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