My Take: On adoption, Christians should put up or shut up
June 16th, 2011
03:11 PM ET

My Take: On adoption, Christians should put up or shut up

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.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Opinion • Politics

soundoff (708 Responses)
  1. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    There was a story in my local paper a few years back about a white couple in the redneck town just down the road who adopted an African-American boy who was born HIV positive. Their church kicked them out.

    June 16, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • Zippy

      I'd like to read that article, what is this local paper?

      June 16, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • Ralph in Orange Park, FL

      Zippy: Florida Times-Union. I do not recall how many years ago it was.

      June 17, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  2. lance corporal

    only if they don't raise them christian, the last thing we need are more mindless haters

    June 16, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • Brandon

      It looks like you are the only hater here.

      June 17, 2011 at 12:05 am |
    • Veritas

      You seem to be spewing a lot of hatred. It looks like you should heed the Christian command, "Remove the plank from your own eye before trying to remove the speck of dust from your brother's." Or another way of putting it is "Pot, meet Kettle."

      June 17, 2011 at 12:33 am |
  3. JLS639

    "but also to adopt children resulting from unplanned pregnancies, children with special needs and children of mixed race or minority ethnicity"

    Unplanned children are usually adopted by relatives (e.g., their grandparents). The plurality of children available for adoption by non relatives in this country were, according to the last set of numbers I saw, special needs (most of the rest are African American). Many of the special needs children are considered unadoptable and are, quite frankly, just waiting to die from their condition(s). I know a couple who adopted a special needs child. They outlived the child who died at age 20. The mom became badly depressed from this and died a year later. There may have been a connection between her grief and her death. From what I heard about it, early death of special needs children is very common. Who wants to put all that love (not to mention money) into a child who will die before you do and break your heart?

    June 16, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  4. paul

    @ El Kababa,your experience w/Christians has been all bad? why,cause they tried to tell you the truth? That you are a lost sinner and you need the love of Jesus to set you free?

    June 16, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • JLS639

      Yes, because a significant percentage of Christians (as well as Muslims, in my experience) are jerks who fail to understand what atheist (in my case), Hindu (a few friends of mine), Jewish (other friends) or other religious view means. It means we, non Christians, are NOT INTERESTED in your religion. If we were ever to become interested, it is no trouble to find a church in America. Really, they are all over the place. If you are thinking about proselytizing, remember: you are considering being a jerk. Be nice. Don't try and proselytize.

      June 16, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • dm

      No, It's probably because they are all as narrow minded and self righteous as you are.

      June 16, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • JLS639

      dm, when someone politely asks me where I go to church and I tell them I do not, and they start pestering me, am I being rude or self righteous? Outside of the internet, I have not volunteered my religious views to anyone since 1996 (I remember the last time I brought it up). Even on the 'net, I only bring it up when it is clearly relevant. In the past year (last summer to today), on 2 occasions people have pestered me about their religion. How am I being rude or self righteous? They asked, and I am being rude because they cannot handle one (or more) of the common answers to the question they asked me?

      Others ask me about religion as well and I answer them. Most people who ask can handle my answer.

      No, those people are jerks. Plain and simple. Pestering people who are not interested in your religion is rude.

      June 17, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • JLS639

      My apologies, dm, I thought you were addressing my post. Seeing your other post, it seems you were not addressing me. However, I would point out that the behavior you described was not really typical of religious folks.

      June 17, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  5. shawbrooke

    In Canada, it's not so easy to adopt. There are many kids in foster care, but few are adoptable, because there is a concerted effort to place kids with extended family and a lengthy legal process to declare kids adoptable. I'm a bit puzzled. The writer doesn't like Christians, and he is are accusing them of not doing their share in adoptions, or is it that he wants no one but Christians to adopt – so the writer wants to place more kids and future voters in the hands of people he does not agree with?? Do I have that right?

    June 16, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  6. rsjacksonus

    As Christians my wife and I would LOVE to adopt, but we do not have the funds in which to afford it. It costs more to adopt than it does if she wanted an abortion. And my wife and I are not some people who only want babies or certain races or this country or that. We would like to adopt. I am a teacher and so I have "adopted" my students (high school students) and we would love children of our own. However, where is the support for adoption financially? Tell me where that is and I know hundreds of Christians who would then step up and adopt (not to mention others).

