Proud papa defends wife’s right to breastfeed in church

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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.

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Dä'ved Äyan
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Dä'ved Äyan

There are public laws in many jurisdictions of the USA; federal, state and local, that make it illegal for any public or private entity to discriminate against race, age, gender, national origin, gender orientation, sexual orientation, physical ability, marital status, etc,. etc,. etc.

They do not apply to churches. The SCOUSA has ruled that freedom of religious belief supersedes all of them. I think that a preponderance of the evidence regarding churches being allowed to discriminate is not in your favor. So again, I doubt that the laws allowing public breastfeeding apply to a church that wishes to make a compelling argument opposing such behavior on religious grounds. The only way to know for sure would be a court ruling on the matter.

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paigeb
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paigeb

So I doubt that the laws allowing public breastfeeding apply to a church that wishes to make a compelling argument opposing such behavior on religious grounds.

You are incorrect. As the link notes, 44 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands have laws with language specifically allowing women to breastfeed in any public or private location.

That's not all 50, of course, but I would say that the preponderance of evidence is on my side, not yours.

Simply, if the post is about a mother exposing her breast in a church service, then I am opposed to it. I think that the comportment is inappropriate. I do not think that it takes into consideration the feelings of fellow parishioners.

And I think those fellow parishioners are not thinking about the hungry baby. Why should the sensitivities of grown-ups--who can, after all look the other way or sit somewhere else--trump the needs of a hungry baby? What is "Christian" about demanding that their desires should supersede the needs of an infant?

In the general culture, opposition to nursing in public is generally rooted in objectification of women's bodies. It is maddening to see that carried over into the church--especially, as several commenters here have noted, when visual depictions of the Blessed Virgin Mary nursing the infant Jesus are in evidence!

Paige Baker

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Dä'ved Äyan
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Dä'ved Äyan

Paige, I apologize that any hyperbole I may have used in my comments has elicited an escalation of hyperbole from you.

I did not bash the US political system. I stated legal fact as it exists in the USA under your present system of laws.

This post is not about breastfeeding babies. This post is not about breastfeeding babies in public. This post is about breastfeeding babies publicly in a church service.

What the post was not clear about to me was whether it referred to exposing breasts in the church service, to me a form of public nudity. And so I asked if that was what we were discussing as opposed to breastfeeding publicly in a church service with an appropriate covering.

Simply, if the post is about a mother exposing her breast in a church service, then I am opposed to it. I think that the comportment is inappropriate. I do not think that it takes into consideration the feelings of fellow parishioners.

So as my final point, since a few of you have pointed out that public breastfeeding is legal in many US jurisdictions, and since this post is about breastfeeding in a church service, I point out that it is legal in the USA for churches to discriminate. So I doubt that the laws allowing public breastfeeding apply to a church that wishes to make a compelling argument opposing such behavior on religious grounds.

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paigeb
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paigeb

As a Statesonian, you are duty bound to defend their freedom to discriminate because that is what your Bill of Rights is for, and a chink in its amour plating could bring down the whole celebrated stack of cards.

When you can't think of a decent counterargument, I guess the only recourse left it to bash the U.S. political system. I give that a big FAIL.

And, FTR, I am not "duty bound" to defend ANYTHING that violates my conscience or the human rights of other people--including hungry babies.

Paige Baker

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tgflux
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tgflux

Why would a mother want to breastfeed in the middle of church?

Respectfully, Clint: it's not the MOTHER who controls the "wanting to breastfeed", it's the young'un! [Curiously enough, it seems bubs don't give a damn if it's the middle of church, or the middle of Grand Central Station or wherever! The only thing relevant is now, Now, NOOOOOOWWW!!! }-O]

JC Fisher

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