Before our son was born 14 years ago I struggled with whether to have him circumcised or not. All of my past consternation on the topic bubbled to the surface when I heard that the City of San Francisco had approved a November ballot referendum to ban all circumcisions in the city. If nothing else, the proposed San Francisco ban vindicated that I was not the only person that gave circumcision such considerable thought.
Through all the obstetric visits and birthing classes the topic of circumcision was never really touched on as far as I can remember. But I was certain someone was going to ask, if the baby was a boy, whether we wanted him to be circumcised. Consequently, I wanted to be prepared with an answer. But what was the answer, yes or no! So began a short but intense philosophical debate and research for information that could lead us to the correct decision that fit within our world view of life.
At the time, I was not a particularly religious person, and to be honest, I did not really know the history of circumcision and its meaning. All I knew was that it somehow started as a Jewish tradition but I did not understand why the Christian religions embraced it. If the Jewish tradition of circumcision was so important, why didn’t we Christians also celebrate Hanukah? It was all very confusing.
From an evolutionary standpoint, the foreskin had to have some purpose. How many body parts do we have that are extraneous and don’t serve some sort of purpose. OK, nipples on men don’t make much sense. Conversely, we are designed to lose some parts, like male pattern balding, so why wouldn’t the foreskin just drop off when not needed. “Nature is way smarter than me”, I thought. Who was I to question which body parts were necessary now or in the future.
For the first time in my life I turned to the bible for answers. After much reading, there was one passage that really struck me, Galatians 5:6 (NRSV), “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love”. That resonated with me. However, could I embrace a Christian doctrine when I wasn’t really sure I was a Christian?
I looked up. I looked down. I had to fall back on experience. My parents made many decisions for me that I did not agree with. Most of those decisions were reversible, but not circumcision. A part of me was taken without my consent. My foreskin wasn’t endangering my life, it was just there. I have had a couple of operations in that area, one to fix a diverticulum in my urethra. It was not pleasant, but I survived. Had I wanted or needed a circumcision, I would have survived.
I finally decided that I was not going to mess around with my son. If he wants a circumcision, let him make the decision. I guarantee he will survive if he wants one as an adult. For me, it had nothing to do with religion or potential disease. The bottom line is you do not F__k around with someone else’s body for your own personal satisfaction or God’s. I have gotten to the point that I am uncomfortable seeing little babies with their ears pierced. Parents should not permanently disfigure their children to satisfy some quirky identity issues for themselves. If you want to leave your mark on your kids; get their haircut. Hair always grows back, foreskins don’t regenerate.
My son snapped this photo a couple weeks ago when he was on his 8th grade trip to Washington D.C. and before I even wrote this post. I think he understands at age 14.