Chisels and Chestfeeding

Whatever we may think about an idol, foolish as it may be, we must not be in doubt about the infatuation that these chunks of metal and blocks of wood inspire in their worshipers. idols are precious to idolaters. What is more, idolaters are often witnesses for their idols, even though their witness proves their folly. In fact, idolatry is the epitome of sin lacking sense. We see that in the Scriptures. Just think about the description in Isaiah 44:12-17. The prophet tells us that a man plants a tree, he prunes it, cares for it and when it is tall enough, he cuts it down and cuts it in half. With one half he builds a fire. He cooks his food and warms himself with it. And he says, “Ah, I am warm; all is well!”

But with the other half of the log, he takes a chisel and shapes it. He measures it and uses a chalk like to make sure the lines are straight. He labors long like this even going without food and water using his strength to craft the wood and in the end the piece of wood looks like an image. The man sets up the image and then does the oddest thing, he bows down to the wood in worship and even prays to it saying, “Deliver me, for you are my god!

Now, anyone who hears that story from Isaiah is going to laugh because it sounds so utterly foolish.  In fact, people are wont to disparage the ancients for being primitive, underdeveloped, and lacking in understanding. But let’s wait just a minute. What if we were to ask one of those ancients about this story.  What might they say?

Well, we might be surprised at the sophistication of their answer. Take Psalm 135 as an example. There, in verses 16 and 17, the Psalmist explains the psychology of idolatry. He writes that idols have “mouths but cannot talk…eyes but cannot see…ears but cannot hear…noses but cannot smell, throats but cannot make a sound.” All very obvious observations. But notice verse 18, “Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them.” What’s the point? Simply this, idolaters make their idols in their own image. The idolater has no instincts for God. He has no eyes with which to see him, no ears with which to hear him, and no mouth that he might praise him. Idolatry illustrates ignorance. Certainly, that is an answer steeped in reflection.

Now, what’s my point in bringing this to your notice? Well, recently, I had my attention drawn to the CDC website and this particular question on one of their pages, “Can transgender parents who have had breast surgery breastfeed or chestfeed their infants?” Yes. That was their answer. What is more, following the answer there was a link to a document explaining all about how a transgendered person might engage in breastfeeding or chestfeeding.[1]  There you can read about latch problems (and they’re not talking about knitting!), co-breastfeeding/chestfeeding, donor milk, lactation issues and the gender dysphoria because of lactation care and much more. Sigh.

Frankly, the article was exceedingly sad for a variety of reasons.  For instance, more space was given to defining LGBTQ+ terms and the dangers of misgendering than to ensuring the health and safety of the child. Notice that medical staff is to “Ensure that people are addressed by their affirmed names and pronouns.” However, patients are only to “Consider testing for transmissible infections when introducing lactation or a non-gestational parent desires to give their milk.” The disparity is obvious. We don’t want to hurt the feelings a transgendered person by calling them the wrong pronoun but giving milk to a child from an infected donor is no big deal. Have we really fallen that far as a culture?

We often call the ancients primitive but consider; what is the difference between an ancient man calling a piece of wood a god and a modern man calling a biological man a woman? They are both a fabrication. The ancient may have been able to work out a pulley system to move the arms or head of his wooden idol but how different is that from injecting a hormone into a male breast so that it will lactate? Both are a fiction. Both are manipulations of reality.  

It's at this point that an ancient man like Isaiah or the Psalmist can alert us to an important warning. If the wooden idol was a lesson in the idolater’s spiritual ignorance, then what does the transgender craze teach us today? Well, think about the way Psalm 135 frames the lesson in verse 18, “Those who make them become like them.” The Psalmist contends that the idolater takes on the attributes of the idol.  However, the person who espouses the religion of transgenderism does not assume the role of idolater, but rather the idol itself. The claim is nothing less than deity. They claim the status of creator. The man can become a woman.

But there is something else. I said in the beginning that an idolater is a witness for his idol.  However, those engaged in the transgender movement have declared themselves to be sovereign over the rest of us. They demand that the rest of us treat falsehood as truth.  We must bow down and worship them, ascribing to them their pronouns no matter how ridiculous.  What is more, they are enlisting the force of the government. So, what is to be done.

The answer is as simple as it is obvious. We are to live by truth and as Solzhenitsyn said, not by lies. Though simple, this will be difficult. This will mean speaking the truth in love. Solzhenitsyn wrote, “Our way must be: Never knowingly support lies! Having understood where the lies begin (and many see this line differently)—step back from that gangrenous edge!”[2] An obvious example is the use of pronouns. What could be a simpler example of participation in a lie?

But what of those who say, no? What of those who fear the loss of job, placement at one of the better schools, the abandonment of peers, or the government’s retaliation? Solzhenitsyn has another word, “And as for him who lacks the courage to defend even his own soul: Let him not brag of his progressive views, boast of his status as an academician or a recognized artist, a distinguished citizen or general. Let him say to himself plainly: I am cattle, I am a coward, I seek only warmth and to eat my fill.”

Jeffrey A Stivason (Ph.D. Westminster Theological Seminary) is pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA.  He is also Professor of New Testament Studies at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA.