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'Unisex toilets to tackle bullies'

The theology of urinals.

'Unisex toilets to tackle bullies' is the headline of a BBC story today. And, when you think of it, really, what could be more embarrassing for a bully than to be tackled by a toilet – and a unisex one at that.

Actually, the proposal is that England's rebuilt and refurbished schools should use unisex bathrooms (ah, let's call them loos like they do, since that's much cooler) with blurred glass walls, central sinks, and no urinals.

The Department for Education and Skills report explains,

Most anti-social behaviour occurs when pupils socialise and hang around in the toilets. To discourage this, along with provision elsewhere in the school for indoor social areas, the space within the toilet facility needs to be kept to a minimum, and hand-washing facilities should be made visible and potentially unisex by being moved out of the cubicle area as a direct extension to the circulation space. This also allows for passive supervision of the common areas from the circulation space, so that pupils can feel safe when using the toilets.

The report urges schools to lose loos' urinals because "research has shown that at puberty, boys' use of urinals is problematic. The trough type in particular can contribute to a medical condition know as ‘shy bladder syndrome'." Elsewhere, the report notes that since urinals are cheaper than toilets, urinals may be preferred in some cases. (Some alternative floor plans include urinals.)

So anyway, I just thought the article (which I found on the BBC's religion & ethics news page) was interesting. I'm sure that some of the culture-warrior readers (those who use terms like "war against boys," "forced androgyny," and "feminization") will be interested. But since this is supposed to be a specifically Christian blog, I'd like to make some direct connection to Christian life, theology, or mission.

So here's the tangentially related question for you: Several verses in the Old Testament refers to those who "urinate against the wall" (or, to use the King James English, "pisseth against the wall" – surely one of the favorite references for any grade-school boy in a KJV-friendly Sunday school class or old-school Awana program).

Most translations, even formal equivalent ones, have updated this as "men." But there are other Hebrew words for "men," and these cases the Hebrew really says "urinate against the wall." In each case, those who urinate against the wall are not in God's favor. It almost always looks something like this: "And it came to pass, when [Zimri] began to reign, as soon as he sat on his throne, that he slew all the house of Baasha: he left him not one that pisseth against a wall, neither of his kinsfolks, nor of his friends. Thus did Zimri destroy all the house of Baasha, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake against Baasha by Jehu the prophet."

So what's the deal? Urinating against the wall seems to besomething that both Israelites and other nations did, so it's apparently not just a cultural thing. But if the Bible identifies you as someone who pees on a wall, you're in deep trouble. Does God prefer squatting? Will England urinal-free loos be more biblical? Help me, Old Testament scholars!

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