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This Christmas, many of us will strive once again to reflect on the significance of the Incarnation. We will try to remember, amid the usual busyness, the strange wonder of God coming to earth as a baby, of an unwed teenager carrying God-in-the-flesh ...

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Displaying 1–25 of 25 comments

Karen Beculhimer

January 03, 2013  8:08pm

As long as you do whatever you do discreetly it doesn't bother me one bit. I wouldn't cover up great art, I think that is bizarre that people would even think of it. I think having a separate nursing room available is nice as an option though.

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Jim Ricker

December 26, 2012  7:21pm

Hi Suzannah, I'm not sure where you are finding evidence of gnosticism in the commenters on this thread but I would agree with you on the seemingly automatic view that a woman feeding her child discreetly is somehow some evil and, that men are uncontrollable pigs drooling over a mom feeding her child. Although I can easily admit to not having all the ancient rabbinical writings memorized but, I can find no law or regulation against breastfeeding in public - except that the whole breast should not be exposed. Since Jewish women breastfed for at least two years (see Hannah, Miriam and Sarah among the other few examples), it would be almost impossible to do so tucked away in some other room (or trying to find some quiet alley at the market). If there is rabbincal writings or a law against breastfeeding in public from ancient Israel, it would be great to see it. In the end, as long as a mom is discreet we should ditch the unbiblical, cultural expectations.

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Claire Guest

December 23, 2012  12:46am

Suzannah, really? "Many" comments here convey the outlandish ideas you posted? I am a mom who has breastfed all my children, I've been a very vocal proponent of breastfeeding since I first learned its benefits and then witnessed them in my children, and I have not read the things you accuse posters here of saying. Methinks thou doth protest WAY too much. In truth, Rachel's article posited some very outlandish and even false ideas, clearly seen when held up to the standard of God's Word.

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Suzannah Paul

December 21, 2012  7:44pm

rachel, thank you for writing this. many of these comments are extremely disheartening and betray a particularly low view of mothers and babies (send them away!) and men, too, whose ingrained propensity to objectify (really?) somehow trumps a child's need to eat or a mother's desire to nourish her babe and *still* participate in community life and worship. it reeks of gnostic heresy and a strangely sacralized version of "men are pigs!". weren't we made for more in our life together?

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Jim Ricker

December 21, 2012  2:47pm

If the benefits are superficial, why are we worried about people being distracted from something that is so superficial?

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J Thomas

December 17, 2012  11:08pm

Samuel, I am confident in mothers' ability to make wise choices. I wouldn't expect them to prefer irrationality and irresponsibility over purity.

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Claire Guest

December 17, 2012  3:28pm

Samuel, as a mom who has birthed and breastfed a number of children, I think we agree that 1) nursing moms/babies should not be excluded from church services, and 2) moms should be decently covered so as not to cause a distraction. ANY distraction from the proclaimed Word of God in a church service is a problem, in my opinion. As a nursing mom, I did sit near an exit so I could go out and tend to the baby (change diapers, calm them if they cried, etc) without distracting fellow worshippers. The article and painting above project the idea that Mary breastfed Baby Jesus openly in public, even at temple and synagogue. In truth, Mary would ONLY have done that in the presence of other women. Women of that day were extremely modest, much more so than women of our culture today. NOTE: I'm not implying that women today should dress as they did. I'm just making that historically-accurate point. RE: the article's subtitle: When has God ever put on such a display? Let's be real. Please.

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Samuel Keller

December 17, 2012  6:10am

I'm sorry I just couldn't disagree more with what you're saying. Do you have the slightest clue what the challenges are facing new parents? I can't imagine being a new mother and hearing my pastor say the benefits of me being able to take part in worship and feed my baby are superficial. :(

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J Thomas

December 17, 2012  1:25am

Samuel, I think it just boils down to whether or not it is reasonable to even risk causing a distraction. In that way it is responsible to be discreet in the utmost. Because the truth of the matter is that it is a distraction, however inconvenient. So what you are in effect doing is weighing the benefits and the risks in the congregation. The benefits are superficial, while the risks are spiritually serious. The benefits include a slight bit more convenience for nursing mothers and a superficial sort of feminist social image portrayed within the body. The risks include instilling and promoting sexual sin in hormonal boys and young men as well as social awkwardness that distracts from the sermon. I think that we all agree that the sanctuary should be a distraction-free zone.

