Marked In Your Flesh
Why do American physicians, unlike those in any other country but Israel, circumcise more than half of all newborn boys? How did an ancient sacrificial rite created by temple priests attain its current status as a routine American medical procedure? Leonard B. Glick answers these questions by tracing the history of infant circumcision from its origins in ancient Judea, through centuries of Christian condemnation and Jewish defense, to its current role in American culture and medical practice. A chapter of the book of Genesis, composed by priests around 500 BCE, says that God made a covenant with Abraham, promising him a glorious posterity on condition that he and all his male descendants be circumcised. Eventually the practice of infant male circumcision would become a key element in the separation between Judaism and Christianity. While Christians rejected circumcision as spiritually irrelevant, Jews held unwaveringly to the belief that being a Jewish male meant being physically circumcised. The situation changed dramatically in the nineteenth century, Glick shows, when progressive German Jews argued that ritual circumcision was anachronistic and inappropriate for members of a modern society. Some German-Jewish physicians declared that the surgery itself was so dangerous that it should be either reformed or eliminated. At the same time, however, British and American physicians began claiming that, despite the acknowledged dangers, circumcision cured all sorts of afflictions and protected against cancer and genital infections. Although support for circumcision eventually declined sharply in England, in America it has endured with remarkable tenacity. Glick shows that Jewish American physicians have been especially vocal and influential champions of the practice. Informed medical opinion is still divided, but most physicians now agree that circumcision confers no significant medical benefits; yet the practice is still routine in most American hospitals. At the same time, determined opposition has grown among those who recognize its significant adverse effects and the ethical and legal implications of imposing reductive surgery on the genitals of nonconsenting persons. Moreover, Jewish opponents maintain that this disfiguring practice makes no positive contribution to modern Jewish American life. Marked in Your Flesh offers a challenging perspective that will engage readers on all sides of this multifaceted controversy. Features
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SKU (ISBN): 9780195176742
Binding: Cloth Text
Published: June 2005
Publisher: Oxford University Press
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