This entry is about a current debate in the U.S. about banning infant male circumcision. The proposal states that the child would have to give consent. From the proponents, it is a human rights issue. From the opposition, it is a religious freedom issue.
At our bible study yesterday, we were studying the second chapter of Romans. Paul (who was a Jew, a Pharisee) writes that circumcision of Gentiles is not necessary.
Brief history of Jewish circumcision (from Genesis) The circumcision of male children was God's mark upon the flesh that showed man was in a covenant relationship with God - set apart.
Paul talks in Romans about those who mistakenly count on that to meet their salvation. The man who breaks God's law in his heart has broken that covenant. He speaks of a "circumcision of the heart." (Also in the book of Jeremiah, so familiar to the Jewish people.)
To circumcise or not to circumcise. This was a serious debate in the history of the early Christian church. It continues to be a relevant debate today. These are valid questions that we ask of the religions that we practice:
Do we sacrifice humans?
Do we sacrifice animals?
Do we marry multiple partners?
Do we subjugate our women?
Do we practice slavery?
Do we practice female circumcision on our young girls?
Do we practice circumcision on our young boys?
Do we injest chemicals to invoke visions?
Now, I'm not here to tell you what YOUR answer should be. But I know where I stand. I cannot imagine infant circumcision going away because it is such an integral part of the Jewish faith and other faiths that trace back to Abraham. I understand that. I honestly do. My son is circumcised. Most American males are. It's a cultural preference, I guess. I was a young mom in the hospital, 20 years old. I had not even thought about this issue. Suddenly, I had to make the decision. I felt pressured. My folks said something about, "You have to. It's cleaner. He'll be different if you don't." My decision to do surgery on my son came down to a locker room factor. Nobody came in to discuss pros and cons with me. I had more counseling about breast-feeding than I did about an elective cosmetic surgery on my healthy infant.
I know some of you think it's a nothing surgery, but that's because we're so used to it. I wouldn't have his tonsils removed for something so trite. I have even read that because the foreskin is removed instead of covering and protecting, the sensitivity is somewhat reduced...its natural design has been altered. And I made that choice for him.
A friend tried to encourage me. "It just looks better. I wouldn't be with a guy who isn't circumcized. It looks weird." Really? The natural state of something looks weird, but the surgical enhancement looks normal? Where have I heard this before?
Cleanliness issues? 99% of the time, we're talking application of soap under the foreskin. Not really a surgery justifier. He was SO raw, so red. When he'd wet his diaper, it burned. It took days to cool off and heal. I would never make the same decision today. Mind you, that's MY opinion, not yours.
What if I were Jewish? Honestly, I don't know. Perhaps that would make a difference to me. Perhaps I would allow the child to wait and make up his own mind. In Europe (among the non-Jewish) this is a non-issue. Nobody would think twice about a man who is uncircumcized.
So, what about the possibility that the choice will be removed from the parents? I wonder...no more baby girl ear-piercing either? I have to say, I'm ok with the protection of the person upon whom the cutting and transformation of flesh will take place. I want religious freedom, too...but not ALL religious freedoms are great and we all know that. We're ok with our own, but no so good with those we think of as "uncivilized." I wonder when we become the uncivilized, but for our own inability to look a little more closely.
Two links for you to check out...different points of view.
I remember having this conversation with my sister. She had a natural home birth and did not pursue circumcision. About a month after he was born, they began considering it. Her husband felt he should be because as you said, most boys are, it's the norm, it's "cleaner" etc.
She did some research and looked up some videos. For the most part with new infants, they may not be able to fully numb the area before proceeding with the operation. Infants are not "put under" as another safety precaution...
Now I know the pain may be minimal, but we watch a video of a circumcision being performed on an infant in a sterile hospital room and the sound of that child screaming tore a hole in my gut.
I'm not a mother but even MY instinctual need to help the baby came roaring over me. I immediately was sweaty, anxious, and angry. I wasn't angry at the surgeons, I was just angry at the hurt being done to an infant and I wanted to protect him.
My sister watched that video and elected to not have Malachi circumcised. I fully support her. This is an operation that can be done later in life if men CHOOSE to do it on their own.
I've often wondered about the fairness of this. For the most part, Americans regard male circumcision as "the norm" but female circumcision is either ignored or regarded as horribly abusive. Both are genital mutilation. No matter how you want to word it differently.
We could probably apply the excuses for circumcision to other things and people would see how ridiculous it is.
Children could face having their teeth repeatedly ripped out and replaced with dentures or implants. It's easier to clean, they won't get made fun of for having braces or crooked teeth.
"I will make you exceedingly fertile, and make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you. . . . I assign the land you sojourn in to you and your offspring to come, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting holding. I will be their G-d. . . . Such shall be the covenant between Me and you and your offspring to follow which you shall keep: every male among you shall be circumcised."(Genesis 17:6,8,10)
We chip away at the bible much to much till what? Till we have nothing.
There was a time we followed because we believed. We had faith.
Times change and moral issues move the goal-posts to suit this one or that!
If we were to question the basic ten commandments I'm sure we could find a moral ground to ignore or turn a blind eye to them .... just to suit.
