What is a Christian doing using a sauna?
We have been asked this and similar questions a number of times, so we are offering some common answers to common questions. This page has been written by Paul, and I sometimes switch with little warning between taking about 'my' belief and experience and 'our' belief and experiences, speaking on behalf of Sue as well.
How do you cope with the sight of naked bodies?
Quite simply, there is nothing to cope with. The problem - whatever it is - only exists in the minds of people who have never tried any clothes-optional activity.
People imagine that the sight of naked people will be sexually stimulating and tempt them to immoral thoughts. It just does not work that way.
Of course, there is nothing to stop you thinking immoral thoughts in a naturist environment. But most people look much better with their clothes on. That may be the main reason why so many people worry so much about the 'need' to keep wearing clothes - it is not modesty, but pride.
Sue and I don't watch much television, but from what we have seen, almost any evening spent in front of the box is far more sexually stimulating than an evening enjoying a sauna with some naturist friends. The conversation is better in the sauna, though.
Should you be enjoying yourself in this way?
As I explain elsewhere, I do not sauna primarily for the pleasure, but for the health benefits. That said, Sue and I do enjoy a good sauna.
Some people think that being a Christian means that you shouldn't do anything to enjoy yourself. But the Bible makes it very clear that God wants us to enjoy ourselves. Many of the feasts in the Old Testament were intended to be fun, as well as being religious events.
Jesus was accused of enjoying Himself too much - of being a 'glutton' and a 'wine-bibber' in the beautiful language of the Authorised Version. We do not seek pleasure as a goal in itself, but we welcome it when it lies on the path we are called to tread.
Is it right for you to spend so much time relaxing and associating with non-Christians?
Absolutely! One of the greatest needs in the evangelical church is for ordinary Christians to spend time with people who are not Christians. Over the years, I have had some absolutely incredible conversations with people in the sauna.
There are instructions in the Bible against associating with immoral people - but this does not mean we should only associate with Christians. What it means is that we should not appear to condone activities that are clearly wrong and people who are known to practice such activities.
How do you justify wasting time and energy on leisure activities when you could spend it doing something useful?
This is a major problem for many Christians. We spend so much time in frantic activity, we join in with so many good and worthwhile activities, that if we spend any time in relaxation it feels like we are failing to live up to our responsibilities.
But God commanded the people of Israel to rest one day in seven. He also gave them numerous feasts and holidays ('holy-days') when they were to relax from their work and celebrate His goodness with friends and family.
In fact, God is so interested in us getting enough rest that one of the Ten Commandments is about making sure we rest each week. That's one of the top-ten things He wants us to be very careful about, alongside not committing murder and honouring our parents!
God wants us to work hard, but He also wants us to balance that work with rest and recreation ('re-creation'). Keeping a godly balance between the two is not easy, but failing to attempt some kind of balance seems like sheer stupidity.
And - as an aside - most of the people we know spend a significant amount of time each week in front of the television. For some reason, this does not raise the same moral question in their minds as does making time to participate in a hobby.
Is it right for you to go to places where you find naked people?
In a few saunas you are required to wear a swimming costume all the time, in some you are required to wear swimming costume in mixed sessions, in some you can wear swimming costume if you wish ('clothes-optional' or 'co' saunas), and in some swimming costumes are not allowed ('naturist' or 'nudist' saunas). Sue and I have used saunas of all four kinds.
Other things being equal, if we are given a choice between using a sauna where swimming costume is required and one where it is not allowed, we will choose the naturist sauna every time. Having a piece of damp cloth wrapped round your middle is the last thing you want in a sauna.
I would not do this if I thought that God requres us to be clothed all the time. However, the Bible never suggests such a thing - in fact, the very first man and woman were naked and God was very happy with this.
Some people claim that God was only happy with people being naked before the fall, but the Bible does not say this at all. He did not tell Adam and Eve to wear clothes, and He did not supply clothes to cover naked people. When He supplied loin cloths they were already clothed, so it is clear that the point of His action was symbolic and not an implicit instruction concerning nudity. And many comentators suggest that He only provided loin cloths, which would suggest that if the passage teaches us anything about God's requirements for clothing, it says that women ought to go topless.
What we wear is imprtant for a number of reasons. These reasons are practical, social and symbolic.
So clothing - or the lack of it - is not a moral issue in itself. That is to say, clothing is not a moral issue, apart from the morals involved in the other aspects. To give you a few simple examples:
We are expected to be modest, but this does not mean when we are sitting on the beach we need to be covered up like we were in a blizzard!
The basic meaning of 'modest' is 'harmonious' or 'appropriate'. What is appropriate on the beach is not appropriate in the office; what is appropriate at a party is not appropriate at a funeral. What is appropriate in a bath, shower or sauna is not appropriate when spot-welding.
