Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Christian thing to do...?

So, while I'm getting off the bandwagon and getting frank about my adoption experience and perspectives, I need to address another issue that I, and many other adoptees, face on a regular basis--

That good old premise, "The Christian thing to do..." And actually, surprisingly, I don't want to talk about it regarding adoptive parents, but rather as it applies to how adoptees who have a Christian background are expected to behave.

I have observed and experienced that adoptees who claim to be Christians or come from Christian backgrounds face an added burden of expectation atop the already existing expectation to unquestionably proclaim the Gratitude Gospel of Adoption.

It is as though an adoptee's faith, in the minds of other Christians, requires him or her to shut-up and sit down, to remain silent about the hardships of adoptee life--because that's "the Christian thing to do"--lest other Christians judge you as a faithless impostor should you question your adoption and the practice of modern adoption as a whole.

I feel it all the time. How many "Christians" have pulled away from me once they learn of my viewpoints regarding my adoption? Too many. I will say that, yes, I do encounter Christians here and there that truly open themselves to adult adoptees like myself--in fact I did just last night and felt refreshed by the PAP's humility and willingness to listen (Thanks, Ben). But people like him are unfortunately more the exception than the norm. It's easy to assume (there's that word again) that the handfuls of adoptive parents that comment or frequent adult adoptee blogs represent the majority, but that's simply not the case.

Ultimately, in my experience, the very ones who are supposed to be examples of love, patience, humility, compassion, and wisdom often shrink and slink away from me and other adoptees the minute we fail to uphold the beloved Gratitude Gospel of Adoption. We're lambasted if we even attempt to think critically about our own adoption experience and the current adoption establishment. I find it ironic that those who claim to follow a man who questioned the religious establishment of his time, condemn and avoid those who do the same.

They ask for our advice and insight but then when we speak candidly of our hurt, disdain, and criticisms, they react with condemning shock as though we've spoken blasphemy. (That is, IF they even ask for an adult adoptee's perspective.)

Adoptees of faith are expected to be at peace with dismissive answers like "It was God's plan" or "You're so lucky and blessed you were adopted," because there is an adoption subculture within modern churchianity that adoption is God's work and therefore cannot be questioned or criticized. As I like to say, what a load of Oscar Mayer. (See also Adoption & Choice: God's Plan or Man's Plan).

All adoptees have to deal with the Gratitude Gospel and the accompanying presumptuous, hurtful, ignorant comments (See also, "What not to say to an adoptee"). Adoptees of faith must further face yet another split of self, another push-pull conflict of identity as a result once again of the complex realities of being an adoptee. Not only must they deal with the inner turmoil of being caught between two worlds and two families within a society that dismisses their, our deep losses, sorrows, and griefs, but they must also somehow maintain a genuine faith in the midst of those who question not only their truth as adoptees, but their truth as adoptees of faith.

I'm not saying it's a tragedy or profound injustice, only pointing out that it's yet another way that adoptees must deal with burdensome and suppressive expectations, while our experiences and voices are yet again demeaned and rejected--and ironically enough, by those who claim to be the most loving of all.


lissa said...

"They ask for our advice and insight but then when we speak candidly of our hurt, disdain, and criticisms, they react with condemning shock as though we've spoken blasphemy. (That is, IF they even ask for an adult adoptee's perspective.)"
...this hits home......
I'd have to say that, despite growing up with the mentality, "I'm better off here than in Korea, etc." I've reached the place where I do have peace with my life... lots of unanswered questions still, of course, but I do believe that God has a plan for me and He can use my life, bad parts included, for GOOD. As cliche as that may be, it's true, but I know not all adoptees share the same belief..
I guess it's like anything else, your outlook on something can be positive or negative, and most of the time you're fluctuating somewhere inbetween.. but it most assuredly does NOT help when people are telling you the way you have to think or feel.. especially when they've never been there.
Which brings me back to your quote up there - they say they want our input, but when given it's disbelief or time to change the topic..
just my 2 cents :) thank you for posting something that can be such a touchy subject :)

lissa said...

Ok, sorry, just want to add.... I think this is where the church falls down a lot of times.... in putting on the front that everything's ok, which makes people with problems (wait, isn't that ...everyone??!) feel like they can't share without being judged, looked down upon, etc.
There ARE groups out there (myself being part of one) that are in general more understanding and empathetic about the struggles in life but being human, we all have the tendency to say everything's great, even if it's not..
yup, just more rambling.. :)

TheLazyJ said...

