I live not far from the North Carolina border. Most of the outdoor nudes I’ve shot over the years have been shot in that beautiful state. In the west of NC are some of the largest national forest and highest mountains in the eastern United States, and on the east side of North Carolina is Cape Hatteras National Seashore with its 70 miles of undeveloped white sand beaches. Both areas offer amazing opportunities for nude photography. Additionally, Asheville is one of the most progressive cities in the US were I have also shot urban nudes.
In the past few years there have been small rallies for top-free freedom for women in Asheville, where a handful of women have gone topless to protest the fact that men can go topless but not women. This brought to light that there is no law requiring women to wear tops in that city. This has prompted those who believe that the United States once was, and should be again a limited-theocracy with individual freedoms granted within the overarching frame work of their vision of “God’s Law”, to react in furor. In this case the bill proposed and passed by the House Judiciary Committee of the NC Legislature would make a woman exposing her nipples (well one would do) a felony punishable by 6 months in prison! Yes, make showing a nipple a felony that would the offender unable to obtain many kinds of responsible jobs for the rest of her life and limit other civil rights for life. All for bearing her nipple. This is an amendment to an “anti-hippy” law dating to 1972 at a time when North Carolina had just lost the “Christian” right to keep those of African descent out of public life, so they decided to turn their ire on those evil forces against Christianity, the naked hippies.
Why? The simple fact is there is a large part of the conservative Christian community that have been taught that the US was not founded in the wake of the religious wars of the 14-16th century as an experiment in pluralism to prevent such religious conflict in the future. A large group of Christian conservatives believe nearly the exact opposite. They have been taught that the US was founded as the last outpost of “true” Christianity and that the wealth and power the US enjoys is a supernatural reward for their piety. Don’t laugh. I know it’s easy to compare that to what the North Korean government tells their citizens about the paradise they live in due to their gracious government. However, because, it is more similar to what the Taliban taught when they took over Afghanistan it is frightening. Make no mistake about it there are many who do not believe in liberal secular democracy as envisioned up by people like Jefferson & Franklin. They believe, deep down, in a limited theocracy, with all laws being subject to “God’s Law” as they define it…..exactly what the Taliban or the Ayatollah in Iran believes. Further, anyone who votes for this law is doing exactly like the Islamist do, use force to make people act according to their religious beliefs.
How do I know how these people think? I obtained my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from a college and university that taught this very thing. I began my career working for these very people. I spent four years principaling schools that were founded to teach this distorted view of American democracy. I can truthfully say I never believed or taught such things and it was due to this kind of being out of step with the leadership that cost me my promising career as principal of a large and influential evangelical Christian high school back in the 90’s.
So, we have a generation of adults who were taught in Christian schools and via Christian media who have been taught this view of limited democracy is historically accurate, and worse anyone who violates “God’s Law” is helping to undermine American prosperity and liberty by removing God’s hand of blessing. Thus, to them, it makes sense to equate those women who bear their nipples in public with drug dealers and armed robbers because, in that system of belief, those women are a danger to everyone.
Yesterday morning, as I drove in to work, I happened to turn the radio to the local talk radio station WORD 106.3 in Greenville SC. I stopped because the Chairman of a local school board, with whom I have had a good and productive relationship, was debating the host. It seems the school board had voted to stop ending the school board sessions with a student prayer after another district had been sued by the feds for doing the same thing. Well, this radio host, a self-proclaimed libertarian was enraged that the school board was kicking God out of the school. He pressed the Chairman as to why he did so, the Chairman said it was based on case law and Supreme Court decisions over the past few decades. The host yelled that he had, and I quote, “had chosen to obey man rather than God” on this issue. The host could not see that he was openly calling for a theocracy by saying “God’s law” (well his interpretation of his god’s law) should trump civil law.
Worse yet came the callers who all mirrored the same line of how America has gone downhill since “we kicked God and prayer out of the public schools” until I could not take anymore and found my usual NPR station for the rest of the trip.
Now I’ve written before, these people are in the minority in most places of the US, but they make up a significant minority in much of the South-East and Mid-West, and smaller but significant minories everywhere else. You ask why can they, not only believe such things, but believe they reflect the vast majority of US citizens? They do so because we ….yes you and I…..just like them, have retreated to our own silos and no longer interact with people who don’t believe just like we do. If we made more effort to interact outside of our little self-reinforcing bubble, we would be part of the solution of mutual understanding in a pluralistic society. Just sitting back and criticizing their group among people of our group only further polarizes the nation.
So be part of the solution … find a conservative Christian, befriend them and help them see the larger vision of pluralism and personal freedom. You will find you both will benefit.
Here is the link to a news article on the law proposing prison for toplessness:
And here is an interesting, but scary, article by the Executive Director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc in support of the bill.