Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Transparency in the Facebook Age

While I clearly understand why many people would rather not share with everyone they know, the fact that they participate in naturism (nudism), I thought it might be encouraging for some of my readers to know that at least one of us has done so without experiencing any significant repercussions. A little over six months ago, I decided to set up Facebook accounts for my wife and myself, as a way to facilitate communication with our son as he was away on a missions trip. Since he was already using Facebook as a means of keeping in touch with his friends, we thought it would be a great way for us to interact with him and get photos and updates, so that we would be able to more effectively support his efforts with our prayers.

Having already lived through the experience of having Yahoo! mash together my "personal" and "naturist" profiles in all of the Yahoo! Groups that I frequent, I decided that if I was going to set up a Facebook account, I wanted to represent myself truthfully, as an integrated, whole person. As I have previously put it to one of my Facebook friends, I want to present myself to the outside world in the same way that I try to order my soul--not compartmentalized, but a fully integrated whole. I decided to go ahead and be recklessly (some might say foolishly) honest about who I am and what I stand for, and let the chips fall where they may. Now, nearly seven months later, my "friends list" has grown to a little over 200 people, consisting of those I know from virtually every part of my life: personal friends; relatives; old school acquaintances; music contacts; people with whom I have worked; my pastor and his wife; other members of our church; even bishops and archbishops from the conservative branch of Anglicanism our church is affiliated with. From the very beginning, it will have been evident to anyone who has checked out my profile and perused the pages I have "liked," that I am a naturist. Further, anyone receiving my wall posts, will have seen (along with comments on food, music and theology) many references and links to naturist articles, including those on my own blog. In all this time, apart from a couple of "well, that's ok for you but it's not my kind of thing" comments, I've really not run into any opposition to the views I have been expressing. While this is probably at least partly attributable to the good character of the people I have in my circle of acquaintances, I haven't been all that discriminating about who I have accepted as Facebook friends. I've pretty much just accepted requests from anyone who sends one. I've also tracked down a good number of old acquaintances, and sent out friend requests to a number of people who's work I have admired (in music, the arts, or theological writing for instance) even if I've never met them, and I have been "friended" by many of them.

The nearly total absence of any condemnation about my naturist convictions is, I think, as it should be, given that there are no biblical proscriptions against social nudity. But cultural attitudes being as they are, it has been personally heartening to me, that no one has tried to make a moral issue of it. It gives me both joy and hope to think that the Christians with whom I am closely associated are apparently theologically astute enough to know the difference between biblical moral imperatives, and matters of Christian liberty, and know better than to take their moral cues from the surrounding culture. (The Church can err on either side of morality, being either too permissive, or overly legalistic.)

No one who wishes to see moral reform should be a cultural relativist with regards to morality. The unclad human body is either morally neutral, or it is not. Naturists are moral reformers, whether they think of themselves in those terms or not. Naturism calls upon people to regard their own bodies and those of others as acceptable, not something to be feared or reviled. So in that sense, naturism in a program of moral reform which exchanges the modern expectations of privacy which have become enshrined as a cultural aversion to nudity, for body acceptance more like that of the pre-industrialized ages, where nudity was, of necessity, accepted as part of life.

Despite the discomfort it may cause, technology continues to erode our expectations of privacy, and "Social Networking" is making us more transparent to one another. So far, my experience of Social Networking (my Facebook experiment in personal authenticity, if you will) has emboldened me to continue to speak-out for body acceptance and body freedom. The readership on this blog has been increasing, and I am now getting hundreds of hits from all over the world. Many have linked here from my Facebook and Twitter pages. Of course, I have no guarantee that it won't all come crashing down tomorrow with some major rift occurring in one or more relationships, but I am learning to leave the future in God's hands. At least from here forward, any new friendships I develop will be "full disclosure" relationships, and I think I kinda' like that--it's as freeing as, well...shedding my clothes!

Blessings in Christ,

Gregg Gatewood

1 comment:

  1. Bless you, Gregg. You are a credit to naturism and to the Church, the body of Christ. I appreciate your transparency, especially in the face of some risk, both from within the church community and from without. Personally, I have found the risks to be worth the rewards also.


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