I so appreciate your honesty on this blog. While your words often sting (I am a Christian, adoptive parent), I keep coming back. They sting because *I* want my adoptive kids to appreciate and find peace in their adoptions. But the reality is, that adoption, while in my kids' cases led to "better lives" (3 were adopted as older kids through the foster care system), there is so much pain that is mixed with the *good*. We are not their first choice in parents. This is not the first choice even of how God planned families. My Dad died when I was 18; many Christians said, essentially, that's okay, you have your heavenly father. Yes, that is true, but I also so WANTED/NEEDED my earthly father. Their is a context for each. Thank you for your voice. In some ways you can take anger as a good response; at least it IS a response. Keep speaking; you are a voice that needs to be heard. Just be easy on us trying to hear that voice. :)

Amanda Woolston said...

I agree.

Unfortunately, people believe that spiritual adoption and physical adoption are the exact same thing. So to criticize adoption is to criticize salvation.

Which is where people should be thinking critically about BOTH types of adoption to begin with.

Spiritual adoption is the paralell to earthly reunion. We are the sheep back into the fold, the coin back into the purse, the lost son back into the father's arms.

We are not strangers to God who are adopted into a family foreign to us. We are God's children, lost to him, and then reunited.

I find it offensive when people say that both types of adoption are "the same." I was not "saved" from my "original family" who certainly has no parallel to living a life separate from God.

We know God does work things together for good in ways we cannot fathom (Romans 8). I do not believe for a minute he causes loss or suffering. Those are human problems intermixed in with a world he intended to be perfect. My adoption entails both positive and negative. I refuse to believe that God condones the negative and unethical behavior of others within adoption in order for me to appreciate what positive there is. Jesus never sinned to solve a social issue during his earthly ministry. I am not about to write off poor ethics in the adoption industry just because people claim it solves social problems either.

Great post. You always get my mind going and fingers typing, Melissa :-)

riversnake said...

Even though I'm an adoptive parent this is exactly why I cringe when I read fellow AP and PAP blogs that refer to God and Jesus a lot. Not that there is anything wrong with having strong faith. But I know that in some families of strong faith feelings of hurt and loss are often glossed over or "remedied" with recommendations to just "pray harder", "serve others" and "love God more" to make the feelings go away. I heard them all in response to my cry for help with depression and anxiety and nothing could really be worse to hear. Because when doing those things doesn't make it all go away you are left feeling that you must really be broken or that God doesn't love you enough. It's like getting kicked when you're already down.


veggiemom said...

It has been hard as an adoptive parent, to watch my 10 year old daughter start to get these types of comments. We just talked about this over the weekend because some dad of some kid at a soccer game told her she was lucky because God had a plan for her to come to this country. Ugh! I'm saddened at the things adults have the audacity to say to me, as an adoptive mom, and 20 bazillion times more saddened by the things they are willing to say to a 10 year old.

birthmothertalks said...

Thanks for your honesty. Sometimes as a birthparent I hear that too that it's all part of God's plan and when adoptive parents use that line the opposite of it all is saying that God didn't attend me of becoming a mother to my own child.

Amy said...

I struggle with people who tell me that my son was "meant to be" ours or that it was God's plan. What does that mean for his birthmother?

It's so hard because I can't imagine my life without him, but I'm sure she thought the same thing.

HollyMarie said...

I agree with you. And I'm happy to say that MY girls will at least not encounter that from me and my hubby... I can't protect them from other ignorant ones but I can be on their side, on their team as we counter the ignorance together. I can't even tell you how many folks have been sooo surprised when I begin to educate them on what my daughters have LOST (this is usually brought on when I get "innocent" comments about how lucky/blessed/etc they are).

Anonymous said...

i struggle as an ap and a christian....where the "church" easily rallies behind "save the orphan"..i want them to rally behind fighting the injustice that broke up the first family...but it is much easier to want to save a hungry belly bloated fly in the eyes child ..what the "church" doesn't realize is they are promoting and perpetuating child abandonment..yet at the same time i believe every child deserves a family and true orphans should be adopted...this is the fight within myself.....when my sw from my christian agency got wind of my new attitude i was no longer asked to come and speak at informational meetings for potential aps....someday in a more tangible way i want to take my $ and not buy into the orphan business but help moms and their babies stay together or help true orphans in their own country...i think a few christian aps and non-christian aps are doing is beginning...maybe not fast enough......i look forward to the day when God reveals blind are those who claim to see......

gosh i like what amanda wrote......


Claudia said...

Thanks, Melissa, really interesting post! As I was reading this, I was thinking something similar to what lissa wrote in her second comment - far too often, the church really stinks at acknowledging pain. It's okay if the pain is in the PAST, but real, here-and-now pain? Not so much. Quite a contrast to how Jesus was.

