Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Adoption & Choice: God's Plan or Man's Plan?

A reader left the below comment in response to my most recent post, Not Luck But Choice, at the adoption website, Grown in My Heart (I suggest reading the original post for context):

How do you explain choice to so many who do not even believe in choice to begin with? A lot of people in the adoption world view what happened to you as pre-ordained. I think that is one of the saddest things and one of the most damaging to adopted children.

The following is how I replied to her comment:

Very good point, Yoli, and one that I was trying to, although somewhat superficially, address.

For those who claim a faith in a loving, biblical God, it makes no sense to me to basically say, “Oh but it was God’s plan for you to be adopted." Such a statement and presumption inevitably and logically translate to adoptees like myself as "It was God's plan for you to be abandoned” (read "What not to say to an adoptee") or “God pre-ordained that your mother would be so poverty-stricken and hopeless and alone that she would feel no other choice than to give you away to strangers…” or “God allowed you to be abandoned and to suffer such loss and grief so that WE could adopt you.”

In my mind, that's pretty twisted, not to mention very egocentric thinking. That is not my impression of the God in the Bible or otherwise. Rather I understand a God who gives people free will even though he is often pained and grieved by their choices in how they exercise that free will (Genesis 6: The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain…).

And yet he can still bring good out of suffering…although his ability to bring “good” out of suffering does NOT therefore imply that he therefore WANTED such suffering to take place…and that again is where free will comes in…

Why could it not be suggested that perhaps God would hope that folks would use their free will to help BOTH the mother and child in distress? Why is it automatically assumed that “helping the poor” means adopting their children? Why is the conventional wisdom, “Oh, this occurred so that WE could adopt” and not “This occurred as a result of living in a broken world, and we should feel compelled to do all that we can to empower these mothers & families to stay together and give them the chance for the same opportunities to succeed as have been given to us…?”

Yes, the Bible and Jesus say that true religion is to help the orphans & widows and the poor in general (James 1; Matthew 25, etc.), but back then, within the context, orphans were truly orphans (parents & often extended family were deceased)–they were not the children of poor, neglected, and oppressed women.

Folks often identify the stories of Moses and Esther and such to rationalize that it is God’s idea, plan, goal for adoptees like myself to be relinquished and subsequently adopted. I find this a gross and absolutely misguided misinterpretation. (Also, keep in mind that Esther was adopted by her blood relative, her Uncle Mordecai, and even Moses remained in contact with his original family…his own mother was able to nurse him and obviously his brother, Aaron, and sister, Miriam, remained in his life…)That’s like using the examples of incest in the Bible to suggest that it was God’s plan for a woman to be sexually abused. Completely out of context and completely disturbing…as well as NOT the original purpose or reason that such stories are included in the Bible. The stories of Moses and others are not in the Bible to justify adoption–-they’re there to tell the story of how the Israelites came to be, to give a spiritual and historical explanation and account of their origins…but so often, people twist and turn the Bible to fit what they already want to believe rather than understanding it at its face value, for its plain meaning within the appropriate context…

I know many would find the above comparisons offensive…but I find it so myopic and self-serving to take the stories in the Bible out of context to serve one’s own agenda.

Again, referring to “luck” or “God’s plan” is such a cop-out to me that frees people from taking personal responsibility for their actions and their role, not only in adoption, but in life. It’s the easy way out to say that my adoption was pre-ordained. It oversimplifies the matter, and it stunts growth, reform, and change from happening today. As long as adoption is “God’s work” or “God’s plan” people will not feel compelled to reform it or to address the root causes of poverty and social and economic injustice that often serve as its substrate. Although I am at peace with what has happened in my own life, I think it is crucial that we learn from adoptees’ stories, so that current practices can be ameliorated, ultimately resulting in less families being separated…

And how many nut jobs have claimed the same thing–-that they were God’s tool to execute God’s plan or have used the Bible or other religious texts to justify heinous and unjust acts? The Crusades are a perfect example. American slavery is another example (talk about twisting the Bible!), or opposition to interracial marriages (which still happens today). Or the existence of the KKK (which is still alive and active in the town that my husband and I reside). Or more presently, Islamic terrorism.

I’m not saying adoption is therefore comparable to the Crusades or American slavery, but I am saying that people can think something is perfectly and only good, to the point that they are deceived and miss completely the reality of a practice’s inherent flaws and misconceptions.

