14th of August, 2013
Circumcision is an interesting thing, in that for some people it is the most-normal operation—so normal that they presume it requires no consent from the person it affects so permanently and so personally—while for others it is exactly where the line is drawn. That such a small thing is so important to both secular and religious traditions should hint to you that it is not just another operation. To treat it with simple dismissal is to fail to understand it at all (and, ironically, this is most-common among those who are in favour of the irreversible operation). Whatever side one comes down on in this debate, it has to be a fanatically-held position—otherwise it has not been understood at all in the first place.
I personally have two groups of reasons for being fanatically opposed to circumcision. The first set is generally what one can call “spiritual” reasons, and the other is “scientific” reasons. It is noteworthy that, in all of human history, the only sound reasons that can be given in favour of circumcision are spiritual, since the science is firmly opposed to it. —And the strongest arguments I have against it are spiritual. But let’s take it step-by-step.
The New Testament has, what, four whole chapters dedicated to arguing against circumcision—and this is by people who themselves were circumcised. The letter Paul wrote to the Galatians was basically about this one issue. Its importance can be seen from the fact that Paul uses “circumcision” in Galatians and Ephesians as a short-hand for Judaism. And then the classic: “Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.”
For some, these four sentences can be separated; for me, they might as well be one sentence. You would know by now that I am a fan of long sentences. That phrase “rejoice in the Lord”, in the original Greek, is my family’s motto. χαιρετε εν κυριο. The reason I like it is because it is impossible to unpack the “rejoice” there without admitting that it refers explicitly to rejoicing in Grace. —It shares a root with the word for Grace in the Greek. So if those sentences are linked, for me, then I have the absence of the mutilation forever as a sign that I have known about the two covenants, and yet I have opted for the covenant of Grace. This is the first reason why, for me, it is important that I never be circumcised, and certainly that I never subject a child of mine to any mutilation. We are spirit-people. I take this position so seriously, by the way, that I stop just short of counseling against associating with the circumcised/those who circumcise. There never was a better way to tell apart those who had rejected the yoke of the Law and opted for the Grace; why should we lose so deep and apostolic a sign? Heaven forfend! Therefore I keep this anti-circumcision law, so to speak, not as a requirement of the Law—for the Law requires the opposite—but as a personal law that is a living testimony to my rejection of the heavy yoke. (I really enjoy all these precepts that I have worked out for myself, and this one is even more-special because it is rare that I work out a negative precept—thou shalt not—rather than a positive one—as in, thou shalt. When I work out a negative one, it keeps me perpetually on guard, “watching out”, but it is always—to quote Paul—“a safeguard for you” to keep rejoicing in the Lord, since it is built on Grace, rather than a running threat of condemnation.)
Another difficulty with circumcision, for me who is obsessed unto madness with the Grace of God, is that for one who has got the circumcision, the smooth segue from Ephesians 2 to the obsessively-beautiful Ephesians 3 is significantly damaged when being read by a Gentile who is circumcised.
Ephesians 2 speaks of how we are saved—by Grace—and emphasises that along with that, God prepared good works that we would accomplish as we walk in Jesus Christ. In this same breath, Paul goes on to emphasise that uncircumcision was a sign of having been called entirely apart from the works of the Law. In this chapter, seemingly without any prompting whatsoever, he interjects again and again that is “by Grace you are saved.” Then he goes on to emphasise that believers are circumcised, but not a circumcision in the body that is done with human hands. Essentially, the absence of physical circumcision is important. —As important a symbol as the circumcision itself was under the old covenant. (It is just a symbol, of course, such that the circumcised can be under the new covenant. But symbols are important, and an attack on them is never a mere accident.) How could one who is a Christian—how could one who believes what I believe—so lightly take on so useless an operation that has so deep and significant a symbolism, even if it be merely a symbolism? If only to preserve the weight of Ephesians for me and my children, I would take a fanatical stand against circumcision for well-nigh any reason. Indeed, I think I can only excuse circumcision insofar as it takes away the entire set of penis and balls. Really.
Now the scientific. One would expect that there is at least some scientific merit to the most-common operation in the World. Zilch. Not only that, it causes painful scar tissue, a shortening of the penis, the exposure of an internal organ, the risk of death, and the extremely common result of life-long regret.
