Culture At Large

Gross parenting and Good Friday

Caryn Rivadeneira

A couple of celebrity bits that sparked all sorts of “ewwww-ing” and “aaaaahhhh-ing” across the Interwebs last week left me uncharacteristically nonplussed and nonjudgmental.

While Alicia Silverstone’s video showing her pre-chewing and feeding her 11-month-old son a la a mama robin outraged dentists and others who were worried about passing mouth germs, I smiled at the sweetness of the clip. While I didn’t choose this child-feeing route myself, perhaps I’ve peeled enough apples with my teeth in a pinch and taken enough licks from suckers when my kids have offered to not be particularly appalled by Silverstone’s practice.

Then when January Jones admitted to eating her placenta after her baby was born, sure, my eyebrows may have lifted a bit as I wondered what might compel a mammal rather high on the food chain to do this. I thought mama animals ate their placenta to keep predators at bay. However, once I found out that Jones (and most women who do this) have their placenta dried, ground and capsule-ized, believing it keeps predators like postpartum depression at bay and provides much-needed energy, I shrugged. No big deal. To each her own.

But in truth: while those may be the most basic explanations for why neither of these stories bugged me all that much much, in reality I blame Holy Week for my atypical response.

After all, above any other time, this is the week when we remember just what Jesus did for us, the price He paid. This is the week we revisit all He endured - the beatings, the whippings, the barbs pressed into His head. This is when we focus on the cross - on the spikes through His hands and through His twisted feet, on His chest flung forward, slowing suffocating, on the sword through His side. This is the week when we come face to face with the blood and the gore and violence of our faith. In other words: we embrace the grossness and total weirdness of what we really believe. And we talk about it with our families.

I think we ought to admit the horror of our faith if we want others to see the beauty in it.

I must admit, I’m never more struck by the fact that the core of the Christian faith could put placenta-eating to shame in the Weird-and-Gross Olympics than when I hear my kids relay the Easter story. Whenever I’ve heard my preschoolers talk of the nails being driven and the thorns being pressed, that’s what makes me really shudder. Pre-chewing food’s got nothing on this.

People do and believe weird and gross things. Things that raise eyebrows and send shivers. If Christians are honest about our faith, we can’t be afraid to admit that we believe some horrifying, shocking things ourselves. We are the folks, after all, who remember what Jesus did for us by the "eating" of His broken body and "drinking" of His dripping blood.

So I think it does us good to be willing to see this as non-Christians often see our beliefs: gross and weird. I think we ought to admit the horror of our faith if we want others to see the beauty in it. Because only then can we talk about what happens when we suspend our disgust and choose to see into and then past the weird and horrific.

Because if we get stalled being weirded and grossed out, we miss lots of good stuff. We miss the sweetness of a mom feeding her baby the way mamas throughout history have done it. We miss a practice that might have energy-giving and depression-fighting value. And we certainly miss the Grace that comes only from that weird, gross, violent, horrific and amazingly beautiful story we believe.

What Do You Think?

  • Do you tend to downplay or emphasize the violence of the Holy Week story?
  • How can Christians best explain our focus on the more gruesome elements of Holy Week to nonbelievers?
  • Can our focus on these elements ever be overdone?


Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Christmas & Easter, Home & Family, Parenting