    June 16, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • greenwoj

      I agree with your comments. We looked into it about a year ago– and it is so dang expensive to adopt, and we just couldn't afford the hit in this recession. I wish it would all be easier. If state and local governments are already paying for these kids, you'd think it would be in their best interest to cover some/most/all of the legal costs to shift the economic responsibility on the private sector. We have 2 kids of our own, but we are ready and able to adopt 1 or 2 children to fill out our family. Just tell us how to do it affordably!

      June 16, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • JLS639

      I just did a quick google search for "adoption assistance grants" to help pay for adoption costs. Holy, moly, a lot of those are available (8 of the first page of 10 hits). Now, perhaps they are too small or there are catches, I don't know, but at first blush it looks like finding funds to help adopt is not that hard.

      June 17, 2011 at 12:02 am |
  7. Amanda

    I was worried where this article was going to lead, but I found myself pleasantly surprised. Thank you for writing such a fantastic article. So many so-called "good" Christians (which is more of an exception than the rule really) are too busy debating, arguing, and forcing their views on everyone else rather than actually putting their money (or other resources) where their mouth's are and actually DOING something to help our country. Banning non-hetero couples from adopting is ridiculous and depriving many orphans from good, stable, and loving homes. Great way to show you care Christians, great way.

    June 16, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  8. SB

    I understand his point...but his experience has not been my experience. Not only do a great percentage of the families in my church and homeschool community adopt...a great many also volunteer globally in orphanages and locally in group homes and through foster parenting. Many women with families I know support and guide foster parents and young pregnant women as well.
    Perhaps being prejudice against "Christians" isn't the answer...perhaps love is.

    June 16, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
    • JLS639

      Good for you and your friends, but...

      He is not saying that a lot of families don't adopt. However, he is pointing out that if Christians are so eager to keep gays from adopting, there are only 2 foster kids waiting for adoption for every Baptist Church, and that is but one denomination. It doesn't look like a law is needed to keep gays from adopting. If every church in this nation who is against gay adoption could find one couple in their congregation to adopt a child, there would be no foster kids left for gays to adopt.

      June 17, 2011 at 12:06 am |
  9. Janey

    IM sharing this article at church Sunday....

    June 16, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
  10. Charlie from Georgia

    The author of the article made mention that there are some Christian groups that are really getting involved in adopting. It appears that there is a recent, and rapidly growing, movement driven by God Himself, to promote adoption within Evangelical Christian churches. I know from personal experience – in our small church of about 250 members, we have had more than 20 children adopted in just the past 2 years. We currently have 9 more families in the process of either adopting, fostering or hosting orphans. My daughter & her husband have adopted 4 children & are in the process of adopting 1 more. There are examples in other states, not just Colorado, where churches have made a huge difference in the orphan/foster child situation. Texas is another one of them. I think the author should have been more careful to assess the situation before writing. If he had, he would have been congratulating & encouraging Christians for what is going on with orphan ministry rather than rebuking them.

    June 16, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
  11. Shauna Delzingaro

    I think the process needs to be "de-red taped". I believe many people who would willingly love and welcome a child into their family (even older or handicapped children) are swayed by the amount of meetings and paperwork and the months upon months of waiting. You can pass a background check in a matter of days. I understand the need to be vigilant, but this like most government agencies has gone too far. Simplify the process and give these kids a fighting chance.

    June 16, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  12. Hillary

    I congratulate the author for adopting. We have done so as well. However,
    Adoption is NOT for everyone. To simply say that all the Southern Baptists should adopt a child and eradicate the problem is not feasible, plausible, reasonable or responsible.
    The author obviously has a passion for this quandry, but badgering or blaming hardly inspires others to get involved. The author should temper his comments. If he wants to be a spokes person he may try to find outreach sites within Christian congregations, but I, as a Christian adoptive parent, found his article to be less than inviting to other potential adoptive parents.

    June 16, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • Erin

      I don't think they were implying that all Southern Baptists adopt, I believe they were pointing out that given the numbers, they certainly could help. Out of the 138 Baptists per child, I'm sure 1 or 2 would make for an amazing parent. And that's all that's needed, 1 out of every 138.

      June 16, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
  13. Paul

    Why would we want to indoctrinate those poor orphinks? That's child abuse.

    June 16, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
  14. ken lewis

    Heck yeah more christians need to adopt ESPECIALLY if they are right to lifers. Put your money and your home where your mouth is. If you are gonna force a woman to violate her own body when she doesnt want to and have akid after 9 months of hell then you had better be ready to raise the child when she says she cant or wont. last thing we need is orphanages and more kids feeding off of the state which by the way is losing its funding for caring for unwanted children (thanks republicans) so do the christian thang...adopt them yourself. Black ones, white one, asian ones, and even the crack baby, defective ones.

