Every meaningful undertaking has had its fierce critics, from the abolition movement to Ronald Reagan’s challenge to Soviet totalitarianism. And—truth be told—although history proved the critics to be profoundly wrong on the questions that mattered most, many of the specific critiques they offered carried certain truths and half-truths worthy of thoughtful consideration.
Such is the case with several of the Christian orphan care movement’s detractors. As champions of the idea that children need families, we can still learn from criticism—even when it carries distortions or springs from past hurts or harsh feelings toward Christianity.
At the same time, it often seems that some critics aren’t sincerely seeking to understand and report the true story of Christian adoption and orphan care. Rather, articles relish highlighting the most tragic stories, fringe voices and scenarios that even most within the movement would strongly criticize. When thoughtful adoption advocates are referenced, their quotes and ideas are often severely misrepresented.
One of the movements’ most aggressive detractors appeared on NPR this week. The NPR transcript is available HERE. The interview is part of promotion efforts for a new book by Kathryn Joyce claiming to describe the Christian orphan care movement, titled, “The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking and the New Gospel of Adoption.” Joyce also has has an article in this month’s Mother Jones called “Orphan Fever.”
(As a small but significant side note, it’s telling that despite the dramatic growth of Christian engagement in orphan care—which the NPR interview depicts using words like “powerful” and “outsized”—I’m not aware of NPR ever inviting anyone from within the movement to describe what’s happening. One can’t help wondering how people would react if NPR reported on the “realities” of life growing up as an African American woman by interviewing only white male professors. I listen to NPR as much as any radio station and hope they’d be willing to correct this oversight.)
Summit IX is bearing down on us, which once again this year will be the largest gathering of the Christian orphan care movement yet, including individuals from more than 20 countries. So unfortunately I don’t have time to read Joyce’s book this week for a thorough response. Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to do that soon after Summit.
For now, I thought it’d be worthwhile sharing an article I wrote previously for Christianity Today responding to similar criticisms that Kathryn Joyce lodged in an article she released two years ago (perhaps not coincidentally right before Summit that year, too):
I’d also want to highlight a sharp response to Joyce’s Orphan Fever article written this week by Jonathan Merritt: Mother Jones’ shameful attack on the Christian adoption movement.