God adopted us, so adoption is good - right?

With thanks to osolomama and Mirjam via email for the heads up, I’ve been chewing on this recently. I know many of you have been talking about it, too.

I’m not sure what it is about the kind of religious fervor I see in this post that disturbs me so much. The self-righteousness? The inflexibility? The narrow definition of Christianity (which is often so theologically incorrect as to no longer be in Christ’s ballpark)? The certainty that anyone who disagrees must be Godless, hate-filled and worthy of this much-better-Christian’s prayers?

All of the above and undoubtedly more. I'm a Christian (Catholic, so some may disagree - heh), but I simply don't relate to what I read in this post. My Christianity always taught me that no human being knows everything; that humility is one of the greatest virtues; and that love can’t coexist with force – physical, emotional, verbal, intellectual, or otherwise. I was also taught that many, maybe all, of the things Christ taught are found in other religious traditions, and that if you follow those teachings you in fact follow Him. No wonder a lot of the people I believe most deserve to be called Christians practice other faiths.

The post’s author writes with certainty. There’s no room for other points of view in his world, or on his blog for that matter; most comments are published with his rebuttal included, tit for tat. This blog proselytizes, and adoption (which nowadays is the subject of some of the most ill-reasoned and theologically unsound - but profitable! Think Russell Moore! - preaching these days) gets dragged along for the ride.

Clearly I don't like it. But I don’t like the some of the discussion and comments any better.

Don’t misunderstand: the post was very disturbing. I thought a lot of what I read in the comments, and worse. But there’s no point arguing with someone whose “worldview” (his word) equips him with the authority or pomposity to offer his prayers for everyone who disagrees with him. This individual’s mindset is locked down tightly, so tightly that all we commenters (yes, I commented, so I'm including myself in what I don't like) really did was provide prayer fodder.

In my opinion, the bigger challenge is to extricate adoption practice from the clutches of faith-based agencies that promote such behaviors. I don’t believe all faith-based adoption agencies fall into this category; there are some that are doing good work, and a few that are downright progressive. But the "Christian adoption movement," which some Christians claim has been given God’s approval because he “adopted” us, has become something unto itself. When you read the sites of those who promote it, you find that it no longer has anything to do Christ or Christianity or Christ-like behavior, but instead is all about pounding the point home that because that because there are five references to God's adoption of humanity in the Bible, we should all go out and adopt. Those who do adopt get a kind of theological atta-boy: See we adopted an orphan, and since God adopted us this is a good thing and we’re good people!

Never mind that the orphan wasn’t one, or that the adoption process was shot with injustice, or that the family who lost their child remains mired in poverty or misfortune. We'll pray for them.

Getting our legal system to understand the danger of this kind of adoption, which has given itself the mandate of heaven and set itself above the law, is the real issue in my opinion. We’ll never make this point in one-on-one debates with the people who believe in it. We need to get credible adoption organizations to start making the point at much higher levels. Hopefully the current political climate will make it possible for them to do so.

For those of you who, like me, see and treasure the parallels between Christianity and Buddhism, two books I like:

Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers
Living Buddha, Living Christ


osolomama said…
Margie, ITA. Wanna post more on this issue on "Orphan Sunday".

I must also confess to a sick curiosity about the chapter in Moore's book called "Adopted is a past-tense verb" and how he manages to spin that all out. (past all gone?)
Margie said…
I'm afraid to read the whole book, his website is scary enough.

Honestly, I don't get why the Donaldsons and AACs and large ethical adoption agencies aren't all over this stuff. It's bad for kids, bad for adoption, and frankly bad for religion.

I'll be looking for your post.
Lorraine Dusky said…
thank you Margie...
koreanirishmom said…
Reading your post here in Korea and couldn't agree with you more...thanks for the tip on the two books you mentioned I think my son will be very interested in them
*Peach* said…
Many Christians use Romans 8 and other New Testament scriptures to assert that ALL of God's children are "adopted."

Romans 8:14-16 "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba (Daddy), Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God."

What they fail to acknowledge is that adoption in N.T. Bible times was something completely different than the social experiment we call "adoption" today. In those times, ADULTS chose to be "adopted" by others for the purpose of mentorship. It was an intentional decision for an ADULT person to allow themselves that spiritual connection. So, YES, the Bible does use the word "adopted" to describe God's children - but only because they CHOOSE through an act of the will to accept Him in their hearts.

As an adult adoptee, I take GREAT comfort in the fact that I don't need to be adopted by God in the same sense I was "adopted" in the natural. I John 3:9 speaks of God's children being "born" or "the offspring" of God (God's seed), actually using the root word, "sperma."

The Prodigal Son in scripture was not the 'adopted' son of his father, he was the biological ("sperma"), full-blooded son of his Father, who waited with open arms for him to find his way back home. As an adoptee, I deal with TRUST issues galore, but am so thankful that I found the way home to my REAL Father, from whom I originated.

I once heard a Pastor by the name of Dick Bernal (from San Francisco) preach a sermon about this very subject. He wisely pointed out that the original Greek language that was translated "adopted" in these scriptures could more accurately be translated as "reinstated" or "reunited". It describes the beautiful picture of a "reunion" between God and His Creation ("sperma", "offspring"), or children.

