Its all culturally relative ain't it ?.....
- At nudist church resort, birthday suits are the norm
By Jennifer Lee, Associated Press, 08/11/97
NOTTINGHAM, N.H. (AP) - On Sunday mornings at Cedar Waters Village
resort, the church bell tolls at 9:45, summoning families from their
bungalows and trailers to the rustic wooden chapel overlooking the
``Father God, we present ourselves to you in humble gratitude,''
intones the 72-year-old preacher as the congregation rises to sing
the opening hymn, ``What a Friend We Have in Jesus.''
The one-room church with its lace curtains could be any other small-
town church in America until the lay preacher, Harry Westcott, steps
out from behind the pulpit _ naked except for white sneakers and a
black watch. The accompanist, his fingers skimming the keyboard of
the Wurlitzer, is similarly undressed.
Many Christians believe they will stand naked before God on Judgment
Day. A small but fervent group doesn't want to wait.
The nondenominational church services at Cedar Waters Village nudist
resort are clothing-optional. Some worshipers are wearing their
Sunday best, others their birthday suits.
``As Christians and nudists, we are not alone. We have each other
and, most importantly, we have Jesus Christ,'' says Mr. Westcott in
his sermon on the power of unity.
Cedar Waters Village, which claims to be the first Christian nudist
resort in the U.S., was founded in 1950. ``We are family-based. We
consider our club a ministry more than a business,'' says Cedar
Waters co-owner Mary Bonser.
Periodically, Cedar Waters holds baptisms in the lake. Several weeks
ago, two elderly men and an eight-year-old girl were brought waist-
deep into the lake and immersed by an ordained minister. ``People
were always baptized nude until the second or third century. I
believe it's a very natural thing to do that way,'' says the
minister who performed the baptisms.
Around the country, a small but growing number of groups are
springing up to serve the several thousand Christian nudists in the
U.S. The annual Christian Nudist Convention began in North Carolina
two years ago; 100 people attended last year, several more than the
year before. Christian nudist publications proliferate, as do Web
sites, newsgroups and chat lines.
The rise of Christian nudism parallels the growth in nudism
The largest association of nudists, the American Association of Nude
Recreation, has doubled its membership within the past 12 years, to
50,000. ``Nude is natural. The philosophy is body-acceptance,''
explains Leonite Moore, president of AANR.
But Christian nudists, putting a special emphasis on what they see
as the sanctity and religious value of nudity, take the concept a
step further. They see nudity as a way of honoring and growing
closer to the creator. ``I think the act of worship, of coming to
the Lord as he made us, frees us from the irrelevant worries,'' Mr.
Westcott says. ``If you believe that the human body is a creation of
God in his own image, there is nothing shameful or harmful about
That credo, in turn, has locked Christian nudists in a passionate
debate with other religious people. Because the Bible doesn't
explicitly condemn or condone public nudity, the dispute centers on
some theological reading between the lines.
One of Cedar Waters' neighbors is disturbed by what she sees as a
religious contradiction. ``I don't think God approves,'' says Rachel
Anderson, a born-again Christian, who lives less than a mile away.
``It seems kind of antibiblical since women are told to dress
Modesty, Christian nudists reply, refers to a state of mind, not a
way of dressing. ``There is a real modesty among nudists. The
modesty is defined by the virtue of how a person guards chastity by
their manners, not by their clothes,'' says Jim Cunningham, who
publishes Naturalist Life International, a Christian-nudist
publication with a circulation of 2,000.
Whether nudity can be separated from lust is another question. ``The
assumption is that nudism and sex go together, that a visit to a
nudist camp is a visit to some kind of orgy, and that is just not
the case,'' says John Kunderd, publisher of the Fig Leaf Forum, a
newsletter published in the Canadian province of Manitoba. ``Nudism
has rules against overt sexual display. It's a very pure, wholesome
type of recreation.'' Adds Mr. Westcott, ``Just because people get
naked to have sex doesn't mean that they have sex when they're
At Cedar Waters, alcohol isn't allowed. Only families and couples
may attend. Sexual promiscuity and excessive physical contact aren't
tolerated. All dancing _ even square dancing _ must be done clothed
because, as Mr. Westcott explains, ``Dancing is a vertical
manifestation of a horizontal desire.''
Both sides quote scripture to their own purposes:
Christian nudists point to Isaiah 20:2. ``At that time the Lord had
spoken by Isaiah, the son of Amos, saying, `Go and loose the sack
cloth from your loins and take off your shoes from your feet.' And
he had done so walking naked and barefoot.''
Those who question the practice cite Genesis 9:22-23. ``And Ham, the
father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two
brothers outside. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on
both their shoulders, and walked backwards and covered the nakedness
of their father; their faces were turned away and they did not see
their father's nakedness.''
But what about the Garden of Eden? Adam and Eve of the Bible were
created by God ``naked and unashamed'' to live together. Only after
eating forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge did they recognize
their nakedness and seek to cover themselves with fig leaves. Thus
Christian nudists see the practice as a way of returning to the
state of purity God intended.
That said, many Christian nudists are furtive about it in the wider
world. Rev. James, an ordained minister who shares the pulpit at
Cedar Waters with Mr. Westcott, doesn't want his last name published
because he fears losing the support of his conservative congregation
elsewhere in New England. But he says he finds nudism a spiritual
experience. ``I feel a certain connectedness when I preach nude that
I don't feel in a clothed society,'' he says.
But religious belief has its pragmatic limits. In October, when
temperatures are falling, Cedar Waters hangs up a sign that reads,
``Clothed for the Winter.''