Friday, July 02, 2010

"Fun Bags"

If you're preaching come Sunday, you could do worse than to look at the first lesson (in the "thematic" series), Isaiah:66:10-14. We are struck especially by image of "drinking deeply with delight from [Jerusalem's] glorious bosom."

We come to this, lately, moved less by the feminist impulse, which excavates maternal images wherever they can be found in Scripture, than by the parental one, which spends a disproportionate amount of mental effort on breastfeeding. (Baby Anonymous, at 3+ years, is still nursing away, even as he begins reciting the Nicene Creed from memory.)

As most readers surely know, the subject of breastfeeding is nearly as incendiary as that of descriptive grammar. Offer an opinion on the subject, nearly any opinion, and prepare to be berated without mercy by those who consider you an apostle of either Satan or Nestle, if indeed they make a distinction. Nor, as Rowan Pelling says in the brief article linked above, has the subject aroused controversy only in the modern age of infant formula and political correctness. Aristotle and Pliny offered their opinions, too. (Here is the article from which we suspect that Pelling borrowed most of her background information, a few bits nearly verbatim. We have been unable to find the classical citations, and will be grateful for pointers).

Setting aside the history, though, Pelling cites some especially galling recent dicta on the subject. Here is her lead witness:

... a provocative article just published in Mother & Baby magazine has acted like kerosene on a conflagration. The author, Kathryn Blundell (the magazine's deputy editor), wrote that she bottle-fed her babies because: "I wanted my body back ... and some wine," and she wanted her breasts: "on my chest, rather than dangling round my stomach".

However, the most controversial part of Bundell's polemic came when she said of her breasts: "They're part of my sexuality too – not just breasts, but fun bags. And when you have that attitude (and I admit I made no attempt to change it), seeing your teeny, tiny innocent baby latching on where only a lover has been before feels, well, a little creepy."

Many people seem to agree, not least the lad mags, whose attitude seems to permeate the discussion ("fun bags"? Yikes.). This prompts Pelling to ask, in her title, "Does a lover really have first claim on breasts?" Her answer is No; she renders judgment in favor of the baby. It strikes us that one might also argue with some force that the first claim belongs to the mother herself -- her body, her choice, and all that. But maybe we're trapped in the late 1970s.

Anyhoo, coming back to Sunday. A preacher willing to dare the wrath of the Breast Police might talk about all this, in a gentle way, and then ask what it means to drink from Jerusalem's glorious bosom. It is one thing to be children of God," in the Johannine fashion, but a slightly different thing to be children of Jerusalem. Unless one leaps (too hastily, we think) to the New Jerusalem of Revelation, the implication seems to support the Pauline imagery of Gentiles grafted "against nature" onto the tree of israel.

1 comment:

Pastor Joelle said...

My my my - where to begin. How nice that this is what feminism has come to - now we women can be selfish sons of bitches too.

Seems like there is a lot of patristic stuff on the mothers milk of Christ even.

And then all the lactating Madonna art...

Think I've just done enough "in your face if you think about it" which is how my daughter has described my last few sermons. Going to the zoo today and taking out a sermon from less controversial years.