Nudity in religious art: fig leaf Vs full frontal

The Rev France Davis doesn't want any nude Adam-and-Eve figures at his Calvary Baptist Church - even if they were painted by the famed Michelangelo himself, reports the Religion News Service, in an article published in the Huffington Post.

Davis is unequivocal in his view that there is nothing inspiring or redeeming about naked figures in religious art.

"Since we sinned, as it said in the book of Genesis, the human body has certain parts that are private," the outspoken pastor said. "We should keep them for more intimate settings like people's bedrooms."

Davis is hardly alone in that view. From the prudish impulses of the Counter-Reformation, to the Vatican's use of the fig leaf as a genital cover-up a century later, to modern Christians objecting to a nude Christ sculpted out of chocolate, there have always been those who wanted to see everything clothed.

Scores of believers oppose any nakedness in art as blasphemous - even a glimpse of the Virgin Mary's breast as she nurses her baby son -- or akin to pornography.

For other Christians, though, the line between celebrating and eschewing artistic nudity is neither easy nor clear-cut. It depends, they say, on whether the artist intends to enlighten a biblical narrative or trigger a sexual response, whether the nudity is theologically important or just there to shock.

It's also crucial to ask about a work's intended audience, setting and spirit. Pope Benedict XVI recently praised the use of nudity in the 16th-century masterpiece, "The Last Judgment," which dominates an entire wall behind the altar in the famed Sistine Chapel.

"The bodies painted by Michelangelo are filled with light, life and splendor," the pope said in a news story from Deutsche Presse-Agentur. "He wanted to show that our bodies contain a mystery: within them the spirit is manifest."

The debate about whether nudity in religious art inspires or denigrates could merely be a question of time and distance.

FULL STORY Religious art: Fig Leaf or Full Frontal? (Huffington Post) 

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