Anonymous said...

Upon my first meeting with my son, whom was lost to me via a fraudulent "open adoption", he said that "God put him where he was supposed to be". I believe and will always believe he was brainwashed to believe this, to discount and dehumanize me; to say that I was nothing but a 'Birth thing'.

He said this after I told him that I had always regretted my decision. His adoptive parents, whom I chose, promised me ongoing contact until he was 18, but I received nothing after he was 7. This was done to me by "good Christians". Thanks to them and my horrific experience, I no longer believe in any god. If there is a god, whom allows some to gain at the expense and suffering of others, he is a mighty cruel and unfair super natural being.

Von said...

Totally agree and if you're lucky someone will tell you your blog is 'a true Believer's nightmare'and you also will be told that you worship at the altar of the primal wound!!
I now take it a a sign that I'm doing something right!

Reena said...

I think most people who make these comments have good intentions but lack education and experience with adoption (not that I am an expert by a long shot!).

Even though the intentions might not be malicious, the continual receipt of such comments, I am sure is more than frustrating, annoying, nauseating- especially since Adoptees had no choice in this reality that becomes theirs to navigate. I really hate that this will be a reality for them throughout their life.

I am a Christian, but not a believer that all of life and what we do is part of God’s Plan. God gave us free will to make decisions in our life. Sometimes other people make decisions that impede our free will or the free will of others, that leads to different decisions being made than one would have made otherwise. Sometimes a person knowingly make a decision that they do not realize will impede someone else’s free will and sometimes people know that their decision will impede a person’s free well and do so with that intent. I don’t believe it is God’s plan—if God had such a plan then we would not have free will.

I too have heard the ‘meant to be’ comment—mostly from MIL—with the best of intentions. I explained to her early on that comments like that are often interpreted to mean that an Adoptee was ‘meant to be’ separated from their first family and are often hurtful. My MIL is actually a retired grief counselor and she got it and quit making comments like that.

In terms of how some biblical scriptures can be interpreted with regard to adoption (again—I am far from an expert!); I have found that the organization, All Girls Allowed, during lent is sponsoring many scripture based prayers that focuses largely on keeping families together.

Then the king gave his ruling: "Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother." (1 Kings 3:27)

When two women were in dispute about whose child was living and whose was dead, King Solomon proposed drastic measures to resolve the argument, suggesting that the living child should be cut in two to be divided equally between them. Yet, the request of the mother of the living child to spare the baby's life by giving him to her adversary, showed the wisdom of Solomon's action, and enabled the living child to be reunited with his mother. The domestic dispute was not a trivial matter for Solomon; he did not tell the women to go away and resolve the matter themselves. Neither can it be coincidence that this was the first case which we are told was put to Solomon after he asked God for wisdom in order to govern the people. God designed families and He wants to preserve them, so it was exactly this kind of case to which God wanted Solomon to apply his recently acquired gift. In a society where the value of families can be eroded, how often do we, like Solomon, ask God for wisdom to know how to keep our own families together?

lissa said...

Reena - 2 words:
Well. Put!

kitchu said...

i wrote a 4 paragraph response and then blogger said, "we cannot complete your request". !! i wanted to scream.

but in essence, those 4 paragraphs really only stated one thing: i am a catholic christian. we have free will. my daughter's adoption was not planned by God. to state that is to concede that her abandonment was planned by God. and i don't buy into that. can God bring good or the a best case scenario from a tragic one? yes. i was E's 3rd choice. bestest case- remain with her first parents with access to the medical care she so desperately needed and that ultimately saved her life. second best choice- be adopted within her own culture/race/ethnicity, preferably in her own country. i'm 3rd best choice, and gratefully that. i know my place and am not threatened by it, but rather humbled by it. what a privilege it is for me to parent this amazing little girl. i wouldn't trade it for anything, save the chance to allow her first parents that same privilege and RIGHT.

i will never understand this mentality among modern day christians- this "preach the gospel" with little action to back up what christ himself taught us. (i'm more of a "preach the gospel and when necessary use words" kinda girl).

this assessment is spot on and i wish the right people that need to hear your words and embrace them were reading it.

thanks for this. i thought i'd lost you and it's good to have found you again.


Dani said...

Great post, Melissa. Thank you for continuing to share your experiences and thoughts.

Amanda, what a great comment! The whole comparing spiritual adoption and physical adoption thing has always driven me nuts but I never knew how to address it. You nailed it perfectly! Thank you!

Samantha Franklin said...

I really relate to your post...we are expected to be grateful for our adoption and any thought of pain is dismissed as not Christian.