Nudity & Christianity
Nudity & Christianity
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Jim C. Cunningham considers his latest 588-page work, Nudity & Christianity, to be his "magnum opus." It represents the fruit of thirty years of research, meditation, discussion and many personal experiences. Though much of the material is new, Jim has included the best of his twenty-three years of naturist publishing. Although all of his previous publications (see were highly photographic, this latest is 100% textual, in hopes of reaching those who might be intimidated even by tasteful graphics. The insightful ideas of dozens of authors from various denominations are represented here, from Pope John Paul II to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, C.S. Lewis to Kahlil Gibran and even Mark Twain. The purpose of this book is to encourage readers to probe the reasons for wearing clothes. Today, Western convention tends to assume that "nude is lewd," but it was not always that way. For half the Church's history, catechumens--men, women, boys and girls, were routinely baptized together, nude, by full immersion. Today, we recoil at learning this, but how have cultural attitudes toward the body changed to effect this reaction? Jim asks those hard questions about the body and the meaning of true modesty, and exhorts Christians to lead the way in asserting God's definition of the body, rather than Playboy's. Instead of allowing pornographers to define the body for us, and then create a virtue of modesty to fit that false definition, Christians should assert God's definition as found in Scripture and Church Tradition. When we view the body as Jesus did, our definition of modesty becomes radically different from what is conventionally presumed. Two highly detailed indices (Scriptural and Topical) make this an excellent reference book. Readers are exhorted to live what they learn. Jim proposes attending "Theology of the Body Retreats." For more information go to JIMCCUNNINGHAM.COM.

"Nakedness Is not Immodest"


by Pope John Paul II[1]


Sexual modesty cannot then in any simple way be identified with the use of clothing, nor shamelessness with the absence of clothing and total or partial nakedness. There are circumstances in which nakedness is not immodest… nakedness as such is not to be equated with physical shamelessness. 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 of enjoyment. The human body is not in itself shameful, nor for the same reasons are sensual reactions, and human sensuality in general. Shamelessness (just like shame and modesty) is a function of the interior of a person. There is a certain relativism in the definition of what is shameless. This relativism may be due to differences in the makeup of particular persons—a greater or lesser sensual excitability, a higher or lower level of moral culture—or to different world views. It may equally be due to differences in external conditions—in climate, for instance…and also in prevailing customs, social habits, etc. Dress is always a social question, a function of…social customs. In this matter there is no exact similarity in the behavior of particular people, even if they live in the same age and the same society. The principle of what is truly immodest is simple and obvious, but its application in specific cases depends upon the individual, the milieu, the society. There are circumstances in which nakedness is not immodest. If someone takes advantage of such an occasion to treat the person as an object of enjoyment (even if his action is purely internal) it is only he who is guilty of shamelessness… not the other.


[1] Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, trans. H.T. Willetts (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1981), pp. 176-192. Wojtyla authored this book many years before being chosen to succeed St. Peter in Rome. Editor's note: All italics mine.

Jim was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1953. Despite ten years of Catholic education, by his late teens he had lost his faith. Extensive foreign travel and studying the great books at the University of Massachusetts, led to a dramatic "reversion" to Catholicism in 1973. Disillusioned by conventional Christianity because it was more conventional than Christian, Jim seriously reexamined all of his assumed values, striving to conform them to Christ. While studying the Fathers of the Church and their routine custom of mixed, group, nude baptism, he asked what was considered unaskable: "Why wear clothes?" Jim discovered that convention required always covering the body because it regarded the body as negative, if not intrinsically evil. Seeing that this was not the mind of Christ, he quit his educational professions (theology teacher, guidance counselor, headmaster) and devoted himself full-time to naturist publishing, producing dozens of periodicals and books (see, sharing his insights, developing a mailing list of over 6,000 people world-wide.


In 1979 Jim married Linda. They homebirthed five children, raising them close to nature (e.g. no TV!) in the Green Mountains of Vermont.


Jim has also studied at Catholic University in Washington, DC, and at the Angelicum in Rome, and holds a BA in Patristics from U. Mass.


Since Jim's conversion, daily Mass has been the heart of his spirituality and the Liturgy of the Hours has been its lifeblood. Jim strongly emphasizes the necessity of meditating on the Word of God and having the courage to conform one's whole life to it.


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