Where are the men?

This is a question that has been bothering me a lot recently. This is not male-bashing by any means. I do not join with many women in thinking that men are just inferior women who need us to keep them in line. That's not where this post is going. This is also not being addressed to men in general, but Christian men specifically. Chivalry and gentlemanliness died a long time ago and I do not expect it from the general population, but Christians are supposed to live differently.

Since when did adoption and caring for the weakest and most vulnerable in our society become a "women's issue"? Because that's what it seems like. With a few exceptions, the crickets are chirping if you are listening for male voices advocating for the least in our society. Why? Women write blogs, they advocate for children, they do battle with governments, and they pray. What about any of these activities sounds specifically feminine?

This is Brandi. She is six. No one has ever asked to look at her file.

I know that when it comes to an inborn desire to care and nurture children, it's hard to beat the maternal drive. It is natural that women would be the first to emotionally need to rescue and care for hurting children. Most adoptions are driven by the wife with the husband following along behind. This is not what I'm talking about; there is more going on here than just the desire to love a child. What I want to know is where is the outrage? Where is the desire to protect and defend these little ones? Where are the men who are willing to enter into the battle at all?

This is Chad. He is 9. Yes, that's a short crib he is standing next to. No one has ever asked to see his file, either.

In discussing this with J. (dear man, who puts up with my late-night rantings and whom I definitely am NOT lumping into this broad general question), he posited that perhaps they just don't know. I suppose this could be part of it, though I'm not sure I'm willing to give men a pass quite so easily. Certainly anyone who has made the mistake of asking me about adoption can't claim ignorance. Or how about all the husbands of all those wives who are reading blogs and hearing information. Susanna, who writes The Blessing of Verity, reports that her site has had over 150,000 people read it. It was from her that most of us learned of the atrocities which were occurring in the orphanage in Pleven, Bulgaria. Probably not all of those 150,000 were married women, but I'm pretty sure that a good proportion of them were. If these women were at all like me, they bent their husbands' ears about it after they read it. Those men can't claim ignorance.

This is Harvey. He is three. He is slowly dying of malnutrition. Is this how he should spend the rest of his life? My little girls are three. It's not right.

Or is it that Christian men have stopped looking any different from their secular counterparts? The world has told men that what makes them fulfilled and important is making money. Having a career. Being someone. And if driving a cool car and getting to play some golf come with it all the better. Children are nice, in small doses. And they keep the wife happy. Sometimes. But they are a financial drain and a hindrance in doing what you really want. They often cause more heartache than anything and why would you want a lot of them? Best to have a couple really close together and count the days until they leave for college.

That's perhaps a bit over the top. But not by much. And how are Christian men that much different? I've had at least one man tell me that it's better that I have all these children than he. (To which I always mentally heartily agree.) I even had one husband inform me when I was expecting the twins that he was really glad it wasn't his wife. I've heard of a Bible teacher standing up in front of his class and communicate sadness that his wife was pregnant. And I truly wonder if any of these men have read the Bible. Really read it. Because if they had there is one theme that is pretty darn difficult to ignore. That is the idea that children are blessings. They are a big way God blesses those He loves. They are great and wonderful gifts and yet too many people want to know where the exchange counter is so they can get something they like better.

This is Kramer. He is 8. That would be less than a year younger than our D. The difference should appall you.

I know another reason that men may balk at the idea of adoption is that there is the very real responsibility of providing for the new child along with the current members of the household. I don't want to make light of this because it is good that fathers take the role of fatherhood seriously. But I can't help but ask what some people's idea of good provision is. Is good provision making sure the family has a fancy vacation each year or is good provision making sure that there is shelter and food and love? Have we made such an idol of having a "good life" that we can't imagine helping someone who has no life? And my other problem with this is that it leaves out God. Yes the father should be responsible for his household, but when this is pulled out as an excuse it sometimes seems to me that the father has forgotten that he is not working along. Or shouldn't be. God is our ultimate provider. Everything we have comes from Him, we are merely to be good stewards of his riches. I know it makes me stop to ask how does God want me to spend His money.

