GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For those looking to find their faith but lose their clothing, a newly formed naturist group could be the answer to their prayers.
According to a Gainesville community Craigslist post, Jonathan Griffin, 32, is reaching out to residents “who love Jesus Christ and like skinny-dipping, naked potlucks, naked movie nights, naked in nature, and so forth.”
Griffin, the group’s creator, has been a naturist for about 14 years and has been involved with several nudist groups in Utah and Florida. Griffin came to Gainesville after visiting a friend and soon realized Florida is home to some of the nation’s most popular nudist resorts and beaches, including the famous Haulover Beach in Bal Harbour.
He said he started the new group specifically to congregate with other Christians, regardless of denomination, who feel closer to God without clothing.
Griffin said he aims to make friends with similar beliefs, and hopes to promote self-confidence through biblical texts.
“We were created in God’s image,” Griffin said, “so why should we be ashamed?”
To support his cause, Griffin referenced a verse from the Book of Job: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.” Other examples he gave from the Bible included Christ removing his robes to wash his disciples’ feet and Isaiah’s three-year journey walking “barefoot and naked.”
Though the Bible verses Griffin cited seem to allude to nudity, Pastor Hayden Norris at Harvest Bible Chapel said it is folly to interpret them out of context, such as the case of Adam and Eve. Although they were naked in Genesis, he said, God covered them with clothing in Chapter Three.
“It’s symbolic,” he said. “But there has never been a push to go back to being naked.”
He said the only time nudity is apparent in the Bible is when it’s a sign of shame, such as when Noah’s nakedness is uncovered.
However, Norris said he’s not surprised someone would start a group like this because, as a college town, Gainesville has diverse cultures and subcultures that often create unconventional groups. He said he can understand the idea behind naturism, but that nudism is “not connected biblically” to Christianity.
Florida Young Naturist founder Robbe M. White, who expressed interest in joining Griffin’s new group, said there are still parallels to Christianity and the nudist movement.
“Christians make good naturists because both Christians and naturists promote respect of the body and mind,” White, wrote in an email.
But beside religion, White, 30, said he wants to join the group for fellowship and use it to spread the word about naturism. White said he has participated in Vita Nuda and the Naturist Society — both naturist groups. Although it is not customary public behavior, White said people have a misconception about those that like to strip down.
“We are all pretty normal,” he said. “We do normal things and have normal lives just like everyone else. We just prefer to be naked.”
Griffin said although a select few nudist groups cater to swingers, he said his will strictly be for virtuous activities, such as Bible readings, nature walks and going to resorts together.
There are no fees to join, and Griffin said the group is open to Christians of all backgrounds.
Ever since becoming a naturist at 18 years old, Griffin said he’s gained self-esteem. Griffin encourages others to experience a nonjudgmental atmosphere and liberating lifestyle.
“Everyone should try it at least once,” he said.