Circumcision

One of the questions that most women must face when they are pregnant is, “If I have a boy, will he be circumcised?” Some of the main reasons why boys are circumcised today include the following: religion, “like father, like son,” health, cleanliness, and “everybody else is doing it.” Please watch this video, and finish reading this post.

Let’s take these in reverse order: peer pressure is never a good reason for doing anything, especially allowing your son to have an unnecessary surgery. Besides, the rate of newborn circumcision has fallen dramatically in the past decade or so (many insurance companies and Medicaid no longer cover the procedure), so if you want your little boy to “look like everybody else” then you may be surprised that your circumcised son is actually in the minority when he becomes a teenager. [This was one of the strongest reasons my husband had for wanting our sons circumcised–there were almost no intact boys in the locker room, and they were teased for being uncircumcised, and my husband didn’t want our kids to be teased.]

Many people think that the foreskin should be pulled back and the glans of the penis cleaned every day or at least every bath. This is not necessary–There is a membrane that attaches the foreskin to the glans, and until this fully disappears, it is actually harmful and painful to retract the foreskin; and children can be taught to clean themselves when it is necessary. There have been a few studies that attempt to show that circumcised boys have fewer health problems than intact boys. (For instance, there was a study which showed that intact boys were more likely to get urinary tract infections than circumcised boys. However, the rate of UTIs in female infants and young children was more than twice what it was in any of the boys, yet no one suggests we cut the female genitalia in an attempt to reduce the rate; besides, UTIs can easily be treated with antibiotics, and it is uncommon in boys, whether circumcised or intact.) Most of these studies have serious problems, however. When I was pregnant almost 4 years ago, one of the most-mentioned and strongest pro-circumcision studies involved a total of 13 cadavers, half circumcised and half intact. That was completely underwhelming for evidence. Since that time, there has been a study in Africa that seemed to indicate that circumcision offered some protection against contracting AIDS, but I have significant problems with it: the men who were circumcised were instructed not to engage in intercourse for at least 6 weeks, which significantly reduced their risk; also, since AIDS generally takes time to cause a response in the body (I believe up to 6 months or a year is the usual window of time to see if an exposed person will actually contract the virus), this 6 weeks reduces the amount of time between potential exposure and presenting symptoms; and the study was cut short after the “dramatic evidence” proved that circumcision helped so much, further reducing the time from exposure to testing. Also circumcised males still contracted HIV/AIDS, which means that it should not be considered as a sure prevention, even if the study is accurate. It may be possible that if men think that they cannot contract AIDS because they are circumcised, then they may be more likely to engage in risky behavior, and can still contract the virus….and spread it to others.

“Like father, like son” was another reason my husband gave, and is also the main reason why my sisters chose to circumcise their sons. However, who is needing to be pleased here? Exactly how many times do boys see their fathers naked when they would be old enough to ask or be bothered? I’ve heard of one man who insisted that his son be circumcised so that they would be the same, and found out later that his own father was uncircumcised. In his 30 years, he had never noticed; which means it’s unlikely that his son would have ever known any difference either. And exactly how far should this line of reasoning go? I had heart surgery as a child, which means I’ve got a scar that extends the length of my sternum. If I were to have a girl, should I insist that she be similarly scarred, so it can be “like mother, like daughter”?

And now, religion. First, a link to an article in which the author (a man who has researched circumcision for 30 years) says that circumcision as first practiced by Abraham removed only the so-called “redundant” foreskin–the skin that extended past the tip of the penis, and not the entire prepuce itself. So if you plan on circumcising because God told Abraham to do it, then make sure that you’re actually doing it as Abraham did it, and not some man-made extension of original circumcision. (I think this covers Judaism, Islam, and Christianity; and I know of no other religions that require circumcision.) But to speak more closely about Christianity…… As a Christian, I am required by God to do what He says; if He requires circumcision, then regardless of my disinclination for it, then I must do it. But does He? I admit that it is part of the Jewish covenant–it is necessary to be a Jew; circumcision is the mark of being a descendent of Abraham. But what does that have to do with Christianity? For a Christian, the Law is dead–nailed to the cross. If we are required to circumcise our sons, then what other parts of the Law are we also required to do? If you circumcise, according to Paul, that means you are required to keep the whole Jewish Law. So, unless you are planning on giving up catfish and pork, and start sacrificing animals at Jerusalem, then you might want to think twice about circumcising.

“Well, I’m not doing it for that reason, but God must have had some reason for requiring circumcision, so it’s better to do it than not.” Are you so sure of that? [Besides, I could say, “God created man with a foreskin, so there must have been some reason for it, so it’s better to leave it intact.”] What does the Bible say about the reason for circumcision? In the Old Testament, God said that circumcision was a sign of the Abrahamic covenant–that’s the reason given. In the New Testament–which must be our guide and not the Old–the evidence is clear–not only is circumcision not required, there is even an injunction against it!

If you would like other reasons not to circumcise, here are a few more links that you can check out: circumcision.org and nocirc.org.

4 Responses

  1. See also my personal blog for my further take on this issue

  2. hi kathy,

    circumcision is indeed a hot topic these days. there’s currently a circumcision debate between experts at opposingviews.com. click here if you’re interested.
    the debate is between two experts on the issue, so conversation remains civilized even though it’s such a controversial topic.

  3. Thanks for sharing your inquiry into this subject, Kathy. I’m sure your son will thank you one day for doing the homework and finding out the facts about this irreversible, mutilating surgery.

    It looks like you’ve got tons of good info on this site so I can see I’m going to have to spend a few hours reading here.

  4. […] or the belief that it’s “cleaner” or has some health benefit. I’ve previously talked about it (but it’s been a year ago), including the Christian perspective. I’m […]

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