Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Opened a can of worms I did

I don't really want to address all of this, but since I'm a bit stuck on it and won't be able to rest easily until I do, I guess I have to. Probably most of you are scratching your heads wondering what the heck I'm dithering about. A few days ago I posted a link to a friend's post on facebook (that wonder of misunderstanding). I mentioned that I thought she did a great job with what she wrote. And I still think so. I agree with the focus of her post that there are hurting children all over the world who desperately need families to love them and most people are willing to turn a blind eye to the situation.

The trouble comes because what started her ponderings on the subject was the now fairly infamous article in Mother Jones about Evangelical adoption. And I'm afraid some people may have mistaken what I intended to communicate. (And truly, nothing puts me in a dither faster than feeling as though I've been misunderstood.) As a result, I really feel the need to clarify a few things, and then perhaps I can get a good night's sleep again.

First, in full disclosure, I will say that I am a long-time reader of Above Rubies magazine. Even though it has been labelled a fringe publication, I actually know an awful lot of women who do read it. I find most of it to be very supportive and encouraging as a mother whose main focus is creating a home and raising my (many) children. It is a nice reprieve to read something that does not tacitly call one's life choices into question. With that said, my reaction to the Mother Jones article may surprise some of you.

Second, very little of this will make much sense unless you have already read the article and/or are familiar with Above Rubies.

So here goes...

If I were to sum up my feelings about this article, it would be one of extreme sadness about all of it. There are absolutely no winners in this particular story, but I think the story in general has a lot to say to all of us.

I am saddened because of the children (and the families, too) who were hurt. I was one of those readers who was increasingly disturbed by the inexplicably missing children. From my own personal experiences with adoption, I knew that something was going on and it was most likely not good. I have no reason to doubt most of what the article describes. Adopting a child (much less four or more) from a very hurt place is incredibly difficult. It is challenging in a way that nothing can truly prepare you for. And without proper education before hand, and huge amounts of support afterwards it can break you. What started out as something with good motives can become something truly horrendous.

I am saddened because it highlights the collective silence that has typified adoption discussions in the Christian community. Why are we afraid to talk about the hard stuff? To read much of Christian adoption related writing, it gives the impression that a family's love is all it takes; that giving a child a family will make everything better; that the child will immediately become 'yours'; that you take the giant leap of faith and bring a hurting child into your home and everyone will live happily every afterwards. And then when many families find out that this isn't the real story they react in one of a few ways. Either they feel incredible guilt and shame because their reality doesn't match the given story line, or they try to force the child to conform to the story line with devastating effect, or they give up and sometimes become opposed to adoption. The end result is the same with each... broken families, (more) broken children, and a whole lot of hurt and betrayal. If we Christians were brave enough to tell the whole truth at the beginning, we could stem some of this from happening. What are we afraid of? We are told to have no fear about anything, yet we behave quite otherwise.

I am saddened because of the tendency of Evangelicals to close ranks and not look at a problem objectively. I have seen several blog posts trying in some way to excuse the travesty which happened. If a publication such as Mother Jones (which isn't known as being terribly sympathetic to conservative Christianity) has the word 'Evangelical' in the title of an article, then it seems there must be a knee-jerk reaction against it. This is ridiculous and does nothing to change a certain segment of the population's assumption that Christians (at least those of the conservative variety) are unthinking sheep who are incapable of critical thought processes. A much, much better (and possibly more Christian) reaction would be to look at the facts of a case such as this and call sin, sin. None of us is without sin and we are told to go to a brother or sister who is in sin and call them to account. Then we are to lovingly restore them to fellowship in the body if they repent. To look at the modern church, no one would get the idea that this concept is even in the Bible. We actually stink at this. If we were all honest about our sin (there's that whole truth-thing again), then it would probably say a whole lot more to the world at large than our silence.

I am saddened because in the end, it is the children who will be hurt by this. I can see it in the comments on things already. The take-away message is that adoption is just not a good thing. By focusing on a tragic and somewhat sensational case, the writer did ignore the thousands of families who have adopted children, yes, some from very hard places, and are making it work. The children are healing and even thriving. Many children are alive because they would have died if left in institutions. Many, many children are happy in the adoptive families. Our H. is definitely one of these. She is old enough to remember the before and after of having a family and she has told us that a family is far better. She is happy here. But happiness doesn't sell magazines or get shared on facebook or get hits on the web.

I am saddened.
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