This post is a particular plea to my Christian brothers and sisters.
On the morning of his fourth birthday, my precocious nephew Natie told his Mom, "I talked to God last night, Mommy. God told me that I can skip four and go straight to five."
Of course, we all had a good laugh on that one.
It's cute when a four-year-old claims that God told him to do something like skip a birthday. Yet for some reason, when an adult claims that God told him to do something, we don't question it--no matter the claim.
I met a woman once who claimed that God told her to go to Africa as a missionary. Unfortunately, God didn't give the same message to her husband. So she dumped the husband and moved to Africa anyway. Uh, really? God would tell you to do that?
Sometimes Christians buy into the lie that if God tells someone to do something, the argument is closed. The problem is that the way that God "tells" a person to do such things is usually based on either some sort of feeling or mystical experience, or an out-of-context verse of Scripture.
When many adoptive parents talk about their adoption experience, "God's call," "God's will," and "God told me to," comes up again and again. I can understand this. I do believe that God put the desire in our hearts to adopt. Yet that strong desire has to submit itself to God's revealed will in Scripture.
After the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, a Christian woman named Laura Silsby and a group of Baptist missionaries tried to smuggle 33 children out of the country without any authorization, purportedly to get them adopted. She had been warned by multiple people that she did not have the documentation to remove the children from the country, yet she was unfazed.
"[The journalist] d'Adesky later wrote, '[Silsby] repeatedly referred to God having called her to rescue the Haitian children. God had spoken to her. If God wanted them to succeed, they would." (Kathryn Joyce)
When Silsby and her group were later arrested by Haitian authorities, they claimed it was spiritual warfare. After all, they had been on a mission from God.
The authors of In Defense of the Fatherless write, "While we agree that adoption and orphan care involve a spiritual battle, we have also seen a disturbing trend among Christian adoptive families. Some Christians argue that anything standing in the way of an 'orphan' coming home to America is the work of the enemy. For example, when a child's case is under review by the US Embassy, some Christian families say that anything that slows down the case is spiritual warfare--rather than the work of government officials who are trying to protect a child from trafficking."
I have to admit that this issue is personal for me. As I have been fighting against the illegal international adoptions that have started in Tanzania, I continually read and hear, "But God told me to." One agency (who has refused to communicate directly with me) even posted on their website that God will hold in judgment those who are speaking out against these adoptions, and that any prospective parents should ignore us.
Wow. That hurts. Here I am, a Christian missionary who has lived in Tanzania for 12 years, has adopted four children domestically, and is reading the same Bible they are....but apparently, I have no idea what I am talking about and God will judge me for it. A friend of mine who is fighting this battle with me told me that this attitude is one of the reasons she has rejected Christianity. After all, she is non-religious, and is striving to follow Tanzanian law, yet these self-proclaimed Christians are casually dismissing the law in the name of "God told me to."
What has happened to the Christian adoption movement, that we have spiritualized it to such a level that it negates all the other commands of Scripture? How about "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities" in Romans 13? Or does that verse only apply to American laws? How about Proverbs 22:22, "Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court?" How can justice for the poor include taking a family's children because of their poverty?
Should our desire to adopt a child supersede the laws of a country? Does God allow us to decide that we know better for that child than her country's government? Are we so concerned for the welfare of a child that we ignore the fact that her family could be exploited in the process? Are we so fixated on adoption as rescue that we are willing to allow it to overrule God's direct commands in Scripture?
Of course, it's absolutely noble to fight for a child who truly needs a family, and to pray that God will change the hearts and minds of those in authority. Let's do that wholeheartedly. But let's not justify corruption, bribery, and skirting around a country's laws in the name of "God's will."
Part 6: What About the Children Who Really Do Need Adoption?
Part 7: Is There Hope in This Mess We've Made?