Yesterday, The 700 Club ran a story about the Christian Alliance for Orphans and the recent Summit VI in Minneapolis. After attending the Summit, I had great anticipation for the story and was excited to see what they produced. After all, the Christian Broadcasting Network is meaningfully engaged in ministry to the fatherless. CBN’s ministry Orphan’s Promise is a wonderful ministry. Their website explains the ministry’s objective and tie to CBN:
“Orphan’s Promise is a special part of CBN and is aimed at helping orphans and vulnerable children around the world through academic programs and life skills training as well as mentoring and career placement; food and clothing assistance; health care programs; housing and orphan and adoption advocacy. “
Terry Meeuwsen, co-host of the 700 Club and Director of Orphan’s Promise is an adoptive mom and recognized orphan advocate. This news story promised to be a wonderful emphasis on orphan care and adoption. Truly, the news story itself was, but the commentary that followed was appalling. It is interesting that in less than 24 hours from the initial airing of the segment, CBN has re-edited the segment on their website and have removed the commentary by Pat Robertson and Meeuwsen that followed the piece. Rev. Robertson’s comments were both offensive and theologically inappropriate. Despite Meeuwsen’s attempts to redirect the commentary and rescue the segment, Robertson remained undeterred.
As an adoptive father, pastor, orphan advocate, and author, I feel the burden to respond to Rev. Robertson’s comments. Foremost is my concern that they are theologically inappropriate. Sadly, I am afraid that this poor theology has led to similar feelings from many in the Church.
I have no ill will toward Rev. Robertson. I also have no forum to address him directly, so I am making my public response to his very public comments. Somehow, I would hope that these thoughts would provoke reflection, and correction of error. If not with Pat Robertson, then I hope with others. Truly, I would hope that Rev. Roberson would not be satisfied to have his comments removed from the public as a means to avoid controversy. I hope that he will take this opportunity to reconsider his thinking and his theological position on the issue of orphan ministry and adoption and make a public statement of apology.
Here are my comments regarding each of Rev. Robertson's statements:
“I think we need to caution people, it isn’t like you’re having a dog and you can drop him off at the pound.”
I am part of an orphan hosting ministry that brings older children to the US from foreign orphanages to show them love and hope. Our ministry is called Promise 139 because we are claiming the promises of Psalm 139 for these children. There are at least 7 promises in the Psalm for all people: God knows me (1), God knows where I go (2 & 3), God knows my thoughts (4), God has put his hand on me (5), God is always with me (7 – 12), God has made me (13 & 14), God has made me unique (15). These promises reflect the sanctity of human life. This is a value that is measured in terms of the one placing the value. Orphaned children, like the rest of us, have great worth because of the value placed upon us by our Creator. We are not valuable because of our emotional health, our intellect, or our potential to make a contribution to the world. We are valuable because God loved us enough to pay the ultimate price for our redemption to the praise of His glorious grace. Our worth is found in the Gospel. He is our worth. To equate the life of a child to that of a dog is to dishonor the giver of that life, the one who placed value upon that life. I have heard similar comments from others particularly in the wake of the adopted child who was returned to Russia. In many cases adoption is difficult. That difficulty and the brokenness that many orphaned children experience is no reason to equate them with being less than human. I realize that Robertson would probably say that he is just making an illustrative analogy, but the implications of the analogy have a sting. I am not a proponent of hypersensitivity and draconian political correctness, but I think this statement goes too far and sets a poor context for the rest of his comments. By celebrating the being and dignity of the orphan, we acknowledge the worth of God as Creator.
“If they have demonic influence, some of the dark arts in their background, you can’t tell what is going to come out. You also can’t tell if they’ve been brain damaged as a child.”
Even if you accept the premise of Robertson’s notion about demonic influence, he is wrong. What did Jesus do in the face of demonic oppression? He had compassion and cast out demons. Jesus also charged the early disciples with casting out demons as a ministry of mercy. If Robertson truly believes these children are demon possessed or oppressed, why would it not be the role of Christians to cast out the demons in the name of Jesus? Are we not supposed to adopt brain damaged or emotionally disturbed children? As the adoptive father of an emotionally disturbed son, I am deeply saddened by this notion. Parenting a child who was severely abused and neglected for the first 7 years of his life is the most difficult thing I have ever done, but it is worthy and necessary. It is an act of love for my son and an act of obedience to Jesus. Suppose the God had decided that we were too broken and deprave for His Grace? In Romans 1, Paul tells us that we were without hope. Nothing in us merited the least hint of being worthy of redemption, yet God sent His Son as a ransom. In Ephesians 1, Paul goes on to tell us that through Jesus, we have been adopted by God, and this adoption was the plan from before the foundation of the world. Our adoption in Christ was not “plan B. ” It was not God’s response to some gigantic, cosmic accident caused by Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Our adoption was the result of God’s working out of His plan for His glory, and we are the beneficiaries who are counted among the children of the Most High.
“I think it (adoption) is all real lovely, but…”
I think Rev. Robertson missed the point that adoption is not just a nice thing to do. It is part of living the Gospel. I am not suggesting that adoption is for everyone, but it is more than an optional activity for the Body of Christ.
“I want to say again, the Bible says count the cost. There is a cost. It can be a blessing if you get the right child. I mean, it becomes a part of your family, and you love it like your own, but…”
No one is suggesting that families should not be prayerful and deliberate in a decision to adopt. Suggesting that counting the cost of adoption for believers is somehow especially different than counting the cost in all other aspects of life seems narrow. Christians should count the cost before having biological children, yet I doubt Rev. Robertson would have the same response in relation to the biblical idea of being fruitful and multiplying. Should we stop birthing children because there is a risk that they will have birth defects or will suffer with other disabilities? Of course not! The notion is absurd as is the idea that we should not adopt children with disabilities.
“It becomes part of your family.” Again, I must admit offense at the use of the word “it.” Orphans are boys and girls not objects or animals. Moreover, you don’t love an adopted child “like your own.” They are your own! Those who were once aliens have been brought in. What a wonderful thing. It is the same with us. We who were once not just aliens but enemies of God have been grafted into the family. Our adoption in Christ gives us the fullness of childhood in God’s family.
“During the first year or two of growth, a child can be badly damaged mentally and emotionally, and uh, there can be deprivation. Not enough food, not enough love. You know. Those kids in the orphanages in Romania just break your heart. They put them in those cribs, and leave them there. They are banging their heads and rocking back and forth. They are so emotionally scared. It’s a difficult thing once they never adjust to adulthood.”
As one who has both studied and taught human development, there is a grain of truth to Rev. Robertson’s comments. The first two years of life are crucial for brain development, but developmental dysfunction is not a reason not to adopt these children. Developmental delays and deficits are not the end of the world. Love, nurture, and therapy can be productive, and we trust should trust the power of the Holy Spirit to heal more than we trust any of these other avenues of help. My younger son was 18-months-old when we adopted him from a Ukrainian orphanage. He used to violently shake his head as a way of comforting himself. He still has challenges, but he has a hope for a future. He has made great progress, and he will grow to be a fully functioning adult. More importantly, he is a little boy who is being raised to know Jesus, and we anticipate the day when he responds to Jesus in faith. I really believe Rev. Roberson speaks at this point based upon stereotypes and ignorance. Orphaned children need homes. All of them need homes. They need families that will give them love and security, and parents who will show them Jesus, and love them like Jesus does: unconditionally.
Previously, I posted a sermon by Dr. John Piper from Summit VI. Piper’s sermon is the antithesis of Robertson’s comments from yesterday. I hope you will take time to hear his sermon and feast on the truth of the Word!