A Kenya Christian Defense of Female Circumcision: A Treatise
I am a grand child of a female circumcised Christian matriarch!: The issue of female circumcision has taken center stage again as Kenyan children prepare to join school. In Maasai, the debate has become so intense because the government county commissioner has ordered that young girls entering school be checked for signs of female circumcision or pregnancy! Every girl suspected of being pregnant or having gone through female circumcision is forced to give up the person or persons responsible. The person, even parents are then arrested.
I can understand the issue of pregnancy because the process involves responsibility of a person to another human being, in this case a child. Any man who impregnates a primary school girl denies her the right to the future given modern day dependency on education. In this case the government is right in prosecuting the culprits!
In matters of female circumcision, I do not see how this act interferes with a girl’s ability to go to school or become successful in the future. I have met women in the United States from Kenya who were circumcised and have done well in the area of education and function. They have contributed positively in societal development and other social aspect of life. My grandmother was circumcised and after getting married to pastor Johanna Nyenjeri Njoroge (co-founder of Kijabe mission with Africa Inland Mission in early 1900s), gave birth to 13 children and transformed Kenya society through her work in the early Kenyan church. I am a grand child of a female circumcised Christian matriarch!
Every culture has its own traditional values, taboos, norms, and ideals: These guide its identity. For those of us who were born in tribal groups, our process in life involved initiations. These processes were carried forth from generation to generation. Though we did not know their origin, we were ‘baptized’ into them by our parents. Like many men in my tribe, we had to be circumcised! This was the way young boys in my village became men. Kenya is fighting against female circumcision. This war did not start now. In 1920 there was a falling out between Christian Protestant groups. Those who supported female circumcision abandoned Kijabe mission forming the Independent church movement. The rest remained Evangelical! Kijabe mission discouraged female circumcision.
As young pastors this issue of female circumcision confronted us. Even today, many churches and pastors are facing this societal and cultural issue. One young girl came to me and inquired whether as a Christian she should be circumcised. At that time, the issue had not been taken over by feminists and western political theorists. The question was plainly my biblical perspective: The un-mutilated biblical view! The young girls felt torn between the biblical call for parental authority and the call by Christ to be believers. For the young teenager, the decision was not as simple as ABC. Rather, it was a psychological warfare!
Within the biblical conception, “Honor your father and mother . . .” Ephesians 6:1-4 is absolute. The responsibility of bringing up children is left to parents. The Divine I AM
established an order within the created world. He decreed that woman and man be the basis of procreation. God decided that He would not create a system of human multiplication outside of the human body system. Therefore a woman carries the egg and the man carries the sperm! That which is brought forth from the interaction of the two is matter that grows into what we call BIN ADAM.
Given the intricate nature of this new being: It’s inability to feed itself and it ‘s vulnerability in matters of life, the need to hold a child’s hand while starting to walk, and the difficult responsibility of guiding children to maturity was given by the Creator to parents. It is them that are obligated to feed, cloth, educate and guide these unto faith and belief unto eternity! However Parents do not raise children in a vacuum. Rather, they raise them within their culture: Children just obey! They are innocent.
The question that must be asked is, “How does God expect parents to bring up their children”? The foundational principle is this: Bring up your children in honor of God.
The Old Testament commanded the Hebrews to male circumcision. However, St. Paul in his protest against the Judaizes and Peter’s insistence that gentiles be circumcised, mutes this requirement. Galatians 2: 11,12,13. Not to erase circumcision, but to elevate spiritual “circumcision” which to him was more important than the physical Old Testament initiation. The argument is that a man must be initiated into belief in Christ. This initiation is much greater in its spiritual blessing than physical circumcision.
As per the traditional female circumcision, it revolves around the same philosophy of culture. I do not believe the Bible condemns cultures and traditions within tribal societies. What the Bible emphasizes is submission of the cultural norms to the spiritual “circumcision”. In this, Christ is Lord of life and of Culture. The Bible does not come to erase culture: The bible purifies culture to submit it to Christ! Believers must always ask whether a taboo, an initiation, or a norm is consistent with the Cross of Christ. If not, then it must be made to submit to the norm of Christ.
Traditional female circumcision had a role to play in our societies. The western feminist theory intends to force it out of our culture for their political agenda. This is wrong! The government is justified in dealing with those who impregnate children denying them a future! But on female circumcision, the parents have precedence! Our culture takes precedence and the Bible is silent!
Would I encourage my daughter to be circumcised? No. But I would not condemn those parents who do!
Teddy Njoroge Kamau (PhD)
HTBluff Associates. BBN TV
Diaspora Messenger Senior Columnist