This is Penny. She is 12. If I showed you the picture of her whole body, you would be shocked at how skinny her legs are. She is perhaps the size of K.

It's been a long time since churches sang the hymn Onward, Christian Soldiers, and that it is not terribly fashionable to even speak in these terms. But have we so tamed our Christian men with our political correctness that we have lost something important... even vital? Because we are in a war, you know. I'm not talking about the ones which swirl around the world nearly continuously, but a war that we are waging right where we live, right now. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." (Eph. 6:12, ESV) How can you look at the pictures of these children, casualties of this war with evil, and not want to put on armor and go fight against it? Where are the soldiers who will go and fight for these children?

(All of these children have files and are able to adopted. They are in the orphanage in Pleven, Bulgaria. If you are interested in adopting one of them, please contact andrea@reecesrainbow.org)


Peter said…
If I understand correctly, your post is arguing that Christian men should be chivalrous gentlemen, who are outraged that children are in orphanages. And these Christian men should go to war spiritually by adopting these children if they are financially able.

Is this what you're saying? If so, do you think that the child's physical disabilities should be a factor in the Christian man's decision to adopt?
how to climb said…
thanks for the great read. great blog.
Ann said…
There are a lot of generalizations in today's post that I won't address. But one father I with whom I discussed the topic of international adoptions made a point that I hadn't thought of: the more that Americans step in to adopt disabled kids from foreign countries, the less impetus such countries will have to solve the problem for themselves. He suggested that working for policy change in such countries might result in more help for more children than one-at-a-time adoptions, which he believes perpetuate the problem.

He pointed out that the money spent to arrange a single international adoption might be used instead to publicize an unacceptable situation, which might in turn bring more pressure to bear on countries that treat their children so disgracefully.

The two points of view aren't mutually exclusive, of course. But his POV isn't one that I've ever seen on a mother's blog. And it's a valid way to look at this problem as long as we don't use it as an excuse for doing nothing.
thecurryseven said…
Peter -

Perhaps I muddied the waters a bit with the term chivalry, so we'll set that aside for right now. Because what I was going for was that as Christians we are transformed by the Holy Spirit to begin to see people as God sees them. All having worth and dignity and value. Anyone who sees a person in conditions that do not accord them worth, dignity, and value should be outraged.

And orphanages, even "good" ones, are not good places for children. Children do best in loving families. Adoption is often the best choice for children. (Keeping them in their family of origin, or with extended family, or in the case of inter-country adoption, in their birth culture come first, but sometimes these options aren't available.)

And certainly for the children I have shared on this post, adoption is their only hope of having any sort of life. While many of these children entered care with a special need... CP or Down Syndrome, for example... they were essentially healthy. It was the abuse and neglect of the orphanage that caused the greatest damage. Damage that they most likely will never fully recover from.

So, yes, I do consider it both an act of faith and an act of spiritual warfare to claim these children. To bring them into a family where they will be loved and cared for even though they were the victims in someone's plan for evil.

As I have said before, I do not think everyone is called to adopt, but that I believe many more are called than respond. But even if not everyone is called to adopt a child, everyone is called to care about orphans and do what they can. For some, if they are blessed with wealth, perhaps they could financially help someone who is called to adopt to do so. Or help with medical expenses. Perhaps someone could act as a part of a support system for a family. Some children require a lot of time and emotional energy which leaves the parents not always able to do other things which need to be done. Or perhaps someone could work to address ethics issues or other fundamental problems which have lead to the orphan crisis. There is much to be done.

