Personal church, adoption state

Talking about the impact of religious beliefs on adoption is hard. I think it's one of the most important discussions we can have, though, because our opinions on these puts many of us who otherwise would unite around the issue of adoption ethics on opposing teams.

The problem starts with the fact that discussions of religion and adoption tend to polarize along these lines:
I believe deeply in God and believe he has a plan for me that includes raising the child of another. I believe that those who work in support of adoption are doing God's work. There are many scriptural passages that support my beliefs.

Religion and adoption do not mix. Anytime religion has been present in adoption, it has led us down a dark path and caused terrible pain for many women and their children. Religious adoptive parents are all a bunch of hypocrites.
Although the words may be a little different, I hear the gist of these all the time. They generally spark a support-fest or food-fight that sends everyone away thinking they're "either-or" issues. They are not. One is a personal view of adoption, the other is commentary on its public face. The coexist as separate facets of the adoption experience. Think "personal church" and "adoption state."

We separate church and state in this country for a reason. We need to do the same with our "personal churches" and "adoption state." Doing so would take the discussion of human and civil rights in adoption a long way down the road. Yet it would take nothing away from the individual beliefs we hold dear.

Sounds so easy. Why is it so hard to do?


Erin said…
I couldn't put aside my religious beliefs for my adoptions beliefs for anything. Because for me, religion IS my guiding force on everything.

But also for me, religion has guided me toward ethical adoptions, and doing my hardest to work for a "better" more ethical system. I can't believe that the Jesus whom I worship is pleased with adoption in its current state. I also think that He wants us to work for better systems and fewer adoptions.

Haven't many of the greatest movements in history been rooted in religion? In American history alone, the abolitionists and later the civil rights movement were all rooted in religion. To ask for ethical reform without religion is, maybe to much to ask, because for many of us, religion is our guidance.
Margie said…
Hi, Erin!

I don't think you got my point.

Think of the separation of church and state in the US. We keep religious institutions separate from governmental institutions because it's the best way to protect everyone's individual rights. That's what I would like to see in adoption - a separation of the INSTITUTION of adoption from organized religion.

Our personal beliefs will certainly guide our individual behaviors. Each of us will individually look to whatever code we follow for guidance - it may be our faith or simply our moral code. That code will tell us what is right or wrong for us. But we cannot impose the entire code on adoption. Whose code would we use? What if I don't like your code?

That's why I personally believe it's best to put religion aside when talking about adoption reform. It will certainly guide individual behaviors, but cannot be the foundation of the institution.

Hope that helps clarify.
I've been thinking about the answer to this question for a long time. I think, for many, their religion is so deeply who they are that every thought colors their religious beliefs. That means that they can not separate adoption advocacy or ethics from religion any more so than they can separate church from state so neither is a possibility, quite literally. Their belief system includes their religion which is often the foundation for which their ethical standards are set to begin with. You can't take one away from the other. This is not my own personal belief system so maybe others will comment if this sums it up, more or less?

And since these folks run our government, our agencies, our law offices, etc their moral code bleeds into policy.

I think, for me, the missing link seems to be a tolerance to religious diversity. Some (ok, a lot) of religions preach that their way is the only true, right way and anything less is, well, less (or worse). Problem is that there are an awful lot of belief systems all claiming the same thing and so many are sure that theirs is, of course, the REAL truth and everyone else is just wrong (or lost or wandering or whatever). If we could all hold to our own belief system but embrace others' beliefs as different but equally valid and respect-worthy, I think a lot of the religious cross-talk would end both in adoptions and in the government. But as long as the foundation of one religion is that it is the only truth, this will never happen.
Cavatica said…
I agree with you completely! I think it's so hard for whatever reason it's so hard with other issues. Religion has a way of getting tied into many things that it shouldn't - can be in the personal part, but not the legalistic part. I feel that way about marriage, but I'm not going to get on that soapbox here. People have a hard time separating things that are so important to them from other things. As if doing so makes it less important. But it doesn't have to be that way. I'm not being very eloquent about this, but I think that's it. The inability to separate things and still feel like you're giving those things equal importance.
Joe B said…
Missing the point.

Religion aids the adoption industry because if vilifies young women. Girl got pregnant because she did the wicked sexy thing. Puts her and her child at a disadvantage from the outset.

The wickedness of people who have sex is a church fiction. But people believe it. The result is that the girl and probably her parents feel ashamed, potential adoptive parents feel superior, and the baby dealers feel lucky (or maybe they're deluded into feeling that they're doing some good putting the trollop's child into better hands).

It's all pretty sick. Imagine a normal place where this whacky thinking about sin were the object of scorn. Girls and their children would have better rights there.
Joe B said… discussing the subject with my friend just now, I decided I could put this a little more succinctly:

The short of it is that even if the church doesn’t make abusive adoption policy, it does makes abusive adoption possible.
Hee Jung said…
Excellent point! As a KAD I have been known to try to "justify" my own adoption experience and thinking about the "adoption question in general" combining the two, but it never works. And now I realize why...

It's hard when you get down into the weeds sometimes to see the bigger picture, but it's refreshing when you see THAT post that makes you realize that you need to pull yourself back up.

My own adoption in Korea was not related to religion (as far as I can tell), nor were my APs religious. I'm the one that somehow is stuck thinking in religious terms.... (Ok, clarification -- if you consider Confusianism a religion then yes, it's related to religious thought. I think of Confusianism more as a traditional thought process, a cultural phenomenon. Not something you go to church each week to worship).

