What shall I talk about today? Oh, yeah! How about penii and sharp tools?
I had a conversation yesterday with one of my friends (Hey, E!) about circumcision. As a subject very infrequently mentioned in my circles, it was a pleasure to have another’s viewpoint on the matter. I was surprised, however, at E’s strong feelings about circumcision, especially coming from someone who has considered conversion to orthodox Judaism, which is ALL FOR the bris- it’s actually a mandate in those circles.
The basic argument (which has apparently only become an argument in the US recently) is that the procedure of removing or cutting of some or all of the foreskin of a male baby is medically unnecessary. Though some studies have shown that there are medical benefits to the procedure (for those of us who live in Sub-Saharan Africa), they seem to be under scrutiny and fairly inconclusive. The other side of the argument would be religious, social, or as a matter of aesthetics.
So as a circumcised penis isn’t any more attractive to me than an uncircumcised one (let’s be honest, are any of them that awe-inspiring??), the only reasons to go ahead with a circumcision I can think of would be social or religious. So what are the social reasons- that people might look down on him because of the presence of foreskin? There was actually a guy I went to college with who had the fame of being “Un”. Whenever anyone mentioned him in anything more than passing, the comment would always surface- “well, you know he’s not circumcised, right?” As if it had anything to do with the kind of person he was or his contribution to the world in general. From Wikipedia I learn that only 30% of the males on this planet are circumcised, and that in places like England, where the practice isn’t covered by insurance, the incidence is less than one percent.
So… how about religious? As a practicing, protestant Christian I’m not bound by Jewish law- Romans, in fact, deals with this very issue, in the context of works versus faith. Paul says, “Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised…a man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code…for we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law…” (from Romans Ch. 2 and 3). Obviously he’s dealing with a very specific culture here- the growing, Jewish-founded church was telling people they had to be circumcised to be Christian, and he’s arguing that it’s not by observing the law that one is a Christian, but by faith in Christ.
Interestingly, one of my friend’s arguments was the religious one- but from a different angle: why would God give us these parts if we’re supposed to cut them off? True, but you may as well ask why we cut our hair or shave our legs. It goes back to the social and aesthetic reasons, which I’m not sure are completely justified, as I mentioned.
So I can’t say I’ve come to any conclusion about it, though I kind of feel like I should. I’m not one to follow the whole “it’s culturally accepted” argument, and it seems like a barbaric process (see the entry on Wikipedia), even with the presence of pain medication for the infant. Any ideas from those of you who have, unlike me, given this any serious thought??
Nothing like a discussion on penises to start your day…