I don’t often write opinion pieces because I feel that extending my personal opinion can often alienate people, and make them feel as if I wouldn’t understand their position on a mater, but this one has got me on pins and needles to share.
As parents we are faced with decisions that we must make, almost immediately. A mother might need to make choices about her diet, or her exercise plans from the moment she learns she is pregnant, some even before conceiving are already making choices about their children, like whether to stop smoking before conceiving, or to abstain from alcoholic beverages during the time leading up to conception. We make choices constantly, and sometimes without much recognition as to how it affects our children, or future children.
One of the first decisions a family will make if they are having a boy is whether they will circumcise him or not. This is a big deal question, because if you choose to do it there really is no taking it back. And a lot weighs on a persons mind when they want to research the issue to find out if it is something they want to do.
In the 1980’s and 1990’s my mother was having children and it was common practice in many things to do as your doctor tells you. Circumcision was one of the things the doctor told her to do, so without much thought she did it. My brothers and Father were all circumcised. None of them regret this, but there are a growing number of men and women speaking out about circumcision.
Weeding through the information and studies presented is tough, especially when presented with strong language like “gentile mutilation”. When you put it that way who in their right mind would choose that for their child?
A few years ago while my business was in a rather long dry spell I was asked to read and review a book on this very mater. I replied to the e-mail that was originally sent to me with a very cautious response, “I will read it, I said, “but if I feel it is bias I will close the book and never look back. I’ve read a lot of hurtful things on this subject and while I would love to find something to recommend to my clients I will not waste my time if your book is biased.”
The author was so sweet and replied that she and her co-author had started the book both being very careful not to be biased since so much of the articles in print now are that way, and that she would love to hear back from me if they failed to be non-biased.
This encouraged me and I took to reading the book. Some parts by the nature of the book were a little graphic in language, and there were a few drawings, but they were crude and if I didn’t know what I was looking at I wouldn’t have understood them, so I felt they were ok as well. I really don’t need to know what the adult male penis looks like unless it is my husbands, and at that I don’t need or want any pictures of it, so if I approve of this you know it isn’t that graphic.
Anyway, back to my opinion. I don’t have one. Ok, so the evidence suggests that there is actually equal harm in circumcision and not circumcising. The age and severity of the risks are different in each case, but they are presented in this book as a way to weed through the evidence yourself.
After reading the book and telling the Author I would recommend it to anyone needing information I’m happy to say the book is called ‘The Circumcision Decision‘. (I’m not being paid by the authors to advertise their book).
Now I have a good resource to hand to my clients, or rather recommend since the only copy I have of the work is not a printed copy. But there is more to all this than just a book.
I’ve been talking with family and friends and feel that there is a huge miss in the Christian worldview on this issue.
So I’ll start with the beginning. Why did circumcision start? It started all the way back in Genesis with Abraham, who was at the time called Abram. God spoke to him and said he was making a covenant with him, God would make him the father of many nations, and in return Abraham would circumcise himself and all his family and anyone who was in his household including slaves.
Abraham doesn’t seem to hesitate.
He and his wife have a child, and the rest of the people in his household follow suit and circumcision is begun. (this is obviously a very brief overview, if you need more start in Genesis 17)
What happens next in the world of circumcision? Moses has his son circumcised. The passage I’m referring to here is in Exodus chapter 4. God has told Moses to go and get his people away from Pharaoh and he’s on his way when some things happen in an inn, and then Zipporah Moses’ wife preforms the circumcision while Moses holds his son still. I won’t speculate too much on this, but Moses had delayed in getting this done, some say it wasn’t long, and others say the boy was 15 years old.. I don’t know, but he’d delayed at least a little, and it seems that Zipporah isn’t very happy to do the job. She throws the foreskin on Moses’ feet and calls him a ‘husband of blood’.
Honestly I’m not a bible scholar and there are a lot of things here that could be dug into, but I think this woman is a lot like the women now who want to protect their children from circumcision, and the practice of it. She clearly wasn’t too happy to do the job, maybe she felt it was genital mutilation… maybe not. All I know is she isn’t happy to do it.
Next up, the new testament.
Now we are skipping a lot of things so bear with me, this isn’t all the bible has to say about it, but I’m cutting to the chase here.
Paul, once named Saul, was on the road to Damascus and has this life altering experience, he stops chasing the Christians to kill them, and starts chasing God and sharing the news of Jesus with everyone he meets.
Peter, a disciple of Jesus, a devout Jew (who would have been circumcised) has a life changing moment in a vision where God tells him not to call what he has called clean; unclean.
