Links to Think: 12.17.12

December 17, 2012

Breast-feeding in the Back Pew – I subscribe to CT’s updates, but my husband beat it to the punch with an e-mail stating this was a “good, solid” article.

“How widespread the no-breast-feeding rule is in U.S. churches is hard to say. But one thing’s clear: Our squeamishness over breast-feeding has little precedent in the church. Instead, Christians have long celebrated this aspect of Jesus’ early life. Church father Ephrem the Syrian wrote a collection of hymns on the Nativity, including this, which connects the humble picture of Jesus nursing from Mary’s breasts to Jesus’ generous provision as King of all creation:

The Lofty One became like a little child,
yet hidden in Him was a treasure of
Wisdom that suffices for all.
He was lofty but he sucked Mary’s milk,
and from His blessings all creation sucks.”

Martin Luther celebrated the physical bond between Mary and Jesus, noting in his famous Christmas sermon that Mary “nourished the child with milk from her breast and not with strange milk … her breast being filled by heaven, without injury or impurity.”

Following in the footsteps of the church fathers, our sacred spaces should likewise embrace the human body in all its mess. In a culture where breasts are perennially on display—but where breast-feeding is often regarded with disgust or at least embarrassment—allowing mothers to breast-feed in worship would counter how sexualized breasts are in modern culture. It would also communicate respect for mothers, many of whom feel shunned or outlawed when asked to use segregated rooms to feed their babies. The earthy eloquence of breast-feeding, even in church, would also remind us of both the humanness of our Savior and of God’s loving sustenance of us through all the seasons of our lives.

I think, too, that much of the problem with our contemporary squeamishness can be found in what this commenter points out, and one on which we are often oblivious of how it clouds our perspective:

“God created women to feed their young by way of breast-feeding and we did it for thousand of years without thinking twice about it. It wasn’t until someone introduce [sic] unnatural means of feeding our children that people started thinking breast-feeding was awkward, uncomfortable and embarrassing.”

In Wake of the Tragedy – Johanna offers her thoughts of entering into this national sorrow.

“I can only love my neighbor as myself. And right now that means putting my arms around those mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters who have just faced a most unspeakable tragedy, and weep with them.

Jesus said weep with those who weep.

Today I weep.

Later there might be more words to offer. But today I simply weep.”

“Today I wrap my figurative arms around my neighbors in Connecticut. I shed tears with their tears. I love them because they are my fellow-man.”

Christian Responses to Child Massacres – Also following this tragedy, there have been many statuses, tweets, and statements made that are using the tragedy to push an agenda. Yet now is not the time to politicize; it is the time to grieve. Wendy Alsup addresses the use of opportunism at this time, and the need for comfort, not criticism, for those grieving.

“But the removal of prayer from schools is not the issue at the heart of Friday’s headlines. That was simple opportunistic exploitation of a horrible tragedy.

What people long for in such tragedy in my experience is COMFORT. And our response according to Scripture in such moments should be COMFORT. This is not a moment for us as Christians to seize to make a point on morality or sinfulness or politics. This a moment when an entire nation is hurting, when people at least in that community are naturally turning toward churches with a pain beyond imagining. And God instructs us clearly to comfort.”


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  • Shelley January 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    While I agree that our culture is too sexual, I would suggest that often times it is men who feel uncomfortable with breastfeeding around them and it is probably a good thing to consider modesty for their sakes. While I do not think we should make our decisions based on culture alone, it is probable that we have to take it into account when making certain choices. Because men are constantly bombarded with sexual images, breastfeeding during the church service (if audible or visible) seems a bit disturbing to them because it isn’t their wife’s body, but another woman’s- and men are visual. Whether that is right or wrong is not so much the point, but the reality we live in. Of course it would be good to change culture, but we have to take it into consideration and acknowledge people’s comfort levels. I am not saying it is morally wrong or immodest to breastfeed in public, but I do believe many men will honestly say it is distracting to them.