The War Against CircumcisionStudy No. 176
As part of the overall decline of morals, circumcision is under attack today in America, Australia, and other parts of the world where formerly it was a common practice. The American Academy of Pediatrics has reversed itself, and now says that the medical benefits of circumcision donít justify recommending the practice routinely. Anti-circumcision forces are openly attacking the practice. As a result, fewer and fewer males are becoming circumcised.
However, in a USA Today article of March 2, 1999, pediatrician Dr. Stephen Park of the University of Michigan School of Medicine, strongly recommends circumcision. He said, "there is compelling evidence" of medical benefits from circumcision, such as reduced risk of urinary tract infection, lower risk of penile cancer, and somewhat lower risk of HIV infection.
One source that defends circumcision is www.circumcision.net. You can call for the nearest mohel (certified Jewish expert in circumcision) at 888-mohel44. A competent, experienced, doctor should be able to satisfactorily perform a circumcision.
But, didnít Acts 15 do away with the need to be circumcised? By no means! Please read our article, "Truth About Circumcision," Study No. 134. It is available on the Internet at: www.giveshare.org/BibleStudy/134.circumcision, or free from our bookstore in Missouri. We now cover other aspects of circumcision.
Circumcision, the Jewish Way
To be a Jew is to be circumcised. The positive commandment of circumcision is found in Genesis 17:10-14. This act is referred to as a Covenant with God. He instructs Abraham to circumcise himself and his children and to continue the practice down through the generations. This commandment is the only one that is literally sealed in the flesh and is therefore unique. It serves as a constant reminder to each Jew that he is a descendant of Abraham and a servant of the Almighty. The Jewish Nation has observed this commandment since its inception, some 3500 years ago. Jews have adhered to circumcision at the cost of martyrdom in times of oppression.
Each Jewish father is obligated to arrange to have his sons circumcised when they are eight days old. It is traditional to celebrate this first milestone with a party attended by friends and family. Ritual circumcision is not merely a surgical procedure, but, rather, is a highly significant religious ceremony.
The sole valid reason for postponing a circumcision (after the eighth day of the childís life) is the childís health. Maimonides reiterated the Talmudic ruling: circumcising a sick child is forbidden. Jews would never risk a childís life, since it is impossible to rectify the loss of human life.
The fact that circumcision is performed on the sexual organ is significant. This organ is representative of the bodyís urges and this procedure indicates that we must control and sublimate these urges and conform them to the will of God. As we will see later, the procedure encourages sexual purity.
A "mohel" is a master circumcision surgeon. The process itself takes less than 30 seconds during which the mohel first recites a Hebrew blessing, then amputates the foreskin with a sterilized scalpel, quickly splits the mucous membrane with (disinfected) thumbnails, applies suction, and completes the procedure by bandaging the wound. The essential procedures of the ritual circumcision are (1) the removal of the prepuce and (2) the splitting and peeling back of the mucosal surface, thus exposing the glans penis. Romi Cohn, a master mohel, in seventeen years of voluntarily performing circumcisions, has performed over 10,000 adult circumcisions and countless more on infants.
Jewish religious law opposes the use of a clamp that causes complete homeostasis (stanching of the blood), since part of the Jewish ritual is the "Dam Bris" (Blood of the Covenant) which is considered a vital part of the procedure. In addition, the required method is one that minimizes the childís pain, an essential element under Jewish law. Clamps cause a great deal of pain, whereas a sharp cutting instrument does not.
Certain children (hemophilic) may not be circumcised. There are a number of medical criteria used to diagnose jaundice as an ailment that requires a delay of the circumcision.
This ritual has been found to provide a number of unexpected benefits, as in the case of many commandments found in the Bible. Circumcision has been found to inhibit the development of penile and cervical cancer and acts as a method of prophylaxis by facilitating personal hygiene. One circumcised is said to have entered the Bris (Brit) Milah, the Covenant of Circumcision.
Almost Painless Circumcision
Does the baby experience great pain from circumcision? When done the Jewish way, circumcision is almost painless for the child. In contrast, the method of circumcision practiced in most hospitals today uses a Gomco or Mogen clamp to crush the skin and seal the blood vessels, giving an almost bloodless circumcision, albeit with great pain to the infant.
Jewish-style circumcision on the other hand, is performed using a finely honed blade of surgical steel (that has an edge comparable to a scalpel) and a non-constricting guard, which is placed over the foreskin. Some Jewish doctors do not recommend anesthesia, which should not even be necessary, because the nerves in a newborn on the eighth day are not fully developed.
Then why does the infant sometimes cry? A newborn will tend to cry as soon as his diaper is opened and he is uncovered. This may be due to a need to feel enclosed or merely due to feeling cold. The infant usually stops crying shortly after the procedure and then falls asleep. The discomfort experienced by the infant afterwards is mainly due to the dressing on the wound, which is foreign to the child.
The clamp method is preferred by many hospitals, as it is easy to use, and can be performed by non-skilled lower level staff. Yet the extreme pain and trauma of the clamp method is why many today are opposed to the practice of circumcision.
Against the Infantís Will?
The most vigorous objection to circumcision is that the baby has no say in the matter. Some claim it is a human rights issue. It is true that the infant is not voluntarily undergoing the circumcision operation. Anti-circumcision proponents make a great appeal at the "tragedy" of a boy losing a body part against his free will.
