Saturday, April 26, 2014

Antisemitism, Intactivism, Bullying, and a Loving God

Several years ago, I was naive enough to share about my experience with Aviel's Brit Milah with a few fellow attachment/natural parenting moms.  Being new to this community of moms, I had no idea that our decision to keep the commands of scripture, and to bring our son in to the traditions of his Jewish heritage would spark such an outrage.  Thus,  my first taste of the Intactivist movement was one of hate and bullying.  Not one of "education,"  love,  and compassion. 

The shock to my system prompted a tremendous amount of scripture studying, medical, and historical research, all of which have shaped my broader understanding of the heart and even spiritual issues lying behind this discussion.  After looking at this issue from a variety of angles, I have tremendous concern that the average Intactivist has no clue as to the antisemitic roots in this position, and maybe have given little consideration to how this reflects a heart posture towards God.  

In order to be clear, let me define who and I am and not talking about.  The parents who choose not to circumcise their sons for whatever personal reasons are the demographic I'm speaking of.  I personally am not concerned about what's going on in your baby's diapers and honor the freedom parents have to make personal decisions on behalf of their children.   Also, the bible is clear that the gentile nations who came into the covenants of Israel through salvation in Yeshua, Jesus, were not obligated to be circumcised. 

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.  Galation 5:6

The concern, however, is for the vehement opposition.  Those who use phrases such as "gentile mutilation" and "child abuse" to describe their position.  Those who push laws to forbid parents from even having an option to make this decision.  

I know a few Jewish ladies who are opposed to circumcision, but this is the minority position amongst the Jewish community.  The majority see this movement as blatantly antisemetic and an attack on their ability to keep the commands of scripture.  

You see, circumcision is one of the oldest laws given to the Jewish people, first commanded by the Lord to Abraham in Genesis 17.  As He bestows upon Abraham the everlasting covenant that the Land will belong to his children and He will be their God, He commands:  

This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants. A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”  Genesis 17: 10-14  

This command was granted well before the Law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai, although it is included in Levitus 12, as well.   Even before Sinai, this issue was so serious to the heart of God that the Lord nearly killed Moses for being disobedient to this command, before entering Egypt to free His people.  

Now it came about at the lodging place on the way that the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and threw it at Moses’ feet, and she said, “You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me.” So He let him alone. At that time she said, “You are a bridegroom of blood”—because of the circumcision.  (Ex 4:24-26).

His gentile wife was clearly unhappy, but in order to bring the nation of Israel into the Land, Moses first had to keep the command of circumcision in his own home.  

Perhaps some intactivists will not take offense to the idea of grown men making their own adult decision to be circumcised, but believe its is against "child rights" for this practice to be forced onto a baby.  Amongst scripture and Jewish thought, however,  this is not a command for an adult man, but an command for parents to bestow upon their sons on the 8th day.  Moses did not feel God's displeasure because he himself was not circumcised, but because he had not circumcised his son.  Any national or city laws that prevent Jewish parents from making this choice for their sons are preventing them from acting in obedience according to scripture. 

This is where the antisemetic root is exposed (again, not in making your own personal choice, but in preventing your Jewish neighbors from being Jewish).  Upon investigating the legal proceedings surrounding the purposed ban on circumcision in San Fransisco that took place several years ago,  I learned something quite frightening!  

In order to promote the intactivist perspective, a graphic novel was developed.  The comic book centers around the blond, blue eyed, very Aryan superhero, called Foreskin Man, who takes on Ultra Orthodox Mohels and doctors who perform circumcisions.  In this Intactivist propaganda, Jewish families and doctors are presented as wicked villains who perform circumcisions for their own pleasure.  The illustrations presented resemble all too closely the historic antisemetic cartoons that were regularly published before WWII, and are currently published amongst the Muslim world today.  

An illustration from Foreskin Man

The publication has been condemned by the Anti-Defamation League, with details that can be found on the ADL's website, here.  

What I personally find disturbing about this graphic novel, as it relates to the Intactivist movement is that the author and illustrator, Matthew Hess, is not a fringe member of the campaign, but rather the president of the Male Genital Mutilation Bill group, who wrote the legislation that was to be voted on in San Fransico.  The ring leader of this particular movement is either highly antisemitic, or simply an uneducated individual.    

As King Solomon says, "There is nothing new under the sun."  This is indeed true for the Intactivist movement, which gives further cause for a concerned Jewish community.  Through out history, the practice of circumcision has been something gentile communities have used to further an anti-Jewish agenda.  As part of the "blood libel" and "ritual child sacrifice" accusations that were brought against Jewish communities, this practice of male circumcision was even part of the justification for the Pogroms.  

