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Its all culturally relative ain't it ?.....

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  • Jason Robert Schuiling <jrschuiling@yaho
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 22, 2003
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      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
      being nude.''

      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.''

      AP-ES-08-11-97 1014EDT

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