Editor's Note: Jason Locy is co-author of Veneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society. He and his wife are adoptive parents and participants in Safe Families for Children, a voluntary alternative to foster care.
By Jason Locy, Special to CNN
When the Arkansas Supreme court struck down a voter-approved initiative that banned cohabitating straight and gay couples from adopting orphaned children, the Christian community predictably erupted.
Byron Babione of the Alliance Defense Fund, a coalition of Christian lawyers, attributed the April ruling to a “political movement afoot to undermine and destroy marriage.” Baptist Press, the publications arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, ran an article that quoted Babione as saying the ruling reflected “a campaign to place adult wants and desires over the best interests of children."
On one hand, these comments aren’t surprising. Conservative evangelicals have decried “the anti-family gay agenda” for decades. On the other, they underscore the way many Christians denounce a social problem that they have no plan for solving.
And the problem here is not ultimately gays adopting — the prevention of which, I believe, was the impetus behind the Arkansas initiative and behind adoption restrictions in various other states. The problem is a global orphan crisis involving tens of millions of children.
In the United States, there are approximately 116,000 foster children waiting to be adopted. That means a judge has either severed the rights of the original parents or the parents have voluntarily signed their children over to the government.
To put this into perspective, we might compare the number of American orphans to the purported 16 million Southern Baptists who attend more than 42,000 churches nationwide. Quick math reveals that there are roughly 138 Southern Baptists for every child in the American foster care system waiting to be adopted. To say it another way, this single denomination has an enormous opportunity to eradicate the orphan crisis in America.
If you’ve spent any time in church, you’ve probably heard a sermon on Noah or Moses or David. But how many sermons have you heard on the biblical mandate to care for orphans?
When was the last time you heard your pastor declare, “if you choose to adopt a child we will stand with you. We will provide respite care, financial help and do everything possible to meet the needs of that child?”
Southern Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics — the Christian Church — can provide safe, loving, permanent homes for these kids. Our faith dictates that we fight for a better way in both words and deeds.
When Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, and Peter responded yes, Jesus didn’t tell him to picket the wolves. He told Peter to feed and tend his sheep.
Some churches and Christian groups are stepping up. Focus on the Family launched a Wait No More initiative in Colorado in 2008, forming partnerships between local churches, adoption agencies and the government in order to encourage families to adopt through the foster care system. As a result, the number of Colorado orphans waiting for a family has been cut in half.
Christianity Today ran a 2010 report headlined “Adoption is Everywhere,” illustrating the trend among churches and Christians who are giving “attention to orphans, adoption, the fatherless, and so on.”
Despite such efforts, the American orphan crisis remains. Too many churches still find it easier to stand behind a megaphone decrying the morality of laws than to stand beside a child in need.
Thousands of orphaned children in America need grandmas and grandpas, embarrassing uncles and crazy aunts. They need someone to teach them to fly a kite and throw a ball and read a book and tie their shoes. They need someone to call mom and dad.
In fairness, adopting a child is not easy and many of these children face difficult adjustments once they’re adopted. They have experienced pain, loss, hurt, confusion and misplaced trust. They have endured physical, emotional and sexual abuse — things most of us don’t even want to imagine.
In 2008, when my wife and I adopted through Bethany Christian Services, the organization educated us on the possible challenges of adopting a child. They informed us that even though our daughter was a baby when we brought her home, she would eventually ask tough questions, as would our friends and family.
But my wife and I know our faith demands action and that sometimes action takes us out of our comfort zone.
As a father of three — two biological children and an adopted child — and a host to a number of children that have needed a temporary home I can tell you these kids need less arguing over who should and should not be allowed to adopt and more families stepping up and saying, “we will adopt.”
It is time Christians decide to either step up or shut up. If a Christian group wants to wade into the discussion over who should adopt, it needs to put its money and manpower where its mouth is.
That means not only challenging families and churches to adopt from foster care (which costs virtually nothing financially) but also to adopt children resulting from unplanned pregnancies, children with special needs and children of mixed race or minority ethnicity.
If Christians’ only desire is to fight the culture wars and score political points, then they should continue to lean on empty rhetoric. But if they truly care about the family and the Bible, they’ll begin caring for children who desperately need a home.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jason Locy.
Amen and Amen. My husband and I were just talking about this topic this morning.
We have two adopted children who were first foster children, and we're looking into adopting more. There are so many more people who could adopt if they would just get over their fear and selfishness and realize that parenting is hard, whether that kid is born to you or adopted, and it's worth the effort.
roseline omotayoThis is inrtesting, God made us in His own image, so that we can fullfill purpose. His plan is that He wants to live in us,but Sin makes us to Fall, but cos of His Love He redeem us back by dying and shedding His Blood for our Sins, so that we can regenerates and come back to Him. He baptize us and give us a new life by transforming our lives for glorification, so that our human body and soul can contacts and receives innermost part of Christ which is the Human Spirit of God Himself.This is a mystery to Human life thk u Jesus for sharing ur spirit in us.