To take a man's life is murder yet we still have areas of the world that condone this for whatever reason.
You pull a thread and where will it stop?!!
I recognize the faith-based reasoning, Bloodlife, and it is distinct from the other arguments in favor of circumcision. I care about being obedient to God, so I would struggle with that decision. I think, though, I might have to wait and allow my child to choose for himself. I know 8th day is the right day, but there are already Mohel-approved reasons to postpone a bris. If I made the wrong decision, it would not be the child's fault. It would rest with me.
The Christian faith does not require circumcision, so my decision is easier than those who have to consider that. My point in raising it, though, is that we HAVE moved away from many religious practices, but this one has remained.
I'm upset that new parents get little to no education about the procedure. It is damn near expected that you WILL choose the procedure. I'm sure hospitals make money off it, too.
I had a nurse in every day to talk with me about breastfeeding. That choice is considered "natural" and "healthy." Well, what about a knife to the genitals? I got more information about breast pumps and stretch marks. Don't you find that strange?
If I may say, I view it in the same way as little tiny girls that have had their ears pierced days after birth. In essence, it's not the child's choice. I rather view it as a violation of the child's rights.
"They don't remember the pain" is something I've found to be commonly said and yet they will feel it, for something they had no choice over.
If humans were meant to have no... uh, extra skin, we'd have evolved without it. I honestly don't think it'd be worth it, and I'd slap anyone who'd suggest it about my own child. :/
Morri, I think your sister is an inspiration.
Lullaby, I think you have a point. if we pierce our children, should parents be able to have a cute tattoo added, too? What about having chips implanted? Is it ok if it's for safety?
Bloodlife... I have to be honest and say: If not wanting to mutilate an infant's genitals is chipping away at faith to the point of making it meaningless, I'm okay with that.
When people focus so much on tradition and what was translated by man and less on the messages of goodwill and faith I think we've lost track of what's important.
What is changing is not how people feel about these issues so much as it is people not being persecuted and banished for expressing their opinions.
I don't care much for a god who spends so much time focusing on who has extra skin on their penis and if such a god does exist, I certainly do not have faith in "him".
I like George Carlin's view of the Ten Commandments. He thought they were a good idea for the most part but they could be condensed into a few rules and left at that:
Don't be an asshole.
Don't steal things that aren't yours.
Don't kill people.
If anyone wants to stick strictly to tradition and ignore evolution of society and the mind then that's fine... They should in that sense at the very least:
Do away with medicine, indoor plumbing, vehicles, household technology and electricity.
Not be women as women are property and shouldn't be speaking for themselves anyway, just shut your mouth and go about your duties.
And for the love of god (no joke intended) do not keep pets. They don't have souls.
P.S. And no more Vampire Rave :(
Morrigon... I understand that times change but here’s the thing about my view … I am Jewish and I had no choice when I was clipped. I don’t blame or hold my parents culpable for their actions as although I am not religious I do have a strong traditional belief. Each generation of Jews that come along will have even less of a traditional view than me. But religiously, not much changes just the interpretation.
Keeping track of what is important will always remain an opinion of an individual. What is important to one is less important to another.
I think it’s great that we have come this far that the subject can be talked about without fear of reprisals or backlash but I honestly feel it’s different for a Jew.
This is just one subject of many and what mustn’t happen here is to take the whole ideal out of context and to think that it’s about a god that focuses his time on extra foreskin!
A religion like Judaism has and is still adjusting to how the world is evolving albeit very slowly. The norms and values of today were yesterday’s dreams but they are here.
With time much more will change and there will still be debates about pissing into the wind!
Bloodlife, I can't help but point it out and make the more literal comparison. All I have done is taken your quote and made it less poetic.
"I'll make it so you have lots of babies. All of this land belongs to you. Future generations will hold me as god and everyone will cut off pieces of their penis."
Can we at LEAST admit that it's a little odd for a god to list out such a magnificent promise of prosperity and end it with what people should do with their genitals?
Personally, I do not think people should move to attempt to make this practice illegal. They are trying to protect people by banning something and that has been proven to never work. At most we risk good doctors being arrested for carrying out the procedure or the procedure being performed in an environment that is not sterile or safe (by relative at home etc).
What I think SHOULD happen is that hospitals be legally required to present parents with unbiased information about circumcision so that they may be just as educated about an elective surgical procedure as they are about stretch marks and breast feeding. People should be educated, not banned from a path deemed wrong by others.
Morrigon, it’s occurred to me that I am sitting on a religious fence.
It’s easy for me to say that the ceremony did me no harm. I remember nothing and as I’ve already stated I had no choice in what did happen with me.
For someone to have this operation outside of a religion that demands it I will indeed concede that it is more than a little odd to even consider it.
I honestly didn’t realize this practise was the norm in America, it’s something I really never thought about, and it should be a matter of choice at the very least.
That said I was wrong to make this a religious issue and just like all operations that are or are not necessary then people do need to have the full facts and need to make a more informed choice.
This has been an incredibly interesting discussion. Thank you to all who participated, and those who read it and thought about it. Intelligent discourse is precious.