Today, the radical position is presented as "Child's Rights" advocacy against "child abuse."  

As a mother, I personally feel bullied when I hear this description, and I close my ears.  I have no interest in hearing your perspective if I am going to be criticized for mutilating my son.  It is offensive on a highly personal level.  

Offending me, and even making rulings that prevent Jewish families from keeping scriptural commands could be justified if all research supported male circumcision being harmful without any health benefits, but that is simply not true.  While I am aware that the Intactivist community has a body of their own research addressing possible risks, at present, there is a large and growing body of medical science research that supports the safety and long term health benefits of male circumcission, for both men and women.   Consider this study that illustrates a significant decrease in HPV, and Syphilis. Or this study that shows very low rates of severe complication, with the risk of complications increasing with age.  Maybe God was right about the 8 day thing?

Oddly, it is when I make this point that the Intactivist position becomes the most enraged, but to ignore this medical research is simply being intellectually dishonest.  The research does not have to shape your own personal family choices, but I do hope a thoughtful person would allow to shape how they discuss this issue with others.  

Besides taking personal offense to the "child abuse" accusation, I also personally believe this statement about circumcision to be unbiblical.  

It is God himself who gives the command to circumcise on the 8th day, and we are told in Deuteronomy 4:40:  

So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time.

And again in Deuteronomy 5: 32-33

 So you shall observe to do just as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left. You shall walk in all the way which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you will possess. 

God gave the Law to bless His covenant people, the apple of His eye.  As I have walked amongst them in His covenant land, I see His love for the decedents of Abraham.  He would not have ordained a command with the intent to physically or psychologically harm the Jewish people.  I believe the radical Intactivist position, is not only antisemitic, but also a lie about the heart and character of a loving God.  

It is one thing to want to search out this issue and understand it in all of its biblical complexity, and even thoughtfully consider whether or not this is best practice for your family.  Its completely different to demonize something God commanded for the good of His people.   

If you are a gentile Christian and you desire to celebrate your identity and freedom through leaving your sons uncircumcised, good for you.  You can exercise your freedom and fully love God and the Jewish people.  You can do what's best for your family, and not promote a position that is hurtful to others, and maligns the character God.  So go, be intact in the flesh if that's your prerogative.  Meanwhile, any boys born into our household will be circumcised, thereby remaining intact with their people.  

Related Posts:

The Power of Brit Milah


A Blessed Appointment

My apologies for posting this well after Passover.  I have a decent excuse, in the way of some pretty severe early pregnancy symptoms that have kept me horizontal for most of the last few weeks.  For this month's contribution to SAVED News, I shared a story about how keeping the biblical command to pass on the Pesach tradition brought tremendous blessings into my life.  This was really the revelation that brought me through the last year in confidence of God's protection. 
April 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014

Beauty Thief

I am very pleased to share this month's Kindred Grace submission with my friends and loyal readers.  As beauty and body image are the topic of the month, I chose to share the pain of my heart as I saw my body transforming through Cushing's Disease.  It was a baptism of fire that drew me closer to the Heart of God, as I learned the power of sharing in His sufferings.  For that, I wouldn't change one single day. 

Please read, and see how the Lord healed my body, and my heart.  And see how He restored what was lost and filled me with new life (due in November!). 

April 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Cushie Files: How I Figured it Out

I look like her...  This is happening to me.

That was my first reaction upon finding this image through a simple google for "puffy face".   I could see my own ballet frame transforming before my eyes, and this photo might as well have been me.  By the Lord's grace, finding this photo may have saved my life.

For several months I had been struggling with a series of strange changes in my body.  My face was rounding, I had a double chin and hump  on my back.  My body was growing hairy, stomach enlarging, and though a two year old Aviel had weaned, I was still not have a regular cycle.

I clicked on the image and was able to check off more than few symptoms - enough to have me worried. 

Several months later, while visiting North Carolina in preparation for a family reunion trip to Disney World, I asked a doctor for his opinion.

"You are still really small, so I don't think you have Cushings.  And its really rare."  he said.

I was small, weighing 117 lbs, however, this was a massive weight gain for my ordinarily 105 lb, 5'2" frame.  Rapid weight gain is the most predominant symptom, with many patients reaching nearly 200 lbs before they receive and accurate diagnoses.  Though I was gaining weight,  at 30 years old, it was not nearly enough to worry. 

Then I showed him the photo of this still slender woman.  I pulled up my hair, turned to the side, revealing a similar profile,  and said, "What do you think?"

"Hmm..  I can see why you're concerned.  We'll do a test for your piece of mind."

