Monday, November 9, 2015

I am the choir. Sing to me.

I know it's been awhile. I've decided to write only when I'm feeling strongly enough about a subject to use some of my limited mental energy.

On my mind this morning is the idea of preaching to the choir.

But let me go back and give you the background. Many months ago, I wrote about my struggle to finish a novel I believed God wants me to write. Since then, I have had friends, acquaintances, and random people online tell me that Christians should not make art tailored to a Christian audience. That it is more important - and a higher calling - to make art that appeals to secular society while still containing the general truths of God, in order to draw the unsaved to the Lord. 

More than one person said to me that tailoring our art to a Christian audience is like preaching to the choir. 

Which sounds true and it makes sense. Kinda. 

But I think that message has been holding me back. 

I have thought that my calling as a writer is to challenge complacent Christianity and unbiblical messages that have seeped into the Christian culture and skewed the way we apply the principles of the gospel. In short, to admonish myself and other Christians through my writing. I add myself in there because I often write about the things I also need to hear. 

That's never been a problem with my blog posts or articles I've written that preach Christian truths using the language of Christianity and openly discussing Christ, salvation, holy living, etc. But when I engage my creative brain to write fiction that conveys these same messages, I am somehow no longer doing something worthy - or as worthy. 

No one would tell the pastor's administrative assistant that he or she should take a secular job instead of sitting in church all day interacting mostly with other Christians. We don't tell the people who support and train the missionaries their job is not as important as being out on the mission field. We would never consider telling Billy Graham or Oswald Chambers that their writings don't appeal enough to a secular society. 

So why do we put this burden on our artists? Why do we expect all musicians who follow Christ to be like Switchfoot (a group who chooses not to sing "Christian" music)? Why don't we want our musicians to sing to the choir? And relating it back to my art - why don't we want our novelists, short story writers, and poets to write to the choir?

Here's a secret-not-secret: 

I need preaching to. 

I need my pastor to teach me the Word and help me to apply it to my life, yes. But I also need to read stories that openly preach.  I need to listen to music that reminds me I am a child of God, reminds to pray, reminds me to share the gospel with the broken. 

Sure I like to listen to Matt Maher sing about how love is a powerful force without need to mention God or Jesus specifically. But sometimes I need to listen to Casting Crowns remind me that I -and this world - need a savior.  I enjoy Needtobreathe songs like "Brother," but I also like to sing overtly Christian lyrics like those in their song "Multiplied." They are both on the same album, by the way. 

I like to read Ted Dekker thrillers, but sometimes I need the messages contained in books like his "Blessed" series. 

Ultimately, what we need to understand and accept is that there is a place for both types of artists/messages. There is a place for art that draws the secular world gently to Christ and there is a place for art that uplifts the Body of Christ with overtly Christian messages. Neither calling is more holy or important than the other. 

The most important thing for a Christian artist is to do the work God draws you to. Share your message in the way God has asked you. 

Create your art for the audience God has put on your heart. 

And do it for His glory. 

Now… if you'll excuse me, I have a novel to write. 


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

You Should Be Friends With Those People


This isn’t a post about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. Nor is it about keeping people around to fuel your addiction to drama and debate. 

This is about learning to love and seeing others as complex human beings. 

I am a conservative Christian who believes in the humanity of the unborn, the 2nd Amendment, that true marriage is between a man and a woman, and most other so-called traditional values. I am a proponent of small-government and a critic of public education. I do not like President Obama, and honestly think he’s bad for the country and kinda evil. However... 

HOWEVER

There are people in my life that I love that completely disagree with me on much of that or even all of it. Friends who put Obama stickers on their cars. Friends who are die-hard feminists who would gladly volunteer at an abortion clinic if they had the time. Friends who support Socialism as a form of government. Friends who don’t think private citizens should own guns. Friends who are - horror - atheists. 

And I am a better person for it. 

And I am a better person for it. 

That was an intentional repeat, by the way -so you don’t miss it. I got to know these people through various shared life experiences and/or common interests. I allowed myself to know them and care about them and, in the process, see that they are moms and dads who love their kids like I love my kids, husbands and wives who want to make their marriage work like I want to make my marriage work, people who care about the suffering of others like I care about the suffering of others. They are complex human beings just like I am. 