I know/11 cant get enough of that laugh!!! John wetahcd this video with me and he thought it was super funny. He laughed at his laugh. Ha ha!! Next year we can celebrate with baby bear!!!
I spent the money on home study and spent the time and anguish to answer all the questions and write the autobiographies for my wife and I to be told we are a "very unusual" family and that our family structure and beliefs (religion) place us in a tough spot when trying to adopt older children (up to 8 years old) from the foster system. The case worker told me that she is sure that I would not want these kids "contaminating" my children. I think her real reason is that she did not want my family "infecting" a foster child with our biblically based values and standards. She told me herself that these children do better in homes with less rigid, more moderate standards. Of course they do!!!!! Where is the challenge in that to grow in wisdom, respect, and spritiuallity?
Thanks for this. I truly think that people assume that the orphan crisis is unsolvable. Thanks for sharing the numbers in black and white. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lN55BuhHJ7A Praying.
Jason, I don't share your faith. Nor will I diss you as an " idiot", as one respondent did. If followers of Jesus live as He did only 1 % of the time, our world would be radically transformed for the good. You have provided a candle in the darkness. Thankyou.
My church aggressively encourages adoption, including financial help. I am the father of two adopted children. Our pastor and his wife are adoptive parents. Scarcely a week goes by when there aren't a half-dozen roses on the piano celebrating new children in our church family. Probably a quarter of them are adoptive. Jason Locy is way behind the curve here. Just because he doesn't know all that churches are doing to encourage adoption, that doesn't mean it isn't happening. He has not shone a light on a problem in the church. He has shone a light on his own ignorance.
Bob – I am glad this is the experience at your church. However, simple math tells you that is not the case across the board. There are over 100,000 children in foster care right now ready to be adopted. There are over 300,000 churches in the US. Globally, there are 147 million orphans, and 2 billion professing Christians. Something doesn't add up. I am a believer and we have just submitted paperwork for foster/foster-to-adopt, so I am not just standing on the sidelines.
If gay couples are prevented from adopting, they will try to make arrangements to have children of their own. There must be a reason that some of us are born gay, and that's probably because they shouldn't reproduce. Otherwise they wouldn't be gay. Allow gays to adopt and most of them won't try to reproduce.
There "must be" a reason? And you know this reason? That's amazing!
Your logic is not like our Earth logic.
Well ... as living proof that being "gay" doesn't necessarily mean you were born that way (I left that lifestyle and am happily married and have adopted four kids)
Preach it, Brother! I love what you said...
"But my wife and I know our faith demands action and that sometimes action takes us out of our comfort zone.”
That is the truth indeed. Thank you for making the call to Christians to step out and care for the orphans. It is a call that God has clearly provided in the Bible, and yet so few actually take heed. Have you thought about starting an organization or a campaign through either a church or organization to call out to Christians? Maybe you could start one through CNN, much like the one regarding human trafficking- The CNN Freedom Project. What about using CNN as a conduit? I’d be on board!
Step up, Christians! It is your call and great HONOR to care for the orphans around the world!
Agreed. Thank you for this challenging and thought-provoking post. My husband and I hope to look into foster care and/or adoption after we settle down again (we're traveling in an RV around the USA this year).
I'm not even sure how I found your blog but now am addicted and check in on the Lollie ccernihlos daily. I'm pretty sure I would have sought to adopt Lollie by now (really a month ago when I found your blog) if not for three things. 1. high energy and good running companion worry me a bit (I don't run and we don't even have a yard) 2. current rescue dog Melvin is extremely selective about which dogs he likes (in 3-years we've found two dogs he will tolerate for a playdate) and 3. I (and most of the people that I've turned onto your blog) want YOU to keep Lollie. There is so much love in what you write that the urge to adopt is sometimes overcome by the guilt of denying him the joy of you. You are a hero among dog owners and rescuer's, thank you for what you do!
AMEN!!!! This world would be a much better place if people stopped being religious and started loving like Jesus did and commanded us to do.
Zealots rarely practice what they preach; They're to busy condemning everyone, rather than living what they preach. They're hypocrites.
Why push off kids on a bunch of Christian child molesters.
The author is absolutely right, and I have said this in the past. If Christians practice half of what they preach, imagine what a different world we would live.
Just imagine we would have world peace.....
Shut up or put up. Is that not against our right to "Free Speech"?
You are an idiot. His point is that if people are going to preach about a situation, they should also try to make the situation better, not just lecture everyone in sight. This has nothing to do with the first amendment you ignorant fool.
