The book The Child Catchers has created considerable stir with its harsh criticism of the Christian orphan care movement. We were able to offer some initial response via blog and radio interviews at the time of its release, just before Summit.
But we also felt that a book making such extensive claims deserved a more comprehensive response. We are releasing that response today, titled “A Frank Analysis of The Child Catchers.”
At 16 pages, this review is not a quick read. But we desired to be both thoughtful and thorough. Ultimately, our hope is that it offers an honest and balanced assessment of the book, highlighting both its legitimate criticisms and its many significant distortions of the Christian orphan care movement.
Given the size of the analysis, over the weeks ahead, we’ll be sharing smaller excerpts on this blog as well. Here’s the first, offering the introduction and first section:
A FRANK ANALYSIS OF THE CHILD CATCHERS
The new book The Child Catchers delivers aggressive criticism of the growing Christian orphan care movement. Author Kathryn Joyce provides important warning regarding potential hazards, excesses and blind spots within the movement. At the same time, the book’s overarching narrative and many of its claims often distort much more than they reveal.
Thoughtful orphan advocates would do well to 1) Listen carefully to the book’s criticism; 2) Affirm its condemnations of misguided compassion; and 3) Reveal the book’s many caricatures, half-truths and misrepresentations for what they are.
Setting the Context
How will history judge the Christian orphan care movement? Amidst the daily rough-and-tumble of any significant undertaking, one can never know for sure.
This was certainly the case with the U.S. Abolition movement. Abolition encompassed a huge diversity of personalities, motives, and philosophies. Many of its leaders differed sharply on methods and desired outcomes. Some sought to amend the Constitution; other burned it publicly. Some resorted to violence; others believe “moral suasion” was the only means of lasting change.
This diversity guaranteed that journalists wishing to portray the Abolition movement in a particular light always had plenty of real evidence they could draw upon to build the storyline they wished to portray.
Many Southern journalists wanted to give to abolitionism one interpretation in particular: that it was a movement of religious zealots so desperate to do good that they’d go to almost any extreme to achieve their goals.
It wasn’t hard to present this narrative. One could start with a few examples of actual radicalism—like John Brown, Nat Turner and William Lloyd Garrison. Once that context was set, one could pull just the right quotes and stories from even moderate abolitionists to suggest that the entire movement was riddled with religious extremism, ill-considered initiatives and philanthropic undertakings destined to do more harm than good. In fact, there was at least some truth to each of these claims.
The journalism employed by The Child Catchers offers much the same interpretation of today’s Christian orphan care movement: religious zealots so desperate to do good that they’ll go to almost any ill-advised extreme to achieve their goals.
This leaves readers with a watershed question: Is this interpretation correct?
Or might history come to a more positive conclusion? Is it possible that the Christian orphan care movement carries both strengths and weaknesses similar to many other important movements: prone to certain excesses and enthusiasms, at times naive, always needing of improvement and self-correction….and yet ultimately effecting deep and lasting good for millions? Only time will tell for sure.
Read the full article, “A Frank Analysis of The Child Catchers.”