Culture At Large

What would Jesus do (with nursing mothers)?

Caryn Rivadeneira

Imagine this with me: 5,000 people gathered on a hillside, all enjoying a miraculous meal of broken bread and fish, passed among them, as they watch Jesus, curious to hear what he’ll say next. But then Jesus sees a woman in the crowd - she’s cooing at and nursing her baby.

“Wait!” he commands, stepping closer to the woman, pointing. The crowd freezes - bits of barley loaves and fish tucked into their cheeks.

“You’re no better than a stripper on her pole, you lewd woman!” Jesus yells. “Disciples! Remove this harlot at once!”

What? Having trouble imaging this? Can’t picture Jesus pulling this off? Yeah, me neither. Which is why I’m more than a little troubled to read Nirvana Jennette’s account of being forced out of a church sanctuary, asked to nurse her baby in the bathroom and being told by church leaders that “they could have arrested her for ‘lewd behavior,’” according to the Huffington Post. It was while pleading her case that the church’s pastor allegedly compared her act of public nursing to stripping.

Ah, the church. So loving, so gracious, so quick to call the cops on a nursing mother.

Though Georgia - where Jennette lives - has a “nurse anywhere” law, according to the Huffington Post she can still face public indecency charges.

In response to this Jennette has - like many a scorned nursing mother before her - planned a “Nurse In," set to take place tomorrow. And as has been the case since I first heard of these Nurse Ins, I only wish I still had a baby at my breast. Well, sort of. In reality - as much as I loved the years and years and years that I was able to bond with and nourish my children from my own body - I’m actually fine with instead saying, “Just grab a cup out of the dishwasher” or “Yes, you can have some more orange juice."

To confuse a nursing mother with a pole dancer, to force her to feed her child in a bathroom, is to confess your major lust problem.

But what I do wish for is the opportunity to stand in solidarity with my breastfeeding sisters - especially, in this case, my breastfeeding-in-God’s-house sisters. Because if these allegations against her church are true, that makes her a victim of ridiculous ignorance and - dare I say - quite sinful harassment committed by her church leaders.

Consider again that image of Jesus, calling the nursing mother a harlot and having her taken out of his presence. One (of the many) reasons that this is ridiculous is because Jesus is not a pervert, his lust doesn’t run amok. To confuse a nursing mother with a pole dancer, to force her to feed her child in a bathroom, is to confess your major lust problem. It is to declare that a woman’s breasts - made by God to feed and delight babies - are indeed feeding your lust and delighting you.

In asking this woman to leave the church and hide away as she nursed, this pastor and the church leaders (I’m presuming they were men, forgive me if I’m wrong) admitted their own lack of self-control, their lust. I’m hoping and praying that this event has caused the people of this church to come to terms with the reality of what they’re saying when they demand that women nursing their babies are obscene. I hope it happens in this church. And in yours. And in mine.

In the meantime, nurse on.

What Do You Think?

  • Do mothers nurse during worship at your church?
  • Who bears the responsibility when it comes to the conflict over nursing in public: the mothers who are breastfeeding or those who claim it's distracting?


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