Friday, December 28, 2012

Prayer and fasting

It's not terribly holiday-ish, I know, but sometimes things can't wait until they are convenient. And frankly, caring for orphans and defending the powerless are never convenient. I don't know if all of my readers are aware, but Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, just signed a bill that stops all adoptions of children from Russia to the US, regardless of where children and families were in the process. Can you imagine having visited a child whom you think of as yours, hugged that child, told that child you were coming back, and then finding out that you will not be allowed to return? That is what is happening. It is devastating for the parents and for the children. And it is particularly devastating for the children who are warehoused because of their special needs; for children who have been placed in adult mental asylums with no care and with a mortality rate which would horrify you.

But really, this is just part of a bigger picture. I have to say I agree whole-heartedly with Linny at A Place Called Simplicity. (Please go and read this right now. I'll wait here for you. Really, click on the link.) This is just another in a series of countries closing to adoption and children who really do need families not being allowed them. Here is the key, though... we cannot just sit around and moan about how unfair it all is. We are just as culpable.

We Americans have completely lost touch with the idea of repentance. Whenever something doesn't go our way, we look around and find someone else to blame. We very rarely look at ourselves to see what we have done wrong. And just like the little pink angels in our Christmas pageant, the idea of finding fault outside ourselves is completely un-Biblical. Instead, we need to see things through the lens of something not being right and examining ourselves to see what our part in it was.

You know that I and the girls in my Bible study have been working our way through Isaiah, and Isaiah is particularly informative on this subject. It's also not easy to read and even more difficult to wrap one's head around. It doesn't fit in nicely with our safe and comfortable God.

"I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no other God.
I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these thing." (Isaiah 45: 5-7)

Did you catch that? There's a reason this doesn't make the top 10 sermon texts for preachers. It's hard. Not only does God create well-being, He also creates calamity. We spent a long time discussing this and trying to come to terms with it. Taken in the larger context of Isaiah, we learn that God does create calamity; usually with the sole reason of causing His people to repent of their wrong-doings (which very often involve the sin of pride) and turn back to God. I even think the entire book of Isaiah can be summed up in the phrase, 'Turn to God, humble yourself, and God will save you.'

Humbling yourself in calamity is seen throughout Scripture. Take the story of Esther as one example. When God's people heard that Haman had plotted their extinction, instead of rising up, they fell down on their knees. There was mass repentance and prayer. And God saved them.

We cannot save ourselves. Our only hope is to turn to the One who can. I ask you to join in the day of fasting and prayer that is being sponsored by the International Voice of the Orphan, pleading for the powerless everywhere and asking forgiveness for our part in the situation.

We have plenty to repent of. Here is my list that I composed just in the time I was in the shower.

  • For turning a blind eye to children in need
  • For putting our comfort and ease before the needs of others
  • For not accepting that children are gifts from our Heavenly Father and instead seeing them as inconveniences (or at least only acceptable in small numbers)
  • For allowing our need for a child to override the command to work for justice and thus allowing rampant ethical violations in adoption
  • For only wanting the cute or beautiful child
  • For seeing children with special needs as less desirable and not quite created in God's image
  • For allowing our own foster care system to harm children
  • For not adequately training and supporting adoptive parents and thus creating situations where a child is harmed or loses his or her life
  • For not working to support families in crisis and thus help to create some of the foster care crisis
  • For not speaking out for the vulnerable
  • For not really wanting our hearts changed about adoption because of the inconvenience it will bring
This is a start. 

Spending a day fasting is inconvenient. It's not something someone looks forward to. But it is sacrificial. Use the hunger to remind you to pray. To remind you to ask God to change your heart. To plead for the vulnerable in our world.

6 comments:

Ann said...

And: For opposing abortion and birth control, thereby helping to bring into existence babies whose mothers are unable or unwilling to care for them.

thecurryseven said...

Ann --

I'm leaving your comment up for the sake of discussion, but I have to say, there is absolutely no way I could possibly disagree with you more. I'm sure it won't surprise anyone to discover that I am opposed to abortion. I believe that life begins at conception and the killing of that life is wrong.

By your reasoning... that the taking of human life because the mother is unable, unwilling, or inconvenienced, or because the quality of life (whatever that means) is not judged to be good enough... there is no way to stop at unborn children. It is a very simple jump to saying that any life which inconveniences another woman or if there is no one around to care for a person, that person's life is expendable.

The easiest way in that respect to solve the orphan crisis would be just to euthanize the entire populations of orphanages around the world, much like some animal shelters do, because obviously they have no one willing or able to care for them. I see no difference except in the size of child and its location.

Really what this position says is that it is far better to kill a child than to give him a chance at life and allow him to be adopted.

But really it is a matter of starting points. Your phrasing suggests that a child comes into existence at birth... and that human beings control the creation of life. I believe that only God can create life and bring children into existence, while those who favor abortion do not. That difference sends its followers down completely different paths.

I'm guessing that more discussion will ensue. As long as discussion remains civil, I'll allow it to go on. I know not everyone who reads this blog agrees with me, and that's OK, but just as a preemptive disclaimer: rudeness, name calling, profanity, and general yuckiness are not.

e

Ann said...

