Gross parenting and Good Friday

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 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?


Comments (8)

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Excellent.  Always a pleasure to read your thoughts.

I think we can overdo the emotionalism of the very violent death of Jesus Christ, it seems to me the Gospel accounts do not do this, they are very matter of fact—this is what happened—
The ‘Passion of The Christ’ film majored on the gory & underplayed the reason for Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, the sacrifice for the sin of the world. We would do well as believers to emphasis the fact of our own individual Sin that put Him on that Cross, not the Jews, not the Romans but us, sinners all, Saved by God’s Grace.

Agreed !

The fact that Jesus’s love and obedience was so complete that he willingly gave up his life as a sacrifice for humanity is more important to me than the fact that it was done in the violent and humiliating Roman way.

While the reporting of the events in the Gospels might be “matter of fact” we can’t use that to draw any conclusions about the emotions of the people who were surrounded by these events.  In fact, I think we do a disservice to ourselves as creations of the Most High God when we suppose that emotions didn’t run extremely high in all parties involved.

I think there is plenty of evidence that emotions were extra charged… if for no other reason than the fact that there were humans present, and situations like that drive emotional responses.

We are always quick to judge… aren’t we?

One day, I hope that Christianity can start to focus on what is important instead of worrying about how people feed their babies and who eats their placenta.

Nope. Both pre-chewing and placenta-eating can still be gross to me without compromising my faith.

As a Protestant, I don’t believe in transubstantiation (Communion elements turning into the literal body and blood of Christ). It is a symbolic act done in remembrance.

I can practice Communion and still find the possible spread of oral viruses and pathogens unacceptably risky and disgusting. Does a baby deserve herpes simplex (and other) exposures?

As Christ didn’t ask us to partake of actual human flesh and blood, I don’t find a strong theological argument against health objections.

Likewise, I do not think belief and participation in Communion does not make the eating of other bodily by-products (hair, fingernails, skin, boogers, etc.) fully acceptable.

While I see your point about self-awareness of our own strange beliefs when confronted with unfamiliar view-points, I don’t think belief in Communion (especially for non-transubstantionists) mandates acceptance of all intersections of the human body and eating.

Great insights and great questions, Caryn. One way I respond to those who ask why Christianity has some weird practices is to point out that a lot of what people do in this world is weird.

Take the food chewing and transferring thing. Why on earth are professionals worried about germ passing, when this is such a common occurrence among people. We share food all the time, whether taking a bite of someone else’s sandwich or sipping from their milkshake straw. But here’s the weird one, if you stop to think about it. When I was in High School we sometimes said a boyfriend and girlfriend kissing were swapping spit. Well they were, weren’t they? Pass the germs!

There’s a whole lot of other weird stuff people do in this world, sometimes in practicing their faith and sometimes otherwise. The point is not that something Christians do seems weird; it’s that whatever we do we need to do it for Jesus, right? (1 Corinthians 10:31.)

Thanks for giving us this piece today, Caryn.


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