The Dongola Times

(Anachronistic) Dispatches from the Kingdom of Makuria.
27th of August, 2013

On Circumcision, and the Increasing Irrelevance of Religion and Education

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.

Of late, I have been pained day and night by the frequent and unthinking resort to circumcision that is taking over many parts of Africa. It is well-funded, well-organised, and quite prestigious.
The lie was originally that circumcised men were not going to catch HIV easily. Nobody mentioned that we already had a strategy by which men were not going to catch HIV at all. One very reproduced advert had the gall to present circumcision as something the women wanted for their husbands, because then they would not give them disease. Essentially, circumcision then became a permission from the wives for men to cheat on their wives, since it was now safer.

The irrationalities abounded. Extremely flawed studies were done in countries where most men were not circumcised, with the goal being to establish that not being circumcised was a risk factor in acquiring HIV. Then the false results were published, and circumcision drives began. Uganda was one of the countries singled out as an example where HIV was rising again because the government had chosen to emphasise abstinence as a preventative measure. This is very important to note, because it is both false and indicative of the general dishonesty of the campaign.

Uganda happens to be the only HIV/AIDS success story in the World. Yet they sought to educate this country on how to do better what it does best. (I told you, the workers of iniquity always give advice. —See the first verse of the first psalm.)
For what is is worth, the rates of new HIV infections in Uganda have fallen consistently for over twenty years, and they are still falling. When they publish the rates of HIV infection, they do not point out that the population of Uganda has grown far more than the rate of new infections; as a result, the rate of infections may be expected to rise with the population, but it has been seen to lag far behind the rate of population growth. So Uganda did not need help, and yet it was eagerly given.

So because circumcised men feel themselves safer, the phenomenon of risk compensation is going to cause an all-out explosion of STDs in Uganda. But that is not the worst problem on hand.
The Internet is full of stories by men who got circumcised as adults. This is important, because they are the only reliable way to make a qualitative comparison of the experience before and after circumcision. They routinely complain about the desensitisation and scarring of their penises. Those who were circumcised as babies do not even know what is wrong with them. Recently, research done in Israel revealed that pain on erection was a common occurrence in circumcised men. This makes sense, since scar tissue doesn’t stretch, and penis skin is supposed to be particularly stretchy. Of all the mistakes that a man can make, is there one more-serious than this?

Currently, circumcision is not an effective treatment for any disease. It is not an effective preventative for any disease. It is not recommended by any medical body in the World.
The women who support it for their husbands are acting out of fear, and we know what fruits one reaps from that tree. Do not refashion your body out of fear. Instead, see to it that your fears are humbled. And the men, out of the need to perhaps be safer when they fuck the town, have also welcomed the confessed inconvenience of circumcision. We know the fruits one reaps from that tree. Even in that case, they have treated with suspicion something that they willingly take part in, demonstrating that they are aware that they do it at the risk of getting ill. Do not refashion your body to make up for having a conscience. Instead, see to it that you do not act against your conscience.

So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written:
“God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear, to this very day.”

A truly remarkable thing is that none of the educated people among us have actually looked deep into this matter. Not because they are stupid or uneducated, but because they were blinded to it. Not one went and did a quick Google search on the necessity or effects of circumcision. Au contraire, their clever and educated minds were dulled for this very purpose, that they may mark themselves out as those who belong to the party of “those dogs, those evil-doers, those mutilators of the flesh.”
And for those of us who neither circumcised nor were circumcised, it is not because we are clever and very educated, but rather because the call of God is weird in that way that makes monergist Calvinists look like compromisers.

