In the process of thinking through how to form my boys' attitudes and behaviors towards certain bits of their little anatomies, it seemed to me time to make a shameless attempt to get comments on my blog address our reasoning for choosing not to have them circumcised-- or, as I like to put it, leaving them intact.

We did our research, of course. It didn't really help with the decision making process. When we are talking about hygiene and health, sexuality and aesthetics, there are lots of arguments for circumcision. There are a lot of arguments against it.

Ultimately, our decision was a theological one. We chose to leave our boys intact for the same reason we chose to have them baptized: we are not part of the old covenant; we are part of the new.

The New Testament is full of this idea, but I think Colossians 2 sums it up pretty well:

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. --Colossians 2:9-12

Circumcision was the old sign of membership in God's covenant family; the new sign is baptism in Christ Jesus. Just as the law of Moses dictated that baby boys receive the mark of membership in the covenant family, under the new covenant we baptize our children (all of them! not only boys) as a mark of membership in the new covenant of grace.

Note that the parallel holds up: a baby could be circumcised but fail to keep the covenant when he was grown, thus not fully entering in to his heritage and promise as part of the community. We baptize our children, but expect them to choose a saving relationship with Christ as they mature into adulthood; otherwise the baptism is emptied of its significance.

Right now their baptisms represent the hope and promise of grace. We have left their bodies intact because we believe in the reality of what has been promised: that they have been "sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ's own forever."


Kimberly said...

And, also, completely non-theologically, it seems generally unnecessary in our Western culture of (general) hygiene, to do that to a tiny baby.

But what do I know. I am a girl.

Agree totally on the theological basis. AND, like many of the OT "laws", they seemed to have a great deal to do with health and welfare, which maybe was why God gave them to His people. To protect them.

As a slightly related idea, it might be fun to explore why some of those OT "laws" are preempted by Christ's death and resurrection, like some of the dietary laws, and others aren't, like the 10 commandments. Frankly, I am not sure I can quite articulate the difference.

Ghost Writer said...

Will is also uncut. That decision was not theological for me, but it had everything to do with what I would NOT do if he were a girl. To me, circumcision, whether on a male or female, is genital mutilation. The foreskin is part of his anatomy. Why should I cut it off? All I need to do is show him how to keep himself clean. It shouldn't be a problem.

Veronica MItchell said...

I don't have any strong feelings on the subject, but my husband is strongly opposed to circumcision, so if we had had boys, they would be "intact". It just would not be worth the fight we would have if I suggested anything else.

I'm curious if the recent stats on HIV transmission and circumcision made you question your decision at all.

Julia said...

We are in the no-circumcision camp as well, although so far, with just girl offspring, no opportunity to put it into practice. :)

M. Robert Turnage said...

What you should do is wait until an old man in your tribe gets a vision and decides to go after your kids with a sharp rock. That is the biblical way.

Recovering Sociopath said...

Robb, you nearly made me snort iced coffee out my nose.

Veronica-- not really. The other risk factors for HIV transmission are so much more a part of the constellation, I figure if they're pursuing those behaviors, being uncircumcised will be the last of the things they have to worry about.

Kim Pospisil said...

We went ahead and had our son "cut" but struggled with that decision for all the reasons you wrote about in your blog. Ultimately, we chose circumcision because Daddy is too and we wanted to avoid explaining why he looks different for a while. Ironicly, the procedure didn't fully remove all the skin and the nurses did not want to go back and "redo" it. We're ok with that.

I am very curious about your belief in infant baptism. You were raised SBC, which like many evangelical denominations, speaks against this practice. What conclusions did you make when you shifted away from immersion? I'd love to learn about them.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

Our son is intact.

We made that decision mostly because my husband is intact. (Also because I didn't feel right about inflicting that much pain on a newborn if it wasn't absolutely necessary.)

But I like your reasons better. They are much more spiritual. Can I steal them? ;-)

happygeek said...

What an interesting way of looking at it.
NEVER thought of it that way. On this one, I left it up to my husband (he's the boy, he gets to make tough decisions like that) but I had never considered the old vs. new covanent issue.
Side note, we are not Southern Baptists, but went to the mothership seminary for my hubby's PhD. He almost got thrown out of his class for his "liberal" views of baptism. Liberal meaning "you don't have to put 'em under till they bubble."
It was FUN! He decided not to mention his take on child baptism after that!