The Gospel Truth

Nude Beaches in Heaven? PART II | December 9, 2011

In Europe where people seem to have a much less sensitive attitude toward nudity, even public nudity, lust does not seem to be as rampant as it is here.

Perhaps it is just the idea of the forbidden fruit that inspires lust.

I am not implying that everyone should be nude all the time only that it is time we reassess our attitudes on it.

The promptings of the devil must be avoided but in itself the human body is a beautiful creation and must be respected, not a mere object of lust.

Pope John Paul II was a European and he had a much healthier view–morally and otherwise about his own body.

But it wasn’t always that way–even in Europe.

Nudity in art became a bone of contention in 16th century Rome when Pope Paul III asked the famed artist, Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel.

When executing his Last Judgement Michelangelo used his artistic licence to paint scenes, depicting numerous nude figures, including a female and a male saint.

Many accused him of immorality and obscenity.

500x699 Last Judgement Michelangelo

A controversy for centuries

The Pope’s own Master of Ceremonies Biagio da Cesena said felt it was mostly disgraceful that in so sacred a place there should have been depicted all those nude figures, exposing themselves so shamefully, and that it was no work for a papal chapel but rather for the public baths and taverns.

While the pope, who paid an enormous fee to the artists loved his creation,  his papal censors scurried for paint-on fig leafs, girdles and other modesty garments.

A campaign, known as the Fig-Leaf Campaign was organized by Cardinal Carafa and Monsignor Sernini  to remove the frescoes.

Daniele da Volterra, was commissioned to cover the figures nakedness with loincloths and veils.

His intervention earned him the nickname of the maker of breeches.

He covered barely enough to assure the painting’s survival.

Pope Clement VIII, 1592-1605, wanted to whitewash the whole wall.

Fortunately he never did but the cover-up work and helter-skelter touch-ups continued deep into the 18th Century.

443x428 The Saved Rejoice Michelangelo the Last Judgement

One pope wanted to whitewash the whole fresco

For years Pope John Paul tried to have all the modesty shields removed from the fresco because he felt they demeaned the human body and demeaned Michelangelo’s art.

With the restoration of the chapel in the 1980’s and 1990’s his restorers said they had removed the 17 most recent breeches, leaving Volterra’s and a few others–23 in all–that would have damaged the painting if removed.

John Paul gave his imprimatur to the finished work, but it came with a stern warning that the splendor and dignity of the human body must be viewed in the light of its creation by God

But it can be appreciated in its entirety for what it represents, the visible sign of the invisible unity of the Triune God.

The pope also said the human body can remain nude and uncovered and preserve intact its splendor and its beauty.

We should not equate nudity with moral shame.

Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person…

The human body is not in itself shameful.

400x589 St John the Baptist Michelangelo the Last Judgement

Some of the draping had to remain

Shamelessness (just like shame and modesty) is a function of the interior of a person.

Since I started with massage therapy and researching the pope’s Theology of the Body I have  taken John Paull’s words to heart.

I think I now have a more proper respect and understaning my body and its relation to the Triune God.

If I have been created in the image and likeness of God, my body must be essential good, even my naked body and not something dirty.

How to Give a Full Body Massage to a Girl

In massage therapy there should be no conflict between modesty and nudity

The doctor’s office, a shower room at the Y, the privacy of one’s home and the massage table are all places where modesty has to come to grips with a person’s nude body.

What about a nude beach?

I doubt if St. Augustine would ever have been found on a nude beach.

I know a couple people who have been to nude beaches.

The first is a middle age woman whom I have known for about 11 years.

She and her husband came to America from Eastern Europe 20 years ago.

Their attitudes about nudity are different from ours and more relaxed.

On their trips to the Caribbean on at least on two occasions they went to a nude beach on St. Martens.

There were mostly other Europeans there and with everyone in the same state of undress there was a natural aura to the beach.

P7230349.JPG

Bathers in a natural state in Europe

Of course there are nude beaches and there are nudes beaches!

The only discomfort she felt was the voyueristic eyes of some people at the restaurant some 70 yards away, who were fully dressed.

The second time they went she felt more relaxed and they spent the time talking with others as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

For the first time in her life since she was a child, she said she felt truly alive as the sun and the cool ocean water refreshed her entire body in a way that was virtually indescribable.

According to the pope, in their context any shame or discomfort had to come, not the nude bathers, but from the lustful intent of those who did not know how to morally view other human beings in their natural state.

jetty3.jpg

Lust is often in the eye of the beholder

I might add there is probably more lust committed from viewing the skimpy clothing and provocative outfits that characterize our sex-saturated culture than on any nude beach.

