Tuesday, June 12, 2018

God is Not a Birth Parent and Jesus is Not Adopted

This letter is in response to the June 5, 2018 article, “Adopting a Child Mirrors God’s Adoption of Us All”  published in The Presbyterian Outlook.  

I can appreciate that Rev. Glass, herself an adoptee and birth parent, has found something positive about her own relinquishment and adoption within scripture.  Rev. Glass had a wonderful loving adoptive family, for which she is grateful; however, comparing “being adopted” to our adoption by God does not ring true for me 1.  There are many Christians who cannot relate to Rev. Glass’ interpretation of scripture. 2  In fact, hearing this comparison at church does damage to many adopted people who did not have the same loving and positive experience Rev. Glass did.  Where was God for them when they were being abused or re-homed after being adopted? What about the birth family members who were praying that their child/niece/grandbaby could stay with them and not have to live with strangers? Why didn’t God answer their prayers?  

I take issue with the declaration that God is a “birth parent” and Jesus is “adopted”. In addition, I disagree with equating spiritual and legal adoption.  Are you aware that historically, unmarried birth parents were pressured and/or coerced, either by their extended family and/or their church, to relinquish their children to married strangers in the name of God? 3 Are you aware that relinquishing a child for adoption is many times the result of a temporary situation such as a financial difficulty, and with just a little support from family or church, could be avoided?  My own birth mother, a college graduate, married two years after my relinquishment and went on to have two more children.  Her temporary problem was solved:  she found a husband.

If Rev. Glass had mentioned Moses as similar to a modern adoptee, I could get on board with that one, as Moses was aware of the identity of his birth family and had contact with them.   I can also see parallels to adoption as it relates to Joseph, son of Jacob, when his jealous brothers cast him out of the family and sold him into slavery.  Being cast out from your family of origin, without any choice in the matter, relates much closer to how we practice adoption in the U.S.

Jesus Christ did not know what it was like to be an adopted child, in the earthly, human sense. Jesus was born of Mary and had an ongoing relationship with Mary until she stood at the foot of the cross in heartbreak and in witness. In contrast, adopted citizens in the United States are completely severed from their biological kin in law and sometimes in practice.  In the land of “open adoption,” we are still removing adopted children’s genealogy from them by changing their names and sealing their birthright 4.  In 2018, an adopted child living in the United States can still be lied to about their adoption status, and unless they take a DNA test or stumble upon a paper trail in their parents’ closet, would be none the wiser.  

I don’t personally believe God wanted me to be adopted 5.  God placed me exactly where he wanted me:  in my birth family.  My birth family rejected me because of the cultural mores of the 1960s.  Humans decided adoption was my best chance after my human mother relinquished me.  God was not responsible for these events:  imperfect human beings were.  As a Christian 6, I don’t want to hear from the pulpit, no matter the positive intent, that being adopted as a child is comparable to “God’s adoption of us all” or that being adopted as a child gives me a special kind of status or redemption.   Hearing this interpretation of scripture from an authority figure is nothing new: it is now in vogue, among the Evangelical movement, to preach the gospel of adoption. 7  

In U.S. private adoption, there are many more prospective adoptive parents than there are babies relinquished, which has created a multi-billion-dollar industry where children are treated as commodities.  Once a child is relinquished, he is at the mercy of competing adoptive parents and adoption agencies who will profit.  From the point of relinquishment forward, everyone involved is biased toward finalization of adoption and not toward family preservation, even when there are relatives who are capable.   I can picture Jesus now, walking into a local adoption agency, flipping over desks and file cabinets in disapproval.  For every legal adoption, loss of family came first. Adoption is a legal band-aid for broken hearts. 

 Of course, there will always be parents who cannot raise their own children and there will always be couples who are unable to have children.  The answer to this quandary is not necessarily adoption.  Children belong with their own kin when absolutely possible.  Children come into this world with their own unique DNA, heritage, culture, preferences and place in a community – we don’t need to be (legally) adopted to be loved by a family or to experience God’s love. 

Rev. Glass correctly touches on the primal wound 8 of being rejected.  Is it possible that in many cases, relinquishment and adoption take away too much from a child and do not necessarily bring in as many gains?  My hope in writing this perspective is that the Christian community can begin to look at U.S. private adoption with a more critical eye, be cognizant as to how we regularly interpret scripture in a way that glamorizes adoption, 9 and in doing so, alienates many adoptees and birth families.  My greater hope is that faith communities 10 will first support family preservation before they advocate for adoption 11.  I believe that is what Jesus would do. 12

Respectfully submitted,

Lynn Grubb, Adoptee and Kinship Adoptive Parent
Dayton, Ohio

                                                          
                                                         
1 See article, “Adoption, It’s in the Bible” by Pastor Deanna Shrodes.  

2 See “Of Orphans and Adoption, Parents and the Poor, Exploitation and Rescue: A scriptural and Theological Critique of the Evangelical Christian Adoption and Orphan Care Movement” (Regent Journal of International Law, 2012), David M. Smolin. 

3 See Movie Philomena (2013) starring Judy Dench and Book, “The Girls Who Went Away” by Ann Fessler. 

4 See article, “Buried Secrets, Living Children: Secrecy, Shame and Sealed Adoption Records” by Lisa Munro. 

5 See article, “Was it God’s Will I Be Adopted?” by Lynn Grubb.

 6 See article, “Christians: The Call to Adopt: Christians and Adoption” by Bleeding Hearts 

7 See Book, “The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking and the New Gospel of Adoption” by Kathryn Joyce.

8 See Book, “The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child” by Nancy Verrier. 

9 See article, “What We Lost: Undoing the Fairy Tale Narrative of Adoption” by Liz Latty.

10 See article, “How Pastors and Churches Can Help Adoptees” by Pastor Deanna Shrodes. 

11 See article, “The Church and Adoption:  Changing the Narrative” by Bleeding Hearts.

12 See article, “Adoption: What Would Jesus Do?” By Bleeding Hearts.

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