Of Circumcision, weasels and Evangelicals but not abortion

There was an article about circumcision in the National Post. Apparently something called Foreskin Pride is protesting outside of a clinic that does circumcisions. “We’re not an anti-circumcision movement,” said Glen Callender, founder of the Canadian Foreskin Awareness Project. “What we’re against is circumcision being forced on people without their consent.” I’ll leave it to someone else to relate this abortion. I’ll just mention that nine days earlier it would have been legal in Canada to suck the baby’s brains out without his or her consent.

If you require weasel words to prove your point, maybe you are wrong and you owe it to yourself to examine the issue more carefully.

The article quotes a paper by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia as saying there is “insufficient evidence that [the] benefits outweigh the potential risks,” Why do they say potential risks and not just risks? Risks are already potential. Once they become realized they are accidents and such. It is a way of broadening the meaning of the word risk. What is the risk of infection caused by circumcision? Well it must have always been low or else circumcision would have impacted infant mortality and in this day and age of disinfectants and antibiotics the risk must be vanishingly low. But there is still the POTENTIAL risk. Similarly there is always the potential risk that person performing the procedure will foul it up. I have read of a case where this happened. But again, anytime you do anything there is the risk that a person who is supposed to competent is not but we don’t stop doing all those things. We don’t even stop our children from doing all those things. The word insufficient is a modifier that works on the other side of the equation. They don’t say there is no evidence because they know that there is evidence.

A particularly egregious weasel word is ‘female circumcision’. There is no such thing. This was a term often used in the newspapers until a few years ago then I think the message of how bias it was got through and then, I think, style guides changed and journalists stopped using the term. They started using ‘female genital mutilation’. To use female circumcision in an article about male circumcision is so bias and misleading as to be tantamount to lying. There is nothing analogous between a clitorectomy and a foreskin-ectomy. People who use the term female circumcision always do it as a way to slag circumcision and by extension the God who proscribed it.

Speaking of God, Why did YHWH ask Abraham to be circumcised only 2000 years after making Adam with a foreskin?

This is a question that makes me think that we evangelicals have missed something. My experience with evangelicalism is that we believe that our bodies are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ and that most of the Mosaic Law was about good health. When it comes to circumcision we also go with the health angle. There have been many studies the show that Jewish women have lower incidents of cervical cancer than non-Jewish women. The presumed reason was the circumcised status of their husbands and I think it was these studies that encouraged the practice among Christian populations. Just for your interest, further studies showed that Jews still had lower rates of cervical cancer when compared to other circumcised populations. Either there is an as yet unknown sexual practice that impedes cervical cancer or else Jews have a genetic resistance. The group of women with the lowest rates of cervical cancer are nuns so coitus seems to have something to do with it. What of circumcision itself, the jury is still out but what if it comes back with a neutral or even a negative health benefit? Does that mean the law was wrong? Or did we miss something?

We Christians have great difficulty not being influenced by the spirit of our times.

I think that the defense of Mosaic law by evangelicals is in part an attempt to prove the Bible true in a rationalist time while catering to our society’s health obsession. The advantage of health rules is that they are one area of the Bible that can be proven by repeatable experiment, a.k.a. scientifically. My opinion is that even the health laws have deeper meanings for us. I think the Bible is about civilization. The laws are about civilization. Yes it is good to not eat pig (or undercooked wild game in general) because of trichinosis but is that why YHWH forbade the Jews to eat it? Maybe he wanted them to raise sheep because his son was going to be the lamb of God and pigs were just not the right image. Maybe he wanted them to not eat pig because it is too difficult to tell the difference between cooked pig and cooked human (thank you Christopher Hitchens for that one). The word maybe is very useful because it can turn all false statements into true statements — maybe.

Try this on for size, and I say this knowing that I too am influenced by the zeitgeist, and my genes and my up-bringing and the books I have read and the order that I have read them and so on. Even so try seeing everything in the Bible as moving us farther from our animal past and closer to having life and having it more abundantly. Now apply this to circumcision. Adam was not created with a foreskin, he inherited one from his hunter-gatherer past. Assume for the moment that the foreskin functions as the anti-circumcision crowd claim, it increases sexual pleasure at no or little hygienic cost. Then what was the purpose of YHWH giving circumcision as a symbol to Abraham. I don’t think it had to do with cervical cancer. I think it was YHWH’s way of saying‘if you want to follow me then you need to be civilized. You don’t need a foreskin to protect your glans penis anymore because you are supposed to wear clothes. Later I’m going to give a specific law about not having any gods before me but for now let us just say that you are not to pursue sexual pleasure like a bull in rut and by the way sex is actually better if you take longer. Since you are not an animal that has to get sex over with quickly spend some time kissing your wife and telling her that you love her. It will be better for you, better for her and better for civilization. If it turns out to be true that circumcision slows the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (remember I’m not really God I’m just Joel’s idea of what God might be thinking) then that is not really what I had in mind because I plan to cover that with another commandment and if it turns out to be true that lack of a foreskin is hygienic then that probably has to do with putting you in a dryish place where baths are hard to come-by but where the dry air preserves for a long time the substrates that I am going to have your descendents write my laws and such upon and by the way Joel is a great guy and you should like him very much’.

Well that’s what I think YHWH was thinking anyway.

This entry was posted in Bible Commentary, Evangelical Christianity Today, The Philosophy of the Bible and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Of Circumcision, weasels and Evangelicals but not abortion

  1. Jill says:

    Then why do Christians in other western countries rarely circumcise? It’s unthinkable to most evangelicals in the UK, Australia, Sweden, etc. See http://www.patheos.com/blogs/adrianwarnock/2008/12/should-christians-circumcise-their-sons/

    I see circumcision as a sacrifice that Jews were called to make as part of their covenant, and thankfully, the New Testament makes it clear that this is no longer necessary. Also, I used to have the same thinking about female circumcision, that it was horrible and always took place with blunt instruments in mud huts somewhere, destroying a woman’s genitals basically. While that does happen sometimes, in many places, it takes place in sterile hospital rooms, it’s done on baby girls with adequate anesthesia, removing only the clitoral hood (analogous to the male foreskin). Does that sound OK to us? If not, why does it seem OK for baby boys? I’ve changed my mind over the years, and I think the case against all circumcision is more compelling than any reasons given for it.

  2. Hi Jill
    Thanks for adding new information.

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