Vanity, definitely my favorite sin.
–The Devil (as played by Al Pacino)
I have a clothing problem.
It’s not that I spend too much money on clothes or that I’m obsessed with having the latest fashions. It’s that I put too much importance on what I wear.
In 2000, Nicolas Cage starred in The Family Man alongside Tea Leoni. It is basically a modern-day version of A Christmas Carol (directed by Brett Ratner of all people!), but the plot is not important to my point. What is important is a scene where Nicolas Cage, who has been magically transported from his life as a wealthy Wall Street executive to suburban New Jersey and life as a tire salesman, tries on an expensive suit in a shopping mall. While admiring himself in the mirror, Cage delivers this line: “It’s an unbelievable thing. Wearing this suit actually makes me feel like a better person.”
I am Nicolas Cage. I myself occupy an alternate universe where, rather than being the rich, successful person that I truly am, I’m stuck in suburban Birmingham (Alabama!). Wearing a nice suit is the only connection I have to my true self.
That is only partially true. But what is true is that my sense of who I am is invariably tied to what I am wearing. As sad as it is to say (and as hard as it is for me to admit), wearing a nice suit actually makes me feel like a better person.
Which leads us, inevitably, to Christian nudism.
Christian nudism? Admittedly, until this morning, I didn’t even know that Christian nudism was a thing. But Gawker posted this relatively long piece about one person’s journey to a Christian nudist festival in Lake Como. This is not George Clooney’s Lake Como. This is Lake Como, Florida, where the Land O Lakes community hosts two nudist resorts: the chaste Lake Como Nudist Resort and its chief rival, Caliente.
The author of the story, Adam Weinstein, says that he is a Christian, and I believe him, primarily because the story, although set in a silly situation, takes both its participants and their religion quite seriously:
This is the enduring appeal of a mystical Judaic offshoot attributed to a thirtysomething crazy hippie rabbi in the Roman hinterlands: We do have a cosmic debt, this worldview asserts, and the creditor has offered us loan forgiveness, even the most entwined of the mesh-wearers at Caliente. The sense of lack or flaw, of things left done and undone, of human life as marked by dread or indebtedness, is perfectly natural and naturally perfect, as much so as our bodies.
There is plenty with which to quibble theologically, but, in taking Christian nudism seriously, Weinstein is better than I am, as I couldn’t help but giggle throughout the story.
In a world where Christians seem to insist on a Christian version of everything—not only Christian music and Christian movies, but Christian plumbers and Christian yoga—a Christian nudist festival is bound to draw a snicker from someone like me, who too often wants to confine Jesus to certain designated areas. But this is just another form of concealment, a belief that, just because I rope off areas of my life from Jesus, he will refuse to tread there.
While the Christian nudists are no closer to, or further from, God than I am, they have removed an obstacle that I cannot: While they are willing to stand naked before God and everybody, I remain concealed behind my suits, vainly hoping that a few yards of fabric and a confident smirk has everybody fooled.