The Breastless Ones
Until less than a century ago, all of humanity was nursed at the breast. The 20th Century brought with it wonderful advancements for taking care of children whose mothers could not produce enough milk or had some other problems with feeding their little ones. But, as we all know, the 20th Century is also known for its hubris in thinking that what man has created is better than what nature has given. Everyone today knows that a breastfed baby is generally healthier and develops physically, mentally, and emotionally into a stronger child.
God gave women breasts to feed their children. Men do not have them. I remember someone trying to lecture me into getting up at night to help my wife when my second child was born. Granted, there are circumstances where my wife needed help, but we both soon figured out that there wasn’t much I could do but make my wife nervous by my awkwardly being there in a domain I had nothing to contribute to. I have no breasts. I don’t have the milk my child needs. My wife does.
There was once a people, mythical most likely, but representative at least of some fear of man or some proclivity of some women, called the Amazons. Amazon in the Greek literally means “without a breast.” The Amazons were a nation of only women warriors. They were called amazons because they cut off their right breasts so as more skillfully to draw their bows and shoot arrows. It was a mastectomy for the sake of military prowess.
Why did the Greeks invent a people entirely made of women (and this is not the only case where they did so) who were warriors? The answer to this might be found at least partially in what kind of people the women were. They were a people without men, and this made them manlier. They had to remove a breast in order better to imitate the men they had shunned from their company.
It would seem that a people composed only of women would accentuate their femininity and shun all things manly, since they all willfully shunned men. But this was not so. This nation of only women was composed of women more masculine than all the other women around them, and if more masculine, then certainly less feminine – witness the mastectomy.
The Greeks imagined women creating a female-warrior nation because they knew that women did not like men ruling over them. They tried to shirk off the curse in Eden. (Gen. 3:16) There is some concession in this myth to the fact that men are not always the best rulers of women. But in this concession is also an assertion that when women throw off the rule of men, they become less feminine, less of women.
Whenever women try to avoid the curse of Eden – pain in childbirth, men ruling over them (Gen.3:16) – they become less of women. They lose a part of what it means to be a woman. In the case of the Amazons, this part was a physical piece of them that represented their most honorable duty that men prized, namely, nurturing children.
But there is another sex God created. The curse laid on man is that he must work in order to eat (Genesis 3:17-19; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). Just as when woman runs away from the duty of motherhood and subservience to man, she becomes less womanly, so also when man runs away from the duty of labor for his family (1 Timothy 5:8), he becomes less of a man. This happens when he is not spending his labor for his wife and children (or for the poor, which charity is imitation of the duty of a man to provide for his own), but for his own leisure. This is the sin of Sodom that Ezekiel speaks of (Ez. 16:49), “Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” Note here that Sodom is called a woman (sister), and yet it was the men who wanted to do what is unnatural to the angels at Lot’s house (Genesis 19:4-5). This is because the act the Sodomites were accustomed to perpetrate is “leaving behind the natural use of a woman.” (Romans 1:27) When the men leave behind the natural use of a woman, they lose their manliness.
We are living in Sodom. It is an age where men use women not to honor them and their children with their labor, but to use the former for their pleasure and to discard or avoid the latter for the sake of leisure (idleness). They avoid their duty to “strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.”
