What We Want is a Spirituality of Wiping Bottoms and Breastfeeding!

What We Want is a Spirituality of Wiping Bottoms and Breastfeeding! October 23, 2014
(After the Master of Flemalle. Virgin Giving Milk, 14th C.; Source: Wikimedia Commons, PD-Old-100)
(After the Master of Flemalle. Virgin Giving Milk, 14th C.; Source: Wikimedia Commons, PD-Old-100)

Yesterday’s post featured Alasdair MacIntyre discussing how much the philosophical tradition has ignored the dependencies built into all of our lives. In the long citation in that post he touches upon childhood while concentrating upon disability as an extreme case that is revelatory of the inescapable facts of constant human weakness and depencency.

Janet Martin Soskice’s The Kindness of God takes up the important topic of child-rearing in relation to spirituality. I did not recognize the significance of this topic until I took over taking care our kids full-time after finishing up my PhD.

There is much to learn from feminist philosophers and theologians. MacIntyre credits the former in Dependent Rational Animals for turning his attention to human weakness.
There is much to learn from feminist philosophers and theologians. MacIntyre credits the former in Dependent Rational Animals for turning his attention to the fundamental significance of human weakness.

She says the following after discussing how spiritualities both East and West (she uses the examples of Augustine and Gregory of Nyssa) have understood spirituality as a detachment from everyday cares in order to attend exclusively to God:

It would be rash to suggest that exaltation of the spiritual life (so fashioned) has always in Christian history meant the denigration of family life. There are many examples of theologians and poets who have praised the daily round and trivial task. But for the most part such things as attending to a squalling baby are seen as honorable duties, consonant with God’s purposes, rather than spiritually edifying in themselves. Most Christian women, for instance, think that what they do around the home is worthy in God’s service–they do not think they have not been taught to think, of it as spiritual. And here monastic figures who, apparently, found God over the washing up or sweeping the floor will be called to mind; but these are not really to the point, since servile tasks were recommended because they left the mind free to contemplate. What we want is a monk who finds God while cooking a meal with one child clamoring for a drink, another who needs a bottom wiped, and a baby throwing up over his shoulder.

I would like to digest this a bit more, however, I have some meals to prepare, bottoms to wipe, and job applications to send. It frequently feels like mission impossible.

As Mr. Mom I also think that this call for a new type of truly incarnational spirituality is self-explanatory.

The video below is so real that it’s not even funny!

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