In his book You Are Now Less Dumb, author David McRaney, speaking about the illusion of asymmetrical insight,* writes:

[It] clouds your ability to see the people you disagree with as nuanced and complex. You tend to see yourself and the groups you belong to in shades of gray, but others and their groups as solid and defined primary colors lacking nuance or complexity.

No one wants to be labeled and then evaluated only through that label. Nor does anyone deserve it. But we do it, and then we stop seeing the people behind the opposing viewpoints. 

Once we do that, we can’t have honest, respectful conversations because we can't acknowledge the valuable humanity of the person we’re talking to. 

We start using terms like “those people.” 

Oh, I’m still guilty of this. But by remaining friends with “those people” instead of writing them off like they’re cardboard characters in this world just to annoy me and squash my beliefs, I know that I can continue to push back against that natural tendency. And I can see people as people. 

Because Jesus loves them as much as he loves me.

Thank you to all my friends who challenge me to love outside my comfort zone. You know who you are. 

*The illusion of asymmetric insight is the misconception that "[we] celebrate diversity and respect others' points of view," when the truth is that "[we] are driven to create and form groups and then believe others are wrong just because they are others." 


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

human love doesn't conquer all

Today I have a guest post up at the Sisters in Heart blog. I'm honored that they let me be a part of the great work they are doing. Jump over and read my take on the concept of human love healing the broken. In a way, it's a follow up to my last post.

Human Love Doesn't Conquer All




Friday, February 13, 2015

what if it were your daughter?

Over the past few days as the country has geared up for the release of the movie Fifty Shades of Grey, I've become increasingly dismayed at the number of Christian women defending the movie and the books. The most common defense is that the Fifty Shades trilogy is a redemption story. Christian Grey is a lost and broken person, and Ana's love helps him heal and become capable of real love.

My first question, dear Christian woman, is how can it be a redemption story when it is built around an extramarital sexual relationship? How do you even begin to rationalize that it's a good story?

Aside from the fact that this sexual relationship is immoral from the beginning, the relationship is also incredibly disordered and abusive.

Psychologists have come out against the books and movie for glamorizing pervasive domestic abuse and identity harming. I'm going to give you the link to a study. But, here's my warning. This contains possible triggers for survivors of abuse. Also, there are sexually-explicit passages from the book in the sexual abuse examples.

It's not any shade of grey. It's all black. Their relationship is dysfunctional from day one.

So here is my next question for you. What if it were your daughter? What if Ana was your daughter and she came to you and told you all about her new relationship? What if she said things like:

He doesn't like my friends and doesn't think I should see them.

I feel threatened by his behavior. Sometimes it seems like he's stalking me.

He gets angry at me and threatens me a lot. 

He scares me.

He wants me to do sexual things that scare me.

We have a sexual arrangement. He says he doesn't do love. And, by the way, I'm not supposed to tell anyone about our arrangement. 

He's controlling of what I eat and threatens to punish me for being bad, like he's my father or something.

Our first sexual encounter, he gave me lots of alcohol, yelled and cursed at me for not telling him I was a virgin, and then he was really rough with me.

Mom, I'm not really sure about this situation. He's so broken and I just want to love him. I'm sure if I just love him enough I can change him. I should stay with him, right?

How would you answer her? I know what I would say.

NO WAY. Run away. Fast. I will protect you. 

That is not what scripture means when it says to love the unbeliever so he will be won over by you. 


And I'd tell her this:

Jesus is the way of redemption.

Jesus makes the damaged person whole.

The love of Christ changes people's hearts and teaches them how to love.

Not you surrendering your identity and your body to a man's every whim in the hopes that you will change him.


Unfortunately, in real life these stories rarely end well. And the spiritual truth is that this relationship does not honor Christ in any way. Not. in. any. way.  Stop defending it. Stop glamorizing it. Stop rationalizing it. Stop allowing yourself to be deceived.

Stop calling what is evil good.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

why I'm not praying for the purity of my children's future spouses

Every Christian thinks about what kind of people they would like their children to marry. And if we're "good" parents and "good" Christians, we pray for those future spouses. We pray they will be good people, and that they will follow the Lord.

And we pray they will be pure until marriage. Don't we? I mean, aren't we supposed to? Isn't that what we all want?

Yes?

Maybe.

