Is skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee sacrilegious?

A pack of lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides, including a nude congressman, took a booze-fueled, late-night swim in Israel’s Sea … Continued

A pack of lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides, including a nude congressman, took a booze-fueled, late-night swim in Israel’s Sea of Galilee last summer, Politico reported on Sunday (Aug. 19). Which leaves at least one question: Is skinny-dipping at the biblical site sacrilegious?

Not really, Christian leaders and Holy Land experts said.

“Conservative Christians, obviously, aren’t for getting naked in public or drunk anywhere,” said Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

“The location of the Sea of Galilee, however, doesn’t make the story any more offensive to Christians than it is to the general public.”

Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas, the skinny-dipper, apologized for his “spontaneous and very brief dive,” which occurred during a congressional junket. The freshman GOP lawmaker is a Methodist, according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Pundits pounced, saying that the incident could cost the GOP in this fall’s elections. Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” said the story of Republicans “messing all over this holy site” will reverberate “from pew to pew, family to family, preacher to preacher,” especially within the GOP’s conservative Christian base.

Even Mitt Romney, the likely GOP presidential nominee, denounced the denuded dip in Galilee. “I think it’s reprehensible,” Romney told New Hampshire’s WMUR-TV.

Still, most Christians likely see Yoder’s actions as immature — and a waste of taxpayer dollars — “but not as some intentional act of religious desecration,” Moore said.

When Christians travel to Israel, they often insist on visiting two places, said Todd Bolen, a co-author of the blog Bible Places and a veteran Holy Land tour guide: Jerusalem and the Sea of Galilee.

The pilgrims want to see and touch the water where Jesus performed some of his most memorable miracles. Christ recruited four of his apostles, walked on water, calmed a raging storm, and fed a multitude with five loaves and two fish on or near the Sea of Galilee, according to the New Testament.

A sign at a Catholic church at Tabgha, the purported site of the miracle of multiplication, declares that “this is holy ground,” said Bolen, who has taught biblical archaeology, history and geography in Israel.

But the Sea of Galilee, which is really a lake, holds no religious significance for Israelis, most of whom are Jewish. In fact, it’s a source of drinking water and the site of watersports like sailing and jet skiing for tourists staying at the resorts that line the coast. Even Christian tour groups often swim and take boat rides on Galilee. “I’ve water-skied on it,” Bolen said.

So, while the Sea of Galilee remains a significant site for Christians, it doesn’t demand the same reverence as Calvary, where Christ was crucified, or the Via Dolorosa.

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  • thebobbob

    “Still, most Christians likely see Yoder’s actions as immature — but not as some intentional act of religious desecration,”

    Odd. They see the presence of a Black man with the middle name Hussein in the White House as proof positive that there’s a devout Muslim Socialist who hates America declaring a War on Religion. I would think that getting drunk and frolicking in those holy waters while insisting that you represent the Moral Compass of God’s chosen country would get a little rise out of them. Unless of course Religion has been hijacked by political ideologues.

    I guess you can “believe” anything you want. This is America after all.

  • Secular1

    So what is the big deal about the yoder fellow went skinny dipping? So big deal if JC did miracles there. First of all it has not been establish that JC ever lived, or that he did really do any miracles. Even if he did, so what? The water that he might have touched does not exist guy. Come on guys Even if teh same water is around from 2000 years, really what is teh difference between him wearing a pair of trunks or not. Still teh water will be touching his PENSI and his star fishe in both case. So why are getting so much starch in your knicker?

    This is as superstitious all those arabs throwing pebbles at that black rock, or running between teh hillocks near mecca.

  • Sairis

    “They see the presence of a Black man with the middle name Hussein in the White House as proof positive that there’s a devout Muslim Socialist who hates America declaring a War on Religion”

    No we see a man in the white house who denies his christian claims with his actions, and behaves like a socialist who hates America. Actions speak louder than words and his actions directly contradict his words.