas in which Christian naturists may feel nudity is condemned by the Bible:
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). Several resorts have chapels on their grounds for the purpose of providing worship services. Three annual Christian Nudist Convocations are held regionally during the summer months at a naturist resort.
At most of the Farm and Wilderness Camps in the state of Vermont, campers are free to wear what they want at the waterfronts. This includes skinny dipping after a discussion on body acceptance, and respecting others' choices. Each day, campers and staff participate in "silent meetings" based on the Quaker practice of "Meeting for Worship." All of the camps live the values inherent in Quaker philosophy, but are in no way affiliated with the denomination, being open to people of all beliefs.
Note: The Religious Society of Friends (colloquially known as Quakers) as a whole does not encourage nudity.
Catholic-majority countries where naturism is popular include Croatia, Slovakia, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Brazil, though various naturism organizations are generally secular and have no direct connection with the church. Other Catholic-majority countries which are conservative (such as Ireland), have little interest in naturism, and no official public beaches.
Some members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (colloquially known as "Mormons" and abbreviated as LDS) practice naturism or nudism. Like other Christian Naturists, LDS Naturists believe it is acceptable to remove their clothing and enjoy wholesome recreation without experiencing God's judgment.
Like other Christian naturists, LDS naturists 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. This belief is supported by revelation, both modern and ancient. Both Christian naturists and Latter-Day Saints believe that the body is created in the image of God. In the LDS canon, this belief is supported by modern scripture. For instance, in Ether 3:16, the Lord tells the brother of Jared that His spirit body is identical to His physical body, and He created man after the image of His Spirit body. Further examples can be found in Moses 2:27 and Genesis 1:27.
However, there are a few differences. Unlike their Protestant and Catholic Christian brothers and sisters, LDS naturists do not believe in the concept of Original sin, i.e., that human nature is inherently sinful because of the fall of Adam. This is reflected in the second Article of Faith, which states: "We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression." LDS members memorize from childhood all Thirteen Articles of Faith, and Article Twelve 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, as in many natural locations, LDS church members are within the doctrine of the church as they understand it. For example, nudity is permitted on Federal land except if someone complains. This permits LDS members, like other naturists, to enjoy nudity on public lands or other locations where it is legal.
Whether a member of the LDS Church can practice social nudity depends on how he or she interprets the Church's teachings about what comprises modesty and chaste behavior. Mormon youth are taught beginning in their teen years to avoid "clothing which can stimulate sexual desires, such as 'short shorts and skirts, tight clothing, and shirts that do not cover the stomach'". LDS church members are instructed in Sunday School and during participation in temple ordnances to be chaste, to avoid "all impure thoughts and actions that cause us to desire wrong". This includes teaching "respect [for] his or her body."
Those who are temple-worthy are instructed to wear sacred undergarments at all times, although they may be removed:
"...when considered proper for the activity. Naturally, bathing and swimming necessitate their removal, but they may be removed for other strenuous activities such as football, basketball, dance performance or other vigorous exercise as deemed appropriate by the wearer."
Church members learn that Joseph Smith said: "I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves." LDS members are taught to base their actions on a personal relationship with God, and members who practice social nudity do not see a conflict between naturism and the practice of modesty. They believe they are adhering to the spirit of the law to behave modestly. Their experience and testimony is that complete nakedness does not incite individuals to lustful thoughts, unlike, for example, a revealing skimpy top that exposes a good deal of a woman's cleavage or a very short mini-skirt. When naked, all body parts are seen as equal and non-sexualized. When clothed, the focus is on the private parts that are partly revealed and thus objectified and sexualized.
Socializing among LDS naturists is limited by the church's conservative cultural environment. More than most naturists, LDS individuals who choose to practice naturism do not usually speak openly to one another of the practice. They may be able to share their experience with other members of the church via online meeting places like the LDS Skinny-Dipper Forum, but otherwise usually limit their activities to their home, isolated public lands, or naturist clubs, and within their immediate family or with very close friends.