The claim of the benefits to be got from circumcision has often changed, from preventing masturbation (which it does), to preventing madness (which it does not), to preventing the spread of venereal disease (which it does not). It is quite hypocritical that all these ancient reasons are quickly forgotten and new ones minted as fast as lying lips can come up with them, and nobody ever questions the new ones; people just line up to get past the latest scare.
So in Uganda, for example, the circumcision spirit has taken firm hold of the urbanites, and the services have been rolled out into the villages where no other service exists. In Kenya, they are paying people to get circumcisions, not to get them a meal or to get them out of prison.
So why has this most-important body part been turned into a trade token? You would expect that the many people who wave degrees and credentials would know, before they go under the knife. (Precisely because they seem to be entranced, I have trouble dissociating circumcision from the spiritual situation in which we find ourselves.) Not one of these people, who we presumed to be educated, ever ran a single Google search on the issue. —For if they had, they would have seen how devastating and detrimental this irreversible decision is.
So now we brace ourselves for a sweeping change in sexual behaviour. For when a man is circumcised today, it is not as it was in the days of Abraham. Au contraire, today they do not cut the foreskin. —For “foreskin” means the skin before the glans, and this is what the traditions and technologies of the ancients permitted them to cut off. (It is also where the Judaic custom of sucking blood from the wound came from—originally, it was not a gaping wound, but a rather small excision.) Today, they cut the skin before the glans, and the skin on the glans—exposing an internal organ to callousing and desensitisation—and they also cut off the skin behind the glans, taking away anything from 30% to 80% of the sensation that makes a penis worthwhile. I will join Paul, as I develop the theme of the entranced victim, and ask: who has bewitched you?
Why did these people, who we wrongly presumed to be wise, never ask why money was being spent to distribute an unnecessary operation?
When the sensation is taken away from the penis, male sexuality becomes a lot more like female sexuality. I would venture to say that we will see an uptick in homosexual behaviour in the coming years, but it need not be that controversial. Just consider that anything from 60% to 80% of America is circumcised. (The men, that is; it is illegal to do it on the women, and reasonably-so. Men are not so lucky.) If you consider the sexual behaviour of the American culture, you see where I am going with this.
The pornography that America demands is first of all violent, because when the penis has little sensation, you have to use the mind for the sexual experience. This may be true and fitting for women, but there is a reason men were not created like this: because testosterone mixed with mind-sex tends to result more in domination, violence, and divergence than in the kind of thing women express, due to their lower testosterone. So we will end up with more men tending towards wilder and wilder sexual fantasies, and we will be undone. Then because of this, there will be an uptick in things like anal sex and oral sex, which serve the same purposes of heightening the stimulation of the few nerve cells left, as well as giving in the mind what can no longer be given in the penis.
So we may actually have witnessed the eventual triumph of sexual divergence, after it had failed several times. On the plus side, I predict that so many men will be so distressed by having been circumcised—willingly or not—that they will find so much solace in the extremist dismissal of the flesh that is found in the Gospel of Grace.
Recently, a spirit was let loose upon some parts of the World that had refused to acquiesce to circumcision. And today, it is a most-common operation even in places like Uganda, where the victory of Christianity over Islam was predicated on this extremely delicate issue. I don’t understand how it can be that, after we spent so much effort trying to make people capable of thinking before they undergo such an operation, they simply abandoned all reason and underwent it anyway. It would appear that in fact such things are a good sign for whether someone bothers to think at all. Many of the people being circumcised are Christians, so clearly either they have no control over their hearts, or they haven’t the first clue what their faith counsels. Of course, “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision availeth anything,” which, for a Christian, is no reason to get circumcised—it is a reason to question circumcision.
I am terrified by the obvious lack of guidance that those people of the mutilation have shown, and that is why I stop just short of not wanting to associate with them. (The crazy thing is that they are the chief dispensers of advice.) God has pre-empted my rejection of the circumcised by making it so that some of my favourite people in the World are circumcised—brothers, friends, Jews—who I would not like to see excluded from fellowship. Nevertheless, I can’t help seeing them as somehow irreversibly damaged, and so I can never honestly and truly identify with them spiritually. David used to base on “circumcision” as the sign of those who had a covenant with God—as can be seen from his question regarding Goliath. I, of the new covenant, should base on the circumcision of the heart that the Gospel talks of. But how to know it, except as the absence of the physical circumcision? It is a very clear way to tell the legalists (whatever their law) from us, children of Grace.