This is a summary of our thoughts on keeping our son intact.
A lot of Christians come at circumcision from the perspective of- if it was in the Bible it is right. God wouldn’t have commanded it if there wasn’t good reason for it, right? Here are some thoughts on that. The procedure itself was much different then, more of just a slit in the skin instead of removing inches of tissue.
This one is a sermon about circumcision in the Bible and the differences between Old Testament physical circumcision and New Testament circumcision of the heart.
Galatians 5 speaks extensively on circumcision and how the need for it has been wiped away in Christ.
Galatians 5 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
The other side of the decision is a physical one. Is there a need for it medically? The answer in a vast majority of cases is no. The foreskin does indeed have a purpose- many really important purposes, actually!- and removing it obviously takes those away as well as potentially damaging the penis’ function in sexuality and hygiene by depleting its ability to clean itself, much like our clitoris and hood are self-cleaning, and leaving scar tissue instead. This author is very strongly opinionated but presents her information very research-based and very thoroughly so I think it’s worth a look. There are pictures of circumcised and uncircumcised penises so be aware of that when you open it.
Many women say that their husbands insisted on circumcision so baby would match Dad. We recognize that this will be a simple conversation someday in which we explain to our son that when his dad was born, people didn’t know better and unfortunately the procedure was performed on close to 90% of babies, but that times have changed and it is no longer recommended by any medical organization.
Speaking of, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a statement that the benefits of routine infant circumcision outweigh the risks. Here is a response to that statement by thirty-three European doctors who wish to point out the strong cultural bias behind the AAP statement. Their reply was actually published in the journal Pediatrics, which is released by the AAP.
Beyond the purposes of the foreskin, we also considered the immediate health risks and effects of the surgery itself on the baby. We’ve all heard horror stories of men getting circumcised later in life and having a terrible recovery. This made me wonder how it is for the baby. I have cared for multiple infants within hours and days of their circumcisions and these baby boys were clearly in a lot of pain, with the surgery site surrounded by urine and feces in a diaper. It is very common for the babies to be extremely sleepy during and following the surgery and that is because their bodies are in shock. Research shows that even the babies who don’t cry during the procedure have the same amount or higher stress hormones in their brains during it and that those levels take months to go down, some never returning to normal. The chances of infection, botched surgery, scar tissue regrowth, and other more horrific side effects from major genital surgery on a newborn far outweighed the potential benefits we saw. This article cites statistics comparing the rates of SIDS to those of infant death due to circumcision complications.
Yes, a very minute number of men will encounter a need for circumcision later in life. If our son has a medical reason to be circumcised as he grows, and is able to give his consent to the surgery, we will certainly take care of it and help him through the healing part. I am grateful for anesthesia that can be used on an older child or adult.
It’s also good to be aware of the statistical rate of penile cancer- very very low in both circumcised and uncircumcised men. UTIs can be prevented with good hygiene (including not retracting the penis until it happens naturally, typically just before puberty) and treated with antibiotics. UTIs are far more common in women and yet we don’t face routine genital surgery at birth to prevent them, we just learn to rinse well in the shower. STDs can be prevented with abstinence, which I pray for my children often, and lessened with condom use. Intact boys are very easy to keep clean with a swish of water in the bath or shower- no extra steps or anything! You don’t have to- and shouldn’t!- retract the foreskin, just clean the outside like a finger.
I think it’s important to be familiar with the surgery if you choose it for your son. Here are some pictures of the tools and process. They make me cringe and make me queasy and that in itself makes me not want it for my child: http://www.drmomma.org/2009/08/plastibell-infant-circumcision.html http://www.cirp.org/library/procedure/gomco/
I think any parent choosing circumcision should also be willing to watch a video of the procedure: http://www.thewholenetwork.org/research-circumcision.html#videos
Here are some more links I’ve found informative. These covers some of the biggest myths. Did you know less than 30% of babies are circumcised in the US, and even fewer worldwide?
A very extensive list of resources http://guggiedaly.blogspot.com/2010/05/everything-i-currently-have-on-genital.html
Circumcision rates in the US http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/17/health/research/17circ.html?_r=0
Christians and circumcision http://www.drmomma.org/2009/06/information-on-circumcision-for.html?m=1