Three more chapters and a conclusion left to review – wish me luck! To start at the beginning, read this post.
Chapter Six – “Jim Crow in the Church Nursery: How to Think about Racial Identity, Health Concerns, and Other Uncomfortable Adoption Questions”
This chapter packs a punch. It really is a doozy.
Moore begins by recalling some other adoptive parents he and his wife encountered while in Russia. He speaks candidly about his “disgust” for the way she was interacting with the children she was considering adopting – essentially, putting them through the ringer to ensure that she was getting a “good one.” “It seemed to me that she was sizing up these children as though she was sorting through a litter or puppies or browsing through a line of secondhand refrigerators” (page 147).
Yet, Moore carefully acknowledges that there are some questions that may push you to the limit in considering your personal answers, especially when considering children who may look different than you or have different physical, emotional, or mental capabilities.
Some of these decisions are also fraught with ethical complexities. Am I a horrible person if I adopt a child of another race? What will my extended family think if I spend all this money to adopt a special-needs baby who might now live to see next Christmas? Such things bring opportunities to see the glory of our Lord Jesus. (Page 148)
Moore continues by comparing opposites: boys or girls, infants or older children, one child or a sibling set, a child who looks like me or doesn’t, and a healthy child or one with special needs. I’ll touch on the parts that spoke loudest to me.
Some decisions in adoption are made simply by “divine providence.” For example, you may not need to specify gender because you’re adopting an infant domestically and the birthmother does not know the gender of the baby in her womb when you’re matched to her. Or, you fall in love with a sweet waiting child and accept him or her despite the special needs he or she may have (with or without anyone’s prior knowledge of those needs). Moore says that regardless of the way Christian adoptive parents decide on these issues, a Christian understanding and worldview will help to encourage you through this process. “… a Christian understanding of the world sees a child’s character not as genetically determined but as shaped to a significant degree by parental discipleship and discipline” (page 149).
Knowing that, a Christian family may prefer to adopt a younger child, thus providing more time to raise that child up in the Lord. Alternately, a Christian may feel called to adopt an older child, specifically because, by the world’s standards, that child is less wanted the older he or she is, often due to the trauma of years of neglect, abuse, or loneliness.
Such trauma is not easily undone, even by parental love. The gospel, though, is more powerful than childhood trauma. After all, we know, “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6). We know that “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom. 5:10). (Page 150)
Might God be calling you to adopt more than one child at a time? Moore says this decision is often determined by “mundane” factors such as space in your home for an additional bed, but he also relates the feeling of some adoptive parents who, intending to adopt more than one child eventually, see that adopting more than one child at a time is a way to be a good steward of the financial costs. Adoption is costly, and adopting more than one child does usually always raise that cost higher; but the additional expenses are rarely equal to the cost of two separate adoptions.
He allows that this very personal decision has a lot to do with parenting style, emotional and physical abilities, and, of course, God’s will. We should simply ask the Lord what he would have us do.
I will echo Moore’s thoughts as he begins this next section about race:
I can’t tell if you’re white, black, Latino, or whatever as you read this page. It doesn’t matter. Up to this point, the gospel is the gospel and adoption is adoption. But what if, as you proceed toward adoption, someone were to ask you your racial preference for your child? Should you have a preference? (Page 152).
Moore spends the next few pages discussing the thoughts surrounding transracial adoption. He discusses why this is a big issue for some in the adoption arena and even touches on America’s horrible past of segregation and discrimination. He admits though, too, that parents in the “majority” who adopt a child with a different racial heritage will likely never understand the challenges that child may face. He acknowledges that some adoptees themselves consider their transracial adoption an “abduction” that destroyed their racial heritage. It is certainly a hot-button issue.
But, like he does with essentially every other adoption issue, Moore presses through all of this to show how we can approach this issue from a Christian worldview:
Furthermore, for us, there’s the issue of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m not surprised to see secular social workers or sociologists suggesting that racial identity could be more important that familial love. As we’ve discussed earlier, in this fallen age it is “natural” to see things according to “the flesh” in that way. The gospel, though, drives us away from that kind of identity in the flesh and toward a new identity, a new family, defined by the Spirit. This new family solidarity is much less visible obvious. It doesn’t make as much sense to the natural man. It’s not based on marks in the flesh or melanin levels in the skin or carefully kept genealogies. It’s based instead on a Spirit who blows invisible where he wills, showing up in less visible characteristics such as peace, joy, love, righteousness, gentleness, kindness, self-control.
That’s why hesitancy about transracial adoption is so sad. It’s not just because some white kids could miss our on some godly black parents or vice versa. It’s because it’s one more reminder of how we are “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2), with all its pitiful divisions. […]
If you’re being led toward adoption, it may be that God will send to you a child of a similar ethnicity or skin color. It may be, though, that he will providentially direct you toward a child who looks quite different from you. If you’re not sure you can love a child with a different skin color that yours, the first step for you has nothing to do with the adoption process. Repent, and open your heart to love. (pages 156-157)
I’ll let that speak for itself, but know that if this is something you are struggling with or are worried your friends or families may struggle with, Moore has much more to say on the topic. Check it out.
Moore challenges Christians to “fill the gap.” He says the question of healthy vs. “special needs” is an important one for questions. To be like Jesus, we need to be his hands and feet – we need to follow where he went. If you doubt that Jesus cared for the world’s “least of these,” well, then you should probably re-read the gospels before caring much about a review like this.
It’s not wrong to want a healthy child. I’m sure no one, upon receiving a positive pregnancy test, prays that their child be unhealthy in any way. Yet, we should search our hearts and be willing to ask God where he would have us go, and then be absolutely willing to follow. Perhaps, he’ll place a specific need on your heart. I don’t know how many adoption stories I’ve read where a family’s biological child born with needs spurred their desire to adopt more children with that same need. In fact, that’s how Reece’s Rainbow was started.
It is not necessary that you sign up particularly for a special needs child if God is calling you to adopt. But if you are not prepared to love and care for a child who is wounded or disabled, should the Lord lead you to such a situation, do not seek marriage (if you’re not married yet) or parenthood. I know that statement sounds harsh and perhaps even unkind. But being a father or a mother means caring for a child, whatever his needs and burdens. Your perfectly healthy child could be diagnosed tomorrow with leukemia. Your bicycling little toddler could crumple beneath the weight of a drunk driver’s automobile next week. You might not see how you could cope with caring for a sick or wounded child right now, though you know the Lord gives strength when it is needed. If you are unwilling, though, to prepare for such an eventuality, if it comes, then you’re not yet prepared to parent, through adoption or the more typical means. (page 161)
Moore reminds us that we all bear the image of God. There is a risk in adoption, but that risk exists whether or not you adopt. He asks, “The question is, do you trust Jesus, with their stories and with yours?” (page 165).
As always, I’d love for you to drop a line and let me know what you think!