Go off on a tangent with me here… I promise I will bring it back around.

I teach a childbirth education class for Christians. But it's not like stages of birth, what to expect, etc., except in how those things relate to the main focus of the class.  And my main focus is this: keeping Christ at the center of your birth. Christ. At the center. Every decision, every time.

And also at the center as it relates to outcomes. What's a good outcome for childbirth? The only right answer is: Whatever God allows. Whatever. he allows.

Not healthy mom, healthy baby. That's not the only good outcome. Sure, we'd all like that. Nobody wants their childbirth to be complicated or tragic. But until we accept that God causes all things to work for good - including any outcome in birth - we have not surrendered our all to him.

So what does this have to do with spouses for our children and purity?

Simply this: I want my children to find and accept the person God has for them. Period. That's the good outcome. That's the goal.

Christians hold "purity" up so high. And with seemingly good reason. We want marriage beds undefiled. We want to protect our kids from the heartache and suffering that can come from intimate relationships outside of marriage, including the baggage they can bring into a marriage from that.

But do we want to teach our kids that only virgins are worthy spouses? Do we want to teach them that if that boy or that girl has a history that includes kissing or other intimacies that they don't deserve a holy marriage? Or if they themselves make a mistake that they don't deserve a holy marriage?

Or do we want to teach them that Christ's sacrifice covers a multitude of sins? That his blood purifies? That that man or woman who made mistakes in the past is now pure in God's sight?

Do we want our children to look for a virgin or do we want them to look for someone who loves and follows the Lord?

You already know my answer. I pray that my children find someone who loves the Lord and is willing to go all in, for better or worse, until death do them part. Someone who is committed to purity in their relationship with my child. And that's it. Because the man or woman who follows the Lord is pure in his sight, who are we to see them otherwise?

Nothing is more important than this truth: Christ came to seek and save the lost. Christ came so that we all might have forgiveness for whatever sins are lurking in our past.

I won't teach my kids to look for sexual inexperience.

I won't pray that my kids will look for sexual inexperience.

I pray that they look for Christ.


UPDATE: After getting some feedback yesterday, I felt I needed to come back and add something. This post was not meant to discourage you from praying how you feel led. I can't make those decisions for you, and I would never want to keep you from following the prompting of the Holy Spirit. For instance, one person told me that she feels led to pray specifically that her children's future spouses do not have a problem with alcohol. Because people in her family have that problem. Because she knows the heartache and the struggle and doesn't want that for her children. And that's wonderful. She is listening to the Holy Spirit.

And maybe you do feel led to pray for the purity of your children's future spouses. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Pray as he leads you. But as you teach your children how to pray for their future spouses, make sure they understand that it's because you feel led, not because that one virtue is not the be-all, end-all.

And make sure you aren't praying a certain way because some "good" Christians told you that you must.











Saturday, January 17, 2015

Costco shopping on a modified GAPS diet

Hey everyone! I'm back again! Did you miss me? 

Well, I'm easing in. Nothing too controversial. 

But don't worry, that's coming. Today groceries, next up… well, I have some ideas that are sure to stir up some trouble. 

So I started the GAPS diet in February of 2014. It's been a long, hard road, as cliche as that sounds. (Hey, someone tell me how to get that accent mark over my e!) I'm happy to report that I feel better than I have in 15 years. Yay for a healthy, whole-foods diet! 

GAPS is pretty restrictive, though as my healing progresses I do get to add more foods. But people often ask me what I eat, and I thought I'd share the typical things I buy at Costco. 

Part of GAPS (and really any whole foods diet) is eliminating processed foods. We do eat some when they have limited ingredients, like the applesauce I bought today. However, it has ascorbic acid, which is not preferable. I won't be eating it, but I'll let the kids have it because their systems aren't as sensitive as mine. 

With two teens in the house, food disappears fast! 

Okay, here's the list:

The aforementioned applesauce. 36 individual cups, organic, no added sugar. 
Organic chia seeds. I just started eating chia seed pudding, and I'm hooked!
Avocados
Clementines
Frozen organic strawberries
Kerrygold butter
Dried dates 
Dried figs
Organic baby cut carrots
Organic large carrots
Sweet onions
Lemons
Mushrooms
Organic raisins
Coconut oil
Avocado oil
Canned wild Alasken salmon
Cashews
Raw almonds
Sea salt
Himalayan salt
Pure maple syrup

You'll notice there aren't a lot of fresh vegetables on that list. It's not because we don't eat them; it's because there are very few that we eat frequently enough to justify buying in quantity. 

