Cover Up For God’s Sake

Christ crucified by Benvenuto Bellini, 1562

Christ crucified by Benvenuto Cellini, 1562

Sometimes images betray unintended information about the human psyche. Benvenuto Cellini had his reasons for creating this image of Jesus Christ crucified almost five hundred years ago. He wasn’t the first of the last to show Christ nude. What is vital today, is that this image has so much to tell us about our human psyche and condition today. That is the power of what I can only say is a numinous image.

A numinous image is one that is more than a recording of a visual fact. If the image takes us deep within ourselves, or out beyond the realm of ordinary life where we can almost touch whatever it is that we call heaven or nirvana, then the image is numinous. Evoking a sense of mystery, holiness, awe, and even the presence of whatever it is that we struggle to name as the creative force of the universe, such images take us out of ourselves and into ourselves. And where it takes us, isn’t always about light. As often as an image takes us to the awe of creation and heaven, an image also makes evident the face of darkness, of fear, of anger, of hell.

As a naturist, a psychological naturist, this image speaks to me on a number of levels: the personal, the spiritual and even the collective level. Cellini has crafted in marble, man’s vulnerability. Even the Son of God is vulnerable. Seeing this vulnerability allows me to accept my own vulnerability with honour instead of shame. The path back home, back to from whence we came, like our entrance into this life, is a journey that can only be done naked and vulnerable. There is a need to give up – give up our beliefs, our religions, our anchors, all that ties us to where we are if we are to enter. No brand name article of clothing or footwear will serve as a passport to heaven. We must submit, naked and vulnerable.

God forbid we see his penis - just think of what it would do to innocent children if his penis was visible.

God forbid we see his penis – just think of what it would do to innocent children if his penis was visible.

I mentioned a collective level response to this image, to this historically accurate portrayal of crucifixion by Romans two thousand years ago. In our modern world, we have such a dread of being naked and vulnerable and we have adopted a sense of shame for being naked and vulnerable. For Jesus to be Son of God, then we need to cover up his nakedness. For Jesus to be the Son of Man, we need to deny his sexuality. A visible penis is too threatening.

In our modern world, an irrational fear grows more and more powerful. Mothers cover the eyes of their children at the first sign of nudity, especially male nudity. Any male caught exposed is branded a pervert and punished by the collective as a sexual offender.

In our modern world we learn to hide ourselves from others, even from ourselves. We learn that our bodies are not to be trusted. We learn that our bodies are imperfect and need serious modifications through diet, exercise, and surgery. We unconsciously come to believe that God messed up big time and had nothing to be pleased about at the end of the seventh day of creation. So, we cover up our bodies and cover up the body of a crucified Christ.

11 thoughts on “Cover Up For God’s Sake

  1. Jeez . I’ve wondered about this for a long time now . Why would these Romans , .who subjected Christ to complete humiliation even unto death be concerned that his genitals not be exposed ? Just never made any sense . Cellini’s Christ is beautiful and perhaps realistic in that it portrays Christ as man but what struck me as an artist and someone who has studied the nude and anatomy from this perspective is that the body simply could not achieve this position without some external supports . If you look at the shoulders , consider if this would be possible – that the shoulders would remain in this position and that the flesh of the hands along with their bones would be enough to support his weight without tearing . I feel a bit of remorse as I write these words but I think you are right and this is the image we have received and perpetuated …..

    • Here is a quote from the Nazarene Way that bears presentation here (Wiki also has info on this):

      “Roman Empire

      Romans adopted the custom from Carthage and used it for slaves, rebels, and especially despised enemies and criminals. Condemned Roman citizens were usually exempt from crucifixion except for high crimes against the state, such as treason. The Romans used it during the Spartacus rebellion, during the Roman Civil War, and the destruction of Jerusalem. Crucifixion was considered an ignominious way to die.

      A common prelude was scourging, which would cause the victim to lose a large amount of blood, and approach a state of shock. The prisoner then usually had to carry the horizontal beam (patibulum in Latin) to the place of execution, not necessarily the whole cross. Crucifixion was typically carried out by specialized teams, consisting of a commanding centurion and four soldiers. When it was done in an established place of execution, the vertical beam (stipes) was sometimes permanently embedded in the ground. The victim was usually stripped naked. The “nails” were tapered iron spikes approximately 5 to 7 in (13 to 18 cm) long with a square shaft 3/8 in (1 cm) across. “

  2. It’s sad that we feel we need to hide from others and ourselves… Awareness of, and embracing, our vulnerability is so important… Empathy begins with vulnerability, and it’s the birthplace of love, belonging, courage, and authenticity…

  3. Hi Robert:
    I’ve been following your blog for some time now. I find it not only refreshing in it’s ethos and perspectives, but I also resonate deeply with your ‘spirituality’.

    I’ve always beleived that sexuality and spirituality are deeply connected… and that modern society has been ashamed of expressing both boldly.
    I can only make sense of the “Song of Solomon” if I hold both in tension. I think I tend to agree with Chris MacNee (1997):
    “Sexuality is described as the expression of humanness. To know and to be known may very well be at the core of sexual being and experience. It is in sexuality that the physical and emotional are so intertwined and expressed. Chris contends there is much to be considered and deciphered when
    considering what sexuality means to the human experience.

    Similarly, the definition of spirituality is explored. Spirituality as a capacity of being and understanding of self and
    others. Spiritual development is seen in the light of total human development. In this light, it is much easier to see how spirituality can be included with sexuality. Total human growth and development would address a plethora of
    aspects including the spiritual and the sexual.

    In terms of the origins of sexuality and spirituality, Chris sees both in the context of moving towards fulfillment or
    completeness; and does a superlative job of demonstrating how these two aspects of the human being are fulfilled in community with others. The human desire and condition of
    wanting to be united with and experience a greater reality of human condition can be viewed as the origin of the human experience of sexuality and spirituality.

    I revel in his perspective on the relatedness of sexuality and spirituality — as he sees one can be an expression of
    enlightened spirituality. He presents interesting examples of people who have seen an increase in sexual arousal accompanying spiritual renewal… and maybe both are found only in the vulnerability of Philippians 2?

    May I end my post by asking you if I might link your blogspot to my own? I’d love my friends to know about you and your personal joureny as well, Robert.

    Pax Christi, Alan

    • Hi Alan – welcome to Through a Naturist’s Lens. I visited your site in order to answer your question about linking and liked what I saw there. So, the answer is yes. Spirituality and sexuality are vital to the human experience. The demonizing of human sexuality by religions have left all of us feeling more like half people than whole beings. Spirituality and sexuality are two parts of a whole that must be brought together to create a holy union (mysterium coniunctionis). the whole of a day is a union of both daytime (masculine) and night time (feminine). That union is well represented by the circling of yin and yang always together in their separateness.

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