I recently read this article from the July issue of Christianity Today, titled "Abba Changes Everything: Why Every Christian Is Called To Rescue Orphans", by Russell Moore. At the risk of over-simplifying, the main point of the article seemed to be that, in light of the biblical call to care for those in need and the biblical model of adoption, all Christians ought to either pursue adoption themselves or support those who do so. A cursory mention of other options (such as mission trips or child sponsorship) was given, but the terms 'orphan care' and 'adoption' were often used interchangeably and the general take-home message as I understood it was that, according to Mr. Moore, adoption is the best and most godly way to 'rescue orphans.'
Based on the amount of time, money, and energy our family has invested in adoption, I think it goes without saying that I believe it to be a worthwhile endeavor... but to be honest, this article left me frustrated.
I think the main frustrations for me were not about what the article did say (in fact, I probably agree with a fair amount of it), but more about what it did not say. It did not mention the underlying problems - complicated, serious, multifaceted problems - that have produced the surface symptom of 210 million children in the world classified by UNICEF as "orphans." Ignoring these issues begs the question, What if all 210 million of those children lived in countries which allow adoption and were legally able to be adopted, and 210 million families adopted them... then what? 210 million more children would be waiting when we all turned around again because adoption only addresses the surface symptom and not the underlying issues.
And the reality is, no matter how much adoption is advocated, preached, and promoted, many of these 210 million children will never be adopted. That being the case, I was frustrated that the article did not seriously develop any alternative ways to address the needs of those children, the ones who either cannot or will not be adopted. Where was the call to love these children? In some countries this love might look like building schools, digging wells, teaching sustainable farming practices, or sponsoring a child. Here in America it might mean volunteering as a mentor, becoming a foster parent or respite care provider, or finding ways to support struggling single parents. If all we can talk about is adoption, we are leaving the needs of millions of children out of the picture.
Why are we (Christians) so afraid to admit that adoption won't fix everything? It reminds me of that particular brand of evangelism that tries to sell the idea that Jesus will make your life all sunshine and rainbows if you're a Christian. Shhh! Don't tell anyone that a life of discipleship is hard, that becoming like Christ means 'taking up your cross', that bad stuff still happens after you decide to follow Jesus -- it might scare people away! Yes. It might. But it's true and it needs to be said sometimes.
I hope more and more families will consider adoption as they make family-building decisions. And I hope Christians will consider ways that they might extend God's love to children in need. But I also hope we will stop confusing those two things, because they are not interchangeable.
**If you want to read more, I appreciated this adoptive parent's take on the CT article in her post, The Theology of Adoption. In it she links to this other fantastic and thought-provoking post, also about adoption theology, which is worth reading in its entirety.
**One more side-note: I will devote a whole post to this eventually, but it's worth saying that my thoughts outlined above are part of why I have loved working with YWAM Ethiopia so much. Humanitarian work is their primary focus, they do just about every single thing I listed that was missing from the CT article (and more), and they are just plain amazing folks.