Surely enough, my first blood test indicated high levels of coritsol, a tell-tale sign of Cushing's Disease.  The doctor asked if my lifestyle might be causing enough stress for my hormones to spike.  Having just gone through a war,  it could have been a likely cause, but he still advised me to complete further tests when I got home. 
After I returned to Israel, I took my labs to my family doctor.  Just looking at me, she had the same initial response as the first doctor, but I had enough symptoms present, and charts showing high cortisol, that she believed it was best to move forward with more tests.  After seven months of being a human pin cushion,  we knew or sure that I had ACTH Dependent Cushing's Disease, originating from a tumor on my pituitary gland. 

Seeing a new doctor at my last endocrinology appointment, he asked me how I knew something was wrong.  Cushing's Disease is rare and as my doctor said, "not usually considered by doctors for some reason."   You see, Cushing's disease is rare, but perhaps not as rare as it should be.  In America, only about 25 new cases are diagnosed  each year.  My regular endocrinologist, who was out for maternity leave on this visit, shared that she sees 5 new cases a year, in Israel - a nation the size of New Jersey.

"Once a doctor gets the idea and starts the tests, things can move pretty quickly"  He encouraged.  This may be true in Israel, but I know that in America, patients often suffer through the symptoms for 5 years before they get an accurate diagnoses.   He congratulated me for "reading the literature," asking my doctor about my strange symptoms, and even suggesting Cushing's Disease as what was going on. 

As I hear more and more testimonials from other Cushings patients, I see so much of God's grace over my entire story.  Everything from  finding that initial photo, to the speed with which it was diagnosed, and the ease with which my neurosurgeon was able to remove the tumor, all of this was orchestrated by the Lord, without doubt.  

As the word says, we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony, I pray that my story will help other woman; women with changes in their body that they don't understand; women struggling with infertility.  It may be daunting to consider the possibility of having a brain tumor, but identifying the problem is the first step in finding the solution.  And Cushing's Disease does have solution.

Cushing's Connection

Related Posts:
The Cushie Files:  Upcoming Surgery 


Friday, April 4, 2014

When Friends say Mean Things

A memory surfaced recently.  

One in which a friend called me a "hairy beast". 

This wasn't a one time deal.  She said it frequently through middle school and early high school, always in front of others.  

I thought about her words often while I was struggling with Cushing's disease, and my body was forming more hairy, and hunch-backed.  As I wrote in greater detail about her comment, using the insecurity that developed to frame my April piece for Kindred Grace (which I will announce with a link on its post date), I felt a true sense of healing from that hurtful memory.

Processing what happened with the Lord, asking if I held unforgiveness towards her in my heart,   I realized that her comment didn't cause me to love her any less.   What it did, however, was cause me to love me less. And that's not ok. 

I wish I had told her that even if she was only kidding, her words hurt my heart and I wouldn't listen to them anymore. Honestly, I didn't know that was right, or even Godly.  And I felt so embarrassed about being a fuzzy gril, that my shame caused me to hide from help. 

I remember another time when a friend in undergraduate school shared a prophetic vision with me. 

"The Lord gave me a picture of you, and your chest was a bird cage.  The door was open and birds were flying out....  one day you'll be that free." 

She may have meant it as encouragement, but given that we had walked through repeated conflict, in which I felt she was always trying to change me, rather than accept me for who I was, it was hurtful. 

I just sort of said, "Ok, thanks." and went on my way. But it wasn't something I could shake.   Again, I found myself, not angry with her for saying these things, but shame-filled, wondering if there really was so much wrong with me. 

This time, a growing believer, I asked the Lord about this picture, which actually was quite beautiful, wondering if her interpretation was correct... if I was so bound up.

His response brought me to tears.  You see, what He told me was that when He looked at me, He saw that much freedom right then...  in that minute...  in that season...  broken parts and all.  He saw me as free, because I was covered in the blood of His Son.  

Of course I had places where the Lord needed to do some work.  I still do and will until I die.  But so did my friend.  Maybe if she would have been open to listening, she might have heard the Lord telling her, not that I needed to be free, but that I was free, I am free, and she needed to see me as He did. 

Even more importantly,  I needed to see myself as he did.  
Both times I wish I had spoken up.   And not for my friend's sake, but for my own.  I needed to state that I was worth too much to be put down.  I needed to hear that I was beautiful.  I needed to hear that I was free.  Facts that are eternally true, not because of my body or my personality, but because I was bought at a high price through the shed blood of Messiah Yeshua, and he was, and is, at work in me.

To curse me is to curse someone He treasures.  I don't even have a personal right to receive it, because I don't belong to myself, I belong to Him.   

The work in progress that I am, Lord, embolden me to council myself with your truth, even in the presence of the enemy.   Amen.