The other day my 7-year-old daughter heard on the radio about the Dallas teacher who lost her job after taking her class on a field trip to an art museum and having a student complain about seeing a nude statue. Though I had heard the story before, I was out of the room as my daughter heard it and when I came back she proceeded to relay the story to me with a certain prudish disdain for the teacher who had exposed her students to "naked things." Having been an art history major and being a lover of art, I knew that a conversation needed to take place. So I excused myself for a few minutes and found on the web a number of classical nude pieces of art and then invited both her and her 5-year-old sister to come in for an art lesson.
Before showing the images, I explained to the girls what they already knew about God creating the body and creating it good, as He created all things. But, I explained, there are certain contexts in which the nude body is beautiful and appropriate and there are other contexts in which it is inappropriate and thusly loses some of its beauty. I used the example of how when they see me naked while showering or getting dressed that it is perfectly normal but if I then walked out door that way to retrieve the morning newspaper I would no doubt cause them a great deal of embarrassment because it isn’t appropriate.
Then I slowly showed them the images and asked them if these were beautiful or were they not beautiful because they were inappropriate. What amazed me was the delight in their eyes as they saw these lovely images of men and women in the nude and oohhed and aahhed at the beauty of the human body. Not one of them was "not beautiful" in their assessment. I then told them that I didn’t want to show them nude images that weren’t beautiful but asked if they had ever seen images that they knew were not beautiful. They both admitted to seeing things on t.v. that, while not even being entirely nude, were clearly not beautiful and not modest.
It was so amazing to me to think that such young children could do what often the rest of our culture cannot. That is, to distinguish between what, as Jerry Seinfeld so succinctly put it, "good naked and bad naked." It reminded me of what I once heard about how transit booth workers are taught to learn the difference between real and counterfeit money. Instead of giving them long classes on how and what counterfeits look like, they are allowed only to touch and see real money so that when they do hold something that is counterfeit, there will be no doubt that it just isn’t right.
It seems our children can do the same. To be formed in what is true and good, without having to expose them to what isn’t, will hopefully make them wise not only to what is good but what is bad, as well. And to think they could gain such wisdom without ever watching Seinfeld – not that there’s anything wrong with that.