Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dear Fellow Christian, it's not the Same Adoption

"We're all adopted!" I've heard ministers say from the pulpit countless times. The congregation would emphatically nod its head in agreement.  This never sat right with me, even as a child.  I felt somewhat belittled by this claim of false empathy to my experience.

I knew that spiritual adoption was not the same as physical adoption on earth. Christians praise God for their redemption from sin and for redemption from the impending inevitability of hell for the unsaved that sin brings.  Salvation saves a Christian from the clutches of sin and brings them home to God's family.

Perhaps when we judge single-parenthood poorly (or as second-best) and perpetuate the stigmas against being poor it is easy to make the connection of adoptees likewise being "redeemed" from something horrible.  Many Christians take physical adoption as a charge from God due to the parallel we make to spiritual adoption. I ask fellow Christians to take a closer look before deciding how what adoption means to them spiritually connects to how they view, speak about, or act upon actual, physical adoption.

Let's start where humanity's relationship with God began, for some literally and for some figuratively: the Garden of Eden.  The garden was made for God's creation, his family, for humans--the crown of all he spoke into existence.  We were created by God and communed with God.  Adam walked with God through the garden.  It is when he sinned that he was cast out.  He once belonged but now he was lost.  So much like the Prodigal Son, the lost sheep, and the widow's missing coin.  Genesis 3:15 is the first foretelling of the redeemer who would reunite God's lost family.

Christ’s ministry brought us teachings and parables expressing the same theme. We see the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which symbolized God's rejoicing when one of his children returns home to his family. This is not a stranger stumbling upon the scene and choosing to become part of the family but rather someone who was already a member of the family and chose to return.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep’s implication is no different. We see how the sheep was already one of the 100, who left the fold and became lost. The shepherd risked his life to save that one sheep and bring that sheep back into the fold.

The Parable of the 10 Silver Coins tells us of a woman who lost one of her coins and searched high and low until she could find the coin to return to her collection of 10. When she found her lost coin, she called everyone she knew to rejoice because even the one coin was as treasure to her.

Our spiritual adoption is symbolic of our rejection of God, and his willingness to accept us back into his family and making a way for us to do so.  In contrast, physical adoption is the dissolution of the biological family connection and the creation of an adoptive family connection.  When compared to physical adoption, spiritual adoption is more like reunion.

The other reality that we just can't escape when comparing physical adoption and spiritual adoption the traditional way is what we say about the people who live adoption each and everyday.  Can we compare the innocent child to the sinner who is redeemed by God, although unworthy?  Can we compare original parents and families to "hell" which their children are "redeemed" from?  Finally, should we place adoptive parents in the God role to do the redeeming?  It doesn't fit; these things simply aren't kind to say.  Original parents have their own strengths and challenges as do adoptive parents.  They are human beings with their own triumphs or mistakes--they are neither "God" nor "hell."  The child, who had no choice but to be born into a world full of adult problems, has not done nothing to be "redeemed" from.

Even the reunion comparison is in its own way unfair.  It places adoptive parents in the role that adoptees must be "redeemed" by reunion from.  Either way, trying to compare something that people literally live to a spiritual concept in this case isn't speaking well to the dignity of the human beings involved.

Physical adoption, very simply, should be the coming together of families and community members to work on behalf of children.  If religion and the need to make metaphysical comparisons get in our way of making positive change in this earthly institution full of positives, negatives, ethical challenges, and loss, then perhaps we should stop making the comparison at all.


Anonymous said...

As a first mother who's son was adopted into a fundamentalist christian family, I truly appreiciate this post.

My son has been "brainwashed" (in MY opinion) by his adoptive parents and family to belive that "god put him where he was supposed to be", and that he was "chosen by god for that life".
I wonder what they told him about "gods plan" for me while I was suffering not knowing if he was dead or alive for 12 years? I hardly think any loving god would place that pain and torture on a yound woman for simple fact that she thought she was giving her child a "better life".

Those beliefs were instilled in him by people who decieved me by promising me an open adoption, only to move when he was 7, leaving no forwarding contact information for the agency to contact them to inquire about correspondence. Where did this leave me? To wonder what I had done to such good "loving Chrisitans" to deserve such treatment. Do good "loving Christians deliberatley cause a mother unimaginable grief and dissolusionment, for NO apparent reason?

Fast forward to 2008 and finding my son on a social networking site. This young man (who puts a bible quote a day on his status update) treated me like nothing more than an "incubator" for his parents and left me to feel as nothing more than an information bank. He was cold and callous towards me, even after I told him what happenend with my supposed "open adoption". His words were that he "trusted them".

Do I blame him for this? No. I get angry that he allows himself to be controlled this way, but I do blame his adoptive parents, who I believe convinced my son to believe that it was "gods will" we were separated. I believe they did this as a way to control him as a child and ongoing as an adult. I know, after turning my back on religion for good after this happened to me, that nothing could be farther from the truth as far us being separated by "god's will).

