Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Journal of Christian Legal Thought Issue on Adoption: Hopes for a Mature Dialogue

The Journal of Christian Legal Thought, a publication of the national Christian Legal Society and Regent University School of Law, allowed me to help put together an issue on adoption.  Thanks to Mike Schutt, the editor, for his courage in publishing what may be seen as a controversial issue, and for his trust in giving me flexibility in recruiting a diverse group of authors. 

The adoption issue of the Journal of Christian Legal Thought is available online in e-mag format; click on the following link:   Journal of Christian Legal Thought, Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 2012.    

(The link above first takes you to the abstracts of the articles as viewed in the print version; to read the full article click the link at the end of the abstract---for those with a longer version.)

The issue contains three articles on the theological controversy (myself, with responses by Jedd Medefind, head of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, and Dan Cruver, editor/author of Reclaiming Adoption); two adult adoptee voices (Mark Diebel and JaeRan Kim), a personal story by a first mother who lost her child recently and writes here under the pseudonym of Clara Daniels; and an historical article by E. Wayne Carp, a leading historian of adoption, on Jean Patton, a Christian, adoptee, and early critic of the closed records system. 

One message I would hope this issue sends to the Christian world is that adoption is controversial, and for good reasons.  The Christian adoption movement has naively recapitulated the rhetoric of orphan babies and children being rescued by unrelated Christian adoptive parents, putting a false veneer of Biblical rhetoric over it.  (I say false veneer because the Bible itself does not tell any such story.)   Instead, any fair narrative about adoption must begin with the conception and birth of a child to a particular mother, father, family, and community; once this true beginning is acknowledged, it becomes clear enough why adoption is controversial.   Immediately the questions emerge:  was a separation between the child and her family really necessary?   What is the relationship of the adoptee to their original family (not just parents, but also siblings, extended family, grandparents, etc.) ?  What is the relationship of the original family to the adoptive family?  

Once a legitimate controversy is acknowledged, what is the way forward?

The answer is:  Dialogue, dialogue, and more dialogue.  

From that perspective, I hope this issue of the Journal of Christian Legal Thought furthers this necessary process of dialogue. But it is only a beginning.   I hope that we can encounter one another with respect as fellow human beings made in the image of God---and for those of you who share my Christian faith, as brothers and sisters in Christ.

I know some of you may find my rhetoric strong at times.   But please consider:  every day of my life I live, within my own family, the long term impact of deeply exploitative and sinful practices conducted in the name of adoption.   Nearly every day of my life I encounter those same impacts in the lives of many others, through personal communications, reviewing new reports of abusive practices, and continued research.   Then, when I enter the rhetorical world of the Christian adoption movement I encounter what appear to me to be a fantasy-land of lies and misleading inducements which continue to harm many.   I recognize that most involved are well-intentioned and worthy of respect---but the actions and rhetoric remain deeply hurtful.  So it my role to seek to burst the bubble of the adoption fantasy. 

So do not confuse strong words with disrespect.

I am quite good at listening---indeed, I’ve been listening to pro-adoption rhetoric for longer than the current Christian adoption movement has existed.  Indeed, I fell for that rhetoric at one time in my life, and so I understand it deeply.   And if you have something to say as well which I have not heard before, I am eager to hear that as well. 

Do not confuse apparent “negativity” with a lack of positive prescriptions.  I have plenty to say about what should and could be done to fix the problems.  And indeed in my articles I’ve made very specific proposals.  But I know that my solutions will not be palatable until and unless the scope of the problem is acknowledged.   

So happy reading, and let’s keep the dialogue going!

David Smolin

Journal of Christian Legal Thought, Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 2012


  1. Glad to see this officially available! I'm SO glad you are writing on these issues, and appreciate your voice, and Desiree's, greatly!

  2. This is great, thanks for writing as you do and for letting everyone know where this information can be found.

    "Indeed, I fell for that rhetoric at one time in my life, and so I understand it deeply."

    This is such an important statement. Many adoptive parents have a difficult time letting got of this rhetoric, even to the point of denying reality when it smacks them in the face. For this reason, I applaud your willingness to work with members of the Christian adoption movement to remind them that their message is flawed.

  3. Thank you so much for speaking for us, adoptees, David.

    It's frustrating as a Christian, myself, to see the twisting of scripture to justify the sale and redistribution of children.


  4. Important post, keep up the good work!!

  5. Thank you very much for this article. I read it in it's entirety for the first time a few days ago and have been thinking of it ever since. I am a "new" Christian and an adoptee and struggled very much with the Christian Adoption Movement. I now feel that I can be an Adoptee Rights Advocate AND a Christian adoptee.

    I never understood when people claimed that Moses was adopted therefore adoption was good. Your article explained if fully and I will use your points when talking to others.

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  7. I'm glad to see this but I fear that the people who need it most won't read it. My step-daughter's wanna-be adopters firmly believe that God has told them to adopt the world's orphans and they seem to forget that means a child without BOTH parents.

  8. I'm having trouble with the links -- do you know if these articles/this issue is not available online any longer? Thanks!

    1. Peter and Nancy,

      I'm not sure what's going on with the links. The first time I clicked on the first link it didn't work; the link at the end of the blog post (to the same place), DID work, however. I went back and clicked on the first link again and this time it DID work. I suspect there is a problem with the zmag site itself and that it is simply inconsistent. I'd try it several times at different times and hopefully it will work on one of your tries. Sorry.

      FWIW, the long version of the article by David Smolin is also available at his bepress site:


  9. Hello everyone, thank you for telling of your stories about the two young daughters who were stolen. I am very glad to know there are people in the world like you who know how wrong this is. I am an Australian adoptee, taken by threats and deceit in 1962 from my 35 year old widowed mother. I run a support and lobby group for abused and mistreated adoptees here. I was taken from my mother just because she was poor...she already had 4 boys in her care, but they were healthy and well. They the government wanted me a new born, not older children cause they are harder to adopt. I did not go to the home my mother was promised. I was abused from the day I entered their door. I was forced to work in charcoal pits from the age of five, beaten, kicked, suffocated and even set alight for fun, I was never seen by a doctor for my injuries and if they did they lied. I found out at 20 years old that I have a fracture in my spine in the T5, I was told I had to be in a care accident or bashed all i could say to the doctor at the time was I've not been in a car accident. At present I am actively lobbying the Australian government to have to truth exposed and adoptees like my self get an apology, services for free and compensation. So far the government is willing to apologize with restriction to the wordings, they are worried about getting their butts sued. There are many adoptees in Australia who were stolen between the years 1950's to 1980's they estimate about 200,000 of us..and a recent senate inquiry and Family study has found an alarming number of us have suffered abuse. Any body wanting to know more or chat with me here is my email address All I want to say is I am very impressed with the adoptive parents who think more about the need of the child than themselves as these people are very rare indeed. Those little girls will love you so much more for wanting to out things right. God Bless you both.

  10. I knew there had to be someone in the Christian community who understood the unbiblical behavior at work in the area of relinquishment. I can hardly believe I have found it in your writing! Thank you! Be encouraged that you are not alone. You are a pioneer. God bless you.