The Real Issue with Pat Robertson’s Adoption Comments

Electric responses—from sorrow to anger—are lighting up blogosphere in response to comments by Pat Robertson on The 700 Club about the risk that adopted kids could turn out “weird” due to the prior abuse, medical issues and other baggage they might carry.

I can’t help feeling that most all of the reactions I’ve seen, from dismay to indignation, are justified.  But it also strikes me that the primary problem with what Robertson said lies deeper.  The main issue isn’t just another foot-in-my-mouth statement that reveals ignorance or insensitivity.  We all can certainly fall prey to saying dumb and hurtful things.  Nor is it that Robertson seems hyper-attuned to potential challenges of adoption.  Truth be told, that’s a theme adoption advocates would do well to do a better job emphasizing also.

What’s most at issue is our understanding of discipleship—and of Christianity itself.

Intended or not, Robertson’s statement implies an assumption affirmed daily by most every TV talking head, religious or not:  if something might turn out to be disappointing to you, or painful, or less than you’d hoped…you have every reason to avoid it.

This may represent great pop psychology, but nothing could be further from the call of Christ.  Yes, Jesus instructed potential disciples to count the cost of following him.  But that was precisely because he knew he was calling them to embrace a cross, not to avoid it.  To find true life, Jesus said, we must stand ready to lose life.  Lose comfort.  Lose control.  Lose convenience.

This always has been and always will be the road of the disciple.

Such choices do begin with a thoughtful, even deliberative, process of understanding risks and costs.  And (if this even needs to be said), discipleship never requires a reckless pursuit of difficulty as an end in itself.  But ultimately, any serious response to the call of Christ will involve real, hard-to-swallow costs—and with those costs, unparalleled rewards, some in this life and some in the next.

That’s true of adoption and foster care and global work with orphans…and, quite honestly, any expression of true discipleship.

Thankfully, faithful Christians in every age have embraced this cost.  This is why, as Russell Moore’s penetrating response to Robertson’s comments explains:

Christians are the ones who have stood against the prophets of Baal and the empire of Rome and every other satanic system to say that a person’s worth doesn’t consist in his usefulness. Christians are the ones who picked up abandoned babies, who wiped drool from the dying elderly, who joyfully received developmentally disabled children, and who recognized that our own sin has made us nothing noble or powerful. We’re all just dead and damaged and, well, “weird.” But Jesus loved us anyway.

One other moving response to Robertson came from Tim and Wendy McMahan.  They express their own tender answer to the woman (whose boyfriend who didn’t want to marry her because of her adopted children), whose question first spurred Robertson’s statement:

My dear sister, thank you for taking up the plight of the orphan. You are beautifully living out God’s call on your life and your treasures are being stored in a place where they will never burn. We were promised that we would face trials when we took on this life of discipleship. Your hope for companionship may be the sacrifice that you are offering to God on behalf of your children. It is among the most fragrant of all sacrifices. I pray that God would give you a husband that shares your passion for these little ones. If not, I pray that none of your trials are ever as difficult as this one. When you feel rejection, consider it pure joy; for you do your Father’s work. Lord please comfort this woman and pour out your blessings in her life. Give her more than she could ever imagine. If she cannot have a husband give her a taste of the beauty of your sanctuary so that she may endure.

The road of discipleship will look markedly different for every believer, but it will most certainly include all of these elements.  Sorrow and joy.  Costs and rewards.  Trials and beauty.   A call to anything less is not the call of Christ.