So, no, God is not my adoptive Father. He is my true Father, from whom I came. I John says that we are BORN of God ('sperma') ~ that is a completely different picture than most of the Church body teaches today. If we are BORN of God, we do not NEED to be adopted by Him ~ we are "reinstated" or "reunited" with Him, our Creator, Our Savior, Our Perfect Father.

In fact, the Bible says that He "ransomed" us, which means God "bought us back". Ransom is only necessary when a person has been kidnapped. To be "bought back" implies that we were originally God's creation, His children, His offspring, and that He had to pay a dear price (His Life), a "ransom" to get us back to Him, our Home, our identity, our intended place. To me, that is a picture of God being my BIRTH Father, my origin, my Home, and then having to actually "ransom" me back legally in order to be REUNITED with Him, from whom I came. Complete Love.

I resonate with this beautiful analogy so much, because I can just "BE" who I was created to be. I am fully created, loved, and reunited in relationship with Him, who I originated from. That is Heaven to this adoptee.
Anonymous said…
"...I am fully created, loved, and reunited in relationship with Him, who I originated from. That is Heaven to this adoptee."

Amen, sister!!!!!
malinda said…
Thanks for addressing this use of religion in adoption -- I addressed the shameful destruction of the child's jade pendant (http://tinyurl.com/yz8avvy), but I didn't think I could tackle the religion part without blood coming out of my ears!

Some of the adoption stuff is also coming from James 1:27, which says that the only pure and undefiled religion is to take care of widows and orphans.

"Take care of" isn't synonymous with adoption! And if it is, isn't marriage synonymous with "taking care of" widows? That's what I suggested in my post, "Wanted: Marriageable Men!"
Margie said…
All great comments, thank you all.

The word often translated as "adoption" that appears in the Bible is the Greek word "huiothesia." Some biblical scholars use the meaning "adoption," others "sonship." I've never seen it translated as "reunite," but I do know from the reading I've done trying to understand how the adoption metaphor is used in the Bible that many interpretations speak to reunion with God and new birth, as opposed to the mechanism of adoption as we understand it.

The point is that however you interpret these particular passages in the Bible, NONE gives a directive to us to go out and adopt the children of others. There are plenty of directives to care for those in need, though, and that would certainly include the parents driven to adoption due to lack of financial or social support.
Yoli said…
Margie I cannot begin to tell you how disturbed I am about what is happening in faith based adoptions. Imagine the burden on those children. I agree with you that you cannot reason with them because they use it as a tool to divide instead of unite.

Thank you for your suggestion on the books. My children and I are Buddhists.
Margie said…
Thanks, Yoli - I think you'll like the books. They're both by Thich Nhat Hanh, who I first got to know through these two. I have several more of his writings now; he's a wise man, definitely worth listening to.

Those of you who are familiar with Thomas Merton might also be interested in this book:

rosemary said…
Thanks for the post, Margie, as well as the reading suggestions. I feel extremely frustrated by organizations that use "faith based agendas" to manipulate adoptive families, first families or adult adoptees. I am a practicing Christian but it's not a reason to adopt a child or to make an adoption plan.
osolomama said…
Hi again everyone -

I've tried to put together a little history of the recent Christian movemenbt to adopt. It's up now at


Thought I'd post before Orphan Sunday.
Gabe Fife said…
hi margie! i just sent a message about dual citizenship. i also just read about your kids. i am a master's student at the university of delaware and also WAS a taekwondo competitor. i won a silver medal at the us open in 1999 and LA open in 2001 and was oregon state champion for 6 years straight. i am now doing research on concussion in taekwondo. i just got back from copenhagen where i presented at a taekwondo symposium held in conjunction with the world taekwondo championships. maybe i can have your daughter come in and be a subject for my study!!
This blog has substance and is a fantastic resource! Your passion comes through in the writing. Thank you!
Mirjam said…
Checked out Russel Moore (never heard of the guy yet on this side of the pond).

First part of the foreword of Adopted for Life .
"I was adopted when I was eighteen years old. I wasn't an orphan, the way most people think of that term. I wasn't an abandoned child. But I was in a condition far more serious: I was a stranger to the family of God, a slave to sin, and an object of the justified wrath of God."
Far more serious. Right.
Okay: done. (banging head on keyboard)
Thank you SO MUCH for writing this. Your words carry more power to change the world than you know. I have been reading for many years and am repeatedly thankful that you are willing to tackle these kind of topics. Thank you, thank you.
Lol that sounded so generic, I hadn't read the link. And typing one handed. I'm a little traumatized, I look at the pictures of that boy losing all he knows. I get traumatized when I see freshly adopted children. I ache for them or for me perhaps. It's very raw and deep, the feeling of an infant losing those ties, at least the feelings it evokes in me are. : (
maryanne said…
Thanks, Margie, another Catholic here agrees with you, and I will look into the books you have mentioned.

Another one that is humorous, a little profane, but basically good-hearted and involves Jesus going to India and China before he started his ministry is "Lamb" by Christopher Moore, who writes lots of far-out fantasy. My found son recommended this author and another son and I have read all his books.

Mr. Moore perverts religions. he comes across like someone with a heart full of hate and fear, not love or compassion for anyone. I am sorry for his kids.

I really like the comment by Peach about the sermon by Dick Bernal. There is a lovely book by Henri Nouwen on the Prodigal Son that resonates with this.

Again thanks for a great blog, and everyone check out O Solo Mama on this subject as well.
mary said…
Oops, that is Mr. RUSSEL Moore perverts religion, not the author of the same last name!:-)

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