The following is an excerpt from a new article by Kathryn Joyce at Mother Jones, “Orphan Fever: The Evangelical Movement’s Adoption Obsession.” Kathryn, a founding editor of The Revealer, has just published her second book, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Traffcking, and the New Gospel of Adoption. You can buy it here.
In 2007, the Christian Alliance for Orphans, which took root around the same time Campbell published her first adoption articles, held a pivotal meeting at the Colorado headquarters of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family; pastors emerged ready to preach the new gospel of orphan care and adoption, according to an account in the Los Angeles Times. Focus was soon predicting that, within a decade, it would be “pretty uncommon” for Christians “to not adopt or not care for orphans.”
Indeed, just two years later the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Christian denomination save the Catholic Church, passed a resolution calling on its 16 million members to get involved, whether that meant taking in children themselves, donating to adoptive families, or supporting the hundreds of adoption ministries that were springing up around the country to raise money and spread the word. Neo-Pentecostal leader Lou Engle also called for mega-churches to take on the cause, which would give them “moral authority in this nation.”
The movement spawned numerous conferences and books built around the idea that adopting a needy child is a form of missionary work. “The ultimate purpose of human adoption by Christians,” author Dan Cruver wrote in his 2011 book, Reclaiming Adoption, “is not to give orphans parents, as important as that is. It is to place them in a Christian home that they might be positioned to receive the gospel.” At an adoption summit hosted by the Christian Alliance for Orphans at Southern California’s Saddleback Church, pastor Rick Warren told followers, “What God does to us spiritually, he expects us to do to orphans physically: be born again and adopted.”
Kathryn Joyce is an author and journalist based in New York City.
She is author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement (Beacon Press, 2009) and The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking and the New Gospel of Adoption (forthcoming, PublicAffairs, 2013), a book on adoption and religion.
Her freelance writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Nation, Mother Jones, Ms., Slate, Salon, Newsweek, Religion Dispatches, The Daily Beast, The American Prospect, The Harvard Divinity Bulletin, The Massachusetts Review, Conscience, Search, The Public Eye, RH Reality Check and other publications.