Could you put together a meal or two from that list? 








Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Don't You Worry About My Size 2

Recently I decided I want to get back into some pants I could wear a few years ago. They are a size 2. Inevitably when a small person decides she wants to be even smaller, she gets a lot of opinions. Mostly based on the very popular, but inaccurate, belief that size equals health. There's no question that being overweight contributes to a myriad of health problems, but there is no universal number for what is overweight. The question is what is overweight for a particular person. The same holds true for being underweight. There is no universal number. You can't make a determination based solely on the numbers.

Right now, I wear a size 4. And some people are insistent that not only do I not need to drop a size, but that I am too small as I am. But the truth is that I am a small-framed person. I'm not tall, my bones are small, and I'm not naturally curvy. If I eat a bunch of junk, don't exercise, and carry around 15 pounds of flab... I end up a size 4. In the process, I've abused my body with poor nutrition and laziness.

The actual size on my pants doesn't matter. What the number 2 represents for me is a time in my life when I was taking better care of myself. And if I eat well, gain some muscle, and lose some flab, then I'll fit a size 2, and I'll be healthier.

If you take good care of your body, that's the only thing that matters. Not the size of your pants or the number on your scale. You've got to find your own size 2. And stop worrying about mine.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Confessions of a Mean Mommy

Yesterday morning, on the way to my daughter's piano lesson, I took my two children and my little niece to Wegmans to get a special breakfast treat. My 11yo. son couldn't decide between a donut and a bagel, and he didn't understand why he couldn't have both. He gave me all the reasons he thought he should be able to, insisting I was wrong to make him choose. My son is big on reasons, always trying to logic his way into what he wants. And when he thinks someone is being unjust toward him, he can. not. let it go. And he will punish everyone around him with his attitude. His sense of fairness offended, he announced we would be staying there all day because he couldn't decide. This is a scene played out over and over, just in different times, places, and for different reasons. The obstinance. The disrespect. The fighting. I was tired and couldn't deal with it.

So did I take a deep breath, say a prayer, and be an awesome mom to him? No. I did something that was so awful, I almost broke down in tears the moment after I did it.

It's not easy for me to write this post. I wish I didn't have the material. But, like most parents, I fail. And sometimes I fail big time. The sinner in me wants to hide my shortcomings, and pretend I'm the Christian that has it all together. Insert wild laughter here. And don't just laugh because you know me, and know I don't have it all together. Laugh because there is no Christian who has it all together. And if you think you know one... well, they are probably working hard to make sure they keep that facade (and are probably miserable for it). Because sin hides in darkness and secrets. There's a reason Scripture tells us to confess our sins one to another. It reaffirms what we all know, even if we try to deny it: we all sin. It also reaffirms what we all profess: that there is forgiveness in Christ. As we confess and forgive, we preach the Gospel. And here's my confession: I am usually a very nice person, but I can be really mean to my kids.

My two wonderful, beautiful, amazing children often drive me to the ends of my patience and grace. You with me parents? You get this, right? If we were perfect, this wouldn't happen, because God is always ready to extend his infinite patience and Grace to them through us. But, unfortunately, we are not perfect. And, for me, that means getting to the "end of my rope"more than I'd like to admit to you. And, unfortunately, sometimes I treat my kids worse than I would ever treat anyone else. (Why do we do that to the people we love?)

I promised myself that I would never scream at my children. That I wouldn't call them names or slap them in the face or cuss at them. And I've done pretty well, thank the Lord. Admittedly I raise my voice   more than I should (which is never), but my kids are quick to remind me, and I try to be quick with my apology. Here's what I know, though. Screaming and name calling aren't the only ways to be mean to your children.

