Adopting in the name of God

This post has been on my mind for awhile. I've had a hard time figuring out how to talk about this subject, as it has the potential to hurt and divide, and neither is my goal. My goal is to raise awareness about a sensitive issue that some may not have considered. I have done my best here to do that with respect.

I've done a good bit of surfing adoption agency websites in my online life. I've seen a fair number of agencies use a religious belief to promote adoption; quoting particular scriptural passages is a common way to do this. The ones I see most frequently come from the New Testament of the Bible: Romans 8 , Ephesians 1 and Galatians 4.

These are by no means simple passages; they speak to God's spiritual adoption of humanity. This concept of biblical or spiritual adoption, and the most appropriate translation of the original Greek word often translated as adoption, huiothesia, are both subjects of considerable scholarly discussion. Add to this the historical context for adoption in Greece, Rome and Israel at the time the Bible was written, and it becomes arguable at least that God may have had something other than modern-day adoption in mind in these Pauline letters.

It's tempting, though, to seek one's personal convictions to a particular passage of a particular religious document. Finding words that raise our deepest convictions and desires to the level of God's word is comforting and inspiring. No doubt this is why these particular texts get so much attention in the adoption community. But there's risk, however, that seeing this one message in these texts, in spite of the fact that this may not be the right message at all, may send us down the wrong adoption path, and may even cause us to miss deeper, more subtle message.

It is just my opinion, but I think there's a much stronger message about adoption in the Bible, in Matthew 22:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Loving like this opens our eyes to the pain our own actions may cause others. When we look at adoption through this lens, and think about it from the perspective of our neighbor - our child, for example, or our child's mother or father - our attention will naturally turn to practicing adoption appropriately and making it ethical and just. I think that would be very pleasing to God indeed.

Interesting reading on the historical context of adoption in ancient Greece, Rome and Israel:

Jacob Adopts Ephraim and Manasseh
Marcus L. Burstein

The Cambridge Dictionary of Classical Civilization
Scroll down to the sub-heading adoption


suz said…
People use religion to justify all sorts of heinous actions (e.g.,terrorism, child beatings, and more).

It doesnt surprise me that people so easily justify the wrongs in adoption by citing Gods plan, the bible or other. It is always easier to cite the "other" than to take responsiblity for our own wrong doings.

Very brave post on your part indeed.
Erin said…
I hate to see the whole "God called me to adopt" thing, or worse using the "fact" that Jesus was adopted for justifying adoption.

There are three adoption stories in the bible, and NONE of them look like modern adoption. Samuel was placed in the Temple by his Mother Hannah to be raised by the Priest Eli. Hannah promised God that if he opened her womb she would give her son back to God to be raised in the temple.

Moses was placed in the nile because his life was in danger. He was adopted by the princess

Esther was adopted by her cousin because her parents were dead.

So if you look at it in that context, the only reasons to place are God tells a woman to place, the babies life is in danger, or parents are dead. Being raised in a single parent household does not mean that a childs life is in danger.

Jesus wasn't adopted, he had a step-dad, who helped raise him, but he was also raised by his biological mother, and his father (God) was involved greatly in his life.

We are spiritually adopted into the kingdom of God, but we still have our biological parents, and they are our day to day parents, it isn't like God adopts us, and takes us and moves us in with him.

I don't want to say that God doesn't call people to adopt. Who am I to speak for God? However, so often I see those who say God "called" them pursuing the most unethical adoptions with the most unethical agencies
Judy said…
Thank you so much for writing this, Margie. I knew there was so much left unsaid on this topic and I just wasn't able to find/write it, and you did it, wonderfully, I might add.

Bravo, Margie!
Margie said…
Exactly, Erin, that's exactly what I mean.

And thanks, Suz and Judy for commenting. This one had me worried, and I'm glad the tone isn't challenging. I just want folks who embrace the notion that you can justify adoption with scripture to look at the issue from a different point of view.
Michelle said…
You did a great job tackling this tough subject. Very well written with so much truth.
Yoli said…
To me it is horric when parents site that they adopted because they were called to it. Like a free pass to heaven or to show how religious and devoted they are. The agencies in turn, prey on this and justify everything as God's timing.

I would like to think that people have a need to give a child a home, without alterior motives. I adopted my children not to have a free pass at the pearly gates but to have someone to nurture and love.
shoed contessa said…
I think you handled this topic eloquently and with sensitivity. Thank you.

I'm not at all religious, so I'm definitely not an expert about feeling called to do anything by deity. It is, however, one thing to feel like your heart is open to adopt (because of your own personality or because of the intervention of a higher power) and quite another to feel like one must adopt as a part of an expression of one's faith.

I love your take on it. Love thy neighbor as thyself, do unto others as you would have them do unto you - both are good rules to take into all parts of your life, including adoption.
Kohana said…
You are a brave girl! Every time I wander into this subject and write on it, I I think I end up being so inflamatory that no one will listen.

I actually do believe in being "called" to do something. However, Jesus said that you will know a tree by its fruit. A "call" to adoption that follows an unethical path has gone amiss somewhere. We often hear something from God and try to implement it in our own way and go horribly wrong.

Also, I've been thinking a lot lately about Christians that say "the need is the call" in reference to adoption. I disagree with that. Jesus didn't address every need He saw, He did what He saw God, His father doing.

In adoption, to say that if you see a need, you are called to answer it, oversimplfies the situation and doesn't fully weigh what is in the best interest of the child.

It's a hairy topic, especially with the evangelical community encouraging Christians to adopt as part of the pro-life commitment. Yes, very hairy indeed!
Margie said…
Thanks again, guys. It IS a tough topic, but I'm glad I've braved the waters. All of this has been rattling around in my head for a long time, and I'm glad I finally got it out there.

Kohana, I agree with you that our faith can call us to action - and I also agree that when the result isn't just or ethical, then we should take a hard look at that call.
As a Christian, I wanted to thank you and let you know that I appreciate the sensitivity with which you approached this topic. It is one that certainly needs to be addressed, (not just concerning adoption either)and one that I have been thinking a lot about lately. I truly believe that our faith can and does call us to action, but it is also very easy to use a "calling" as an excuse to justify something that we want to do ourselves. It is our responsibility to carefully examine our motivations when we feel called by God to any action.
LilySea said…
Yep. I got a lot of pressure to include those "adoption" scriptures in the work I'm doing for the Church, but haven't really done it. The scriptures I find more useful in adoption are "welcome the stranger" and "love your neighbor as yourself." Those point particularly, I think to encouraging open adoption and to embracing a whole family/community/culture in adoption--from all sides of the triad.
I think the operative part of faith is choice. We were given free will, and therefore can choose (or not) to accept Christ as our saviour. This is a relationship where we consent to our 'adoption'. The truth is that adoptees have no choice.

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