I feel like I have lost my son all over again, only this time to religion.

Peach said...

As a fellow Christian adoptee I am so happy to know you and think your thoughts and writing is amazing. I too have felt uncomfortable countless times among my fellow Christians when hearing their philosophy about adoption. It grieves not only our hearts, but also the heart of God.

Amanda Woolston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


That was so eloquently stated and I thank you very much for your response and feedback. I must say that you are a gifted writer and give so much to this community (adoption) with your words. I know you have for me, anyway :)

Alot of the points you made are things I have thought of and considered as well. "People interpret whatever they perceive God's will to be in the way that makes them feel best." This is exactly how I see it.

I think the challenge for me as a first mother in the coming weeks, months and years will be to let go of the anger I have towards being "that hidden woman on the other side", that was thrown away and forgotten about after her role of providing an infertle couple with a child was complete. Forgotten about and decieved in spite of being promised that I would still somehow be a part of my son's life; if even in some small way. Forgotten about and lied to because it was "god's will", in the eyes of his adotive parents and family.

I say this will be a CHALLENGE to overcome this, because I don't know if I will ever be able to reconcile this within myself. It literally makes me sick to my stomach at times to even think about, but I am working on it, minute by minute and day by day.

Thanks again~

Amanda Woolston said...

Anon, I can't even begin to imagine what you're going through.

You are completely entitled to your anger, you were wronged. I can't remember how my First Mom puts it exactly but she says something to the nature of using her anger to make change for other women, rather than allowing her anger to turn in on her and consume her. It's when we're consumed by anger that the other people win. She's a wise lady :-) and I can tell you are too.

You've already made a difference for me :-) Due to agency charades, I've spent most of my life thinking my First Mother didn't want me and that I was a "painful reminder" to her. It is so healing to hear from her that she did want me, does want me and does love me. Every First Mother that I hear from that tells me how wanted their child is, restores a piece of my self esteem. So thank you ((hugs)).

Feel free to email me any time

Korean War Baby said...

WOW, I just got connected to Networked blogs on Facebook. I have only been blogging since June 09, trying to find a way to express my own adoption story. I also have grappled with the extreme views out there, and in seeking balance have found that some/many Christians DO misunderstand the finer points of our Adoption into the family of God.
So many have extreme narrow views that hurt and wound others without regard for or even understanding for them. I too have heard people tell me how lucky I was to be adopted. I do feel 'lucky' yet it is not what God intended for us. I am against extremists on all sides, finding myself in several parts due to my crazy life. Most of all I have begun to realize that our "Adoption as Children of God" is not yet fully realized until Death. We are like the children, who are treated just like a slave child until coming of Christ (Gal 4:1-7) yet while on this earth we are not totally aware or de facto an Heir. Still trying to wrap my mind around this concept, the while we ARE children of God, not until a later time, in heaven or after Christ's Return will we Really be adults. Perhaps you have a post on this already? Please give me link if you do.

I look forward to learning more from your site.
Excellent post on this complex issue, and very well stated. In This Thing of Ours-Adoption we should/must listen to other views with respect and find a better way for each individual case. I have found that issues for Intercountry, domestic, spiritual adoption are very similar yet unique. Well, it will take several weeks to read all of your postings but look forward to it!
Thank you DongSang (younger sibling in Korean) for all the work you have done.

Von said...

Thanks to all of you for the wonderful exchange of views, so heart-felt.This is what it shoudl all be about, helping eah other to come to terms with what has happened to us.Some of the pain will never go away but at least we can listen and be compassionate without judgement.
Anon I feel so for you, can only hope he comes to his senses later.

Amanda Woolston said...

Thank you all for your kind responses.

For those new to my blog, some of my favorite posts I've archived in an additional spot, on the right-hand side of my blog under "favorite/popular posts" category.

:-) Amanda

Anonymous said...

kitta here:

I am also a liberal Christian, who doesn't believe that God creates families simply to separate them. And I don't believe that God approves of the lies and false birth certificates that are issued by the government.

Nor do I think that God wants families to remain separated. The overall message of the Bible is reconciliation..with God and with each other.

My son was lost to me in the late 60s, the 'baby scoop era,' through a series of violations of both of us.I don't see this as God's work, and I was against the adoption at the time.

when I realized that I would probably lose the battle to keep my son, I remember thinking,"If I am forced to give up my baby, it will be a slap in God's face."
The idea that adoption of children, away from their loving mothers, is a plan of God is revolting. If any supernatural 'being" is involved in the "adoption plan" it isn't God.

Amanda Woolston said...

Revolting it is Kitta, I completely.

Anonymous said...

Christians using the Bible and Bible language to support adoption always made me scratch my head. Thanks so much for this thoughtful, well-written post. Do you mind if I mention it on my LJ and link to it?


Amanda Woolston said...


Thank you so much! Yes, please feel free to mention it and link it.

Kim킴 said...


