Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Aiding Children of Living Mothers: What Does the Bible Say?


Is the bible pro adoption? Many seem to think so. Others of us have found great comfort in adoption stories, such as that of Moses, which speak loudly to me of the unending love and sacrifice of a mother and the enduring connection of an adoptee to his blood kin.

One of the lasting joys of my trip to Guatemala was meeting Stephen Osborn.  Stephen, along with his beautiful wife Sheryl founded and operate Amor del Nino, the home for children that I visited.  When you read the mission of Amor del Nino, you will see two things:  their work is bases on their love of Jesus, and the absence of the word adoption.

I found Steve - who called himself a Jesus "freak" as he walked us around the facility with one or another child clinging lovingly to him - instantly likable. We proceeded with a hesitant email correspondence as his were filled with bible quotes which tend to "turn me off" more than impress or hold my interest.  We continued to keep in touch mostly, at first, around the issues of Guatemalan adoption, and my appreciation and great respect for this man's deep and sincere belief in the true, loving words of Jesus - the liberal, kind Jesus - not fundamental dogma that twists the bible to find justification for hate.

Steve wrote of the Guatemalan mothers:

"There are women who cannot care for their children...but when they are identified by various beneficial people, churches, or ministries, are helped to find what they desire.   The myth of the teary eyed mother giving her baby to an American couple and thanking them for giving their baby a better life is a fabrication of adoption agencies.  These mothers cry...but not in gratitude....there are hurting women in Guatemala.  But they were not helped, and are not now hurting, based on adoptions.  The number of children at risk in Guatemala was not reduced during the years of open adoptions, and has not increased since it stopped.  There were and are hurting children.  We work every day to meet the needs of those in our care...and reach out to find solutions to those who need help outside of our home.  I can tell you as a veteran of the trench warfare of helping children, that international adoptions was not a solution for the problems of Guatemala.  It was a solution for childless couples in the states, and those who profited from them."

Steve continued to take a far more special place in my heart, though I had felt his compassion from the instant I told him that i had lost my child to adoption.  In November, he wrote to me of his trip to Costa Rica to meet with people who are setting up a foster program, with the Number one priority being family reunification. He also met with a woman who is trying to raise awareness of human trafficking, "and spoke matter of factly of the connection between trafficking and adoptions."

As I read everything adoption online, I began sending Steve the religious blogs that were quoting the bible and touting adoption as a Christian mission.  Here was a man at ground zero, seeing the "orphans" we all here about. Here was a man well educated and versed in bible studies. How did he feel about  "Prophecy, Proselytizing and Profit: Adopting Christian Soldiers"  and how do we counter these claims?  We often tag-team responding to these pro-adoption Christian blogs trying to sort myth from reality and suggesting family friendly ways to help children in need without committing cultural genocide or supporting baby brokers.

As you can see, Steve is a dear friend and a valuable resource whom I cherish.  A man I highly regard as someone walking the walk!  With that introduction, I now give you this gift from Stephen Osborn that I think you will both personally comforting and an invaluable help  in educating those who use the bible to defend adoption (just as Steve continues to be for me):

Hagar: unwed mother, social outcast, first person in Bible to name God

Consider it:  She was a victim of socially accepted rape and cast out when found to be pregnant.  She repents and returns* only to be then put out of her home again because the child she bore had become socially unacceptable.  Abraham had again and again succumbed to the pressure of his wife, and was ready to let Hagar and Ishmael die, assuaging his guilt by giving enough food and water to get them out in the middle of the desert.  This might be similar to the modern sons of Abraham, who do wrong things, or are passive in things of justice when pregnant women are involved**, but cover it by means of privileged status, either culturally, economically or even religiously, and then do feel good charity.    And so we discount the lives of disenfranchised women, for our own ease. (ease of conscience, of culture, of “protecting the Family”, and of procuring babies for our barren wives)   Yet, God saw Hagar and Ishmael in their plight, and rescued them.  NOT by bringing Ishmael to another family, but as a unit.   So, do we follow men?  Or God? 