Someone on Facebook shared this blog post called "You Just Broke Your Child. Congratulations." He makes good points about all the ways we can break our children, and I encourage you to read every last word. (It's written to dads, but it applies to moms too.) At the start of the post, Single Dad Laughing Dan Pierce talks about the event that prompted him to write the post. A dad in Costco being mean to his child:

As Noah and I stood in line to make a return, I watched as a little boy (he couldn’t have been older than six) looked up at his dad and asked very timidly if they could buy some ice cream when they were done. The father glared him down, and through clenched teeth, growled at the boy to ”leave him alone and be quiet”. The boy quickly cowered to the wall where he stood motionless and hurt for some time.
The line slowly progressed and the child eventually shuffled back to his father as he quietly hummed a childish tune, seemingly having forgotten the anger his father had just shown. The father again turned and scolded the boy for making too much noise. The boy again shrunk back and cowered against the wall, wilted. ....
We were three from the front now, and the boy started to come towards his dad yet again. His dad immediately stepped out of the line, jammed his fingers into his son’s collar bones until he winced in pain, and threatened him. “If you so much as make a sound or come off of that wall again, I promise you’re going to get it when we get home.” The boy again cowered against the wall. This time, he didn’t move. He didn’t make a sound. His beautiful face pointed down, locked to the floor and expressionless. He had been broken. And that’s how his father wanted it. He didn’t want to deal with him, and breaking him was the easiest way.
While I totally agree with the majority of the points made, Dan Pierce writes with self-proclaimed awesome dad status. I would say all the same things about being an awesome parent he said. But I'd be saying it from a place of not-so-awesome. I really try to be a great mom. But yesterday at the grocery store I had a moment of colossal failure. Instead of being that awesome mom who recognizes the strong-willed child who hasn't had the years I've had to mature and learn to control himself, I sighed and said to my son,

"You make me miserable." 


Ack! I want to cry now just thinking about it.

My son countered by asking why I was being so mean to him. And I had nothing to say but I'm sorry. I'm so, so, so, unbelievably sorry.  And my son - my strong, sensitive, seeker of justice, gift from the Lord - said,

"I forgive you."


Just like that. He forgave me. And he apologized for his behavior. And I forgave him. Why? Because that's what we do in our family. We modeled Christ right there in the bakery department of Wegmans. Maybe I'm not such a bad mom. My kids know I'm far from perfect.  They know that's the human condition. And they've been taught to confess, repent, and forgive. 

Dan Pierce says he's far from perfect, but he also is very sure of his awesome dad status. And, he is critical in a way that leaves no room for failure and redemption. Who knows what kind of day that dad in Costco had before that point? Who knows if that kid had pushed his dad to the breaking point just that morning? Who knows if that dad didn't realize his failure and cry in the car and beg his son's forgiveness? 

If Pierce had seen me in the grocery store that morning, he would have made all kinds of assumptions about me. And if he had walked away before the Gospel started playing out, he might have gone home and written a post about the awful mom in Wegmans breaking her child.

Let me tell you something from one parent to another. You are going to break your children. If you haven't already, it will come. And you'll probably do it many times in the course of your parenting. I just hope you are awesome enough to beg their forgiveness. Humbly and immediately. And if you, as an awesome parent, have already taught them how to forgive like Christ forgives, those wounds can be healed. 

And everyone can try to do better next time, with the Lord's help. 


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Christians & Routine Circumcision, Part 2: Zipporah and Flint Knives

Part 1 of this post asked the question, "If circumcision is so bad, why did God use it as a covenant with Abraham?"

The simple answer is that the circumcision that was practiced in Abraham's day is not the circumcision practiced today, and thus not the circumcision God instituted. A "modern" Jewish circumcision involves at least two parts - Milah, Pariah, with possibly a third -Messisa. Milah involves removing the skin that extends beyond the tip of the penis. Pariah is where the foreskin is separated from the glans underneath and cut off. Messisa (also called Mezziza or Mizizah) is the third step, where the blood is sucked off the raw penis. Originally this was done by mouth, but because of the spread of disease, a tube became standard. (Messisa has fallen out of favor with all but the most orthodox Jews.)

There is plenty of historical evidence to support the idea that originally circumcision involved only Milah. Pariah was added over 2,000 years after the original covenant was made for basically political reasons. But let's also look at evidence from scripture.

When a baby is born, the foreskin does not retract, because it is adhered to the glans underneath. Click here for good illustrations of intact male anatomy (warning do not scroll down past the first two drawings if you don't want to see actual photos of adult penises). Pariah requires ripping the foreskin away from the sensitive glans underneath. In the past, the mohel would do this with a clean, trimmed fingernail. Today's mohels and doctors use various surgical instruments. The trauma to the penis is great and the chance of infection is high, so a person preforming a circumcision needs to take a great deal of care.