How do you reconcile your clothes-optional activities with your Christian faith?
This question can be approached from a number of different directions... But, firstly, a quick word about the terminology used.
'Clothes-optional' is used to describe an activity or a place where clothes are, well, optional. These are often places like beaches, swimming pools and saunas, where the clothes which are optional are generally swimming costumes - possibly the only garments in the world with no useful function whatsoever.
'Textile' is used to describe activities and places that are not clothes-optional. These are the places where people get upset if they see the 'wrong' bits of people's bodies, although the same people who get upset are quite often willing to pay money to see pictures of these 'wrong' bits of bodies.
'Naturist' and 'nudist' are generally used to describe people who don't mind, in appropriate circumstances, being without clothes. Some people distinguish between the two terms, while for other people they are used interchangably. We tend to use 'naturist' purely on the basis that the corresponding noun, 'naturism', is less clumsy than 'nudism'.
Now we agree on the words, it is probably useful to say that Sue and I do not call ourselves 'naturists'. Accepting that label seems to imply that we are committed to something, or believe in something, while for us it is almost the precise opposite.
We do not share in clothes-optional activities because we believe in something. We do not believe that nudity is in some sense 'right', or that it is wrong to wear clothes. We do not believe that swimming costumes should be banned. But we also do not believe that wearing them is a moral duty.
We share in clothes-optional activities for a number of simple reasons.
We do have a few thoughts on the subject which touch on the area of morality.
Hopefully, it should be starting to be obvious from the above that there is no need to reconcile naturism with Christianity because the two are entirely consistent.
There is not a single commandment against nudity as such in the Bible. There are times and places where it is inappropriate, but if you try to ban everything which the Bible says is sometimes wrong, you will find there is very little left to life - especially as you would not be able to eat anything!
So, to be clear about this: naturism is not condemned or forbidden in the Bible. If it was wrong for people to be nude, do you think God would have created Adam and Eve that way? If the human body is somehow offensive, why did God choose to walk with a naked Adam in the cool of the evening?
Naturists do not believe all nudity is bad (of course!), or that people ought to be clothed whenever possible. Naturists do not believe these things, and neither do Christians. At least, the Bible does not teach either of these ideas.
If you equate nudity with sex, then you will understand anything promoting nudity as encouraging promiscuity. But once you realise the two are quite distinct in the Bible - as they have been through most of history - then nudity becomes a practical, not a moral issue. In other words, not an issue at all.
How do your Christian friends feel about your clothes-optional activities?
Most of the people who have raised these questions have done so via the Internet. Many of our Christian friends have used a sauna. None of them have shown any interest in identifying any possible conflict between the sauna and our faith; to date, only one has seriously questioned the morality of nudity (you can read about this on the eczema page), and one has questioned the wisdom of publishing these pages.
Our friends all know we sauna together every now and then. We have asked various people if they would like to join us, but nobody has yet taken us up on the offer.
Sometimes, when we lived in Guildford, people would ask where we sauna. We would then describe the various places, and explain one advantage of Bracknell and Alton is that we can sauna together and don't have to wear costumes. This seems to have answered their questions, and the conversation moved on.
So our strategy is to be open about what we do, but not push it. We do not hide any of our activities or lie about them. But neither do we push naturism as something important, because in our scale of priorities it is pretty minor.
If one of our friends regarded nudity as a 'big thing', they would probably react when we mention saunas and question the morality of such activities, or something. Of course, if we knew that social nudity was a problem for someone, we would not suggest they join us for a naturist sauna, any more than we would invite a tea-total friend to join us for an evening in a pub.
I (Paul) was once stuck in the middle of an argument between two Christian friends. One of them was saying that nudity was always sinful; the other was saying that if you couldn't take of all your clothes with someone, then either you didn't know them well enough, or you had a problem in your relationship with them. They asked me to say which of them was right, and were both distressed to discover I considered them both mistaken. (You can read more about this time here.)
So nudity is an issue for Christians - when is it appropriate, who with, and so on. But it is an issue on about the same level as the eating of chocolate bars. And if either nudity or chocolate bars is a serious issue for someone, I suggest this points to a pastoral problem which should be resolved for the sake of the individual concerned.
Some related links within our site:
There are many web sites published by people who believe ther is no conflict between Christianity and naturism. Of course, we do not agree with every thing they say - just as we don't agree with everything most other Christians say! So please don't bother asking me to defend something that somebody else says on one of these sites.
You should also be aware that web sites run by people who believe that nudity is morally fine may well contain pictures of naked people. Personally, I encourage sites not to publish pictures: naturists already know what the human body looks like, and there are already more than enough sites where non-naturists can go to find pictures of naked people. But it's a personal decision by the web site owner.