Who are the breastless ones? We must look first to the men, who have abandoned the breasts they need to nourish children, and have exalted their labor as more valuable than woman’s honor. A man’s labor cannot give a child what he needs without the woman nurturing the child. It is pride, hubris, and love of idleness that ignores the natural use of a woman (not merely the carnal act, but the nourishment of children) and exalts his labor as that which should be emulated by women, all so that the weaker sex can follow their example and attain to the same transitory pleasure, happiness, and “freedom” that must finally result in the degradation of the most basic functions of man and woman – this degradation is sodomy. (Romans 1:24-27)
The recent debate about the conscription of women has had many Christians clamoring for a specific Bible passage that forbids women from serving in combat or from being drafted or from being in the military at all. We live in a Sodom where most men desire women for pleasure or as partners in leisure rather than to be the mothers of their children and helpmeets. (Genesis 1:28; Genesis 2:18) We must walk circumspectly, soberly in this place of our sojourning, since we hear from our culture the words which the men of Sodom reviled Lot with, “[H]e keeps acting as a judge!” (Genesis 19:9)
But we should not be afraid. We should judge as Lot did, but with more wisdom than he showed. He saw the richness of the land of Sodom and barely escaped the snares that fall on those who desire to get rich. (Genesis 13:10-11; 1 Timothy 6:9) Let us put our hands to the plow without looking back at what we are leaving behind. Remember Lot’s wife. (Luke 9:62; Luke 17:32) We can gain this wisdom we need by seeing what God tells us about the general lives of men and women. God expects most women to be wives and mothers (Genesis 1:28; 2:24; 1 Timothy 2:15; Titus 2:4-5) and therefore most men to be husbands and fathers (Gen. 2:24; Psalm 127:3-5; Psalm 128). He expects faithfulness from men towards their wives (Proverbs 5:18-20). Marriage and children are not something that should be put off and avoided for the sake of “financial security.” Such a thing is foolish when we are tempted daily to sexual sin and so many young men and women are burning in lust. (1 Corinthians 7:9) Choosing money and leisure over marriage and children is saying money and leisure are greater blessings than what God assures us marriage and children are. (Genesis 1:28; Psalm 127:3-5; Prov. 18:22) And most of all, choosing money and leisure over wives and children is choosing to follow in the way of Sodom that Ezekiel describes in the 16th chapter of his book. It finally leads to what we see increasing around us everywhere – men who no longer desire and honor the breasts which nursed them or that nurse their children.
But we find this wisdom first and foremost in the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Luther sings of it beautifully,
He whom the world cannot enclose
In Mary’s bosom doth repose;
To be a little Child He deigns
Who all things by Himself sustains. (Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary 136)
He, who has more wealth and power and majesty than any man, comes in poverty to us. He, who created all and sustains all by his power, lies weak and humble, sustained by the milk of his creation’s breast. All the longings of men that make them less than men this little child comes to overcome with his longing for his Bride the Church. All the fears of women that make them less than women (1 Peter 3:6) this God draws into his own pure flesh to overcome it by providing for us everything we need, protecting us from every danger, yes, most especially from the worst danger – our sin.
A man does not fight for his wealth, but for his ability to take care of his family and the poor. A Sodomite fights for his wealth. A man does not fight for his leisure, but for his ability to work and take care of his own the poor. A Sodomite fights for his leisure and pleasure. (Genesis 14) A man does not send the vessels of life into war, but goes to war to defend the vessels of life. He fights to keep death from the life given him to protect and nourish and defend; because it is the purpose of his existence on earth to love this closest of his neighbors, yes, to lay down his life for her. (Eph. 5:25)
Jesus is the Man. He is the Second Adam who is flesh and blood as we are, but by his actions and his love and his innocent blood shows that he is more than a man we poor sinners expect a man to be. He is not a man who shuns the value of motherhood in favor of his own ambitions, and neither does his love for His Bride ever waver in any desperate circumstance. Listen to how he speaks of Zion, His Church for whom He died, in Isaiah 66:10-11,
“Rejoice with Jerusalem,
And be glad with her, all you who love her;
Rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her;
That you may feed and be satisfied
With the consolation of her bosom,
That you may drink deeply and be delighted
With the abundance of her glory.”
There is no mother on earth that compares with the Church, our mother (Galatians 4:26), as there is no husband or father on earth who compares with our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:22-33; Isaiah 9:6; 53:10) In the Church we are nursed as babies (1 Peter 2:2), and we receive protection and sustenance from our Lord Jesus. It is precisely in our own weakness and dependence on Christ for everything in the Church that we understand St. Peter very well when he calls our wives “the weaker vessel.” (1 Peter 3:7) We should well with them, understanding they are the weaker vessel, and ignoring the world’s rather absurd lie that they are just as strong as men. Such a view of women leads men to a false view of their own weakness before God. It is not love for women. It is pride of man.
Look beyond the “what about this and that” questions that come from a worry about our livelihood or dreams about careers and success and money and the happiness the world promises. Look also beyond the exception of those who are celibate their whole lives long, something that can only happen without sin by a special gift from God. (Gen. 1:28; Matthew 19:11-12) Look instead to what governs all of society, all government, all human behavior for our good. Look to the example Christ gave, and which informs all of our love for each other on earth. Look to marriage, the fourth and sixth commandments, and find more love and blessing for your neighbor and for you you than in any vocation the world can invent. There you will find the breasts that nourish, and the men who remain men as long as they honor them, and the women who remain women when the men don’t encourage them to take up the bow that cannot be drawn without cutting of a precious and life-giving breast.