But look at Exodus 4:25 (New King James version): "Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses’ feet, and said, “Surely you are a husband of blood to me!""  We see Zipporah, who certainly wouldn't have been trained in Pariah, cutting off her son's foreskin with a sharp stone! The NAS and NIV translate this as flint or flint knife, instead of stone.

What is a flint knife? Well, flint is a type of stone that breaks easily into pieces with jagged and razor- sharp edges. It would not have been a safe tool for the delicate separation of the foreskin from the glans. The only thing it could do safely was make a clean straight cut across the skin that hung over the tip of the penis and was not fused to it. We see the use of a flint knife again in Joshua 5:2 when God instructed the Israelites to circumcise all the boys and men that had not been circumcised while they wandered in the desert. An adult male's foreskin is no longer adhered to the glans underneath, probably making it a little safer to perform a circumcision like what is done today, but I have to ask why would they? It's a traumatic procedure and, for an adult, it has a 6-8 week recovery time!  By removing only the tip of the foreskin a baby's penis, including the remaining foreskin, would be allowed to grow and develop, maintaining its normal function. An adult who was circumcised in this way would also retain the normal function of the foreskin.  And as I alluded to in Part 1, retaining the function of a body part God designed is probably pretty important to Him.

I'm supposed to talk about risks. But I'm going to treat you like adults and assume that you would find out the risks before allowing your newborn to undergo a surgical procedure. Sometimes doctors gloss over these risks, so do your own research and ask lots of questions.

Now I'm going to tell you something personal about my husband (with his permission). He feels like something was stolen from him. He wishes it had been left up to him to decide, and there are a lot of men who feel that way. As a Christian, imagine your son coming to you and asking why, if he was fearfully and wonderfully made, did you surgically alter his functional anatomy right after he was born? What will you say?

So, we've covered that there are no religious reasons for Christians to circumcise and that modern circumcision is not the same procedure instituted by God, which would have fulfilled the covenant requirement while leaving the function of the foreskin intact. What modern circumcision does is remove a healthy, functional part of the male anatomy for reasons which deny the goodness of God's design. Think about it.   ... and please do your research!






Sunday, February 24, 2013

Christians & Routine Circumcision - Think About It, Part 1: Why Would You Do That?

This is a hard post to write. The decision to circumcise or not is still considered deeply personal in our society. And because there are great Christians who love the Lord who have made the decision to circumcise, making it a spiritual issue might seem like overstepping. But, there is a saying, “when you know better, you do better.”  I’m hoping through this post to change Christian minds about routine circumcision. It's very important that you read this "Think About It" disclaimer post before you read on. And please leave your respectfully-worded thoughts in the comments.

Thinking about: Christians and Routine Circumcision.

As a childbirth educator and doula, I have a hard time addressing this issue head on. People are sensitive about this decision, especially if they have already had previous male children circumcised. I expect the general population to cite cleanliness, preventative health, and appearance as reasons for circumcision. What I don’t understand is why Christians continue to practice an ancient religious custom that is neither religiously necessary or affirming of  the goodness of God’s creation.

To be clear, in this post I am not talking about circumcision done for a valid medical problem. I'm talking about circumcision done on a boy within days of his birth for the simple reason that he was born with a foreskin. 

Here's the assertion I'd like you to think about: Modern routine circumcision removes a healthy, functioning part of the human body, and thereby rejects the fundamental goodness of God's design, with the added detriment of putting babies at risk.

No religious reason.
A lot of people cite religion as the reason they circumcise. Let's be clear from the start - Christians have no religious reason to circumcise. 

In Acts chapter 15, we see a dispute over a requirement that Gentile converts must be circumcised. After discussion among the apostles and other leaders of the church, the affirmation was that God had given the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles without circumcision and therefore they could not require it. Picking up in vs. 23:
"They wrote this letter by them:
The apostles, the elders, and the brethren,
To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:
Greetings.

Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law” —to whom we gave no such commandment— it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well
."
Later, Paul confirms in his letter to the Romans that circumcision of the flesh is not important, only circumcision of the spirit. 
"For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God." ~Romans 2:25-29
 These two passages make it clear that God no longer requires religious circumcision. 