Ge 21:9 ¶ And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing.
 10 Therefore she said to Abraham, "Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac."
14 ¶ So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water; and putting it on her shoulder, he gave it and the boy to Hagar, and sent her away. …
 15 And the water in the skin was used up, and she placed the boy under one of the shrubs.
 16 …. So she sat opposite him, and lifted her voice and wept.
 17 … for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is.
20 … So God was with the lad; and he grew and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.
 21 He dwelt in the Wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

3 significant observations:
1)    Note that bloodlines are important.  (Even in good adoptions, the children have a birth culture)
1.    Even the slave woman finds a wife from her birth culture for her son. 
2.    BUT even more powerful is God’s declaration of bloodline significance:  "Yet I will also make a nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed."
3.    Back when Sarah had kicked her out before, God spoke the promise that turned Abram into Abraham to this homeless pregnant outcast.
4.    Ge 16:10 ¶ The angel of the LORD also said to her, "I will so greatly multiply your descendants that they cannot be numbered for multitude."
2)    Funny how the phrasing is that God comforts Hagar by telling her He hears the voice of the lad WHERE HE IS. 
1.    I am often blown away by the choice of words God employs!   …”where he is”…not a command, or anything…but dramatic choice of words!
3)    Finally, even in this very sad abuse of Hagar, they did not tell the woman to get rid of her son.  
1.    It was axiomatic that she had to leave with him.  
2.    God comes into the picture here. 
1.    There is no comment on His part when Sarah told Abraham to get Hagar pregnant. 
2.    But when redemption is needed…here He is.  
3.    Always promising blessing in spite of human messes. 
3.    Like so many pregnant women, the result of Abraham’s and Sarah’s sin falls on Hagar…
1.    God doesn’t deny or ignore the consequences…
2.    but rather, enters into the suffering.

The Bible in its richness alludes to this subject in John 8, where the Jews keep saying they are the sons of Abraham, and insinuating that Jesus is a bastard half breed.   And they are being like their father Abraham in not standing up for the woman at the beginning of the chapter, but instead, settling for the way that domestic/cultural tranquility will be maintained.  They are holding onto privilege, and really upset when Jesus, in trying to get them to see a higher truth, isn’t impressed with their physical lineage.  

That sort of puts Mary smack dab in the company of women pressured to relinquish their children in adoption

Do you think it would be fair to say that if modern ways of adoptions as the answer were employed, that Jesus might not have grown up with Mary and Joseph?  Mary was on track to be just like unwed mothers throughout time.  It took an angel to tell Joseph to chill.  Is it too much of a stretch to say that God who is in charge of and gives life knows what he is doing when he gives children to these women, just as he chose Mary to carry the Messiah?   Could these children who are poor also be a gift to the world, brought to their birth mother by the hand of the omniscient God?  To save us from our complacent indifference?  Could they be a close relation to Jesus?   Who are the least of these, His brothers, anyway?

*After being driven out, Hagar has an incredible encounter with God, in which she names Him “The God who sees me”

** I wonder how many husbands of women who cannot bear children are driven by this motive, and make decisions, not because they strongly agree, but to pacify their wives?  See how Abraham first raped, then allowed for the raped pregnant woman to be cast out, then her and her son.  At each step, he did what Sarah wanted.  I wonder how this would fit with the Christian Right idea of the Family structure being the man as the head, and decision maker.   My feeling is that I don’t even want to touch this, as the reaction would be emotional, and fierce!

This story of Sarah and Hagar really does mirror the relinquishment adoption story…gone wrong.  Sarah’s original idea was that she was going to have a child by way of the slave.  But the natural feelings of the pregnant and the barren woman clashed.  I wonder if this is a motivation in strategies of modern adoption, and surrogacy scenarios?  Control the Birthmother so that the privileged, yet barren woman does not have to feel inferior.

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