Part One is my answer to a specific incident.
Part Two: A wider context
read my blog regularly, you already know that I
consider the Western attitude toward breastfeeding to be based
on political/business-driven lies, antiquated, misogynistic, and just
plain weird and
silly. But this time I want to talk about that same attitude in the
context of the Christian church community. Because it exists there too,
often more insidiously than in the secular world, as proponents will use
Scripture out of context to support the dogma of feminine modesty and
mask the underlying oppressive and unBiblical attitudes toward women
inherent in such a position.
Point of clarification? My
church is full to bursting with amazing
people who are supportive and nurturing and open to differing opinions
and approaches to life. Over the years I have been a member, the subject
of breastfeeding in public has come up several times, as my son was
about six months old when I began attending services. The first time it
was raised was when I asked the Pastor if it was alright to nurse JJ in
the sanctuary. (Cut me some slack, this was 2 years ago and I wasn't
nearly as confident then.) His response? "Of course! If you are
comfortable, we are comfortable!"
usually, yes. Most of the time, if someone is bothered, they're either
willing to discuss it and try to understand my reasoning, or mature
enough to select an option from the list I gave in Part One and mind their own
business. But in the grand tradition of busybodies everywhere, there is
always somebody who figures he or she is the authority on all things
appropriate and it is her/his moral duty to censor the world and impose
decency upon all. Within the Church, this presents a logical dilemma
that we need to explore.
See . . . Jesus had his guys,
but he also hung out with the chicks. A lot. And not necessarily the
proper ladies of his day either. He pal'd around with the prostitutes,
the divorced, the remarried, the single gals. He loved kids too. Given
the lack of pharmaceutical birth control and Jesus' penchant for seeking
out the ostracized, do you really think that there weren't any single
mothers with fussy littles in the bunch? Unlikely. And to my mind, it
seems even MORE unlikely that Jesus, who walked with tax collectors and
Samaritans, Jesus who said "let the little children come to me," would
be disturbed by the presence of a breastfeeding infant, require they use
a bottle (really?), or demand that the mother and child remove
themselves until they were finished with such an inappropriate activity.
That just doesn't track, folks. That dog don't hunt. Shop it somewhere else, I ain't buyin'.
were INVOLVED in the early Church. They didn't just cook and keep house
and raise babies for the men, nor were they relegated to teaching baby
sabbath school classes or singing in the choir, nosirreebob. There were
women deacons, women pastors, women missionaries, and believe it or not,
there's some argument that not all of them were married! You gotta know
there were hungry babies at inconvenient moments, when they couldn't
just drop everything and leave in order to feed a squalling infant. It
doesn't make sense for those early teachers and ministers to have been
subject to the modern idea that feeding a baby is indecent.
I have a question, a question that pretty well encapsulates the whole
issue for me . . . do we live under the curse of Adam or the sacrifice
of Christ? Are we IN the world, or OF the world? Because,
this idea that feeding a baby is immodest? It's a very secular, very
modern idea. Even in the days when the Church dictated women's dress,
behavior, and social activities to a degree aptly called "puritanical"
in the modern mind, feeding a baby was a practical necessity and not
considered immodest in any way, but a most ladylike and womanly
activity. Mother found a convenient seat wherever she happened to be and
fed the baby, and it was incumbent upon the men to look elsewhere.
course the Church has always been (overly?) concerned with female
modesty, but it is difficult to discern whether these attitudes come
from the church, or from the world. Very chicken and egg. At some point
though, the Church has to look at the world's attitude that breasts are
primarily sexual and question it. We have to ask ourselves why we, the
Church, continue to bow to the worldly view that the female body is
first and foremost a sexual object, and as such must either be displayed
in the context of sexual attraction, or hidden away, lest a woman
minding her own business tempt a male to sinful thoughts. We MUST ask
the question, WHY do we continue to place the burden of preventing
lustful thoughts or actions first upon the person lusted after, and upon
the one lusting only as an afterthought? This is no different from the first response in Western culture to learning of a rape -- what was she wearing? Why does the Church continue to conform to the ways of the world in this matter???
seems to me that it is long since time the Church took a hard look at
how closely we follow worldly thinking on the topic of breastfeeding (as
a subset of the feminine modesty issue) and insist on a paradigm shift.
We need to acknowledge that while all human bodies CAN be sexual, that does not mean that female bodies are ALWAYS, or even PRIMARILY sexual. That while breasts are absolutely sensual and attractive in a sexual context, they need not be seen as sexual in EVERY context. So I ask again, are we IN the world, or OF the world?
how we change it? By deciding to change it. By saying "This is stupid,
unhealthy, and impractical. We are adults who can discipline our
thoughts, and by doing so, set example for our children." By taking a
breath when we see a woman nursing a child, and instead of berating her
and trying to hustle her away or cover the offending boob, we continue
our conversation as though nothing untoward is happening. Because nothing untoward is happening!
How do we teach our young people that there is nothing sexual,
shameful, or immodest about a woman nursing her child? By not treating
it as sexual, shameful, or immodest, but as normal, beautiful, healthy,
and appropriate. These are societal constructs, nothing more, and by
giving them credence inside the church, we give the world power where we
should be honoring only God.
It's hard, but it is also simple.
We must choose to change.