(I actually first broached this topic of swimming naked at the YMCA in my “Frank Answer About Being Naked Before God.” It was written before I went to my class reunion, so the issue was probably on my mind when our class reunion guide brought it up.) Philosophically, I don’t think that the body is just something that we have, as if the real me is something other than the body (like the mind or the soul).
Rather, I was created as a body—a body with a mind and a soul. So it is a serious thing if the body becomes a source of shame because then we’re talking about my shame.
There may be issues of which I am ashamed, but my body is not one of them. So this is a fourth reason for writing this article.
Our society today tends to have crazy attitudes toward the body.
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.
The guide asserted, “Well, I think it was barbaric.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.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.We tend to reject the attitudes and views of previous generations because they contradict our own (more enlightened?Among other changes, our tour guide at Bennett pointed out that the diving boards had been removed from the pool because of a fatal diving accident.