It’s easy for us to look back on slavery or the Crusades and scoff and say, of course those were bad. But at the time, they were viewed as good and justifiable–they were popular and supported, in general, by the masses. No one saw anything wrong with these activities.

In the same way, adoption is often seen as purely good, an act of God, and hence, people choose to ignore, dig their heads into the sand, regarding the often preventable “behind the scenes” that leads to adoption, that results in adoption…

In taking care of the poor, it does not mean, take care of only the children and those whom you deem worthy…

Adoption is a CHOICE. It is not some mythical, religious experience designed to bring you closer to God and bless you with the child YOU always wanted…I’m not saying that God cannot work through adoption, but I am saying that there are CHOICES that transpire that could have been DIFFERENT choices that God would perhaps approve of just as readily, and even perhaps identify as of a more noble and selfless nature…


Amanda Woolston said...

Great points.

I grew up Presbyterian and currently attend a very liberal Presbyterian church. Presbyterianism stems from Calvinism. John Calvin believed in Predestination and Election.

When I started to speak out about the losses and unethical practices in adoption, my Adoptive Mother (who believes in predestination) thought I was upset that she raised me. "Don't you think it was 'God's Plan?'" she asked.

In her mind, and the mind of other Predestinationalists, anything that happens must have been God's plan. To say that it was not is to claim that there is something that happened that God ceased to be in control over. This is an denial of his sovereignty and omnipotence.

This is easy for someone to accept if something has gone their way or they've gained from something.

So if I say "no, it was not God's plan," not only am I denying my predestined place in her family, I am telling God he made a mistake and am denying his sovereignty. If I say "yes, it was God's plan" I am saying that God willed the losses of all involved for adoption's sake.

I chose option "c."

As a finite individual, I don't pressume to know the ways of God. I do get some clues from the Bible. Does God will and cause others to sin? No. Yet, people sin any way. Does God cause bad things to happen to people? No. Yet bad things happen any way. Jesus himself cried for the suffering of this friends; he wept over it--deeply.

God is in control, yet we are still responsible for our actions. Unethical decisions and behavior are not God's fault. We make our own choices.

God does not will sin and hardship, yet it happens. Yet he is always in control. Seemingly paradoxical, I do not pressume to know how that works. I don't think any one can really make that pressumption.

While my adoption might seem to have begun when my parents took me home for my parents, it didn't. It started with the horrible behavior of a man, to the conception of a young woman in hardship, to the unethical counseling of an adoption agency, to the painful surrender endured by both mother and child.

God "willed" this on NO ONE. Not the God I know.

Mila said...

To be honest, the whole "predestination" theology to me is an overly emphasized misinterpretation of a few verses in the Bible that folks use as an excuse to do whatever they want without taking any kind of responsibility for the way they CHOOSE to use the brain & heart given to them--that whole predestination thing leads to so much hypocrisy...Oh, I murdered that person, and I had no choice because that's what God willed...oh please...

And ultimately, my response to it all is simply, I'm not a robot. *smilewink*

Unknown said...

Great post Melissa!

Amanda, to encourage you, I am quickly reminded of Romans 8:28 "God WORKS all things together for the good to those that love Him..." meaning that though choices can go against God's perfect plan He can work it out so good can come of it - no predestination needed. This scripture may help your Adoptive Mother think outside her box.

The Other Melissa

Sunday Koffron Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sunday Koffron Taylor said...

I love this post Melissa! God has been used to justify so many horrible violations of the rights of others. It always makes me shutter a little when people use "God told me to", "it's Gods will", and so forth.

I do believe in God, I believe God gave me a conscience, intuition and free will, and on some level that is why I feel it is so important to listen to many differing thoughts and opinions that is how "God" helps us sort it all out.

I hope you are doing well!

Reena said...

Wonderful post Meilssa!

I do not believe in predestination-- we make choices in life based upon a desired outcome we would like to achieve.

Sometimes the choices we make result in our desired outcomes and sometimes they do not. Sometimes they do and then we discover we don't really want the desired outcome.

Soemtimes people make choices without fully realizing what the outcome will be--or it's impact.

Those choices don't have to be big-- it can be as simple as deciding to eat another doughnut before getting on the highway for a long trip-- that puts you on the highway at the wrong place at a very wrong time.

Not part of God's plan.

I don't think it is part of God's plan that millions-- billions of women are denied the basic human right of choosing to have and keep their children. I don't think it was part of God's plan for that to be my daughters's mother's reality.

I've ultimately decided that it is usually better to leave "God's Plan," out of most discussions.

