Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Sermon

Yes, today's post is about religion, seemingly a fitting topic for a Sunday.

I had a bit of an epiphany yesterday. It happened when I was talking to N. I often seem to get epiphanies when trying to explain concepts to N. Somehow things that I just kind of always accepted as being actually do make sense when I think them through as to why they are what they are.

Yesterday's conversation was on Old Testament law vs. New Testament grace. It actually started as a conversation about why our male dog doesn't lift his leg when he pees, but it evolved into a theological discussion. I love how conversations can do that, meander from one topic through another on its way to finally a really profound conclusion.

N asked why our dog, who is male, doesn't lift his leg to pee. I explained that it is because our dog was neutered prior to becoming fully mature, and that when that happens they don't ever get that instinct to lift their leg to pee. Moving on, N asked me about why certain dogs have their tails cut off. I told him I don't really know, but it is something that they do with certain breeds but not all breeds. Do they put the dog under general anesthesia to cut their tails off he wondered? No, I said, if anything they use a local anesthetic (Val, I so wished I could have bounced this question your way because I don't really know nuttin' about it.) but I wasn't sure they even do that. W added that he thought they did it without anesthetic when the puppy was very young, maybe before their eyes opened even. Being me of the big mouth, I added "kind of like how they do circumcisions on baby boys with no anesthetic."

This segued the discussion into circumcision and what that is. I said to N you know how some boys have skin that covers the end of their penis like you and some others don't? Yeah he replied. Well, I explained, circumcision is when they cut that skin off, and that it is often done when a boy is a newborn infant. Then N wanted to know why some boys are circumcised. I explained that I'm not really sure why some do it but that Jews do it because they believe in Old Testament law which required circumcision.

Naturally this led us to discuss the difference between Jews and Christians, that Jews do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah and therefore they do not believe that they have been saved by grace so they believe they must still live by the Old Testament law, including that all boys be circumcised. N wanted to know why they would not believe in Jesus as their savior to which I didn't have a really good answer.

Then he said, "But they believe that they are right and we believe that we are right."

I said, "Yes, but we have to respect that not everyone will believe as we do even though we believe that we are right because they believe just as strongly that they are right. It is up to every individual to make their own peace with God in their own way."

N asked, "But we don't have to live under the laws of the Old Testament?"

I replied, "No, Jesus told us that the greatest commandment was to love our neighbor as ourselves. What that means is that we should always treat others with the same dignity and respect and integrity that we would expect of them in our treatment of us."

Bingo! Epiphany! That's it. This is what I've spent years believing and not able to really articulate even to myself. This is why I can't get bogged down in the debates over many theological issues. I simply think we should live by the rule of treating others the way we would like to be treated. Hmm, how would I like to be treated? I would like others to respect my beliefs and decisions. I would like others to appreciate me for who I am rather than who they would like me to be. I would like others to treat me kindly, but also to be straightforward with me and point out respectfully when they think I am off track. So then, I guess that is how I believe I ought to treat others. Suddenly, it all seemed so clear.

It dawned on me that I often don't treat others as I would want them to treat me. If roles were reversed in my marriage I would want W to honestly tell me that things were over and that I must leave this house because I would want that honesty from him rather than false "niceness." So that is what I must do. I must sit down with W and explain calmly and rationally that this just isn't going to work out, and as hurtful as it may be to him he will have to find another place to live.

See? Isn't the meandering from one topic through the next into the next fascinating? Yeah, I thought so too.


Bunny said...

I love how conversations can end up places we never expected and help us see something we needed to see.

My husband and I had a major argument regarding having our son circumcised. Spousehole grew up in a very religious home and studied Christianity his whole life. Yet somehow he believed that we had to have our son circumcised in accordance with the Old Testament. I calmly explained that we aren't Jewish and that Jesus' death was part of the creation of new covenant with God. Part of the new covenant meant dropping most of the old covenant, including circumcision, dietary laws, etc. He didn't believe me and had to have our pastor explain it to him before he would believe me.

