When we had our first son, we did not actually give a whole lot of thought to circumcision. I researched what I could find and what stood out to me was: Not Necessary. That seemed simple enough to me. ‘Not necessary’ was pretty much all the information I needed. I read that circumcision was 'primarily cosmetic.' This also disturbed me. Why should I have a say in how his genitals look?!
I shared with my husband that I’d found circumcision was not necessary. Being the awesome man he is, that was enough for him. Since then I have learned that many fathers who were circumcised at birth feel threatened or insecure at the idea of their son being different. To some men it may feel like an admission that something is somehow wrong with them and that idea is uncomfortable and potentially brings up other underlying issues. I’m very blessed to have a man who does not think this way. Neither of us wanted to do something to our son that would cause physical pain and risk complications if it wasn’t medically necessary. He agreed with me that if a surgery is not necessary for our newborn, why would we do it?!
Our first son was born and we were very pleased to leave his little body as perfect as it was when he arrived. We had no problems whatsoever, and caring for him was a breeze. There is absolutely nothing extra to do when boys are little because the foreskin is literally fused with the glans of the penis so it cannot (and should not) be pulled back for any reason. Cleaning it is as simple as washing his little hands! Only clean what is seen. Nothing more. It naturally takes care of itself! God’s design is truly perfect and works beautifully and easily! No disassembly required. Definitely no more complicated than bathing our daughters. Just sitting him in the bath and letting him splash and kick (as you would allow any baby) was enough to keep him clean, healthy and happy. And we avoided having to care for a recovering newborn with an open, painful surgical wound sitting in a diaper during those crucial first days and weeks. Being a newborn is traumatic enough without having an excruciating, unncessary surgery to deal with on top of everything else. Seemed like a no-brainer to me!
But even at this time I thought circumcision was still a personal parental decision for our babies. A few friends and family members said, “Well hey - God required it of Abraham, so it must not be bad. In fact, it may be good! Why would God require it if it weren’t somehow beneficial?”
This argument seemed valid to me and I had no answer for it.
After thinking about it and seeing how normal and healthy my intact little boy was, it seemed more and more wrong that baby boys are often routinely circumcised as newborns without much of a second thought. It even seemed like a lot of people do it just because 'it’s what you do' not knowing that there’s any other option. Why is the cutting off part of a baby's genitals not considered a bigger deal? Why is it so common and accepted in the United States? In any other situation, it would be considered criminal. It deeply disturbed me. The idea that God required circumcision as a sign of the Covenant in the Old Testament continued to confuse me. The more I knew about circumcision, the more I questioned why.
I started digging deeper. What was the deal with Biblical circumcision in the Old Testament? That’s when I learned the shocking truth. Biblical circumcision is completely different from what modern circumcision is. They are not even remotely comparable. The circumcision that God ordained in the Old Testament as a sign of the covenant was quite simply a 'clip' of the skin meant to shed a few drops of blood as a sign of the Covenant. Very little was actually removed. It left the majority of the foreskin intact and fully functional. Circumcision as it is done today was completely brought about by man. Not God. Had it been done in Biblical times the way it is today, babies would have died of blood loss and infection. They didn’t have the surgical tools and clamps and medicines that have made modern circumcision possible. There are historical and archaeological artifacts on this ritual that can be found in many reference books of ancient culture. This should be common knowledge.
To quote my favorite article on this topic:
God never ordained that the foreskin or any other part of the human body should be amputated (i.e. his creation destroyed), unless it became diseased. Our modern invention of foreskin amputation (modern circumcision) took place in Victorian times when several doctors and psychiatrists came up with the idea in hopes of discouraging self-stimulation. It didn't work, but the practice soon became ingrained as ‘tradition.’ And there are few things so safely guarded as tradition.After this discovery, I became livid that such a tradition is so misunderstood, falsely protected by religion, and still so common in this day and age. Prior to this discovery I hesitated to compare male circumcision to female circumcision. Prior to this discovery I hesitated to call it 'genital mutilation.' Prior to this discovery, I hesitated to call circumcision a human rights issue. Now that I know the truth? There is NO MORE hesitation.
I also learned that because the foreskin of an infant is fused to the glans of the penis, to remove it from a newborn requires being forcibly ripped away - very similarly to how a fingernail would be ripped off your nail bed. Sounds painful, right? Yet this is traditionally and routinely subjected upon our smallest and most defenseless - newborn babies! And it’s being done to their GENITALS. Horrifying. Not only that, but the foreskin has purpose and function. It is a blessing and a gift from God. His creation is perfect and beautiful. Why would I rob my sons (and their potential future wives!) of a healthy and vital body part?
Once I understood the invention of modern circumcision was merely to curtail sexual pleasure and that it was completely different from the sign of God’s covenant in the Old Testament, I started seeing it for what it really is. A human rights violation. Genital mutilation. Barbaric. Abuse. And yes, even comparable to female circumcision. It’s alarming to say the least to look at all the claimed 'benefits' and arguments made for female circumcision because they are eerily similar to the claimed 'benefits' and arguments made for male circumcision.
After all I’ve learned about circumcision historically and Biblically, in my mind I can no longer tolerate this topic as 'controversial.' The cutting of a newborn’s genitals (regardless of sex) should be the LEAST controversial thing in the world. It simply should not happen.
Georgetown lecture by Dr. Ryan McAllister, Ph.D. "Child Circumcision: An Elephant in the Hospital"
Snippity Snip - Or is Circumcision That Simple?
Circumcision Information Resource Pages: Information for Parents
Faith Considerations on Circumcision
Are You Fully Informed?
Vivian Jones is a homebirth mom to 6 little ones and wife to a man she says is "the most supportive, intelligent, and loving man who adores his children." Over the years that as she has gained experience as a mother, she has grown to be more of an advocate for breastfeeding, co-sleeping, cloth-diapering, milk-sharing, natural childbirth, natural family living and genital autonomy.
Thank you so much for sharing a little of your journey. I walked a similar path in that I grew up in a very conservative, Christian home and always just assumed because circumcision was 'in the Bible' it was what you did. Thankfully I took a few courses while in college (Religion Major) that opened my eyes to some more of the history of circumcision and the major differences between a blessing of the day vs. the surgery of modern U.S. culture. Jesus always treated children with gentle respect, and I have to bet he'd be quite the intactivist himself if he were walking among us on earth today. :)ReplyDelete
I agree! I feel quite certain that Jesus would advocate for the bodily integrity of our sons! I've known many people that cut their sons just because "It's in the Bible! It must be right/good!" It's so shocking to learn the difference between what's "in the Bible" and what's being done to babies today. That's why I wrote this - more people need to know! Thank you for your comment!Delete
I shared this article today even though I don't post much on the topic, mostly because my friends are all very faith oriented and get uneasy when I bring up the taboo subject of circumcision. Well, much to my surprise, about 10 people 'liked' the post and I had 3 friends message me privately to say they were glad I shared it - and one is going to keep her baby due in January intact now that she has looked into it some more. So glad I did post!ReplyDelete
This warms my heart! This is exactly why I wrote this. Just one baby boy spared makes it more than worth it. Thank you for sharing - I'm honored!Delete
No real comment, except to say that your story is incredibly similar to mine. We did a lot of research prior to the birth of oldest son and quickly came to the conclusion that it was not necessary and actually quite harmful to circumcise, but I still believed that parents should have the right to decide and that religious reasons were valid. As I have watched the 3 sons that we now have grow up healthy with their whole bodies and learned even more, I believe that it is a human rights violation to circumcise anyone without their consent for any reason. No one should decide how another person experiences their body or expresses their religious beliefs.ReplyDelete