[I'm not really here! I'm stealing WiFi at Dunkin' Donuts to post this on our way to beach. This seemed like the perfect post for a day when I'm not really here.]
Today, a horrible new planet swam into my ken: foreskin reconstruction.
It’s a thing. It’s a thing among a small number of men who suffer from rare disorder called “phimoses,” where the foreskin won’t retract fully, and it’s a thing among a small number of men who had botched circumcisions, and experience pain and bleeding.
But it’s also a thing among men who have allowed themselves to be persuaded that their lives are significantly impoverished because of a missing flap of skin. They believe that they cannot be happy or fulfilled until they go through a lengthy process of skin grafts or, less risky but somehow more appalling, a years-long regimen of “tugging,” with tapes, weights, and elastic straps. They believe that they can be “restored” to something valuable, dignified, and worthwhile by devoting hours out of every day, perhaps for years, to measuring how much skin covers the end of their penises.
There’s a word for this: “Idolatry.” Elizabeth Scalia nailed it. We imagine idol worship is a thing of the past, just because we haven’t seen wanton wenches polishing a golden calf with their hair, lately. But idol-making has been the constant business of humanity for thousands of years. The idols themselves change, but the impulse is the same: replace God with something smaller and easier to manage — and devote your life to serving that, instead.
This isn’t about whether circumcision is right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy. It’s about who’s in charge: you, or what you think you lack?
Some people speak of the devil tempting us with pleasures and delights, which turn to ashes when we die. More and more, he tempts modern men and women with the idea that we are miserable. He tells us there is no way we can’t be miserable, under our current intolerable circumstances. He teaches us to examine every experience and tease out how unsatisfying it is, compared to some ideal which we’ve never experienced, but which we firmly believe we deserve. He trains us to focus on what we do not have. He constantly reminds us that we’ve been violated in some way, that life itself has robbed us of . . . something.
And the more squalid the locus of our desires, the better. Exorcists often report an overpowering fecal stench in the homes of the possessed. The frantic masturbation scene in The Exorcist was not a fantasy. This is what the devil offers us: everything wretched and small, because he wants us to know in our hearts that we are wretched and small, that we stink, that we’re nothing more than a few square inches of skin.
He doesn’t just want us to lose God. He wants us to degrade ourselves as much as possible in the process. A fall is not good enough: it must be a ridiculous fall.
Foreskin restoration? I don’t care who you are, I can promise you this: there is only one kind of restoration that really means anything, and that is the kind that comes from letting go of that wretched little idol you’ve been clutching. Let Christ take everything from you, and then we’ll see how you can be restored.