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Samuel Keller

December 16, 2012  10:52am

Many baby stores and seamstresses make covers for doing this that are very easy to use. My wife used them for over a year with each of our babies. I agree with the people that are saying seeing breasts is a distraction but it's unnecessary to kick a woman out because the infant needs to be fed. I can guarantee any congregation that doesn't welcome new mothers and their babies is not only losing an opportunity to grow their flock but also revealing who is really living the Gospel. One party is feeding the littlest, most vulnerable ones while the other is judging and alienating her using contemporary secular standards.

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Jim Ricker

December 16, 2012  9:23am

Distracted and turned on are two different things. One is akin to, "squirrel - and the other is a sin. As a man, I think men understand men better than women do. And as I stated a while back on this string, the mom should cover up for modesty because some things are not meant for people to watch. Lets be real here - there is no biblical issue with this; it comes down to the secular society's values.

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Claire Guest

December 15, 2012  5:27pm

Can we be real here? The only man I've ever known who was never distracted when women in the vicinity have breastfed their babies was my 85yo grandfather! (And I'm not assuming that would necessarily be true of all 85yo men.) Men are typically aroused by sight, and when a breastfeeding mom does not cover herself, but her breast(s) are exposed, yes, that typically arouses the great majority of men. Even beyond that truth, the article (and painting) project the idea that Mary breastfed Baby Jesus openly in public, even at temple and synagogue. In truth, Mary would ONLY have done that in the presence of other women. Women of that day were extremely modest, much moreso than women of our culture today. NOTE: I'm not implying that women today should dress as they did. I'm just making that historically-accurate point. RE: the article's subtitle: When has God ever put on such a display? Let's be real. Please.

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Jim Ricker

December 15, 2012  3:27pm

What is there to be 'distracted' (in a bad way of course) by? I'm a man and a mom feeding her child is no distraction. The point of meeting together is to worship together and for the elders of the church to equip the flock, not so I can sit quietly and take in a sermon. There also seems to be quite a bit of confusion over the 'stumbling block' teaching. The Greek makes it clear that causing another to stumble is a conscious act done in an arrogant way to someone you KNOW has an issue with a particular sin. We also know we are not to judge others in reference to foods and thus helping them go against the conscience and eat what they view as wrong. The scriptural teachings are not a, 'maybe someone will be offended' or 'maybe someone may be turned on by my baby eating.'

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Claire Guest

December 15, 2012  1:21pm

ITA with you, J Thomas (and I am a woman). There is no reason to believe that Mary breastfed baby Jesus openly in public, as a young mother at temple or synagogue services or anywhere else. Breastfeeding is a completely natural thing to do, breast milk is God's gift to babies (and moms), but there is a place for everything and a modest way to do it - men don't disrobe in church either. When I breast-fed my babies in church, I was always modestly covered and usually sat on the back row because I wanted to, in case I needed to go out and tend to the baby (change diapers, rock him/her to sleep, etc) without distracting fellow worshippers from the reason they were there. While I am a diehard proponent of breastfeeding, I also realize as a believer that it is contrary to God's Word and will for believers (men and women) to dress and behave immodestly. We are not to be a stumbling block to others.

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J Thomas

December 15, 2012  11:37am

If you choose to breastfeed anywhere in public, the vast majority of males in your vicinity will be distracted by it. That's just the way we are. Female beauty is a distraction to us and the more of it we see, the more distracting it is. Its hard-wired into our brains, and that's not going to change. Its something that most of us men have to put under discipline by force, with a lot of grace from God. It seems to me that it would be common sense to want to prevent distraction (potential sinful distraction) from the sanctuary. Subjecting another party to potential sinful distraction because we don't want to be inconvenienced doesn't seem like a fair or reasonable solution to this issue.

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Richard Cameron

December 15, 2012  7:40am

Great article. I am a pastor, in Glasgow, in the Church of Scotland. I fully support women breastfeeding in the sanctuary during the services. These mums need our support; often exhausted, and missing out on other areas of social interaction, the last thing they need, after struggling to church with a baby, is to be made to feel unwelcome (or unclean!!!). Also, the breast-feeders are very discreet. You won't see anything you shouldn't - unless, of course, you're looking with a little too much interest. And I don't countenance any of this 'sit in the back row if you're going to do that' nonsense. Our young mums sit with the children down the front. That's where they feed. It's normal. No-one bats an eyelid, or even cares.

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LAURA C STEEL

December 14, 2012  10:13pm

No-one wears a blanket over their head to eat in my church because we respectfully ask that no food or drink be brought into the worship center. I don't want to watch any feeding of babies or children during a service, from breasts or bottles or jars. As for parents of young children missing things (such as sermons), yes, you will miss things. You have chosen something far more significant than merely hearing every possible sermon or attending every possible meeting.