I can't tell you how wonderful it is to come across this post. The timing is amazing. I'm a Korean adoptee and I've been struggling with the reconciling of my faith and adoption. Especially recently when a couple in my church announced (with many praises to God) that they're going to adopt an Ethiopian child. There's two other families that have adopted from Ethiopia, so I've been struggling with my conflicting feelings of anger and guilt. I don't feel so alone in this anymore. For the longest time I wondered if I was going against the will of God since I couldn't agree with the usual Christian reasons of why adoption was God's purpose. You've made great points! I'll be back to read more! Thank you so much!

Amanda Woolston said...


Thank you for your comments. I'm glad something you said could bring you some validation and comfort. We live in a world that not only does not understand what it's like to be adopted, but seeks to dicate to adoptees how they *ought* to feel about being adopted.

Christians too are told how they ought to feel--about a lot of things! It's confusing when our hearts tell us one thing but the influence around us is telling us another. To me, being a Christian is not about following a mandated list of rules that a pastor, church or denomination interpreted out of the Bible, but allowing the Holy Spirit to lead me. We all have that capability and too often it's silenced by those around us and their "rightness." You are absolutely entitled to your uncomfortable feelings when hearing those adoption announcements at church. You are the one who knows what adoption feels like better than anyone else. Hearing those types of things make me very uncomfortable too. As an adopted person, I would find it extremely hard to celebrate the loss of a child's original family, heritage, language, culture and belief system, simply because it offers a couple an opportunity to parent.

You are not alone.


rohan mcenor said...

Please! Please! Please! read my article "Adoption and the Bible - God's will or god-swill?" at:
it will blow your mind especially the section headed 'Paul and Adoptionism'.
'Huiothesia' is the polar opposite to 20th century adoption. The latin for adoption is "adrogatio" not 'adoptare'. 'Adoptare' merely means 'to choose'.
Once one understands the true meaning of "huiothesia" one actually understands the narrative of the Bible - ie: a NATURAL Father buying back his NATURAL children from the false 'adopted' slave-family that the false father - the father of lies - has brainwashed them into. "Huiothesia" is a legal contract between NATURAL kin - not unrelated people. If Eph 1, gal 4 and Rom 8 & 9 had meant we are adoped then that means we are natural born children of Satan. How can this be when we are actually sons of Adam and Adam is clearly called the Son of God" (Luke 4).
Please read my article - it also clears up the predestination/election/free-will controversy as well.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Christian first mother, now reunited with my daughter. I love what you've done with this topic. Really beautiful. I also found this wikipedia article helpful: We have to read Romans 8 in the context of adoption as it was understood at the time, not superimpose our modern ideas on the text. The Apostle Paul was not talking about "baby scoop era" adoption! Thank you for your helpful thoughts.

Unknown said...

Very well said Amanda. The Bible is very clear that we "The Church" are to take care of widows and orphans...and anyone else in need. Christ as our example helped anyone and everyone that came to him in need. He did not discriminate and neither did his true followers.
Unfortunately, the church (its buildings and forms of worship...pomp and and pony shows; Ugh...don't even get me started!) have evolved into something totally different from what the early church practiced. We would be wise to return to the early church practice of meeting in homes and really getting to know those in our this way we would be able to really know our neighbors, serve one another in love and truly assist those in need.
To anon. who first posted her heart breaks for you. No loving christian (who trusts God and does not live in fear) would ever have broken contact with you. They would have encouraged you and your son to spend time together and remain in contact especially after they moved out of the area. ALL people...not just christians make poor choices out of fear; the consequences are far reaching. In a "perfect world" a lot of things would be different. I only hope that one day your son comes to understand that he only has everything to gain by contacting you and continuing to have a relationship with you. His adoptive parents can't control what he does or thinks day he will think for himself.
I pray that day comes very, very soon for everyone involved...especially you!

Anonymous said...


Thanks for a stirring post!

Believe it or not, I'm actually an adoptee who's also a ministerial candidate in a conservative Presbyterian denomination. I find myself in seminary at the moment pursuing a ThM as a preparatory degree for my Ph.D - and the working title of my thesis is "Adoption as Reunion: A Biblical Theology of Adoption in Pauline Literature".

Effectively my argument is that since Adam was created as a son, not just a servant (contra R.S. Candlish and others) then what is actually happening when Paul refers to ὑιοθεσια ("adoption") is in fact a reunion with the family of origin. Thus far my thesis advisor has been very pleased with the work. I'm hoping that it will get published once it's submitted; I think it's something adoptees AND the Church need to hear.

Thanks for this great post!

Cindylee said...

I know this has been out a while, but I still want to thank you for it. We will be using some of your materials and definitely giving your blog site out to members of our new adoptee support group. I've also started a related blog and will be adding this blog to a recommended list. ~Thank you.
The Adoptee Heart

Cindylee said...

Thank you for this fantastic post. We have started a small adoptee support group and THIS is going in the group notebook. Your words cannot be improved upon.