Most docs will use a local when doing a circumcision. But I find it extremely telling that the American Academy of Pediatrics members (most pediatricians and a lot of family practitioners) will not perform circumcisions because they are medically unnecessary.

Once Spousehole knew he had lost on the religious angle, he tried the health and hygiene angle to try to get me to agree to circumcise our son. I pointed to my (then) 65 year old father and his lack of health complications from having an intact foreskin. Plus tons of articles on how it is unnecessary and may even reduce sexual pleasure.

Apparently Spousehole is not alone in trying very hard to get his wife to agree to circumcise a son. That just baffles me. Is wanting your son to "look like you" so important as to risk his health (there are documented cases of circumcision mishaps and infections) and cause him pain?

I hope you are able to have that talk with W soon, for both your sakes.


Anonymous said...

I am pretty sure I couldn't have gotten to the same destination with a conversation that began like yours did. But chances are that things would have gotten pretty roundabout with me too.

Emily said...

Honestly, Trueself, I couldn't agree more. I have been trying to find a way to say that to you in a way that wouldn't sound too plain critical. If you are going to leave your husband, then do it with integrity. Tell him its over and move out. You will feel better about yourself and you will need that self-respect to build your new life.

Sneaking around, waiting for his approval, allowing yourself to get emotionally blackmailed into stuff you don't want, sleeping with other people's husbands, etc - it all diminishes you. I don't believe that this is who you really are or want to be and I would be very glad to see you act on that realization.

Jaded Bunny said...

As a vet tech, I've held many tiny, squirming (2-5 day old) puppies as the doctor snips off the tail. With no anesthetic.

And yes, it hurts and they cry and the entire proceudure is simply cosmetic.

Trueself said...

Bunny - Interestingly I've been with two men in my lifetime who've had little "anomalies" due to little errors made during circumcision. Neither was a really big deal but both men were embarassed enough by it to have to go into these long rambling explanations about it. Noah seems perfectly content to have his foreskin intact, and when I explained to him what circucision entailed his eyes grew wide and said "Ewww!" Of course, this is the same reaction he had when he asked me to describe how the dad's seed gets to the woman's egg to make a baby and I told him.

SM - Well, when you have these stream of consciousness discussions and you are as open as I am to talking about all manner of things when your son asks, these kinds of meanderings are bound to occur.

Emily - I think you've tried to tell me, but some things I just have to learn for myself. I wish it wasn't that way, but it seems that it is.

JB - Thank you for the information. I find that to be heartbreaking. Maybe that's why I've never owned a dog that was of a breed commonly to have their ears or tails cropped. All my dogs have had floppy ears and long tails.

Jaded Bunny said...

In fact, any older than a few days and it's considered an amputation. Most ethical vets will not perform the procedure.

The saddest and most cruel? Ear crops. I've held so many little ears up while the vet takes surgical shears and snips them off. Crops are done at an older age too. Much more painful.

All for looks.

My pitbull? Totally natural. All tail and ears. I'd never subject an animal to that sort of cruelty.

Val said...

The saddest thing I'VE ever seen are the homemade ear crops that owners bring in bcz They.Can't.Understand.Why.They.Won't.Stop.Bleeding!
I can't say I enjoy docking tails on newborn puppies, but it's a far far better thing that I do the job w/my sterile surgery pack than a DIY-job...
[until we can convince the AKC to outlaw tail/ear cropping as in the UK, we will never phase it out completely]
I am always certain to explain that there are no health benefits to these procedures...
Unlike neuters!

Sixdegrees said...

N said: "But they believe that they are right and we believe that we are right."

So who is right? NEITHER! That in a nutshell is what blew the doors off of John Calvin for me and turned me into a skeptical scientist.

Way to go, N! You have gotten to the core reason why dogma of any sort is going to fall flat into its own dogs***.

Good job with him, Trueself.

Trueself said...

JB - I'm with you on that one. I could never subject my pet to something like that. Never.

Val - Oh, that is sad. Yes, I would rather have it done professionally rather than by idiots, umm I mean owners.

6D - Thank you. I try to raise N to question and think and be his own person. And he definitely is his own person.