The way the Jews look at it, Brit Milah is first and foremost incumbent upon the father. If he does not have it done on his son, other Jews will step in and do it for him. Barring either of these two events, the child himself is obligated to have it done when he reaches adulthood, and then continue the practice by having his sons circumcised. The parallel to spiritual conversion is striking. I did not decide to follow God. He figuratively knocked me over the head with a two-by-four, and called me to follow Him. Circumcision is a type of the calling of our Heavenly Father. Those who reject the statute demonstrate their rebellion against God.
The Benefits of Circumcision
The potential advantages from infant circumcisions are numerous. Unlike uncircumcised infants, babies who have been circumcised rarely require urological evaluation or treatment for urological tract infections. Circumcision lessens the chances of kidney disease. It reduces the risk of high blood pressure and genital cancer. From a secularist viewpoint, circumcision also minimizes the chances of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases.
A circumcised infant has a strong foundation. Even if he chooses not to follow the Bible, circumcision singles him out as different. It provides him ó even as an adult ó with the opportunity to search for his roots.
External circumcision should motivate us to activate an inner commitment to God and His commandments. A person who lacks an inner commitment to the covenant is described as "uncircumcised." (Jeremiah 9:25, 6:10; Ezekiel 44:7; Deuteronomy 10:16; Exodus 6:12). Circumcision is much like abstaining from unclean foods. It is a physical act with a deep spiritual meaning.
Thus, when parents selfishly opt not to circumcise their newborn infant, they not only deprive their son of his Godly legacy, his tradition, his birthright, but they are condemning him to a life adrift and lonely. Circumcision is a physical seal that we are men of God, ONLY IF it is followed by loving obedience from the inner man.
Circumcision may have much more to do with the spiritual survival of Godís people, physical Israelites or not, than many realize.
The Proper Time
Jews know what it means to circumcise a male when it is eight days old. They say circumcision should be on the eighth day after the babyís birth (per the Bible instruction), after sunrise. Thus, if your son is born on April 1, he should be circumcised on April 9. If the baby is ill, it is postponed and then still done during daytime.
If the baby is not well, even a slight weakness, it is postponed. If the baby is born at twilight, between sunset and starlight, Jews count from the following day, which will come out to be either his eighth or ninth day. However, if the babyís head emerged from the birth canal while still day, they count eight days from that day. If the eighth day of the boyís life is on a Sabbath, circumcision is still to be performed on the Sabbath. But, if it was postponed because of sickness, then it would be postponed for a Sabbath.
Attacks on Circumcision
Because of the war against circumcision, circumcision of newborns has now dropped to less than 60 percent in the U.S.A., though rates vary from 80 percent in the Midwest to 35 percent in California, where there are large numbers of Asian and Hispanic immigrants (who traditionally do not circumcise), a preponderance of energetic anti-circumcision groups, and a trendy, affluent middle class for whom the possession of a foreskin is now chic. In Canada the average rate of infant circumcision for boys is roughly 25%, with large regional variations.
Queen Victoria, who believed her family descended from King David, sanctioned circumcision, and Prince Charles was circumcised by a mohel.
Doctors, themselves, are divided. Removal of the foreskin virtually precludes penile cancer, and eliminates balanoposthitis (infection of the foreskin) and phimosis (inability to retract the foreskin). Louis XVI of France, a famous phimosis sufferer, was unable to have sex with his wife, Marie Antoinette, until he was circumcised at age 21.
Dr. James Roberts, of Tulane University, found that the underside of the foreskin is a favorite hiding place for the bacteria called Pfimbriated E. coli. The bacteria like to cling to the underside of the foreskin, where they colonize, and then climb up the urethra, causing urinary tract and kidney infections.
A recent Scientific American article showed that "only one factor" seemed to correlate with susceptibility to HIV infection in Africa: lack of circumcision. A 1994 study by Dr. Stephen Moses in the International Journal of Epidemiology showed that around the world uncircumcised men were three to four times likelier to be infected with HIV than circumcised men. The virus may be transmitted through tears in the foreskin during intercourse.
In spite of these findings, many doctors donít recommend circumcision. Dr. David Kaufman, an assistant professor of clinical urology at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, says, "If [and, that is a big "if"] proper hygiene is practiced, all of the potential medical problems can be avoided." Studies show that even in developed countries, good hygiene can be elusive. A study of uncircumcised British schoolboys in 1964 showed that 70 percent had poor genital hygiene.
There are new risks in hospital circumcision. In times past, skilled pediatricians circumcised babies, but now growing insurance costs have forced many to abandon the procedure, which often falls to the lowest qualified person in the delivery room. Some doctors think mohels do a better job. "Theyíre probably the best," says Columbiaís Dr. Hensle.
Anti-circumcision groups have launched a successful campaign to ban the practice. Blue Shield of Pennsylvania, the Prudential Insurance Company and some welfare programs have stopped paying for circumcision.
As sexual promiscuity and disregard for Godís Law escalates, one would expect that circumcision, even in America, will become more and more the exception rather than the rule. Jewish Dr. Nir, who survived in Poland during World War II with his mother and sister by posing as a Catholic, knew that if someone had discovered he was circumcised, he and his family would have been sent to the gas chamber. History may yet repeat. The war against circumcision is not a battle of conflicting scientific opinions. It is primarily a religious and cultural attack on the Creator, who knows what is best for mankind.
As our article, "Truth About Circumcision" (available free from Giving & Sharing) demonstrates, the Bible is clear that eight-day-old boys should be circumcised, not as a religious rite anymore, but a continuing law of health. Newly converted adult males who are not yet circumcised would naturally be led by the Holy Spirit to be circumcised. As Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in God Speaks Out on the New Morality, page 280, circumcision is "urgently recommended."
ó written by Richard C. Nickels W