I’m traveling, so blogging may be unusually light, or odder than usual.
Back in ancient history (i.e, June 2012), a German court decided that babies might not lawfully be circumcised. The linked article attributes the ruling to concern for the child’s right to bodily integrity, and language in the decision supports that.
But the court also claimed that circumcision ”runs contrary to the interest of the child to later choose his religious affiliation,” which may resonate even more loudly with a modern voluntarist view of life. One of the New Atheists, Richard Dawkins (I believe), fulminated that it makes him crazy to hear people refer to a “Christian baby” or the like.
Even some of the critics of the German decision seemingly assumed such a view. Joshua Spinner, an American Rabbi, said:
“I’m a circumcised male, I expect that I have the right to become a Catholic or Protestant or Buddhist or atheist if I choose to today. But what the court is saying is that if I am circumcised I am a Jew,” he said. “There’s a very dark and very illiberal view of what this mark does on the individual.”
I certainly agree with him that circumcision doth not a Jew irrevocably make. I could cite New Testament scriptures, but they would be mis-citations, because the New Testament authors had “Judaizing” legalism, not individualism, in their sights when they fired their volleys.
But in a sense, circumcision does choose the child’s religion. JFK famously (and cravenly, and dishonestly) attributed his Roman Catholicism to an “accident of birth.” It was dishonest because, like Rabbi Spinner, he could have become Protestant (heck, most American Catholics are Protestants today), or atheist, or Muslim, or even Jewish. It’s a free country.
But Baptism does mark a child as Christian, too, and that’s as it should be. That the state should impose on all parents a demand that they not initiate their children into the parents’ religion presupposes a deeply irreligious view of what it means to be a parent, a family, and even a community, with obligations and relationships that aren’t chosen, but that can’t be abandoned without some legitimate feeling of betrayal.
Bad news: 2 hour flight delay, due to mystery maintenance.
Good news: 2 more hours to marvel at Renée Fleming’s improbably excellent jazz/torch song album, Haunted Heart. She sings in a remarkably low register with exquisite sense of when to linger on a voiced consonant or to play the countless other tricks that make for great singing on that style of music.
If you like soulful jazz and torch songs, send up a prayer of thanksgiving that it’s still available.
Renée Fleming and Bryn Terfel doing show tunes isn’t half bad, either.
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