Saturday, January 28, 2006

Should a Christian Blog Post a Semi-Nude Photo?

My previous post on Nicole Kidman prompted the following comment:
Please take off the semi-nude photo of Nicole. Why promote sin in men to lust? IS this not a "Christian" blog?
I appreciate this comment because I spent a long time debating whether to post that photo or not. There were, of course, many photos available which were far more revealing and these I did reject without question. In the end, however, I chose to post this more modest photo to illustrate and validate the point I was making. It did not occur to me that this particular photo might "promote sin in men to lust." For me it simply served as a ironic representation of both her primary qualification and primary disqualification for being a UN Goodwill Ambassador.

Throughout history Christian painters have used the exposed human body both to represent the natural beauty, goodness and innocence of God's creation and the association of the self-conscious shame of nakedness with the reality of human sin.

The famous painting of "The Creation of Adam" in the Sistine Chapel and the Statue of David, both by Michelangelo, are examples of the former while Massacio's "Expulsion from the Garden" is a good example of the latter (note that the original did not have the "fig leaves" on it...they were added later).

Image hosting by PhotobucketThe naked human form has also been used to illustrate the hapless powerlessness of those condemned in the final judgment. The macabre paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, the Last Judgment by Michelangelo (also in the Sistine Chapel) and the medieval figures over the doors of the Cathedrals of Bourges and Autun all use nudity to emphasize the horror of damnation.

The naked images of the infant Jesus and the near-naked exposure of his body on the cross are also examples of the human body being used to communicate other, quite different, feelings and emotions from scripture.

I'll confess that some artists have utilized the biblical iconography of Bathsheba taking a bath as an excuse for painting a sensual image that might well "promote sin in men to lust." Since that was, of course, the entire point of the story of David and Bathsheba it seems that even a painting such as this can serve a useful purpose in reminding male viewers that they are just as vulnerable to sexual sin as King David was.

In the context of the Christian gospel and in the context of my post, the photo of Nicole Kidman serves to "expose" the fallacy and lie of pretending that what Nicole Kidman does in her movies is somehow admirable, sophisticated or liberated.

In context, the photo "exposes" Kidman as a fallen woman, shameless in her sin, in "stark" contrast to Adam and Eve, who (at least) made "aprons" to cover their nakedness.

She, like those expelled from Eden, is in need of repentance, forgiveness and new birth.

It is not just our souls and hearts that are in need of salvation and redemption, however. God created us in his image...male and female he created us. Our bodies of flesh, with all of their sexual distinctiveness, are also in need of transformation.

It is important to remember that Jesus entered the world "in the flesh," suffered and died on the cross "in the flesh," was, by means of the physical transformation of resurrection, raised to life "in the flesh" and, forty days later, ascended into heaven "in the flesh."

It was, in part at least, for our flesh that Christ died.

Nicole, like every one of us, is in need of the Good News of God's saving love in Christ Jesus her Lord.

Because of this, her nakedness should generate feelings of embarrassment and pity in us rather than admiration, envy or respect.

The Bible itself is quite graphic in its description of human sin. While linguists translate the words into other languages, artists translate scripture into painting, sculpture, theater and music. It is sometimes helpful to see sin presented in some way other than words alone.

Like Massacio's painting of Adam and Eve, I intended the photo of Nicole Kidman to serve that purpose being fully aware that, like Massacio's painting, there will always be those who will find the subject matter tintillating instead of edifying.

Paul, in Corinthians, warns us to limit our freedom for the sake of those who are weak in faith lest we cause them to stumble. While I seek to be obedient to this admonition I am also of the opinion that, should we attempt to avoid anything and everything that might cause others to "stumble," our lives, our world and the Gospel itself would become sorely impoverished.

So....I've decided to leave Nicole's photo on my site as a witness to her fallenness and to our own.

And I am glad that the photo offends some people because, after all, that was the very point I was trying to make.