As far as your last question, I'm a little unsure where you're going with that. Are you asking if a man should only adopt a child with physical disabilities? Whenever a couple decides to adopt, they must look at themselves honestly to decide how much they are capable of. For many of us, this has been a process. As we have adopted, our list of what special needs we thought we could handle has gradually become significantly longer. I will also add that sometimes physical needs, even significant ones, seem relatively easy compared with emotionally hurt children. All orphans have experienced some level of trauma and all will carry traces of that trauma with them. One never knows how that trauma is going to play out in real life.

thecurryseven said…
Ann -

Yes, I realize there are a lot of generalizations... my point was to be a bit inflammatory.

I have heard the argument that by adopting other countries' disabled children we are perpetuating the system and on some level encouraging it. I think it's kind of a cop-out.

First, I'm all for ethical adoptions. I've written a lot about that in the past. Children should not be used by adults to make money and sadly, that is what often happens in adoption. It's a volatile cocktail of parents who desperately want a child, coupled with first-world access to money, and throw in greed and a disregard for the well-being of children and you have a system ripe for child trafficking.

It is why parents need to be diligent in investigating agencies and lawyers. They need to be open to hearing the hard stories from others who have been burned. The means do not justify the ends. Only by cutting off the money train from individuals and agencies who do not have the best interest of the child in mind can we hope to make the system as ethical as possible.

But all that doesn't really address the role we play in whether or not another country takes care of their disabled children. Does anyone really believe that a country that can barely manage to take care of the basic functions of government is really going to focus on disabled children whether or not Americans (or other Westerners) adopt them? Sadly, children are pretty low on governments' radars when other things such as the basic safety of the citizenry or clean water and basic sanitation are in question. (Before anyone jumps all over me, I am generalizing... again... and have no particular country in mind.)

There are other countries which do have the basics covered, but still are a sending country for inter-country adoption. The US would fall into this category. (Yes, US children are adopted to other countries.) If Canadians stop adopting from the US, will that solve our foster care problem? And the US is a very expensive country to adopt from. One website I found quoted fees from between $30,000-$50,000. Perhaps Canadians should use that money to highlight abuses (and there are many) in the US foster care system so that we will stop treating our children so disgracefully. And it is disgraceful. I am in now way making light of that fact.

But it also shows how a problem can be much more complex than people like to imagine. In order to stop the orphan crisis, the basic needs of people in general need to be met. Parents need to feel as though they are able to keep their children and that they have the basic resources to do that. I'm all for helping countries to get on their feet enough so that the needs of their citizens can be met. (But doing this is also not a simple problem and one where good intentions often don't end up where people expect them to.)

In the meantime, while adults argue about the best way to build infrastructure and jump-start economies, children languish in orphanages. They are not going to wait until the adults get it sorted out. No one can hit the pause button until life for them can be good again. They continue to grow without knowing what love looks like, forgotten.

So yes, let's work for policy change. But let's also get these children the medical help they need and the love of a family which they deserve. And really this isn't a my nation-your nation thing. We do this because of how much God loves us. He adopted us into His family. And if we have been made into a child of God how can we not do likewise for another?

Peter said…
thecurryseven said...
"And certainly for the children I have shared on this post, adoption is their only hope of having any sort of life. While many of these children entered care with a special need... CP or Down Syndrome, for example... they were essentially healthy. It was the abuse and neglect of the orphanage that caused the greatest damage. Damage that they most likely will never fully recover from."

I agree with most of what you say but have questions about the above paragraph:

1. You're guessing that without adoption these children cannot have any sort of life, but you may be completely wrong. I don't think you should write them off so quickly. I'm not saying they should remain in the orphanage, but God sometimes uses what we see as negative situations to prepare people for future service--consider Joseph in Egypt.

2. Also I think Ann's point needs to be carefully considered. Does adopting from some countries just prop up and encourage a corrupt system. (I'm thinking of China and their one-child policy.) Does it encourage a mindset that says abandoning children with problems is ok because they'll probably be adopted by rich white people?

Children are also sometimes kidnapped and then "sold" by orphanages. (Orphanages sometimes don't ask many questions or look the other way because of all the money that can be made.) This has been documented in several countries.

I certainly wouldn't discourage international adoption, but I would advise caution.

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