Not everybody is equipped to adopt, and that is okay. But if you don't choose to adopt, keep your mouth shut and quit saying that this person can't adopt or another person can't adopt.Even if you don't adopt, why not volunteer as a big brother or sister? Or volunteer to babysit for a single mother that could just have easily had an abortion but decided to keep it. When I was growing up(i was an only child), my mom and dad took me to the children's home and we would take home kids for a weekend and treat them. Nobody is helpless. Look at the stye in your own eye before you notice the one in your brothers.
Put up or shut up is short and sweet and an excellent way to get this point across. Every time an old white guy self- righteously pontificates on how wrong abortion is or how a child would be damaged by being adopted by a loving, gay couple (do they think it is better to be in foster care or not even be born?), I want to ask him how many times he has had to face abortion and how many times he has offered to provide assistance to a woman facing such a decision and how many of those babies he wants to save has he actually adopted??
Whatever else can be criticized about Sarah Palin, and I criticize her a lot, she at least has proven she and her family are willing to raise babies others might not be able to handle. I am pro-choice and support the right of a fifteen yr old girl to make a decision on whether or not to terminate a pregnancy (although I do not support late-term abortions except in life-threatening cases) and I support the right of a woman who learns she is carrying a Down's syndrome fetus to decide whether or not to terminate the pregnancy. But I support the right of those women to also choose to have the baby as long as she will care for it or make sure it is adopted by a loving family (straight or gay or single parent, as long as they will love the baby as their own). What I do not support is others self-righteously preaching what women can do or not do with their bodies .
Yes – those folks slinging hateful rhetoric should out up or shut up!
I agree w/most of what you said & appreciate your viewpoint. Something to consider, however, is that the chromosone tests to determine Down's Syndrome are NOT foolproof. God knows how many babies were aborted because of a false-positive Down's test.
My college roomie was over 35 w/her 2nd pregnancy. She had a textbook pregnancy w/no complications. All prenatal tests came back negative. Imagine the shock when her daughter was born w/Downs. 9 yrs later, the little girl is literally the pride and joy of my friend's family.
My other friend was pregnant w/#3 and was 36 yrs old so her doctor ran all the tests...the Downs test came back positive. She & her husband had 4 months before the birth to emotionally prepare themselves, the other children and their extended family. Then *surprise*! That baby boy was born perfectally healthy w/no complications–and no Downs.
Just something to think about. Every unborn–I prefer the term "pre-born"–life truly is special...
At the same time, adoption is NOT for everyone. Many well-meaning, yet misguided, individuals have adopted children without fully considering their own ability to unconditionally love, care, and accept those who are not their own. The sensitivities that come with adoption are often overlooked by those who pride themselves in doing a "good deed." I have met many adopted parents (including conservative Christians) who somehow convince themselves that the child is obligated to them for everything and will constantly remind him/her. Wake up people, adopted children are NOT charity cases! They are members of your family so treat them as such and not as outsiders! If you can't find it in your heart to do this, don't adopt.
Don't get me wrong, there have been numerous stories of families who have been able to provide adopted children with the love and support they need. But let's not forget those who haven't been as successful. Before we encourage more Christian families to adopt, let them ask themselves if adoption is right for them and if they can do it with a good dose of humility. Good intentions are not good enough and certainly not an excuse when things go wrong.
I agree wholeheartedly. I am a Mormon, and I kept about three dozen foster kids while my son was young. I am still in touch with most of them. My son and his wife adopted a beautiful little girl and have a boy as well. I mostly forget she is adopted, but my daughter-in-law used to bring it up all the time. They had some emotional problems with her... but I suggested they stop talking about "adoption." The trouble settled down. I remind this child and them how much she reminds me of various relatives, etc. Now we all do the same. You cannot treat any child in your home, foster or adopted, as though they are "outisde" the family circle. No reason they should be. One of my former foster boys (in his 30s now) said it changed his life when we were in a store and the cashier made a snide remark about my black son and my white son looking like their "daddies." I put our faces together and said "I think they look just like me!" She was shocked. I was shocked she was so nasty to a six year old! You must OWN the children, and the love you get from them is precious beyond belief. This young man was taken away for years... but came back to me when he turned 18. He is still my son.
Well, as the author pointed out, if only the 16 million Baptists adopted the 116,000 foster kids, that would only be 1 in 138 that would need to decide to adopt (I didn't check the math, I am trusting the author on that). And if you add in all the other denominations – Catholics, Methodists, etc., there should be more than enough great adoptive families for these foster kids if they would just put up or shut up.
And there are plenty of Jewish, Muslim, and even non-church goers that could provide loving families for these foster kids, again, if they would put up or shut up.
And I even support gay couples adopting – as long as they can provide a loving, family home for these kids. What a better option than being raised in foster care where a child is bound to feel unwanted, even if the foster family is great, because, after all, no one is coming forward to adopt and be their "real" parents.
So let's don't legislate against anyone having the right to adopt – as long as they are willing to be loving parent(s) and provide a supportive, family environment.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.