It’s not practiced by Christians virtually anywhere else in the world or in Christian history, but modern male infant circumcision has become relatively common among Christians in the United States. And after several generations of a high cutting rate in the US, we've started believing some serious circumcision myths.
MYTH: It’s only a flap of skin.
Modern circumcision actually removes a highly-innervated, specialized, unique, complex part of the male body.
"Flap" sounds like it's in the way, but life for men is actually much less comfortable with this organ missing. The foreskin is the Creator’s designed system of protection, lubrication, and friction elimination. When we use the word "flap," we minimize the complexity and ingenuity of God’s design rather than respect it. It’s an (unintentional) cheap shot at God’s ability as Creator.
"Flap" also sounds awfully small. But the modern cut removes multiple complex structures of considerable size (which are then either discarded or sold by the hospital for direct profit). See the summary box to the right (or below).
This amputation eliminates multiple God-given functions, from immunological and protective functions to the physical “slide/glide” function designed to eliminate friction and discomfort completely. The loss of these functions makes life more difficult, even though those of us who don’t know any differently simply think our quality of life (e.g. level of day-to-day comfort) is normal. A coalition of doctors, citing 99 sources, has composed a brief document describing 9 things men lose to circumcision (including many listed in the summary box) and 24 complications, ranging from rare to very common.
MYTH: The pain will be minor, or at least brief.
Circumcision causes "severe and persistent pain" and hinders the mother-child bond. Pain for babies is at least as severe as for adults, and perhaps even more severe. The baby boys’ experience of intense, prolonged pain, their inability to understand what is happening or whether it will end, and their deep sense of abandonment make modern circumcision an extremely traumatic experience. For this reason, American medical organizations now always recommend local anesthetic, but this has limited and temporary effectiveness. (Other countries’ medical organizations recommend strongly against circumcision.) Besides, many doctors don't even use any anesthesia. In any case, the pain continues for days. In addition, the experience of being strapped down, prodded, ripped, crushed, cut, ripped, and then cut again understandably hurts mother-child attachment. And for some of us, the pain continues throughout our lives.
In addition, although the misguided idea that babies don't remember anything is common, traumatic experiences affect the mind whether they are "remembered" or not. Dozens of studies show the psychological harm of circumcision on children, such as a permanent reduction in pain tolerance and symptoms of PTSD. Besides, would “he won’t remember it” be a valid ethical reason for any other type of unnecessary violence?
MYTH: It won’t affect him or his wife sexually.
The glans (tip) is an internal organ with no skin on it and is not meant to be exposed. Without its natural, God-given protection in place, circumcised men experience a gradual but significant decrease in sensitivity over their lives that intact men do not, in addition to the immediate drop in sensitivity. Because of this, modern circumcision may increase the risk of erectile dysfunction and other problems. Viagra, lotions and lubricants, and all sorts of other aids for couples are bestsellers in the United States. In countries that don’t circumcise—such as all countries in Europe—these products do relatively poorly. There might be other factors involved, too, but the best explanation is that with God’s natural lubrication and sensitivity intact, men and women simply don’t need these things.
The sexual difficulties aren’t limited to men. Although most women in the United States wouldn’t know the alternative, they do suffer from the increased friction and decreased lubrication. Consider the following study (directly cited in the previous link). Christians wouldn’t perform this study, but the results are telling. In the study, women who had reason to know rated their experiences. Intact men scored an average of 8.03 out of 10, but the women rated experiences with circumcised men at an average of 1.81 out of 10. All of this makes clear biological sense, since we have removed the lubricating and friction-reducing mechanism God intentionally designed for us. Modern circumcision damages our Creator's design instead of respecting it.
MYTH: He’d just have to get cut later.
Other Western countries (including the Christians within them) do not cut their baby boys, and grown men in other countries do not need to be circumcised later. For instance, in Finland, a healthy country with an average life expectancy of 81 and one of the highest happiness rankings in the world, the rate of infant circumcision is 0%; the rate of adult circumcision is approximately 0.0006% (Finnish language link). Other countries that do not routinely modify God's careful design have similar statistics.
The stories about “needing it later” that float around in the USA are the result of harmful treatment of intact young children by doctors and parents, always due to ignorance of a simple fact that was once common knowledge: the average age of natural foreskin retraction is 10.5 years old (i.e. for half of boys, it's even later). Retraction should never be forced before natural retraction occurs. The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees. In other words, the "problems" can be easily prevented by doing nothing.
Unfortunately, due to the loss of natural anatomical knowledge in the USA, forced retraction still occurs thousands of times per year. By protecting our boys from this, we as parents can prevent all the "problems" that are rumored to be inherent to God's design. These problems actually arise from not respecting His design properly.
MYTH: He’ll thank me later.
Many American men are upset about what happened to them as babies. All too many experience complications, such as pain from too little skin, skin bridges, skin tags, persistent discomfort from clothing, and hair in the wrong places. Until they find out otherwise, most think that these are just normal difficulties of being male.
Thousands of men are even using gradual stretching to restore (external link) their foreskins, often to address these continuing problems their circumcisions have caused. With research mounting, information spreading, and rates dropping, he will more than likely thank you if you leave him as God in His wisdom designed him.
So with all of this harm, why do we do it? See 5 more myths on the next page, Why Male Genital Cutting started in the US.