It started as that little twitch in the back of my brain. With the impending birth of our son, did I have all the bases covered? We had the crib, baby clothes, reams of diapers, baby bath tub, high chair and all the other accoutrements associated with a new born. But I was still grappling with a few other questions like what sort of college fund, day care options and that little issue about circumcision.
Why don’t I look like David?
I remember seeing pictures of the famous statue of David and wondering why he didn’t
seem to be circumcised. After all, David was Jewish and it was my impression that the whole circumcision covenant ceremony started with Abraham. In 1997, the year of our son’s birth, I hadn’t become the Internet web surfing addict that I am today to search for information. Not having good medical information or close friends with which I could discuss the topic, I turned to the only resource I could think of to provide some guidance: the Bible.
Squaring the contradictions
Now I know some of you are thinking that the Bible is the least unbiased source of information I could access for information on this important topic. However, I have never viewed the Old or New Testament as an un-erring source of instructions for daily life. I love the Bible for its historical record on the evolution of monotheistic philosophy. I have never found the contradictions in the Bible as proof of its limited application to human life. Ultimately, all the stories, parables, metaphors and history point to a truth about God that can only be fully realized by individuals completely engaged in their spirituality.
Rebel ideas from Apostle Paul
Even in matters of the heart and spirituality, logic speaks louder to my brain than blind faith. So it was with particular interest that I read Paul’s letter to the Romans stating the obvious about circumcision. He reminds us circumcision is a physical act that doesn’t bestow eternal righteousness upon the recipient, but an outward manifestation of Jewish law which is superseded by a man’s behavior.
Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart-it is spiritual and not literal. (Romans 2:25-29, NRSV)
Like baptism, circumcision doesn’t make you a good person or particularly pious. They are rituals that a person can incorporate as part of their identity as an observant adherent to a religion. But having neither doesn’t automatically make you a bad person or someone who can’t be an exemplar of your chosen faith.
Another passage that really grabbed me was Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to everyman who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of the righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love. (Galatians 5:2-6, NSRV)
Give me an AMEN!
You can literally see him shouting, “People, stop getting hung up on the physical and start focusing on your actions.” This is so apropos for a variety of issues we face everyday, just not circumcision. But more importantly, it freed me from any guilt about not setting my son up for a good Christian life, if there is such a thing. My son will be the man he chooses to be and no piercing, tattoo or circumcision was going to keep him on the straight and narrow in life.
Free will, free choice
If I had any over arching goals for raising my son it was not to lock him into any one life track or embedded religious philosophy. I really wanted him to be able to make his own decisions, based on his own experiences and education. Even though we were not of the Baptist faith, I kind of liked the whole baptism through immersion when the kids are young adults. While it is still fairly coercive on the part of the parents, at least the child was participating more or less of their own free will. With circumcision at infancy, I thought, my son would never get to have that choice in the matter.
The Bible told me so…
After reading several other passages and understanding that Jesus was asking us to cast off religious rituals in favor of Godly actions, I started to see the big picture. Safe in the knowledge that my son would not be separated out for eternal damnation if he wasn’t circumcised, I figured it would be just fine if we left him intact. The Bible had convinced me not to have my son circumcised.
Are you ready for your circumcision son?
16 years after the decision I can honestly say that my son would be really pissed at me if I had him circumcised at birth. He has a very strong sense of who he is and he doesn’t like people messing with his space, let alone his body. I’ve told him that anytime he wants, I’ll arrange for him to be circumcised if he chooses…words can’t describe the expression on his face after that exchange.