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  • Naked Christianity January 29, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    naked church

    Beach recently shared the splendours of naked fertility rituals in Missouri from Colonial times to the Great Depression. The author of that article (Vance Randolph, Nakedness in Ozark Folk Belief, The Journal of American Folklore 66, 333-339) also describes what may be spill over into local Christianity. In 1905 a preacher, Jim Sharp from Missouri, a member of the Holy Rollers [sic], took his congregation to Oklahoma City and caused a scandal by getting his followers to strip off naked in the street and march along with a police escort. In 1915 at Galena, Missouri, a group of Holy Rollers used to dance naked. One Frank Fox managed to get some photographs of one of these dances. ‘Three bearded, naked men stared straight at the camera, with perhaps twenty nude women in the background.’ The leader was Youngblood (great name), a preacher who was finally chased out of the county after the children of some local well-to-dos joined in the nude stomping. In 1917, near Walnut Shade Missouri the New Ground Folk worshipped in two log cabins. They would enter one cabin clothed and then walk naked to the second. Again this was too much for local non-believers, one of whom, Rutledge, managed to photograph the congregation as they moved, unclothed, across to the climax of the ceremony. Vance R. had seen one of these photographs: ‘It shows nine men and seven women, all nude. One of the women is leading a naked child, apparently about six years old. The men and women in this picture were all residents of the county, and I knew several of them personally.’ Beach looked for some of these photographs online but came across many things, on Google’s Image page, that he would rather not have seen….

    Of course, small Protestant sects in the back country do have eccentric habits. Who could forget, for example, the Church of God with Signs Following and their snake handling ways? By the standards of some of these more eccentric groups, taking your clothes off seems fairly inoffensive. A question might be though ‘why?’ What line of scripture was used to justify such an extraordinary decision on the part of men and women from conservative communities where husbands and wives often did not see each other naked?

    We leave the last word to one of the Ozarks that Vance R. got to know. ‘Decent women wear dresses, and them that don’t ought to stay in the whorehouses.’ Yikes.