Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day and Circumcision

The two topics don't really meet up in any meaningful way, aside from the fact that I've been debating with someone about 'circumcision' today, on Boxing Day.  That being said, I will state flat-out that I think circumcision is 99.9% of the time a horrific and immoral practice. 

Yes, the Abrahamic covenant in Scripture compels those of the Judeo-Christian persuasion to consider whitling the phallus down as a godly action, one that marks a person as God's chosen.  Yes, the argument can be made that baptism replaces circumcision because circumscribing the heart (i.e., cutting one's self off from the debauchery of the world) is far nobler.  And I will agree that the metaphysic of baptism is far more laudable than the partial emasculation set out in the Old Testament as a means of currying favour with Yahweh.

Nevertheless, I am four-square against the practice of circumcision, and consider anyone who elects to have their children mutilated in such a fashion to be unthinking, inconsiderate, brutish and immoral.  Harsh words, I know.  And perhaps you may know me, and now understand what I think if you have had your child ravaged by such an invasive, and insidiously injurious barbarism (sometimes referred to vapidly as a "common surgical procedure").  I'm not concerned.  I welcome conversation.

That said, I have been debating a woman about circumcision.  Her position is essentially this: if you do it, or believe its fine, then it is.  She believes, as a Christian, that it is a matter of faith.  That is, she has faith in circumcision.  I think her position entirely ridiculous.  I responded by saying as much, but in more words.

...that you would say, "[my] faith tells me that it’s NOT a harmful or damaging thing" is really what concerns me about your thinking.  Why?  Because 'faith', definitionally, is not a content-rich position.  That is, faith is not an information-filled premise upon which to base your conclusion that circumcision is not harmful.  The basic facts bear this out quite well.

First, faith is, definitionally, a 'hope' or 'basic trust' in a proposition (in this case, God).  The Greek word for 'faith' used in NT scripture is pistis (noun, used 244 times).  It is the name/noun given to the quality of a person that can 'hope' or place a 'basic trust' in the claims of the apostles, Jesus, and scripture.

Second, because 'faith' is essentially a compulsive quality that enables a person to believe certain truth-claims, it does not follow therefore that a person can utilise faith for whatever topic, issue, or subject they fancy.  Faith is not a scapegoat that allows you to place all your reasoning on hold for the simple expedient of relaxing your responsibility to reason things out.

Third, because you are not excused from reasoning just because you have faith, you are in the position of having to consider that the first action of circumcision is to harm the male phallus by slicing off its foreskin.  This involves inordinate amounts of pain, long-term suffering, and possible pain in the future if the foreskin is cut back too far (e.g., it hurts some men to have a full errection because they were cut back too far).

The point is this: whenever the human body is somehow harmed, depleted, altered, or even augmented (e.g., deviant piercings), it is mutilated.  Plain and simple.  Therefore, circumcision, because it involves harming the male phallus in a way that disfigures it from its natural state, is abjectly immoral and wrong.  This is basic logic informed by simple observation, irrespective of a contentless position like 'faith'.

If the first action of circumcision is injurious to the male phallus, and therefore the male who undergoes it, it is undebateably harmful.  And where harm is inflicted against another's will and natural sanctity; where harm is inflicted without the utilitarian measure of doing harm to save a life; where harm is invited on a person in such a way that potentializes long-term psychological, emotional, and physical effects (which circumcision does do), it is therefore wrong, immoral, evil, and ungodly.

That some Bronze-age agrarian polytheists took a fancy to Yahweh, one of the Canaanite gods, and lopped off the dangly bit of their penis to show him contrition does not make such a stupid act respectable, healthy, or worthy of propagation.  Abraham's story is just that: a story.  It is an embellishment protracted through centuries of oral repetition, and enforced upon untold millions of people all in an effort to appease their vengeful god.  They may as well have thrown the most beautiful virgins into a volcano.  The mentality would've been the same: hurt people to please God.  It's patently irrational and not worthy of being a faith-issue.  Faith has a certain dignity that is smudged, distorted and sullied when measured against such ruthless and insipid practices as circumcision.
I'm interested in this lady's response, but since this debate has been rambling out over the coarse of the past week, and her rebuttals have been far from inspiring or persuasive, I'm not counting on much.  Perhaps her ability to reason has been circumcised by her faith.


