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