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JEFFREY M HENDERSHOT

December 14, 2012  9:56pm

Certainly breast feeding is God's intention, but the principle of Romans 14:13 should be followed: "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way." The fact is, some men may stumble, and at the very least it may be a distraction, so mom (and dad) should pre-plan a discreet solution where possible...

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M Adisu

December 13, 2012  11:42pm

The real challenge is how to go about redeeming a culture that merchandises basic human relations. Should one go back to separate quarters for men and women in the church? Should one observe a dress code? Should one approach it as rights issue and risk creating division? What could we learn from non-Western churches? How did we transition to bottle feeding in the first place? There are also doctrines to consider. The fact that Jesus came in human flesh is evidence that physicalness is not evil. Scripture also states that a believer's body is "the temple of the HS [1 Cor. 6:19]. The HS is known for making beautiful things, for sanctifying, and for leading all who submit to recognize the truth about themselves and the world around them. Mary conceived Jesus by the HS; the same Spirit descended on Jesus. Jesus sent the promised Spirit to be in and with those who believe. In short, redeeming a culture demands intense prayer and special visitation from the Lord. Pray this will happen.

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Jim Ricker

December 12, 2012  5:43pm

Breastfeeding is nothing to be ashamed of and should be celebrated as a git from Papa Himself. As with any other natural process, some things are not for public attention and breastfeeding is one of those things. Covering up so as to not expose yourself is appropriate.

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Patrice Marker

December 12, 2012  5:40pm

God is not embarrassed by breast-feeding, our embarrassment comes as a result of the fall. 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 unnatural means of feeding our children that people started thinking breast-feeding was awkward, uncomfortable and embarrassing. Talk about twisted thinking. I proudly nursed all of my children in church, most the time without a blanket covering them up. Yes, you can do this and be discreet, even with large breast. Of course it the baby was fussy I would take them elsewhere. I did not cover up because I felt that was demeaning to the purpose and the child; after all nobody ask you to wear a blanket over your head while you eat. I guarantee that the baby is more polite while eating than the majority of adults. Only once was I ask to leave the church, just because I brought my child in the service and we were visiting, we left.

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Brennan Doherty

December 12, 2012  12:56pm

As a Roman Catholic, I'm particularly embarrassed that you got escorted to the restroom at St. Peter's in order to breastfeed, particularly when, as you note, there have been numerous works of art depicting the Blessed Virgin breastfeeding Jesus. HuffPo (believe it or not) had an interesting article (with some slides of artwork) on the subject of this type of imagery here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/11/mary-breastfeeding-jesus_n_227 4119.html?utm_hp_ref=religion#slide=1867456. It is a beautiful thing for a mother to care for her infant in this way and to depict the unique bond between Mary and the infant Jesus in art.

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NORMAN STOLPE

December 12, 2012  12:33pm

Brian Wren well captures the wonder of incarnation in his 1987 hymn "Her Baby, Newly Breathing" with the second verse ending, "Holiness eternal is perfectly expressed in hands that clutch unthinking, and lips that tug the breast." I've had the occasion to introduce that hymn to a couple of congregations who have received it well. Theologically it's way ahead of "The First Noel."

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Jon Trott

December 12, 2012  12:32pm

As a male, perhaps I cannot speak with authority here. But I find it highly disturbing that the sacred act of a mother feeding an infant would be problematic for anyone. It is, as Rachel writes, directly mirroring God's own nurture and bounty toward us. There's nothing immodest or ungodly or out of place in a mother nurturing her baby in a place where we are in turn nursing at the breast of God. Purity is a very important part of our faithful walk, but Victorian prudery is certainly not.

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Kristina Cowan

December 06, 2012  11:13pm

Hats off to you, Rachel Marie Stone, for underscoring the truth. Moms who are able and choose to nurse should be embraced by the church, not castigated. My late mom breast-fed me for five years, so it's something of a sacred topic for me. I was born in the mid-1970s, and I'm guessing my mom faced skeptics and others who relegated her to a back room. According to an article in the Journal of Nutrition, only 33 percent of women breastfed in 1975. I'm glad she persevered, though, especially because I lost her when I was 15. Breast-feeding was just one way she mothered well. She also led me to faith in Christ. Because she died young, I didn’t get much quality time with her. Five years of nursing meant I had a lot of her undivided attention--perhaps more time than most children get. It’s an invaluable gift. The benefits have extended beyond me, to my young son and daughter. Breast-feeding moms are evidence of God's grace and love for us.

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