A couple weeks ago, the president of Iran visited Italy. One of his trips, of course, lead him to the capitol which is also an art museum. This museum is full of Roman sculpture. Roman sculptures often featured naked people, so, presumably out of respect for the Iranian’s sensibilities, the sculptures were all hidden by large wooden boxes. This created an uproar in certain circles, but I’m not interested in that. I’m more interested in what this says about our views of the human body.
There’s no reason for me to try to say something that someone else has said better, so I’m going to direct you to a post about this very issue by Dr Chiara Bertoglio for Mercatornet. She says:
Though many are reluctant to admit it, Western culture is deeply indebted to the Judeo-Christian concept of the sacredness of the human body. In the Book of Genesis, Adam and Eve, whose personhood is embodied in their flesh, are so holy as to be images of God. It is only after the Fall that this inherent holiness and beauty is overshadowed by lust…
When art is true to itself, when it is true art, it may give us a glimpse of that glorious innocence in which we were created: the joyful pride of having beautiful bodies, with which and through which we are called to love. We recognise our friends by their features, our family by their hugs, their steps, even by their sneezing; we can give life through our bodies, and thus partake in God’s creative activity.
Our bodies are neither burdens to our soul, nor necessary evils which we should ignore or hide as much as possible – something that [the Iranian’s President] Rouhani’s culture seems not to understand.
Purity has little to do with prudery; those who really love our bodily reality are also those who are most inclined to respect it. The human body is glorified by those who revere it as a shrine, while it is degraded by those who objectify it, as in pornography.
I would add that the Italian president as well as many other Christians who see such works also fail to understand the beauty of the body as well. We see this lack of understanding in the censoring of such art with our children. We see this in the popularity of pornography. We see this in the censoring of pictures of women breastfeeding and other instances in which the body is not being used for sexual gratification. Our society is saturated with sex, but sorely lacking in beauty.