In the 1970s, a survey by William E. Hartman and Marilyn Fithian found that 2% of American nudists reported that they were Mormon. Although that data is at least three decades old, the percentage reported exceeded the percentage of Mormons in the general populace at that time.
At this time, no documented, official criticism of Christian naturism is known to exist within the Christian community (except historically, see History section below). Several well-known organizations which specialize in new religious movements such as the Watchman Fellowship, Bob Larson Ministries, and the (John) Ankerberg Theological Research Institute have, to date, taken no position. The following section summarizes the views of low-ranking church officials and laymen, and should be viewed as preliminary and possibly incomplete.
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. The counter-argument is since clothes stand for sin, Christians need not wear them. Trying to avoid sin by covering our bodies with the by-product of sin is not a solution. 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. A similar, though broader, criticism is that the Garden of Eden was a failure for mankind from which Adam and Eve were expelled fully clothed. While Christian naturists agree with this, they contend it ignores the entire New Testament, and is an argument that could be used by Judaism, Islam, and all other Abrahamic religions as well. Nor does it give any indication of God's will regarding the covering of our bodies, other than being "allowed".
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 just 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. To the contrary, Christ has given mankind the power to avoid all sin. In addition, lust can occur even though the subject is fully dressed, while certain types of revealing clothing (such as bikinis) actually make lust more likely when compared to being nude. This is largely due to the ability of the mind to mentally "fill in the blanks."
Christian naturists have been criticized for being nude around non-believers (in the sense that some contact between Christians and non-believers takes place). This is a concern, as they may have no inhibitions regarding lust, and there is always a small percentage among them who are rapists and pedophiles. On the other hand, Christian naturists strongly believe that the best way to avoid such lust is to live nude. Also, virtually all sexual abuse of minors, and rape among adults is initiated while both offender and victim are dressed.
Other believers feel the Scriptures (on which accurate tradition is based) make no reference to the Christian faith indulging in nudism to prevent lust. 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 Christ being the head, image, and glory of every man; while the head of a woman is man, which is her glory.; 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". 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. Also, a careful check of a Bible concordance will reveal that scripture never speaks of both lust and clothing (garments, etc.) in proximity to one another.
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. 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.
Originally, Jewish mikvahs, and later, early Christian baptisms 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.
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( 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. 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.
Plotinus (ca. AD 204–270) 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. A century later, Saint Augustine (AD 354-430) was heavily influenced by the teaching of Plotinus. 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. 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). 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. 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. 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". 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. 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. 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. Annual Christian Nudist Convocations began early in the decade of the 2000s.
Naturist Christians are the Christians who practice naturism or nudism, and are a part of the clothes-free movement. They believe that the human body was the greatest making of God, and is neither shameful nor should be covered. Naturist Christians can be found in almost all of the different groups of Christianity (called "denominations"), and they do not find any conflict with the teachings of the Bible, and living their lives and worshiping God without any clothing. However, most have various differences with New Age and man-centered philosophy (called "humanism") which is common among other naturists and wish to be separated from it. This includes not worshiping nature at all.
In the Book of Genesis, Adam and Eve were living in the Garden of Eden as 'man and wife' . They ate the fruit not allowed by God, after being talked into it by the devil in the form of a snake. Then their eyes were opened, and they knew that they were naked. So, they gathered fig leaves to be used as simple clothing to cover their sexual organs. These became lacking very quickly, and Adam and Eve hid themselves from God in the trees.
Naturist Christians believe that it was the devil, not God, who told them that they were naked. Nor was it the desire of God that Adam and Eve wore clothing, even though they sinned (did wrong). Still, God did not take away the fig leaves of theirs. Just the opposite, they had free desire, and He made them clothing from the skins of animals, which required a killing an animal (called a "sacrifice"). After the execution of Jesus, the sacrifice of animals is no longer needed for the punishment of sin. For these reasons, Naturist Christians believe that we do not need to wear clothing (except in a cold or difficult climate), and the desire of the flesh (called "lust") can be avoided through God's power.