Disclaimer #1 — Yes, this is a post on circumcision. Yes, I will be talking about the penis.
Disclaimer #2 — This is in no way a response or critique of those that have decided to have their sons circumcised. It is a personal decision that is deserving of mutual respect and annihilation of ignorance.
When you find out that you’re going to be a father, you realize that there are a myriad of decisions that need to be made, some major, some incidental. I already posted on one of those decisions — vaccines. Laura and I also mutually decided that we would want to homeschool, even though I had never, ever, thought I would want to, having been a product of an excellent public school education. On January 19, 2011, when we found out that we would be having a son, another decision we had to make was whether or not to have him circumcised.
At first, Laura wasn’t sure why I would want to leave him intact; after all, it has become the “norm” to have boys circumcised. We discussed it, I researched it, and sure enough, one of the first questions the nurse asked (even before Laura was out of recovery) was whether or not he’d be circumcised. And I said “no.” Over the next few days, as people visited, some even asked, “Has he been circumcised yet?” Or, “When does he get circumcised?” One curious friend (one of my best, I might add) called a few weeks before and bluntly asked, “Tell me you’re gonna have him circumcised, right?”
It was at that point that I laid out my reasoning to him why, in fact, we would leave him intact. For those of you that are curious yourself, or have already given Laura an earful, or think that I’m crazy, I’d like to give you my thoughts on the matter, arguing from the perspective of the reasons people give for circumcising.
First, the argument from religion: “God commands it.” Actually, no. In the beginning, God created man with a foreskin. It was a part of His original design. It wasn’t until Gen 17:9-14 that God commands Abraham and his male descendants to be circumcised as sign of the covenant between Himself and Abraham. Circumcision was there to remind the nation of Israel that if they do not follow God’s Law, they will be cut off from the blessings of God’s people just as their foreskin was cut off. Talk about a vivid illustration! Today, ever since the death of the Son and the giving of the Spirit, Israel is no longer God’s premier entity on Earth, the Church is. The Church does not have the same relationship to God as Israel did, nor do we have the same set of rules — which includes circumcision. In fact, Paul goes to great, extensive lengths to deny the necessity of circumcision (1 Cor 7:18-19; Gal 2:3-5). Now Paul talks about the inward circumcision of the heart (Rom 2:29). Paul goes toe to toe with Peter in Acts 15 to discuss the matter, an argument Paul ends up winning. To say that we should be circumcising today based upon the Bible is, quite frankly, to be ignorant of Scripture.
Second, the argument for hygiene: “Do you know how dirty the foreskin is?” I’d imagine that it does indeed get dirty. So does the circumcised penis. Do we cut our ears off because they get crusty behind them? Do we pull out our teeth because they have many cracks and crevices for bacteria to grow? No! We wash behind our ears. We floss and brush our teeth. Regardless of whether a guy is intact or circumcised, they are going to have to clean their penis. Either way, if it is not regularly washed, it’s going to smell, just like every other body part. I think a better case can be made that it is more hygienic to be intact. The foreskin is meant to protect the glans and, for the first ten years (on average), is fused to it. Parents don’t have to worry about feces getting in contact with the glans as circumcised boys do.
I’ve also been told horror stories by friends who had other friends whose mothers would forcibly retract their foreskin and scrub it so hard it hurt. But how is this an argument against circumcision? Let me be clear: I have no plans of ever retracting my son’s foreskin. He will be the first one to do so, and he will be the only one to do so. I will instruct him as to proper care, just as we will with brushing his teeth, washing between his toes, and wiping his butt after he goes to the bathroom. There is no hygienic difference.* In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has come out and said there is absolutely no medical reason to circumcise. (Although they still see no problem with injecting our babies with toxic and animal products.)
Third, the argument from societal pressure: “Don’t you want him to look like every other boy/you?” Actually, the rate of leaving boys intact in the United States has risen dramatically the past two decades. We’re one of the few countries in the world that still has a high circumcision rate. In addition, I don’t know how often my son will see other men’s penises. I would hope it would not be a regular occurrence that other men are noticing, especially since we’ll be homeschooling (let alone kids haven’t showered after gym class for decades now). I plan on educating my son that it’s nothing to be ashamed of; indeed, he’s the way God originally created man. If anything, it’s up to other men to teach their sons that there is nothing wrong with their friend who still has his foreskin, and to not perpetuate the ignorance that they themselves have.
Fourth, the argument from its resurgence in America. When the pediatrician came to the hospital to examine Daniel, he had asked us about circumcision, as well. When we told him that we were going to leave him intact, he breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Oh good. The whole reason why it became popular in America, anyway, was to curb masturbation.” I got a good chuckle out of that one. Not to be crass, but ask any circumcised guy if it curbed his desire to masturbate. Between that and his support of our vaccine decision, we would have so gone to Dr. O’Croinin with the Pediatric Group if Kaiser accepted them. We loved Dr. O’Croinin.
Fifth, it’s not my body. I will not make that decision for my son. Yes, by the time he is old enough to make that decision, the procedure would be far more painful and recovery time far longer. But it’s not my decision. I’ve had friends that have had their sons circumcised, but they couldn’t bear to watch the procedure. For me, if I can’t watch a medically unnecessary procedure because of the empathetic pain, perhaps it isn’t necessary.
Dr. Sears has an EXCELLENT little blog on the matter. Some are the same reasons I gave here. You can find it here. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask me and we can talk about it. It was ultimately my decision, as Laura deferred to my judgment on the matter since I’m the father. I’m not on a crusade to convince fathers otherwise, but to shed light on the issue so that we aren’t circumcising our sons “just because.”
*Perhaps the case could be made that God commanded it because it was hygienic — that it was part of the laws of cleanliness, and not part of the ceremonial law. The Bible does not say either way, but I felt it worth noting so that the charge could not be leveled against me that I didn’t take that under consideration. I did. Thanks.