Monday, February 13, 2012

Response to the Christian Adoption and Orphan Care Movement

Law Professor and fellow Fleasbiting blogger David Smolin has recently posted a new article to his collection of adoption related articles at bepress.

The abstract of the article is as follows:

The primary purpose of this essay is to demonstrate that the scriptural and theological analysis undergirding the evangelical adoption and orphan care movement is patently and seriously erroneous. Thus, this essay will demonstrate that, based on the standards, methods, and presuppositions broadly shared by evangelical Christians in analyzing scripture and theology, the evangelical adoption movement’s specific analysis of concepts such as “adoption” and “orphans” has been seriously deficient and has produced conclusions that are demonstrably false. The second purpose of this essay will be to indicate that these errors of scriptural and theological analysis have produced, and are producing, practices that in scriptural and Biblical terms would be called “sinful” and in more secular language can be called exploitative.

The article can be read by clicking on this link and then clicking the "download" button between the article title and the photograph.


"Of Orphans and Adoption, Parents and the Poor, Exploitation and Rescue: A Scriptural and Theological Critique of the Evangelical Christian Adoption and Orphan Care Movement" by David Smolin, currently published on the site with publication forthcoming in Regent Journal of International law, Vol. 8, No. 2 in Spring 2012. Additional publication of a shortened version of the article is forthcoming in May 2012 in a special Adoption Symposium Issue of The Journal of Christian Legal Thought, published by the Christian Legal Society.


  1. Could you explain this to a foreigner please? I'm a christian in Australia and these concepts seem very strange. I don't quite get it.



  2. The writings are self-explanatory Jon, just read and digest.

  3. Jon,

    I'd be happy to help you understand, but I'm not sure what you don't understand. Did you follow the link to the article and read it? The article's pretty self-explanatory. If you did read the article on the bepress site and you can let me know what part you don't understand, I'll do my best to explain. Can you tell me what part of the article you didn't understand?



  4. Thanks Desiree

    I confess that I have not read the full article - merely skimmed it. I was put off reading it without the cultural context as I have no idea of what the Christian Adoption and Orphan Care Movement is (there is no equivalent as far as I know in Australia). Is it a formal movement? No mainstream churches would subscribe to this view in this country.

    Hope this makes sense.


  5. Jon,

    In the last 5-7 years (or something like that) the US evangelical church has fallen in love with adoption. There are several popular Christian books (Russell Moore's "Adopted For Life, The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches;" "Fields of the Fatherless: Discover the Joy of Compassionate Living" by Tom Davis; "Orphanology: Reawakening to Gospel Centered Adoption and Orphan Care" by Tony Merida; "Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living Through Rediscovery of Abba Father" by Dan Cruver are some of the more popular examples) that claim that adoption is at the heart of understanding the Gospel and that admonish Christians to adopt. Some go so far as to suggest that ALL Christians have a responsibility to either consider adopting themselves or help those that are adopting. This movement has swept through US evangelical churches.

    The Southern Baptist Convention, which is the second largest denomination in the US (after the Roman Catholic Church), the largest Protestant denomination, and by far the largest self-professed "evangelical" denomination in the US, under the influence of Russell Moore (mentioned above as the author of Adopting for Life) and other members of the Christian Adoption and Orphan Care Movement, adopted a Resolution "On Adoption and Orphan Care" in June of 2009:

    It is relatively short and readable. But note the second "resolved" which states:

    "RESOLVED, That we call on each Southern Baptist family to pray for guidance as to whether God is calling them to adopt or foster a child or children;"

    The Christian Adoption and Orphan Care movement (and even a popular Christian recording artist) has established quite a few fund-raising organizations that solicit donations (and remember that the orphan care movement considers that everyone ought to consider whether they should be adopting or HELPING others adopt) in order to fund adoptions for Christians. Russell Moore sets out the example of his adoption being significantly funded by someone in his church and encourages others to help other church members likewise.

    Beyond this call to adoption activism in individual Christians' lives, the Adoption and Orphan Care Movement espouses a theology that sees adoption at the center of the Christian's understanding of the Gospel. Familiar Biblical stories are reinterpreted to be about adoption (I still can't understand some of them myself--like exactly how the story of the Prodigal Son could have been twisted into a story about adoption, but I guess that's my lack of imagination). We are told in some books that the Church has "lost" this vision of the centrality of adoption.

    Because the essential thing in Christianity is God's adoption of us (vertical adoption), then one of the clearest ways to model and preach the Gospel is mirror this adoption by adopting "orphans" (horizontal adoption).

    Anyway, the my husband's article is meant as a response to this growing and very popular movement within the US evangelical church.

    I'm thankful that this movement has not taken hold in Australia.


  6. Thanks Desiree

    I really appreciate that answer. I am rather astonished I have to say. In Australia, we have one person - the wife of an actor who has I believe been promoting a charity called 'Orphan angels' - as far as I know there is no link to religion.

    In Australia, many Aboriginal children (often mixed race) were taken from their parents up until the 70s and adopted into white families. As you can imagine, this has left enormous trauma for many parents and children. This is known in Australia as the 'Stolen Generation' and there have been Government inquiries and even finally (after much time) an apology from the Government. In part this was undertaken by churches, so I can't imagine any churches here being too keen on promoting adoption like that.

    Furthermore as a separate issue, the theme of single mothers being pressured to adopt out their children until the 70s is being highlighted in the press currently.

    I would have thought the Biblical theme of justice would be a bit more relevant than anything in relation to adoption, but there you go.

    Australia is not as religious as the US (more like Europe in that regard). Creation science is a fringe thing here.

    As a parent of a daughter adopted from China, who also thought that is was all legitimate (especially since our inter-country adoption is all done through the Australian Government), I am currently thinking through these issues. I appreciate this blog raising them. Only a few people are prepared to consider these issues in our Yahoo groups - they don't want to know.

    Thank you

    (especially for the respectfulness of your answer - I still remember the rebuff I got in the orphanage Yahoo group when I first raised the issue - it was along the lines of 'Don't you realise 'this' isn't the US. I was tempted to respond that I wasn't in the US but didn't)



  7. Caring for orphans is not a new "movement" it is Biblical and common sense and decency. Actually it is part of what makes us human. Only a barbarian would allow a child hidden in a basket in the river to stay there or turn it in to be slaughtered. Saying that Christians are "exploiting" orphans? What does that mean?
    This is the most twisted sick piece of drivel that I have ever read,

    Our children when we adopted them from the orphanages did not look back. Even hearing the language spoken years later made them stressed and fearful.
    And we know adoptees who have gone back and met their birthmothers in Russia and some who never want to do so.
    And loss of cultural identity is not a big deal to many because they have replaced it with their new culture and have a strong identity of their own.
    You liberals and anti-Christian bigots have no frame of reference and are trying to fill a God like void in your lives.
    A child should never live in an institution. They do not work. And foster care is broken even in the US.
    So it sounds like you want more intervention by government and less Christian involvement in adoption and orphan care? Why? So you can screw it up more? Government does not do the job it is supposed to do now. This is all political. We have a government monster that has taken over almost every form of news media, our educational systems, research programs. It is like a bad movie where the robot takes over and humans are powerless to stop it.

    So you sit at your desks and write based on what? We have never been surveyed. I know no one who has been surveyed for your research.

    We are the truth.