Hygiene. There is an argument that God gave us circumcision as a way to ensure the health of our boys. But God instituted the covenant of circumcision with Abraham, 20 generations after Adam. That's 2,000 years God allowed humanity to go without circumcision, and we have already seen above that the coming of Christ did away with the law of circumcision in the flesh. We have no scriptural or historical evidence that uncircumcised men before Abraham or after Christ suffered from hygiene problems. And, by saying that the design of the penis is inherently a health hazard is to deny that it was designed by a good and holy God. The care of an uncircumcised penis is very simple and can be taught to any boy in just a couple of seconds.

Prevent infections. Ok, this seems silly to me. Everyone gets infections in various parts of their bodies. We fight them, we take antibiotics if necessary, and we move on with life. The dangers of infection are not great enough to warrant removing a healthy, functioning part of a baby boy's body. 

Reduce the risk of STDs including HIV/AIDS. Scientist disagree as to whether circumcision actually provides these benefits to the average male. But let's say for the sake of argument that it does reduce the risk of contracting/spreading some STDs and HIV. Christians need to ask themselves a few questions here. By the time a boy is sexually active, he will be old enough to make his own decision about circumcision - shouldn't he have the option? Is the future "benefit" of reducing the negative consequences of sexual sin reason to remove a healthy, functioning part of a newborn's body? The lifetime risk of acquiring HIV for the average male is about 2%, while woman have almost a 1 in 5 chance of getting breast cancer.  Cutting out the breast tissue of a baby girl would eliminate her risk of breast cancer - would you do that to your daughters?


Appearance. I almost don't want to dignify this by talking about it. One might expect this excuse from an average person in our society, which is obsessed with appearance. But a Christian has no excuse for performing cosmetic surgery on a newborn. Not looking like daddy can be easily explained (if kids even ask - my son is 11 and has no clue). But again, you're talking cosmetic surgery to force a child to conform to a physical standard.  


Notice above I keep using the phrase "healthy, functional part of a baby boy's body."  Many people think the foreskin is "extra," serving no purpose. Which is why they are swayed by the above non-religious reasons - the foreskin isn't necessary, so why not remove it? But nothing could be further from the truth. The foreskin has both protective and sexual function. How Stuff Works has a very concise description of the purpose of the foreskin:
The foreskin (also known as the prepuce) is a portion of skin on the penis that covers and protects the tip of the penis, also known as the glans. It can be a tough world for a glans -- there's abrasion from undergarments, cold winter weather and dry air. It's good to have a protection policy in place, and the foreskin provides that protection for the glans. 
When males are born, the skin on the penis extends over the glans, protecting it on day one from the wear and tear it will undergo in that lifetime. The foreskin can account for one-third to nearly one-half of total penile skin. 
While its outer appearance is the same as any other skin on the penis, the foreskin is home to many nerve bundles and blood cells, and its inner surface is similar to the inside of your mouth, helping the glans stay naturally lubricated. Between the outer layer and the moist inner layer is a ridged band with additional nerve endings. A piece of tissue called the frenulum connects the foreskin to the glans. It looks (and functions somewhat) like the connective tissue beneath your tongue. When the penis is flaccid, the frenulum tightens to narrow the opening of the foreskin.
Those nerves packed into the foreskin provide additional stimulation during sexual activities. Its lubricating function also assists in sexual intercourse. Additionally, the frenulum (which is removed in some circumcisions) provides stimulation. Since the glans is kept moist and soft by the foreskin, it too is more sensitive to touch.
I encourage you to do more research into the function of the foreskin. When you truly understand it, you will see just how highly functional and amazing this part of the male anatomy is.  Baby boys are born with foreskins as a functional part of their body. Christians believe that God designed the human body. In contrast to affirming the inherent goodness of this design, modern routine circumcision says that God made a mistake. Psalm 139:13-16 tells us:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.”
Who are we to permanently alter a healthy body that God knit together, that is fearfully and wonderfully made? Who are we to put our babies at risk to change God's design?

Ok, this is about the time when people ask me something like: "If circumcision is so bad, why did God use it as a covenant with Abraham?" That's part 2 of this post, where I will also discuss the risks of circumcision. Stay tuned!