So all the necessary data were there from the start—well-funded campaigns for circumcision, massive payments to the doctors for each circumcision, a vast network of “circumcision brokers”, the absence of a firm justification for it, a failure to examine far better ways to achieve what circumcision was trying to achieve, numerous campaigns by circumcised people against circumcision, and a very accessible body of testimony one Google search away—but those who were best-placed to find it and use it were blinded to it. Now it will be telling that even after the fact, none of those educated people will be able to establish the why of these circumcision drives. And this is to say nothing of the fact that, once circumcised, they become biased for circumcision, making correction of their thinking (“repentance”) even more-remote. Whatever it is that circumcision implies now, it is very important—I would say it is a matter of life and death—and that to be spared it is to have experience Grace. —Not because we are vigilant and clever, but because of Grace. “And if by Grace, then it cannot be based on works.”

Mass circumcision has achieved one important thing: it has exposed Christianity as a cultural club, rather than a community made up of people who believe in the New Testament. After all, the New Testament has more in it against circumcision than it does in favour of Sunday worship, tithing, baptism, and monogamy put together. The epistle to the Galatians says, for instance, that to be circumcised—as in, Judaised—is to deny that Christ was crucified, is to fall from Grace, and that then “Christ profits you nothing.” Now, in that context “circumcise” means “to Judaise.” And Paul further says “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything.” Granted. Then why would Christians circumcise? They would have to have a good reason, since they are neither Judaising nor gaining anything. And that is exactly why circumcision is an important sign: it is the part of the Law that is completely unnecessary and also most-firmly rejected by the New Testament. There may be some benefit in avoiding “unclean animals,” for instance, or in observing any of the many other things in the Law, just for the non-legalistic benefits therein. But circumcision is one with no benefits whatsoever, according to the New Testament, and according to medical research, and it is also one thing that is explicitly a bad thing in the New Testament and in the testimony of those who got circumcised as adults. On this issue, an education is supposed to deter, while the New Testament pretty much establishes non-circumcision as the new circumcision (a thing that is particularly emphasised in Ephesians). So, given these facts which contribute to its importance as symbolism in the debate between Law and Grace, why would any Christian be circumcised, if indeed he was living out his faith? To be circumcised is to not belong to my side—whether or not one belongs to another side (Islam, Judaism, Christianity). Here we stand, looking at the one thing I have that tells my little ecclesia apart from all other religions that do not believe in the Gospel—including Christianity.

If the Muslims had just one verse in their scriptures forbidding circumcision, they would never do it. Christians have entire books forbidding circumcision, and they still do it. In Uganda, for instance, Islam and Christianity arrived at roughly the same time. But Islam hit a wall because it required circumcision among a people who detested body cuttings. Ironically, the Quran has nothing in it commanding circumcision, but it is Islamic culture, so they do it and they insisted on it. The New Testament opposes circumcision, and yet at length the Christians have started doing it.

Christians cannot stand to transgress a lot of their rituals, yet on the one ritual that the New Testament dwells on incessantly—and one that looked unlikely to become so widespread—has become normal among them. So indeed we see that Christianity as a culture has none of the fervent concerns that marked the New Testament believers. Whatever the reasons for this, valid or not, excusable or not, they serve to clearly demonstrate that you could find yourself standing athwart Christian culture while trying to live by the reasons, conclusions, and beliefs of the New Testament.
The massive rise of circumcision in America was couched in legalistic concern over masturbation; it was fronted in particular by Seventh Day Adventists, who are known for their firm rejection of the law of liberty. It is in this spirit—neo-legalism—that the mutilation spread among the Christians. It is evident that the Christians have no working response to such legalistic nonsense, as evidenced by the fact that they have fallen for circumcision almost as much as they cannot offer back an answer to SDA apologetics. Those who didn’t get set apart for righteousness by faith, apart from works of the Law—by Grace, though faith—have been given over to their desires, even to the mutilation of their flesh.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

So we find that education did not help the educated. Religion did not help the religious. But faith helped the elect to avoid this scourge, which may just be beginning. Suddenly Ephesians seems like it was written for this week in particular. I would never have guessed that, all to suddenly, the difference between “church” and “ecclesia” would become so important to me, but that is exactly what has happened.
Christianity—and religion in general—has proved to be a hollow and faithless club. Education has proved to be useless for uncovering the subtle things. Only faith has been of any use.