Another thoughtful article appeared today on the growing Evangelical orphan movement. The article, Adoption growing among evangelical Christians, is a well-written and thoughtful piece focused on the expanding commitment among Christians to adoption, both international and domestic. It also raises a sharp criticism worth addressing.
The article’s author thoughtfully captured a range of voices on the issue, including some of the adoption movement’s fiercest critics. There’d be much to discuss about the perspectives included, and some—including criticism—merit contemplation. But one critique raised in the article strikes me as a particularly significant misunderstanding on the part of some critics, who have concluded that many Christians adopt simply as an underhanded form of proselytizing.
At times, poorly expressed statements by zealous Evangelicals (few of them adoptive parents) seem to confirm this view. But at least from the countless families I’ve interacted with, the vast majority of Christian adoptive parents aren’t adopting merely as a way to win converts. Yes, Christian parents desire passionately that all of their children—adopted or biological—will grow up to share their faith. Most parents do. Just about all of the more liberal, non-religious parents I know who’ve adopted desire that their children grow up to share their progressive vision, too. But the simple truth is that there are countless ways for Christians to spread Christianity that are far less costly and less difficult than adoption.
Really, who would bring a child permanently into their family, commit to her for life, give her their name, risk countless sorrows and make myriad sacrifices, write her into their will with equal status to their other children, and everything else involved with adoption…solely as means of proselytizing? Why not just hold a tent meeting or, at most, become a mentor?
Yes, ultimately adoption and other ways of caring for orphans helps the world see God’s loving character in a powerful, tangible way. Adoption makes the Gospel story visible. And yes, Christians do yearn for all people—including their children—to know true wholeness in Christ. But adoption as a sneaky way to garner converts just doesn’t compute. Spend some time around thoughtful adoptive families, and you’ll know what I mean.
Profiled in both the article and the video are David and Tera Melber and family. Both David and Tera are good friends and involved in the Alliance in a number of ways. David directs the Crossings Camps (a member organization of the Alliance) and Tara leads the adoption/orphan ministry at Highview Baptist. They do a great job explaining “what it’s all about” and giving a compelling-yet-honest glimpse of what adoption has meant for their family.