“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.”- Romans 12:9 (NLT)
I am an intactivist.
I have many friends who care about many issues: abortion, human trafficking, homelessness, foreign missions, and more.
All these friends sincerely care about God’s will for humans, and they act on their compassion whether that looks like introducing people to the Gospel, feeding and clothing the poor, saving the vulnerable from harm, or a combination of all three.
I care about and support those three things too, and I care about all of those issues I listed and more.
But none of them are *my* issue – the issue I spend my time and talents promoting.
My issue is intactivism.
‘Intactivism’ comes in many forms, but what I do is attempt to protect newborn boys (and girls) from forced infant circumcision.
It’s done to about half of all newborn or infant boys in the United States, and involves a surgery in which their healthy foreskin is removed. (You can see one here if you never have before, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
Is this a weird or unimportant issue for a Christian to care about?
No, and I’ll tell you why.
When I read the New Testament, I am overwhelmed by the teaching that Christ has freed us from the rules found in the law (Ephesians 2:11-15). He has fulfilled the Old Testament rites of sacrifices, Sabbath, and circumcision. He is the Sabbath (rest), he is the final sacrifice (blood shed on the cross), and he is the final circumcision (something cut off to signify covenant with God).
The Christian faith has nothing to do with our foods, our animals, our special days, or the marks on our bodies. The New Testament declares circumcision to be done, finished, over, just like it does the sacrificial system and the other rites and laws. As Christians, to continue to circumcise our baby boys is to participate in a ritual that has zero meaning. Since the cross, it is just as logical for a Christian to circumcise a baby boy as it is to burn a dove on an altar. And to circumcise in the extreme modern form (diagram here) makes even less sense.
Even before I became an intactivist, I gave advice to a friend who was deliberating whether to circumcise her son in order to honor that tradition of covenant with the old sign. I told her that I thought keeping him intact would be MORE honorable and a better reminder of God’s love than circumcising him. It would say to him that God’s new covenant is with the heart.As Christians, to continue to circumcise our baby boys is to participate in a ritual that has zero meaning.Click To Tweet
My faith causes me to be an intactivist.
I believe so very strongly that God created baby boys and baby girls perfectly.
Yes, the fallen world is full of pain, suffering, birth defects, and illness. Many children are born with bodies that cannot be considered ‘perfect’ by the standards of science and medicine, or by what we see as God’s usual creation. But the foreskin on a baby boy (virtually all other mammals have them too) is not a sign of imperfection.
It is a functional, healthy, valuable body part designed by God for protection and pleasure.
There are many things I do not understand about God, His plan, and the rules in the Old Testament. I do not understand why He would ask His people to clip the foreskin (diagram). But in the absence of such a requirement, people who have faith in God and His design must not unnecessarily remove parts of God’s “very good” creation. Adam had a foreskin, as it is part of the normal male anatomy. Faith in God’s perfect creation leads us to value each part – from the heart that pumps our life blood, all the way down to the “useless organ” we call the appendix and the “extra skin” of the foreskin. The New Testament clearly affirms God’s original design by calling circumcision “nothing” (1 Corinthians 17).
I can only be an intactivist if I have hope.
I’ve talked to many parents and asked them to value their son’s naturally created body by keeping him intact. Some agree with me, and some do not.
I know of medical professionals who question circumcision and know there are no medical reasons for it, yet they still perform them because their job requires it.
All these people frustrate me!
I cannot fathom how you can know that circumcision is a painful and unnecessary procedure and still choose to do it. Generations past were in the dark, for the most part. Doctors were taught it is necessary, they told the parents as much, and everyone agreed it should be done.
But that is no longer the case.
Doctors and parents can instantly find out the facts thanks to all the research that is now available online. Medical organizations in multiple countries condemn it as harmful. Many websites contain everything from research to personal stories of boys and men suffering complications, and the information is now accessible right at our fingertips. The information available now gives me great hope for the future.
When I am discouraged by those who choose circumcision, I have to choose hope.
First of all, I hope that their baby boy will be ok.
I hope he only suffers the inevitable consequences of circumcision: pain and the loss of the foreskin, because those are unavoidable.
I hope he does not have to go through the other potential complications such as adhesions that are painful and need treatment, meatal stenosis that occurs when the urethra opening is no longer protected, or the dangerous ones like excessive bleeding and infection that can lead to death. It is a horrible feeling to be hoping that a boy’s outcome is the “least bad” one, but that is the truth.
I hope that those who chose to circumcise him will change their minds.
I hope the parents see that the procedure harmed their son’s perfect penis. I hope that they realize during those early diaper changes that the glans is now exposed in an unnatural way, that the blood and wound and scars never should have been there, and that the foreskin really does belong. I hope that doctors will fully understand that they are causing harm to a perfectly-created penis, not healing or helping a problem. I hope that the future will be better for boys. I hope that the information continues to spread and reach every expecting parent. I hope even this article, my personal thoughts and story, will change at least one parent’s mind and spare their son from the pain and loss of circumcision.
“Faith, hope, love – the greatest of these is love.”
You must love your neighbor. Do everything in love. I have encountered unloving intactivists. I have encountered unloving Christians. God commands love for my neighbor, and my intactivism does not trump love.
I do not just love my neighbor “unless he disagrees with me.”
I do not just love my neighbors “unless they choose to circumcise their son.”
No. I love my neighbor regardless.
Some try to lump circumcision into the “mommy war” category and say that we just need to accept everyone’s choice on the matter. I reject the idea that advocating for boys to be kept intact is part of this cultural phenomenon. You participate in the “mommy wars” when you believe that your choice makes you better than the next mommy, claim that your kids are better than the next kids, or say that you love your kids more because you breastfeed/homeschool/buy expensive carseats/eat organic/work a job/co-sleep or a host of other choices.
I don’t believe choosing to circumcise is something parents should do in the first place; it should be each male’s right to decide if he gets to keep his healthy foreskin. But that aside, I choose never to go to war with anyone over this issue. I do not believe that keeping their son intact makes one mom better than another or proves that she loves her child more. I am not EVER fighting against people, or moms, or even doctors.
I am fighting a problem.
I am fighting a cultural conditioning that has taught American parents for decades that the foreskin is dirty, dangerous, and disposable.
I love people, and I hate unnecessary circumcision.
I have tried always to show love to others whether we disagree on this issue or any other. I love their babies, and I want them to be safe from unnecessary surgeries, from pain, and from losing a body part that they may someday want. I love new parents, and I want them to make the best decisions they can. I love doctors, and am thankful for the many times they save or improve people’s health and people’s lives. I love God and His natural creation of the human body. Love is the reason for what I am: a Christian, a wife, a mother, and an intactivist.