I don't believe that life and personhood are the same. But even if I did, it would be my certain conviction that abortion is a more compassionate choice than bringing into the world a child who may suffer because she's unwanted. And I mean more compassionate for the child. True, she may not suffer from being unwanted--but the odds are overwhelming that she will. The vast majority of orphans in the world won't be adopted and won't find a better life. Who are we to decree that they must be born? How can starving to death at Pleven be better than never having come into existence?

My touchstone in this matter is the case of Lisa Steinberg, who was beaten to death at the age of 6 by her adoptive father. Lisa's birth mother said,"If I'd wanted her killed, I would have had an abortion"--but if she had chosen the abortion, Lisa would have been spared unutterable pain.

To me, an unborn child's right to be protected from a brutal earthly existence trumps all religious or political convictions. But obviously it would be best that the issue never come up in the first place, which is why I mentioned birth control. As you know, many Americans oppose even birth control--not only for their fellow citizens but for people in countries that receive U.S. aid. Those Americans should be included on your list. They definitely play a role in the lives of orphans.

thecurryseven said...

Ann -

While I agree that it would far better if children were not starving or mistreated in orphanages, I disagree that it would be better if those children had never been given the chance at life. We live in a world where evil is present. It is sinful and though eventually all will be made right, that is not the time we are currently living in. If we tried to prevent horrible things from happening to people before they happened by means of killing, we should just wipe out the entire human population now. This would not be my first choice. Instead, when Christians are confronted with the effects of evil, it is a call to arms to battle that evil with all that we have. In terms of abusive orphanages, it means we work to take the children out of them and reform the system. There are many people working toward and praying for the latter in regard to Pleven and I continue to advocate for the former.

But what concerns me most is the idea that life and personhood are not the same thing. The minute we fallible human beings start thinking we can decide who is worthy to live, we enter into a very scary world. The idea that Jews were not living beings deserving of personhood was exactly the reasoning that Hitler used to justify their extermination. The idea that Africans were not deserving of personhood is the reasoning that justified slavery for so many years. It is a very dangerous idea.

And as far as birth control, my problem with it being pushed on developing countries as part of monetary aid is that it smacks of eugenics. Because what it is really saying at its heart is: Too many of you people are not good, so we are going to limit how many of you people are born. It is the tacit message that I have a lot of trouble with.

e

Ann said...

"Lord, give me an open and undefended heart."

Although I know with every fiber of my being that I'm right, you also know with every fiber of your being that you're right, and you'll never agree with me. Which is always the case with certain topics.

So why did I even bring this up in the first place, since I was fairly certain that we could never agree on this issue? Because--but wait. First I _do_ have to defend myself against your Hitler remark.

In the words of the Episcopal baptismal covenant, we're enjoined to "respect the dignity of every human being." While I consider a fetus to be alive, I don't believe we become people until we are viable--capable of surviving outside the womb. That's the distinction I make between life and personhood. Once a child is out in the world, I agree that he or she must be accorded human dignity and human rights no matter what.

By the way, I believe that all living beings deserve respect and compassion, not just humans. For that reason I don't eat meat, support medical testing on animals, or kill insects.

Now, here's a second self-defense: I don't understand your reference to birth control being "pushed on developing countries as part of monetary aid." What practice are you referring to?

What I was talking about was the Mexico City Policy: Reagan's decision to deny aid to overseas family-planning organizations if they provided, or even discussed, abortions. The Mexico City policy was rescinded by Clinton, restored by Bush, and re-rescinded by Obama; Romney (who also supported the Blunt Amendment, which would have denied contraception to many U. S. women) meant to re-restore it. If there were tacit messages in the Mexico City Policy or the Blunt Amendment, I think they came closer to: "We don't care how many of your children starve or suffer--you still have to have them."

To quote Ian Fleming: "But! But! And again but!" --I was going to keep an undefended heart. So let me admit that the reason I made my original comment was that I belive that your December 26 post was unfair to your readers, and it made me cranky.

As I said in a comment to one of your earlier posts this year, you're preaching to the choir for the most part. To tell supportive readers that they need to fast and repent: is that really your call?

Your list of what "we" have to repent of: weren't you really saying, "This is what my readers need to repent of"? After all, it's abundantly clear that you yourself are free of the sin of, say, treating special-needs kids as less-good. Can you see why the rest of us might resent being presented with a list of our sins that you thought up in the shower?

Your seeming approval of the notion that it's fine for the God of the Old Testament to cause calamity solely so His people will repent? That may explain Isaiah's text to your satisfaction, but it's an awfully harsh way to portray God. There's a reason many Christians distance themselves from the God of the OT, and it's not because his "truths" are hard to accept. It's because some of the OT texts describing God are alien to what Christ preached.

Can a post like yours of 12/26 bring about the changes that you and I agree desperately need to take place? Yelling at people who _like_ you--and implying that God is also angry at us...Well, I don't believe that's the way to get those orphans out of Russia.

I'd be perfectly happy to discuss all of this indefinitely. I _love_ arguing. However, I work at home, my kids are grown, and my dog is a staid three-year-old. I have plenty of time on my hands, but you don't. So I'm going to allow you the last word here. And if you knew me, you'd know how unusual it is for me to let anyone have the last word!




Ann said...

...whoops, of course I meant 12/28...

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