Not too long ago – perhaps a couple of months – a judge in Germany proclaimed it a crime to circumcise male children (except in cases of medical necessity, whatever that may mean). He said that circumcision is harmful to the child, and interferes with his right to make his own free choice as to his religious affiliation.
Frankly, I consider it amazing that a German judge can get away with such a decision. After all, Germany is so hypersensitive about “anti-Semitism” that it is illegal there to even question anything related to the “Holocaust”! If you even dare suggest that only 5,500,000 Jews were killed rather than 6,000,000, you’re in danger of a jail sentence.
However, the opposition to circumcision is not confined to that judge’s district of Germany. We in the USA have our own activist groups seeking to criminalize the practice – particularly perhaps in the San Francisco area of California. See for instance this LA Times article about “intactivists”.
Now I have to admit that I find the arguments against infant circumcision absurd. Apart from the argument about the child having the right to make his own religious decisions, there are basically two arguments: (1) it is claimed that circumcision ‘mutilates’ the child; and (2) the person’s capacity for sexual pleasure is diminished. To me, both of those arguments are laughable. 😆
I was born in 1951. At that time, it was the generally accepted belief of the medical profession that circumcision was important and desirable for health reasons. Therefore, circumcision was virtually automatic. My parents had me circumcised, and probably didn’t even give it a thought. They certainly didn’t have any religious reasons for doing so – they were “Bible believing” Christians who followed the teaching of the Biblical (“New Testament”) book of “Acts” and the letters of the Apostle Paul, that circumcision was not necessary for Gentiles to be fully embraced as equals with the circumcised Jewish believers in the Christian community. It is the “circumcision of the heart”, not that of “the flesh”, which is important. Nevertheless, they didn’t question the doctors’ opinions as to its desirability for health reasons.
I had been living on this earth many years before I ever realized that anything was ‘missing’; I can’t remember now when I first came to realize that I wasn’t born that way. So I never realized that I was “disfigured” or “mutilated”; and even after I found out that I was circumcised, I just ‘shrugged my shoulders’ and thought “so what!” I have never in my life considered myself disfigured and been embarrassed about my ‘lack’. My wife never had any complaints either! 😀
I have also never considered that I was lacking in “sexual pleasure”. In fact, it’s kind of scary to think that sex could be any more pleasurable! Any more ‘pleasure’ could perhaps be fatal! 😆
I have to believe that I am not alone in my opinion. After all, as the LA Times article pointed out, the generation of the 1950s and 1960s, when probably 90% of American males were circumcised, came to be known as the “love generation” – the generation of the “hippies” who believed in “free love”. There sure didn’t seem to be any feeling of embarrassment about their supposedly “disfigured” condition, or sense of sexual lack.
When my first son was born, doctors were still strongly recommending circumcision, so we just naturally had the procedure performed on him. He has never complained about it, considered himself “deformed”, or given any indication of lasting harm. (Yes, he did scream vigorously when the doctors were operating, and I well remember my desire to burst into the operating room and ‘rescue’ my son from those ‘cruel doctors’. But I restrained myself, and my son quit crying almost as soon as he was in his mother’s arms afterward.)
However, when my other son was born 7 years later, the doctor we consulted said that medical opinion no longer considered that there was any health advantage to circumcision. All that would be necessary was a tiny bit of extra effort in bathing. Therefore, since we had no religious reasons for circumcision (my wife and I were both “Bible believing” Christians, as our parents had been), our second son was not circumcised. From our own experience with our second son, I have to believe that the doctor was correct in saying there was no health advantage. My son has certainly never been sickly or had any disease as a result of not having that little bit of flesh cut off.
My first son never had any reason to complain that we had ‘compelled’ his religious faith by having him circumcised, since there was no religious reason for it. However, my wife and I did exert a strong influence on both our sons’ religious convictions. We took them to church meetings with us – we didn’t hire a baby sitter and leave them home to avoid overly influencing them. Not only that, though; we taught them Christian beliefs at home as well as through church attendance. And it’s that constant influence of teaching and example that plays – in my estimation – a far greater role in forming the religious beliefs of children than does any single ritual act (whether it be circumcision or baptism, or anything else). The Jewish child who is circumcised will not be greatly influenced by that act if he is not taught by parents and rabbis the religious significance of the act. As I said concerning myself, I never even realized that I was circumcised for many years; and when I did find out, it had no religious significance because I was not taught that it did.
Therefore, I am compelled to ask this question: if circumcision is forbidden because it interferes with a child’s “free will”, will it not also be necessary to forbid the religious training of the child in order to leave him “free” to make his own decisions? It’s only that training that provides the religious significance of the act. And even without the circumcision, if the child is raised to be a Jew (or Muslim, or Christian), will that not interfere with his “free will” as much or more as the ritual act? Will atheists be forbidden to teach their children their atheistic philosophy in order to leave the children “free” to make their own philosophical and religious decisions? How far will we go in order to keep from hindering the “free will” of our children?
Parents have the right – and the obligation – to make choices for their underage children all of the time, and to compel their adherence to the choices the parents have made. It can be in the food the parent believes is appropriate for the child; or it can be in the medical decisions (doctor visits, inoculations and other shots, and medicines which the child may not wish to take). There are many things that the parent decides for his child which the child may strongly object to – but the good parent will not be hindered by the objections of the child.
Like probably every other child, I never wanted to get a shot at the doctor’s office; but I had no choice in the matter (even though we all know that there is no medicine or medical procedure that does not carry with it some – at least slight – possibility of dangerous ‘side effects’). I probably cried many times when I was forced to get a shot. I don’t remember that though. In fact, the only shot I actually remember was a time when I didn’t cry. I was probably 6 or 7 years old, getting an inoculation required for school, and my father had promised that if I didn’t cry he would buy me a toy mail truck. I really wanted that truck, so I walked into the doctor’s office with determination, rolled up my sleeve, and “took it like a man”! 🙂 And I got the truck afterward.
With all of the things that a parent decides for his child – without asking the child’s permission – why should it be any different with such things as circumcision (or baptism) and religious training? None of that prevents the child from leaving the ‘faith’ in which he was raised when he reaches maturity – and many do ‘rebel’ against their parents’ training.
No, let’s stand strong for “religious liberty” – a religious liberty that includes the liberty of parents to raise their children the way they believe is right, and make decisions for them until they reach an age where they’re able to think and decide for themselves. If the Jewish or Muslim child who is circumcised later wishes to renounce the Jewish or Muslim faith, the fact that he had a little bit of flesh cut off will not hinder him from doing so. His circumcision of the flesh will no more compel him to be Jewish or Muslim than did mine when I was raised as a Christian.