Here’s one half of an interesting exchange concerning breastfeeding in church – not whether it is legal (laws pretty uniformly protect a woman’s right to feed her child anywhere she is legally permitted to be), but whether it is morally acceptable to do so.
The ‘peaceful parenting’ blog has reprinted a letter from a Christian father responding to what was apparently a missive from another father on the subject of breastfeeding in church after the first man’s wife did so. Here are a few remarks from his carefully prepared response, exegesis and all.
The Bible clearly recognizes breastfeeding as a blessing. In Genesis 49:25, Jacob states a blessing unto Joseph, “Because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and womb.” The breast was created for the function of nurturing and nourishing the child in addition to be enjoyed by her husband intimately. The woman does not nurse her child for the enjoyment of other men, only for the functional use of caring for her baby. To correlate the two is taking it out of context, or to an extreme.
If I am an alcoholic and I go to the store to buy bread and I see a man buying beer, should I tell the man buying beer to use the next register over or cover up his beer and wait to make his purchase until I am done in the store so that I am not tempted to pick up boozing again and ruin my life? Do I avoid stores all together? Do I avoid restaurants altogether? A therapist would tell me that I need to cope with my own fear and temptations or I will be controlled by them and act irrationally – potentially damaging my life even more.
If your pastor has a big problem with women nursing in the sanctuary, what are his procedures for dealing with it? Does he follow Matthew 18? If a woman protested and asserted her right to feed her child in church, what would you do? Do you suggest other alternative locations for nursing women who are made to feel uncomfortable breastfeeding among others at church? Or do you MAKE women move to another location regardless of their comfort level because you yourself are uncomfortable? Would you call into question a woman’s faith for not submitting to a man’s wishes?
Our energies should not be put toward ‘correcting the behavior’ of nursing women because, as I stated before, breastfeeding in public is not a sinful act but a natural one. The breast may occasionally serve a dual function – both for pleasure and for a baby’s nourishment and comfort. But you cannot put limitations on nursing, and use God’s design of men and women’s sexual companionship to support your limitations. They are separate functions – one does not take precedence or dominance over the other.
Where do you come down on this?
The evidence from centuries of Christian art, for example, is indisputable; the child Jesus is often paired with the breast that feeds him. His mother Mary’s nurturing breast was, of course, not just a sexual organ. It was created primarily for food; and some of its sensitivities existed out of its need to create food for her baby. All of which is to say, Jesus was breastfed.
How much of this has to do with a culture that’s looking to its predominant religion for affirmation of a now-diminishing taboo – a culture that doesn’t want to see skin in the one place (a church sanctuary) where it seems showing it could be tantamount to moral turpitude? (The beach – heck, even the mall – these are apparently another matter.)
And then there’s simply the question of how we have learned to look at bodies. Perhaps those who would cry out “Is nothing holy?” should take another moral inventory.