Both of these men preach about circumcision in the New Testament. Both of them actually preach against it. However, I want to show you WHY they preach against it… In Galatians 5, and even in Romans 3 (just not as clearly I think) Paul is telling these men that they should not be circumcised because then they have no understanding of Grace and they must follow the whole law if they are going to try to have the law guide them to heaven.
At the time these men believed that if they were to be saved they must follow the law, but the law had been fulfilled so Paul was telling them ‘no, don’t do it, if you do then what good was the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins…” So hopefully I’ve made it clear that what Paul is saying is that circumcision won’t get you into heaven. It’s true, it wont.
Only Jesus can get people in.
So where then does that lead a good christian when making the decision for or against circumcision…
Here is where… God gave you a beautiful child, he created that child with parts of your DNA. He created him whole… BUT he also created you, his parents. He created you with a brain, he created you with passion, he created you with fears, doubts, and joys, and understanding. He created this child with you in mind. Only you can parent your child.
But NEVER believe the lie that if one parent wants a child to be circumcised it is because he/she wants to harm the child with no good reason. It is true that the reason may not be good ‘to you’, but that doesn’t make it a less valid reason. IF you find that your at a point where the circumcision decision has left you and your significant other head to head in the boxing ring please stop and look at the situation a little better.
God created your child, and he gave that child to you, and your spouse… but what did he give you before he gave you a child? A spouse (hopefully, I mean I understand that isn’t how it always works, but just give me the benefit of the doubt please).
Before you met this perfect specimen to share your DNA with and create beautiful babies he also gave you an example of what he wanted from your relationship. He gave you the example of Christ and the Church, the Bridegroom and the Bride.
If your husband truly represented Christ (I know that is a tall order but just pretend here) then you the wife/church, would follow his lead and be respectful of the choices regarding your family that he has made, regardless of why he has made them, or how you feel about the reasons he is using to make them.
IF you as a husband represent the Bridegroom Christ, then you will look at your wife/the church and see that though she may have strong opinions that drive you crazy she also has some good ideas, and is a loving, gentle creature and you love her and if you love her you will respect her, and if you respect her then you will hear her out.
Both parties should be able to talk without name calling, without mean words, and without assuming that they have to protect their child from the other parent. And in the end when everyone has made their voices heard they should go back to the example of Christ and the Church…
Is Christ ever influenced by the will of the church? Yes, if not then prayer just wouldn’t work.
Does the Church ultimately have to submit to the will of Jesus whether they like it or not? Yes, or they are not really followers of Christ.
What I am saying here is that if the husband decides to go with the wife on this issue it isn’t because he’s whipped, it is because he has heard his wife and decided that what she says has merit.
And if the husband does not relent in his ideals for his family and the wife then submits to him, it isn’t a crime, she isn’t being overpowered by her husband, she is letting him lead her family, which is what God called her to do, and is a beautiful thing when done well.
So after all that, am I anti-circumcision? Am I pro-circumcision?
I’m neither. I’ve made choices with my husband in regards to my sons genitals, and I’m not sharing those choices here, or the reasons we choose them, (seriously people would you like it if your mom was telling everyone on facebook what she did with your penis as a baby? It’s personal, so I’ve decided to stop sharing what really isn’t mine to share anymore.
So where do I stand? I stand on the basis of Marriage. God didn’t make an example of how to get to heaven based on a mother/child, or father/child relationship, he made it based on a husband/wife relationship. You need to weigh the pros and the cons together, and stop (if you are) pitting yourselves against each other.
One parent when asking the on call pediatrician to please give their son a circumcision was asked “why” (by the doctor), the answer “For religious reasons” and he pressed harder, “What religion?” he asked. “We are Christian” the mother answered. “Christians don’t do that.” The Doctor stated….
This mother carries that conversation around with her, the first decision she made in regards to her child, (other than breastfeeding which to her seemed less like a decision and more like something you just do) was being questioned, and treated like it was invalid….
But she stood her ground and doesn’t regret it. She said “It seems to me, that God asked it to be done as an example of how to circumcise our hearts, we have to cut something away, it can not be put back, not ever, we have to rely on God for that now. I want to teach my boys about that kind of respect for themselves and for God. We can not be selfish, we have to cut away a part of ourselves to be closer to God.”
Of course as I mentioned earlier circumcision is not what gets you to heaven, but this mother is using it to teach her boys what it means to truly give themselves to God, taking away something in return for something greater… Like Abraham and the promise he received from God. God said “Take away a part of what makes it possible to have children, and I will make you the father of many nations.”
Other mom’s who choose not to circumcise also stand on the Bible, pointing to Paul’s words and saying it is not necessary… are either wrong? No… not at all.
The only thing that matters in any decision you make as a parent is that you make it as a team… no one who stands on a mountain alone is exempt from loneliness.