The Washington Institute this week carries a great article that—written by a journalist new to orphan issues—shows a remarkable grasp of the heart of the Christian orphan care movement.
Read the article here: Amidst Criticism, the Call to Care for Orphans.
The article strikes me as particularly timely, and insightful, given the flavor of criticisms coming from the newly-released book, The Child Catchers. The Child Catchers carries some truly important critique. But it also distorts a great deal, relying heavily on anecdotes of fringe individuals and shady endeavors that many mainstream Christian advocates would sharply criticize as well.
[See a short CAFO blog post on the book here and NPR interview responding to it here. Note that we’ll be release a more in-depth review of the book in the coming weeks.]
The Washington Institute article offers glimpses of people the author met at Summit 9—the kind of people anyone familiar with the movement encounters often. In contrast, The Child Catchers builds story after story of peculiar personalities—the eccentric characters one almost always finds on the fringes of any movement or cause.
To be fair, The Child Catchers often bends quotes and facts to support its view of the orphan care movement, so these individuals may be much more thoughtful than the book portrays them. But regardless, the stories and profiles portrayed are anything but representative of the people one generally encounters at Summit or your average church foster care ministry.
This parade starts on page one of The Child Catchers with the profile of a woman named Sharen, described with terms like “fundamentalist”… advocate of “prolific fertility”… and “Tea Party Activist” (who all “true to form” like to wear “tricorner hats and knee socks.”)
Next comes Laura Silsby, a “divorced mother of three” with a “troubled financial past” and shady business dealings, whose childhood church didn’t allow women to cut their hair. Silsby’s now infamous attempt to smuggle children from Haiti to an unbuilt-orphanage in the Dominican Republic landed her and nine others in a Haitian prison.
Third is Tom Benz, whom is presented as “wide-smiling” and “likeable” but ultimately deeply naïve. Benz is seen again and again using ends-justify-the-means deception to bring orphans into his care.
After recently finishing The Child Catchers, the Washington Institute article offered a refreshing reminder that a thoughtful journalist visiting Summit could quickly, clearly grasp the true heart that animates the movement and the majority of the people who fill it.