Anonymous said...

Christianity teaches that circumcision is unnecessary now. This woman who claims to be Christian is ignorant about what Christianity teaches about circumcision. Tell her to read Acts 15 in the New Testament.

Philippians 3:2-3: “Beware of unbelieving dogs. Watch out for workers of evil. Be on guard against those who mutilate. It is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus rather than putting our trust in the flesh.”

Advise her to read and

Kane Augustus said...


Thank you for the resources. I will be sure to direct her to those links.

Take care, and do come back with a name, too, if you feel comfortable with that.


TLC Tugger said...

The NT says: "If Ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing."

The old testament says THOU SHALL NOT STEAL.

What word other than theft best describes taking healthy normal body parts when no informed consent can be obtained?

HIS body, HIS decision.

Kane Augustus said...


Thank you for your excellent point! You're absolutely right: his body, his decision.

Thank you, also, for reading my article. More, I appreciate your efforts at helping men restore what was taken from them.


Hugh7 said...

I think your correspondent was using "faith" to mean "body of beliefs" as in "the Catholic faith" etc.

Orthodox Judaism teaches that circumcision is not harmful or damaging, by some extraordinary mental contortions ("We have to grind wheat to make bread" is one), when it flies in the face of the mitzvot against marking and cutting the body and for gemilut chasadim, acts of loving kindness. It continues after almost every other observance has fallen away, mainly because those who do it aren't those now having it done to them, and don't remember when they were. However, some Jews are calling on celebrants such as these to name their sons without surgery.

Here is a survey of Christian views of circumcision.

You realise that next Saturday would be ideal for this debate? For centuries, the Catholic and Anglican churches celebrated January 1 as the Feast of the Circumcision (of Jesus) and meditated on this, the first of His wounds, and His mind-boggling submission (as the Son) to His (the Father's) own law. See this, for example.

The short answer to those who say "It was good enough for Jesus" is "So [reportedly] was crucifixion."

Jack said...

I am continually astounded by Christians who cherry pick their bible passages to justify their own version of their faith. Does your correspondent eat pork or shellfish? Does she cut her hair? Does she sequester herself away from everyone for seven days during her menstrual cycle? And most important, what will she do when her son, to whom she so lovingly gave life, reaches his teens and talks back to her? Will she take him to the edge of town and, along with the other Christian townsfolk, stone him to death? She had better, it is written.

Kane Augustus said...


I agree with you that Christians cherry-pick. In fact, given all the literature that didn't make it into the Old and New Testaments, the whole of scripture is a cherry-pick. So the fact that Christians cherry-pick scripture is just in accord with their literary and religious history.

As to doing everything scripture prescribes, I think you and I both know that at certain points reason kicks into gear. Yes, a Christian could follow the letters of the Judaic law but, according to the New Testament, doing so would result in there being no need for the salvific measures of Christ. Hence there would be no validity in being Christian. In fact, we would be left with Judaism, and then the argument you applied to my correspondent would be wholly valid. In effect, the argument you have levelled against my correspondent would eventually force her to reduce her religious claims to the absurdities they are, and she would be left with having to decide whether to abandon faith altogether, or toss reason aside with the hope of her faith being true in the eschaton.

So, in all, you raise a staggeringly good reduction ad absurdum that most religious-minded people would do well to keep in mind when they're considering the arbitrary prescribtions they're willing to take on from scripture. Believing your scriptures are inspired of God is one thing; refusing to reason those so-claimed inspirations to their logical ends is another thing, a thing that has led to far too much sorrow and needless destruction (e.g., the horror of circumcision).

Thank you for your comments, Jack. I hope you come by again.