The pope has said that pornography does not show too much but too little.

But admittedly this is probably not for everyone, especially not all Americans.

A case in point is my other friend who went more to a nude beach out of curiosity but kept his swimming trunks on.

Part of the problem is our tendency toward concupiscence–that inner drive in us that spoils the good and natural things of life.

This is the real enemy in life–the force of human degradation that seeks to drown our human integrity in a slough of mud and filth.

The pope was trying to counter this tendency in people to turn the appreciation of natural beauty, especially that of the human body into unadulterated lust.

Maybe St. Augustine and the other anti-body heretics are somewhat responsible for this regrettable situation.

I am thinking of the Gnostics, the Cathars and the Irish Jansenists who all had a hateful disgust for God’s creation of the human body.

To his dying day, Pope John strove to counter this insult to God ‘s view of our basic humanity.

That brings me to the title of my post–finally!!

So are there nude beaches in Heaven?

Well my idea of eternity is to walk on the beach and look out at the ocean.

Ever since I made a retreat in Senior year at Holy Cross, I have thought of the rolling ocean, seemingly the eternal ocean as a sign of eternity.

Image Detail

My vision of eternity

It looks like it went on forever.

I also love the water and the sun.

Presumably in Heaven there is no need for any clothing once we get our glorified bodies.

I mean we wear clothing for warmth and modesty.

Heaven must be even better than Hawaii every day of the week, so the cold is no problem.

Without sin, lust or jealousy why would we wear clothing?

What a beautiful way to commune with our fellow saints–no pretenses or hiding anything?

St. Francis of Assisi thought nothing of going au natural to protest the materialism of his age.

Gozzoli, Benozzo - Renunciation of Worldly Goods and The Bishop of Assisi Dresses St. Francis (detail) - Renaissance (Early Italian, "Quattrocento") - Fresco - Saints - Chiesa di San Fortunato - Montefalco, Italy

Renounced all his worldly goods

There would nothing but true heavenly bodies and I don’t mean the kind in Las Vegas or New Orleans–we would all be awash in the infinite warmth of God’s love.

I may be wrong but my attitude is far healthier and more in line with God’s plan of creation than it was eight months ago.

The heavenly possibilities are endless!

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4 Comments »

  1. keep it coming, bill i truly enjoy these
    thank you
    alice

    Comment by alice klein — December 9, 2011 @ 3:36 pm

  2. I was in the Sistine Chapel in 1963 and recall it was
    very difficult on my neck to look at the ceiling. There-
    fore I did not really look at the paintings very long and
    felt that they were a waste of money since they were
    so hard to view.

    I have since seen the paintings in photographs and
    don’t think they picture beautiful bodies – back then
    I guess people did not go to the gymn to work out.
    Obviously, not too many do today either.

    We have been told that we are made in the image and
    likeness of God but I think that pertains to our immortal
    soul as God the Father, who we believe created us
    is a spirit. I don’t think he has a body.

    The Creator provided animals with a type of clothing/
    covering which humans lack. I think he figured we
    would design our own according to our needs.

    Morals went to pot in the European countries before
    than in the USA – maybe due to the nudity, maybe not.

    Perhaps if I read The Theology of The Body I would
    view this all differently – have not had much interest
    in doing so to date. BUT maybe I should and maybe
    I will. I am now curious to find our what John Paul wrote.

    Will mention that I did see the sculpture “David” by
    Michelangelo and would have preferred it had a fig
    leaf on it. I much preferred his “Pieta.” I was so im-
    pressed and inspired by the Pieta that I talked my
    parents into taking our family to the New York Worlds
    Fair so they and my sister could see it. We have a
    small reproduction of the Pieta in our curio cabinent.
    My parents gave it to me years ago – a lovely reminder
    of the beautiful work of art!!!

    Read “The Agony and the Ecstasy” about Michelangelo years ago after being in Rome and
    found it most interesting.

    MF

    Comment by M. F. — December 9, 2011 @ 4:54 pm

  3. Great column Bill. The problem is the “serpent” is alive and well on planet earth otherwise, we could be living in paradise.

    Comment by Jim — December 9, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

  4. I agree with MF and although I am 86 years old and close to the golden gate, not much of my mind is obsessed with whether we will be nude in heaven or not. Pax

    Comment by Mary B — December 11, 2011 @ 2:29 am


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About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at bbprof@sbcglobal.net

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