Saturday, December 20, 2014

Adoption: Single Women Need Not Apply

Many Christian grant organizations will not accept applications from single women.  Is it wrong for single women to adopt? 

When I first considered adopting Oksana, I had decided to wait until I had a husband.  (Of course, I thought I needed to be married to buy a house, too.)  It took me a year to come to the conclusion that this was something God had prepared me for and equipped me to do.   I became convicted when, one by one, I began to cross off the excuses from the list of reasons I could not commit to her.  I had a stable income, health insurance, a home with space to raise more children, and tested ability because I was already a parent.  I agree that God has designed a two-parent family for children.  It is the ideal. I believe that having a supportive husband is also the ideal.  But being married in and of itself does not guarantee a husband is supportive and able/willing to help his wife care for his family. On a paper application, checking "married" does little more than fill the square, which just amounts to legalism.  Some organizations require interviews and recommendations from the adopting family's pastor.  Can a pastor not also recommend a godly woman as an adopting parent?  Other organizations require only the home study documentation. A home study alone says little to nothing about the godliness of a family unless the agency writing is Christian and writing from that perspective.

In his book, Adopted for Life, Russell Moore writes, “The Father adopts children, and we are called to be like him.  Jesus cares for orphans, and we are being conformed into his image.  If you’re in Christ, you are called to be involved in this project somehow.”  I’m not saying that Dr. Moore made this statement for the purpose of promoting adoptions by single mothers.  In fact, in another part of the book, he writes “Generally speaking, if you are single, pray for a marriage before you seek children.”  If a single woman who has never married hopes to be married one day, sure, it is probably better for her to wait to adopt until she has a godly husband so they may begin a new life together, cultivating  their relationship in preparation for a solid base from which to parent.   But what if a woman doesn't believe she is to marry at all? Can she not be used by God in this way? 

Amy Carmichael and Gladys Ayleward have been applauded for mothering hundreds of children, in their respective countries, as unmarried missionaries.  Amy Carmichael believed that God led her never to marry before she took in her first Indian child.   Is there a difference?  Does it matter less because that happened somewhere on the other side of the world? Does it matter less because their doing so meant someone else (the people with the funding) didn't have to go?  Does it matter less because we are now talking about the Conservative, American version of Christianity? (I’ll save that for a separate post on another day.)  Does not being united in holy matrimony make singleness unholy (also a separate post)?

I suspect that the organizations which limit their support to married-couples-only may share the perspective of those who believe missionaries can only be never-married singles or married couples with seminary degrees dispatched under a banner announcing their presence in countries that have already had missionaries for a hundred years.  In some ways, implying that children cannot grow up to be godly without a godly father limits the power of God. It also isn't scriptural. When Paul wrote to Timothy, he applauded his godly mother and grandmother. There was no mention of a father.  We don't know why this is, but we do know that Paul (and thus God, by divine inspiration) credited the godly women with raising a godly Timothy.  (Don’t assume that in saying so that I am advocating for single women the world over birthing babies on their own because they "don't need a man." That isn't my point.) 

I know… What is the point?
My point is that some are already mothers. For those mothers, something happens (divorce, abandonment, or death of a husband) to cause them to become single mothers. We don't encourage the removal of the children from a woman’s home and into another with married parents simply because she no longer has a husband.  We don’t assume she has lost her ability to parent altogether simply because she is no longer a married woman.  That would be absurd.  In like manner, there are already children who are homeless, without families, without anyone.  For those with conservative political leanings, the outcry is that "we don't want the bureaucracy raising our children" by making and writing into law decisions on how we are to parent.  If we don't want the bureaucracy figuratively raising our children, why are we okay with them doing so in a literal sense?  Shall we (American Christians, the body of Christ, single mothers) just leave them under the often substandard care of their respective institutions states if the married Christian population isn't willing is unable to open their homes? (Ahem. Was that my outside voice? My apologies! That is probably yet another post.)

 For Christians  who support adoption of children and care of orphans, James 1:27 is often treated as the cornerstone for Christian adoption. Pastors use it in their sermons.  It reads, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.  We know that Ruth, a single woman, cared for her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi. Surely the declaration made in the book of James does not mean that only men or married couples are capable of practicing religion that is pure and undefiled.  In many cases, adoption is like mission work in creative-access countries. It doesn't look conventional- but if it did, the authorities might not let you in. In the case of singles and adoption, it doesn't look conventional... Doesn't look biblical... But neither does much of anything else in our sin-cursed world. Just because the product doesn't match God's perfect design doesn't mean there can be no redemption for the marred original. If that were true, there would be no redemption for any since Adam.  I can't change the fact that I am a single mother. I have three biological sons. But, I have no husband. I would remain a single mother if I chose never adopt.  My status wouldn't change either way. Why should waiting children go without any family at all if I can be a mother to them through adoption?  Isn't a godly single mother better than no mother at all?

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