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But God said that what he created was “very good.” That includes our bodies. It was Adam and Eve who concluded that they had cause to be ashamed because they were naked and wanted to cover themselves. ” Being ashamed of our bodies is not what God intended. But Christianity affirms that the body is God’s good creation and as such it needs to be honored and respected.(For my theological affirmation of the body see “Frank Answers About the Body—God’s and Ours.”) As a pastor of the Church I want to affirm that God’s creation is good, and that includes our bodies.When we got to the gym our guide pointed out that the climbing poles and ropes had been removed and climbing was no longer a part of the school gym curriculum. I was sad to hear that the ropes and poles were gone because I had actually done well in climbing in the 7th and 8th grades and did it in the boys gymnastic show in P. We were often shirtless in elementary school gym class, which was a situation in which adolescent boys were often insecure because our bodies were developing at wildly different rates.Ironically, I felt less self-conscious being naked in 9th grade swimming class than being shirtless in 8th grade gymnastics.When we went to the pool our tour guide said, “you men will probably remember the barbaric practice of having to swim naked.” I protested, “it wasn’t barbaric, it was a good tradition.” A couple of the guys in our group, with whom I probably had swimming classes, nodded in agreement.
But it reminds me of what I experienced at Bennett High School in Buffalo during my freshman year (1957-58).
So this article is an exercise in social history to discuss what was standard practice in America until the 1970s.
Boys swam naked in American high schools and sometimes teachers or coaches were naked too (although my swimming teacher always wore a swim suit). social history that a practice that millions of men experienced as boys has been suppressed in our collective memory.
) attitudes and views, as if our attitudes and views can’t withstand the challenge of different standards.
But perhaps some of our current attitudes and views need to be challenged, including our attitudes toward and views about nudity today which are almost exclusively associated with sexuality. Chapter 3 in my book is entitled, “Naked Bodies, Clothed Bodies.” Nakedness is a powerful religious and spiritual symbol.
I set this in the broader context of naked swimming in America. This reflects a radical change in social mores today that reflects different attitudes toward nudity, privacy, and the body than were common in earlier times in America.