It's not every day you see life-sized nudes displayed in front of a church...
...unless of course you live in downtown Minneapolis (or, I suppose, are a Christian living during the Renaissance). In fact, even early Christian art included depictions of nudity in baptism. Some churches, such as the Sistine Chapel continue to display nudes. This, of course, is quite different from the nude church which ABC News reported on in 2010.
The sculpture above draws its inspiration from Hebrews 12:1: "let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles."
Pope John Paul II reportedly said that "the human body can remain nude and uncovered and
preserve intact its splendour and its beauty... Nakedness as such is not
to be equated with physical shamelessness... Immodesty is present only
when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the
person...The human body is not in itself shameful... Shamelessness (just
like shame and modesty) is a function of the interior of a person."* I certainly agree. But his comments are neither about art, nor made with reference to cultural realities which have a huge impact on what nakedness means.
So I think there's good conversation to be had about the function and affect of nude art in church in the context of our hyper-sexualized society.
What do you think? Does nude art in churches serve to honor the body which God pronounced good--providing a counter-narrative to the caricatures of Christians as prudish gnostics? Or does it have the opposite effect, degrading the body by participating in the logic of a market driven by the truism that sex sells?
Is it a corrective for the sexualized view of the body that is characteristic of our society...or is it merely a symptom?
*Karol Cardinal Woytyla (John Paul II), Love and Responsibility, translation by H. T. Willetts, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York: 1981.