We have a serious problem with a nakedess in our society today.
As a people, we seem to view our own nudity with a rather polarized mindset, not unlike the way we view our politics.
On one extreme, we have a group that tends toward prudishness and frowns upon any nudity at all while on the other extreme is a group which aims to objectify, eroticize, market and sell nudity as a sexual commodity in the form of pornography and other sexually charged media.
It is this tension that Chad Thompson attempts to address in his book, That Famous Fig Leaf. His basic premise is that natural, healthy nudity has been hijacked by the extremists from both sides and needs to be restored both inside and outside of Christianity.
The book is an easy read. Weighing in at only eight concise chapters, most would find it an easy and interesting read that could be completed in a few short sittings.
Thompson provides copious documentation to support his ideas and for the most part, the book flows smoothly. Although a few are bit lengthy an occasionally cause the book to drag a bit, the citations are usually necessary and the pace recovers quickly.
He begins with an overview of nakedness in society from the early days of Christianity, citing the negative reactions of various saints and Church fathers. This is an interesting compilation which is derived mostly from secondary sources rather than the primary documents themselves so it makes the context difficult to discern.
As these ideas were clearly not formed in a vacuum, I would have liked to know more about what societal trends the fathers of the ancient church saw and were reacting against, but that's probably outside the scope of this book and might serve to weigh down the narrative unnecessarily.
By far, the most compelling part of the book is Thompson's analysis of modern society and its reactions to nudity. As a man who has dealt with same-sex attraction, I found Thompson's treatment of "locker room" and other chaste male nudity particularly compelling.
The author laments the decline of healthy nudity among men as it gives way to the erotic nudity of homosexuality. He provides numerous examples of the not-so-distant past where it was socially acceptable for men to see and be seen by each other in the buff such as communal bathing.
He notes how this lack of healthy male nudity actually feeds into homosexual activity and vice versa by polarizing men into the falsely dichotomous categories of "gay" or "not gay".
This makes it difficult for men to simply enjoy the naked masculinity of their fellow men without being labeled as "gay". So, when a man experiences what may be simply a healthy desire for male intimacy, he is forced to question his sexuality. This is a big problem within not only the world but also within Christianity. We need to address this to make progress in the ongoing battle against sin.
Equally fascinating is Thompson's treatment of Biblical nudity. He begins way back in Genesis and traces the theme of nakedness throughout the Old and New Testaments. Without giving anything away, the section on the "naked gardener" is quite eye-opening in a variety of ways. It certainly gives the reader a whole new perspective on these texts!
If you are a interested in looking at nakedness from an entirely new perspective, this is the book for you. You can find the book on amazon or on Thompson's companion website which supplements and explores the theme of healthy nudity even further.
So, go ahead! Pull that fig leaf off and have a look at the beauty that's behind it.