One of the most frequent statements I hear from Christians in reference to adoption is that it is a demonstration of our being adopted by God, even implying that this is the primary way to view our relationship to God, based on several texts from Paul (though adoption did not exist in Jewish law and his references are more in line with the Roman custom of adopting older males as heirs – in other words, our inheritance and honor is even greater than theirs as we stand as sons of God) despite the hundreds of references of God simply as Father. And despite the fact that the term can equally be translated simply as “put in the place of son; sonship.”
It is worthwhile to consider the scope of the Bible, the narrative of humankind, before perpetuating this distortion solely for the purpose of championing modern adoption practices (falsification and sealing of birth certificates, subtracting original parents and heritage, disintegration of legal rights of or relationship to natural family, etc) which originated only in recent US history.
Instead of using the vertical adoption rhetoric to give meaning to our horizontal adoption practices, let’s look at the history of redemption: God the Father creates humankind in his image, has relationship with his creation, is our natural Father. We fall away from God, becoming alienated from him until we find salvation in returning to the God who made us through being born again.
“To the degree that one wants to pattern mission and ministry after the pattern of our relationship to God, the more obvious ministry would be one that reunites and restores children to their families, as well as one which preserves families against the threat of such loss and separation.
“…there is not a single positive portrayal in the Bible of the act of taking away the child of a poor family or widow and giving the child to someone else. Indeed, in Biblical terms, such would be an act of exploitation rather than compassion.”
I’ve finished three in-depth reports on adoption ranging from adoption and the Bible to US policies to ideas for reform. Whereas three years ago I jumped down the rabbit hole and only found cynicism and hopelessness, I now feel like I’ve found enough footing and enough clarity that I think it’s worthwhile to distill the flaws in thinking and in practice *so that* there can be correction and reform. Not so that adoption can be eliminated. So that it can be redirected in a way that actually accomplishes the goal most all of us have: compassion. Protecting the vulnerable. Serving in a meaningful way. If the approach we’ve taken thus far is resulting in the actual opposite– in systematic abuse, in the victimization and exploitation of the vulnerable- then we need to confront it and adjust.
And personally, I believe as Christians, our theology must first be confronted, for our theology drives our action…or inaction.