BTW, I've been lurking your blog for a while now and love it!

Mia said…
This was such a good post there was no way I was going to get all of my thoughts into a single comment. I had to blog about it. I linked back to you.
suz said…
Margie - I have been back to this post no less then ten times. Each time I come back I find myself at a loss for words.

I can only summise this is rooted in the fact that the very idea that someone has to question the idea of separating religion from adoption boggles my mind.

Of course, there should be a separation. To me its a no brainer. However, that is from the POV of someone who was beat with the bible, hellfire and damnation. I had violated the laws of someones god and had sex outside of marriage and clearly was unfit (as a result) to mother my child.

If I were a god fearing person (I am not, since I am agnostic and figure I was already damned to hell when I surrendered my daughter to strangers to be sold on the grey market to nice warm fuzzy Catholic adopters), I would expect silly me for the church ladies to be helping the mothers keep their children, teaching the mothers how valuable they are to their children, how they greatest gift they can give their children is themselves and not abandonment.

Yet, oddly, most religions support separation of mother and child and demonizing the mother.

I cannot stand behind any practice - religious or otherwise - that feels it is best to separate mother from child.

And when you ponder religion and adoption - which religion is it? The almighty Christians? The Jews? The Muslims? Which beliefs do you want to separate? Please.

Its ridiculous.
I'm going to blog about it too. I haven't read any of the linkbacks yet but my own original feeling is: so many churches discriminate against me, therefore it becomes difficult for me to view religion objectively.

I'm sending out a random sampling of emails to different religious leaders in NY regarding their view on restoring OBC access. If I get enough replies I'll add it when I blog about this later on this week.

I know there's a lot more in the whole religion/adoption arena than OBC access, but right now it's sort of where my mind is at.

But to answer your question of why is it so hard to do, my answer is a baffled - I don't know.
Mark said…
As an Episcopal priest and adoptee I want to respond to your post. I will say quickly that the Episcopal Church seems to have no coherent discussion about adoption or adoptee rights. Very few Episcopalians seem to think much about it.

Your question addresses a more general topic. Can the sort of thinking that a religious body exerts on the subject of adoption be useful in a wider societal context or does it really only serve to clarify the thinking and the direction of moral action within that body itself? First, as long as the thinking clarifies and identifies moral principles within a church, then it may also help in a wider social setting. The rub is that some thinking and writing fails to clarify anything.

There is one blog site I read representing a religious advocacy of adoption. There is earnest writing and thinking going on. This particular group advocates for adoption as a reflection of the heavenly adoption which is historically represented in the Bible. There argument is one that simply encourages people to adopt. It omits anything of a critical examination of practices of adoption. In my opinion, the group is fully free to form its own opinions and views about adoption and how worthy and valuable it is. The group will probably never sell its arguments to people who have a different outlook. The problem with them is one-sidedness. And this may be the problem with many others too who come to the adoption matters.

If a religious group cultivates a view that is one-sided then what they say will miss the whole. Things needing to be seen and taken into account will be missing. It isn't necessarily because they are religious.

I'm not trying to protect religious people here. Organized religions have a great deal in their past to own and take responsibility for. Thought, however it arises, whether from religious quarters, secular or otherwise, will probably always struggle with overcoming its initial bias and limitations. I'm saying that thought should be free, and regarded for whatever it is worth in the marketplace of ideas, irrespective of where it seems to come from.

I think... that's what I mean.
Deb said…
I think religion can be a great force for good. . . but some horrifically evil acts have been committed in the name of religion, too, and often by people who sincerely believe they are doing the "right" thing.

I see that religion, specifically traditional christianity, can be used by both "sides". One side uses it to enforce their vision of morality; if you violate that vision you are unworthy, and deserve punishment.

The other side feels religion gives them a mandate to help others. Now, this could be interpreted as taking babies and giving them to other parents, but I think the idea of offering support to help families stay together is likely to resonate with them because of that religious belief.

The bottom line, is that while religion can support ethics, religion can also be used to justify unethical practices.

I agree, Margie, that we would be better off talking about adoption and ethics in non-religious terms. Just like in medicine, the ethical principals of autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence and justice shape are applied to difficult situations without reference to religion, the larger issues of adoption can and should be addressed without religion being part of the dialogue.

Frankly, I think people often use religion as a cop out when dealing with difficult situations. Who can argue with you when you credit your religion for a particular position?

The more I think about what you have to say in your post, the better I like your title: "Personal church, adoption state."
L. said…
I see the need to separate religion from adoption.
However, as a practicing Catholic, I am offended by Suz's passing remarks she made about "nice, warm, fuzzy, Catholic adopters", "almighty Christians" and the like. I'm sorry you've had negative experiences with organized religion, but please don't generalize that all catholics, christians or others of faith support demonizing a mother or separating herself from her child.
suz said…
L - I completely agree with you. My experience was terribly offensive. I lived it.
Allison said…
People forget that abolition and civil rights movements took a long time to occur, were pushed by some unique religious groups and opposed by a majority others.

I have been attending Quaker Meetings, and they have been generally ahead of the curve when it comes to social justice. I think they can credit their unique practice for decision making - they must make decisions in unison, not by majority rule. This allows for a passionate minority to have the space and time to work on the rest of the group until some kind of decision is made that they all can be happy with. The collaborative effort weeds out some of the dangers of being either individualistically spiritual ("I know everything") or oppressive top-down religion ("You are wrong”).

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