"The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: This is the ordinance for the passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, but any slave who has been purchased may eat of it after he has been circumcised; If an alien who resides with you wants to celebrate the passover to the Lord, all his males shall be circumcised; then he may draw near to celebrate it; he shall be regarded as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it." - Exodus 12:-43-44, 48
Shortly before the birth of my nephew, my sister left a voicemail saying that she and her partner had a question about circumcision. Assuming her query was theological, I reread Galatians and made some notes on arguments for and against. Armed with my best biblical ethics, I called her back, and after the usual pleasantries, she asked:
"Will it look funny?"
In hindsight, I should not have been surprised that her question was physical, not metaphysical. Circumcision just isn’t a topic we spend much time on in church today. But it does take up a fair amount of space in the Bible. A quick search of the NRSV yielded 101 references to circumcision, while "justice" came in just over that with 139. Still, when’s the last time you heard a good "social circumcision" sermon?
I wonder how many such topics I spend my time on now. What raging debates within me will feel irrelevant in a couple of millennia (or in a couple of weeks?) What borders of body or soul am I guarding unnecessarily? What rules, and fears, and finely wrought distinctions could I simply let go of, and what would be left behind afterward? In me? In the Church? What is essential and what can simply be cut (or not?)
Centering One, guide me to the core of faith. Give me the strength to release all prejudice, to renounce all ego, to strip away the inessentials until I dwell with you at the heart of life.
Vince Amlin is Associate Minister at the United Church of Gainesville, Gainesville, Florida.