Friday, June 17, 2011

The idolatry of autonomy

Still thinking about the implications of the proposed circumcision ban in San Fran. I think it's really significant in what it says about the supreme value given to absolute personal autonomy. (How appropriate on a day when the Gospel is "where your treasure is, there your heart will be.")

I noticed that many of the comments about the matter stress that parents are simply "guardians" of a child, as if they could only legitimately act as proxies, attempting to predict the child's own future decisions, and not setting the child on the course they believe best. So parents can have their baby girls' ears pierced (of course the little girl is going to want to wear earrings!), but cannot prevent their teenaged daughter's abortion. This attitude gets taken to extremes also by those who don't want to "impose" a religion on their child, or in the case of that family which is concealing their baby's sex, as if the "datum" of nature itself was a violation of personal rights. Unrestricted choice has become an idol. Each person does, then, become "an island, entire unto itself."

And this is where the ban becomes critical issue for the Jews. A boy's circumcision is the sign of his belonging to a people, and of their history being his history. Through it, he visibly has a place in a much larger picture. He knows: It's not all about me. One thing the ban would do (inadvertently, I think) is establish the newborn Jewish boy as a solitary in this world. Given the history of attempts to marginalize Jews and Judaism, San Francisco would do well to show a little respect and include a religious exemption in the proposed legislation.


Aaron said...

That was very well said. I've noticed the same train of thought regarding parents being "guardians" of their children, as opposed to being their biological parents. The circumcision ban fits right along with baby Storm whose sex is being kept secret. It's so sad.

Sr Anne said...

What strikes me as particularly naive in all this is the assumption that personal freedom is something "complete" in itself; that it does not require any sort of formation, preparation or guidance.
As if freedom were a purely physical thing that sprouts and grows spontaneously, and is sure to achieve its full flourishing unaided.