Boldly Going Where No Man Likes To Think
Vol: 113 Issue: 24 Thursday, February 24, 2011
We recently covered as part of an overall roundup, the effort in San Francisco to ban male circumcision on anyone under the age of 18. Today we are going to boldly go where no man ever goes without cringing.
Circumcision is a central theme of Scripture in both the old and the New Testaments. It appears in Scripture more than 100 times. Forgive me if it is a little graphic, but if the Bible gives it that much attention, perhaps there is a reason.
Actually, there are many reasons, but before we get to that, let’s return to the San Francisco effort. Proponents of the measure argue that circumcision is male ‘genital mutilation’ that provides no discernible medical benefit.
San Francisco resident Lloyd Schofield said Thursday he is “on track” to have enough signatures to place his proposed measure on the November ballot that would make it illegal to “circumcise, excise, cut or mutilate the foreskin, testicle or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18.”
Schofield said he became the proponent of the local ballot measure after being asked to champion a local bill during a July symposium on circumcision held at the UC Berkeley. Schofield said he was approached by those affiliated with a group pushing for a federal bill to “end male genital mutilation in the U.S.,” according to its website, mgmbill.org.
He said he thought about it for two weeks and then decided to do it. “I always knew this was something wrong to do to a child,” he said.
“We say: ‘Would you like to help protect the children from forced circumcision? This is a human-rights issue,’” Schofield said.
According to Schofield, circumcising a baby violates that baby’s human rights. That circumcising a baby is immoral.
If I understand it correctly, the argument is that it is wrong to circumcise an eight-day old baby, but that there would be no moral, legal, ethical or human rights issue had a doctor plunged a pair of scissors into that same baby’s skull nine days ago.
There are a few things most of us know about circumcision. No doubt it hurts -it would have to, I’m thinking. But I don’t recall if mine hurt or not. (That’s why it’s done while they are babies).
Study after study proves circumcision helps prevent the transfer of sexually transmitted disease. There are some that argue that circumcision results in diminished sexual function. (How would they know that, I’m wondering?)
It is certain that circumcision prevents certain kinds of penile cancers.
And as far as I can tell, there is absolutely no identifiable medical benefit that comes from remaining uncircumcised. Instead, it appears that circumcision helps fight AIDS because the foreskin is particularly susceptible to attack by HIV. It often develops cracks or tears that can be infected by viruses.
And diseases such as syphilis and chancroid, a bacterial infection more common in uncircumcised men, can provide a gateway for HIV. In Swaziland, the government is conducting a circumcision drive to get men circumcised as a way of combating AIDS.
So what is the big deal in San Francisco? Is it really about the health of uncircumcised babies? Or is there something more?
Let me confess that I amused myself all day yesterday coming up with one-liners I can never use about the gayest city in America and its fixation with the male foreskin.
Having gotten that off my chest, let’s turn to the issue of circumcision as it applies to Christianity. Circumcision was prescribed by the Law of Moses. Christians are not under the Law and are under no obligation to be physically circumcised.
It is a matter of Western hygiene and health, not religious or Christian obligation.
Circumcision among Christians was not widely practiced until the end of the 19th century – and then as noted, for health reasons. According to the World Health Organization, as of 2006 about one male in three worldwide was circumcised.
According to Genesis, God told Abraham to circumcise himself, his household and his slaves as an everlasting covenant in their flesh. Those who were not circumcised were to be ‘cut off’ from their people (Genesis 17:10-14).
Note the connection between circumcision and slavery. Those to be circumcised were Abraham, his descendants and all those that were bought with their money. All males of a household would have to be circumcised if one of them wanted to join Passover celebrations.
Circumcision only applied to the Jews and to the slaves of the Jews. It was never applied to people outside the Jewish faith. All others are described as the ‘uncircumcised’ – even if they practiced circumcision for health reasons, like the ancient Egyptians.
The Abrahamic Covenant is signified by circumcision. In Greco-Roman culture, it was customary to brand a slave with a mark on the hand or forehead, chagra in Greek, signifying his slave status.
Slaves who refused manumission had their ears bored through with an awl. That mutilation was permanent, and signified the slave’s permanent devotion to his master.
Circumcision denoted permanent, voluntary enslavement and devotion to God. The Lord called circumcision a ‘token’ of their covenant.
Galatians 5:3 calls it a symbol of debt to the law because it is a physical token of submission to the Law of Moses.
Christians are no longer required to be physically circumcised because they have been made free from the Law. Christians enter into a New Covenant with Christ – a circumcision without hands:
“In Whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: (Colossians 2:11)
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:11)
Since there is no evidence that circumcision presents any health risk and reams of evidence favoring it, one wonders why the push, from San Francisco of all places, to ban it?
“And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.”
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind to do those things which are not convenient.” (Romans 1:28-29)
(Reprobate: Gk adokimos which means, morally worthless) “(Convenient: katheko: becoming, or fit)
Circumcision symbolizes the invitation to mankind to enter into a covenant relationship with God.
So it would stand to reason that it is offensive to those who would not like to retain God in their knowledge while they are doing those things which are not convenient.
The point is this. No matter where one turns in this world, there is some reminder of God. The enemy hates it. But the harder he fights against the evidences of God, the more attention his efforts bring to them.
It’s not the first time he’s overplayed his hand.
“Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Corinthians 2:8)
The time is getting short and the enemy knows it. He is getting desperate. So desperate that even a little thing like the symbolism of circumcision is enough to twist him up in knots.
He can read the signs as well as we can. He knows the Lord is coming. He knows that He is coming soon. And he doesn’t like it one bit. (But I sure do).