    June 16, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Hillary

      thank you for your words of encouragement to potential Christian adoptive parents. Please leave the adoptions to them and feel free to leave yourself out of that loop.

      June 16, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • daniel

      you call giving birth as 'violate a body'? oh dear!

      June 16, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
  15. MacMaven

    The typical 'Christian' household usually has more skeletons in the closet then a haunted mansion on Halloween night. That said, this article is right on the money. All of this Christian motivated anti-abortion and anti-gay legislation is completely ridiculous, and the fact that most all Christians love to talk a good game, but the bottom line is, you don't see any churches coming out in the open to scoop up all of the crack addicted black orphan babies in the poorer areas of town. Extremely hypocritical when speaking to eliminate one supposed 'problem' but not taking the responsibility of the the side effect. Very typical.

    June 16, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
    • SuperFed

      "you don't see any churches coming out in the open to scoop up all of the crack addicted black orphan babies in the poorer areas of town."

      How wrong you are...


      June 16, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • Hillary

      Please qualify your claims with verifiable facts. You make some pretty outrageous claims and I would like to see where you got your information please. Where are the results posted or studies found that you base your seemingly exhaustive research on?

      June 16, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • Rowbigred

      Have you looked?

      June 16, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  16. Jerome

    Sometimes this Christian has spelling issues, was "right off" is "write-off."

    June 16, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
  17. RanchoFiero

    My husband and I are Born-Again Christians. After years of being Foster Parents, we adopted our multiracial, high-risk, drug addicted foster baby. We don't want a medal–our daughter is prize enough. She probably will rule the world, someday...

    June 16, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  18. shawbrooke

    And your reason for thinking that Christians don't adopt is???? On my last visit to a church that has less than 200 adherents, I met a family that adopted 3 kids that were born into an abusive home; 2 adults who were adopted as kids by Christians; another couple who adopted 2 children, now adult; 2 other couples that each adopted one child, now adult; another family that includes 1 adopted child; that makes 7 households out of 70 households that are touched directly by adoption. Please find more population data before accusing people.

    June 16, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
    • Andrea

      I'm glad for your church but the point is, if Christians (at least those who are against gays adopting) actually adopted, there would be NO orphaned children in America (because #Christians >>> #orphans). simple as that. And since there are indeed children that need to be adopted, there is your data.

      June 16, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  19. RxCello

    You know who should adopt children? Those who refuse to tell the children the myths and lies that pass for religion, and those who value the children's innate intelligence enough to allow the children to decide, for themselves and based on their own logical and deductive facilities, what's true and what's not, rather than forcing outmoded and outrageous beliefs that only engender hatred and a false sense of righteousness. There is no such thing as a "Christian" child, or a "Jewish" or "Muslim" child for that matter, or any other religion. Children are all too often forced to buy into a set of religious "beliefs" rather than being allowed to judge for themselves what is fact and what is fiction.

    June 16, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
    • Rowbigred

      How quickly athiests are to decry Christians who come from Christian homes...as if they are raising their children without any personal influence at all...

      June 16, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • Billy


      June 16, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
  20. Len Grady

    It is funny that Christians here are bewildered that this man is proclaiming that Christians are not doing anything. His math was very clear on this. With only one denomination with a population of 138 Southern Baptist per child, that the problem of orphaned children should be erradicated.

    This proves Christians can not read critically. If they could, perhaps they would not be Christians.

    June 16, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • Rowbigred

      There are over 40 million athiests/agnostics/non-believers in America. Seems like an equal opportunity for me. But I guess only Christians need to put up or shut up. You'd be hard pressed to find a non-government sponsored adoption agency that doesn't have Christian ties.

      June 16, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • Cason

      Atheists don't have a religious obligation to adopt. Therefore, it's equal opportunity, but the ethical responsibility is weighted towards Christians, proved by their beliefs. The other point of this article, besides the obligation Christians take on, is the other side of the coin. The fact that millions of dollars is being spent trying to prevent the "wrong" way of trying to fix the problem, i.e. abortion and gay adoption, and there is a pitiful amount of effort being spent on truly being Christian and taking the extra children in, or at least making their lives better.

      June 17, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • JLS639

      You are completely dodging the central point of the article. Christians are trying to prevent certain kinds of people from adopting. The article is asking that, if this is so important to them, why they cannot adopt. The Atheists/agnostics/non-believers you write about are not spearheading any organized effort to keep gay from adopting, are they?

      June 18, 2011 at 8:04 am |
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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.