Myst said...

The issue with those who believe everything is "God's will" is that it totally negates the fact God gave mankind free will. In fact believing God meant everything to happen means He has also issued all the things in this world that are bad/evil/etc as well as good. You cannot have one without the other. So this then means the concept of a loving God is non-existent. I don't believe many who create their own little religions within Christianity think the logic through to its final conclusion. They use what they want to justify actions that are plain wrong.

Hey, its easy to excuse oneself from personal responsibility if they believe it was "God's will" as opposed to their personal choice.

Great post!

Kim said...

Great post, Melissa. And great comments, everyone above! Going to link to this one this weekend for those who read my blog. More of us AP's need to receive this message, but sometimes our defenses go up if the "tone" sounds "too anti-". Not that there aren't plenty of good causes for "anti-" tones ... but this post is very thoughtful, respectful of the faith that people claim to have, while pointing out the misapplications of some of the scriptures that get put out there a lot.

@ Amanda - I appreciate your addition of the comment that "[Predestination] is easy for someone to accept if something has gone their way or they've gained something." Too true. When things AREN'T going our way, we call it a "prayer request" - because surely God couldn't mean for us to be uncomfortable/sad/grieved/whatever!

And that's what the rest of the world sees from AP's of faith. Whoops.

a Tonggu Momma said...

I am of the exact same opinion. And man, oh man, did the predestination-believing Calvinists come out to play when I tackled this topic last spring. Interesting comments, all 100+ of them. Some just cannot and will not consider any other belief beyond predestination.

I believe that God is all-knowing, so He knows what will happen before it does and plans accordingly. But - and this is a HUGE but - just because He knows it will happen does not mean that He wants it to happen. Adoption is Plan B for a child's life. God does not wish this on anyone. Period.

Mei Ling said...

This "God's Will" statement could just as easily be said as:

"You were meant to be our child because I love you, even spiritually before I knew who you were."

Mirah Riben said...

Thank you!

I totally agree that God does not orchestrate poverty or any other tragedy that lead to a family being torn apart by adoption and mothers suffering lifelong grief...I find it sanctimonious to claim that your child was "ordained" or "meant" to be offensive as Rosie O'Donnell allegedly telling one of hr adopted children that God had placed im in the "wrong" belly, as if God make mistakes!

HOWEVER, I am also uncomfortable with any assumption that relinquishing a child for adoption - or having one's parental rights terminated - is a "choice." I think you have set up and unrealistic either/or dichotomy and in doing do eradicated the most common scenario: coercion and exploitation.

Both domestically and internationally people's hardships are exploited in oder to commodify their children to meet a demand for adoption. This is neither God plan, nor is it their choice...any more than being a victim of any crime if a choice or God's plan.

As for Biblical references to adoption, please see:

Samantha Franklin said...

I totally agree.

Mirah Riben said...

I know all who feel "called" to adopt are not infertile...but, I remember a time when those who were unable to conceive accepted THAT as God's will and plan for them!

Mila said...

Mirah, thanks for you comment. Just so you know, I avoid dichotomies, especially when it comes to's too complex for either/or. I think you have misinterpreted & misunderstood where I stand & what I think...

The basic premise is simply that I am addressing the ideology of "God's plan" and within that context people often use it as an excuse to NOT acknowledge their very real role--for instance, the choice that my Omma's sisters made to NOT support her and rather coerce her to give me away...their choices influenced my Omma, while the choices collectively of Korean society to shun unwed pregnant women--it's simply a cascade of interconnected choices. But when folks say, "Oh, it was God's plan" it negates the role that these choices played...that's what I was saying.

And if you read the original post at GIMH, I address my own role and the choices that I must make NOW regardless of what has happened in the past or what will happen in the future & that those choices are closely intertwined with those of others...both within and without the context of adoption.

Also if you read the posts on my blog under the label "socioeconomic status" I think you'd have a better understanding of where I'm coming from & that I am fully aware of the exploitation and inequities that fuel adoption...

Mirah Riben said...

Thanks for clarifying. Adoption is such a hot button topic that I, like others, am not immune to jumping to conclusions!

Brightin said...

Wow...I am so convicted right now. I never looked at it that way. I feel so enlightened and anxiously look forward to more insights from a very intelligent young woman I can learn much from, and in turn be a better parent to my young adult adopted daughters.

Mila said...

@ Brightin- Thank you for taking the time to stop by and read this post...and most importantly for having a heart open and humble enough to consider what has been expressed...