The fundamental assumptions of a Christian worldview are straightforward. The universe is created, not eternal or random. Humans are made in God’s image, not mere animals and not gods themselves. Right and wrong are grounded in eternal truths, not subject to the whims of a person or a culture. Christ’s death and resurrection have cosmic implications, in direct contrast to both utopian and dystopian narratives.
Applying the fundamental truth of a Christian worldview, particularly in this cultural moment, is not so straightforward. For example, this past week we heard from a woman wrestling with whether or not to go through with an international adoption.
Adoption is so hopeful; why would anyone question it? Well, the women who wrote in is single and committed to the Biblical description of marriage and family. She knows that children fare best when raised by biological mom and dad. She understands that practices like sperm donation and surrogacy intentionally create a life in which that parent-child relationship is broken. She knows that even without a biological link, there’s a difference between mothering and fathering and that kids tend to fare better with both. As a single woman, she wondered whether her desire to adopt may similarly deprive a child of a father.
“My ‘need’ [her quotes] cannot be the deciding factor in this decision. I know raising a child in a single parent home will leave a hole in this child’s heart. I know this child needs a father. I know that even my best intentions and hardest efforts will not compensate for this loss.”
At the same time, as she undoubtedly understands, the alternative for this child is grim. In much of the world, a high percentage of those who age-out of orphanages (including orphanages in Eastern Europe where she hopes to adopt) end up in jail. “I can’t help but think that providing a loving home with one Christian parent would be better than a life in these group homes with no parents,” she wrote.
And, she’s exactly right! In her honest and serious ethical reflections are all the right distinctions. Her desire to adopt a child in need is beautiful and not comparable with sperm donation or surrogacy, neither in intention nor in practice. Here’s why.
As Katy Faust, author of Them Before Us: Why We Need a Children’s-Rights Movement points out, the child-manufacturing practices of our modern reproductive technologies are largely motivated by the emotional desires of adults. Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, in and of itself, but the child’s needs have to be taken into consideration as well. While certain treatments of infertility attempt to fix or heal what is broken, others clearly cross the line and treat kids like commercial products.
As a result, surrogacy and sperm donation create a place of brokenness that didn’t exist before. Specifically, children are deprived of the right to know a biological parent. These technologies place “us” (the adults and their desires) before “them” (the children and their needs). To use stark terms, in a very real sense, these procedures create orphans.
That is a very different scenario than meeting the needs of children already facing a life with no mother or father. Though this woman has a God-given desire to be a mom, her fundamental question is not, “How can I become a parent?” Rather, it’s “How can I give a child a parent?” That difference is everything.
Just as important is her recognition that fathers matter too, and, as a single mother, she won’t be able to fill that need. While our larger society has embraced the idea that “all kids need is love,” and while so many mothers have to play the heroic role of attempting to fill the need of both mom and dad, she realizes that a mother’s love and a father’s love aren’t the same. Love is more than strong feelings and self-esteem. It’s an embodied reality.
This woman’s desire to have children is not the problem, and it doesn’t have to conflict with a child’s needs. It actually can move to meet those needs. As Katy Faust says, when rightly understood, the rights of adults and children do not need to be in opposition.
If this women does open her heart, life, and home to a child who’s lost both mom and dad, her story and example of clear thinking can inspire others to put “them before us,” i.e. the needs and rights of children over and above the desires of adults. That’s the title of Katy Faust’s new book, which covers the full spectrum of issues in which our culture struggles to rightly honor and respect children. You can pick up a copy of Them Before Us with a gift of any amount to the Colson Center this month. Just visit breakpoint.org/broadcast.
And, for a full answer to this woman’s question, check out the most recent “Q&A segment” on the BreakPoint podcast. Visit breakpoint.org, or subscribe to the “BreakPoint podcast” or wherever you get your podcasts.
Colson Center | 2021
John Stonestreet | Breakpoint | March 3, 2021
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