Warning: For those of you who complain when one of my posts has nothing to do with bad church music, liturgy, or worship, you’re probably not going to like this one. Except it does have something to do with worship, because it concerns the church’s ethics and mission.
Until this afternoon, the stupidest post I’ve ever read on Patheos was concerning stumbling brothers and yoga pants.
But earlier this afternoon I read one that has managed to top the list. This one was called, and I feel exceedingly dumb even typing this, “Church Modesty and Militant Breastfeeding: Do They Mix?” In fact, I had to read it a few times, and then read some other stuff by the same author, just to be totally sure I wasn’t reading some poor satire. Unfortunately, I think Susan Wright of the Red Politics blog “Susan Wright on the Right” is dead serious about this one.
I also think Susan Wright is dead wrong.
(I also didn’t know we had a “Red Politics” and “Blue Politics” channel, but that’s beside the point.)
Wright’s post recounts the story of the poor, uncomfortable folks at the (I’m not making this up!) Naz Church in Brighton, Michigan. Amy Marchant, while waiting to pick up her 4-year-old twins, chose to sit down on a bench and breastfeed her 1-year-old daughter, who had become fussy. It was only later that she was confronted with her grievous sin of nourishing her infant.
According to Wright, “In the case of Marchant, her choice to whip out a ninnie and feed her child on church property took on a controversial turn, when someone with the church reached out to Marhant about her decision.”
Apparently, a female church leader sent Marchant a message, informed her that her lactation was making people uncomfortable, and that she needed to either cover herself up, slip into an empty classroom, or use a designated nursing area adjacent to a women’s bathroom. The leader further stated that her exposure was “immodest” and could cause men to “lust and stumble,” and so nursing out in the open was not allowed.
The church has since apologized. Marchant doesn’t care. She’s done with them. I don’t blame her.
Okay, I have to admit, up to this point in the article, I was fully expecting Wright to turn around and talk about how ridiculous the church’s argument is, but unbelievably, she doesn’t. Wright goes on to laud the discreet and confidential manner in which the church handled the situation, and proceeds to castigate Marchant for ignoring the oft-quoted, little-understood Pauline admonition to not merely look out for your own interests, but also those of others.
Basically, Wright accuses her of topless sunbathing on church property.
Yes, let’s think about that for a minute. Marchant was waiting to pick up her older children. From church. And while she waited, she was feeding her other child. And for this, she is guilty of being selfish?
Maybe they should have asked the 1-year-old to shut up and wait a few more minutes until they could get home, too. It wouldn’t be much more ridiculous.
First, maybe some mom, somewhere has been guilty of some sort of histrionic breastfeeding. Maybe. But I’ve never seen such a spectacle. Generally, even without a cover, you’d have to be as close to mom as her baby in order to see any substantial amount of skin. And even if you did, come on, it’s a nipple. We all have them. Nipples don’t kill people.
Second, as someone with several decades of experience as a heterosexual male, I would like to make it clear that I have never, ever, not even once, been aroused by a breastfeeding mom, with or without a cover. And let me tell you, growing up in the homeschooling community, I’ve seen more than my fair share of breastfeeding moms. I’ve also never, not even once, heard another heterosexual male talk about being aroused by a breastfeeding mom. Oh, I imagine someone can point us all to some dark corner of the internet as proof that such an attraction exists, but it isn’t normal.
And to any men reading this, here’s some advice. If you ever find yourself aroused by a breastfeeding mom, you need to make an appointment to see a mental health therapist immediately.
Third, all of us, men and women, should be frustrated and angry at a Christian culture that persists in blaming women for the thoughts and actions of men. Yoga pants are not the problem. Spaghetti straps are not the problem. Two-piece bathing suits are not the problem. And a mom who is using her body to feed her infant is not the problem, either.
Church, come on! The mere presence of a woman’s body is never, ever the problem.
If someone is uncomfortable being near a nursing mom, they should be the ones to leave. And while they’re on the way out, take some time to evaluate the source of their discomfort. Did they get sprayed? Do they think it’s gross? Is it because our society sexualizes female breasts?
Whatever the cause may be, it isn’t the fault of the mom.
If you’ve read a post of mine from a couple weeks ago, you know that I am the proud father of two beautiful breastfed babies. And my wife is my hero. Breastfeeding is exhausting, demanding, and incredibly time-consuming. As I said in the post:
The closeness they shared was the most selfless, beautiful relationship I’ve ever witnessed. Determined, patient, pure love. I don’t think one could find a clearer illustration of Christ’s love for his church.
So when Wright makes the ridiculous assertion that “Marchant is obviously thinking more of her own comfort level, than with being part of a church community and taking the feelings of others into account,” I’ll admit that it makes me a little angry. I think she should take a double dose of her own medicine and put the interests of mother and child ahead of her own.
So church, here’s what you do if you’re afraid someone might be offended by a mom breastfeeding her child.
You stay the hell out of it.
You don’t approach her.
You don’t direct her to go somewhere else.
You don’t stare disapprovingly.
You don’t complain to the church staff.
You don’t send her Facebook messages when you get home.
You leave mom and baby alone, and you thank God for the blessing that precious child is to your church family.
If someone claims to be uncomfortable, admonish them to bite their tongue and go wait in the bathroom until she’s finished.
If having the audacity to put her child’s needs above her own is a case of “militant breastfeeding,” then the church needs a lot of soldiers just like Amy Marchant to call it out on its crap.