Sunday, November 8, 2009

Orphan Sunday

Today is Orphan Sunday, where participating congregations across the nation will be asked to pray that all the orphans in the world find forever families and that all Christians open their hearts to adopting orphans.

I will pray for all the adoptees sitting in those pews, hearing their experience of adoption reduced to charity and proselytizing. I will pray that the former orphans in the congregation will retain a positive view of their birth parents and home country after hearing both denigrated by the stories told of horrific lives of orphans prior to adoption. I will pray that the adoptees of color will be able to develop a positive racial identity as they notice that all the photos of orphans splashed on the big screen in front of them are children of color like them, and all the charitable adopters are not.

I will pray that no church my children will ever attend will participate in Orphan Sunday.


Wendy said...

I am deeply saddened by even the thought of such an event. I don't have any words other than sadness.

Upstatemomof3 said...

Okay, see I have been wondering why I have not been able to get behind Orphan Sunday. I have tried to write a post about it and every single one comes out with exactly the wrong impression. But you have put my feelings into words. While I do hope those kids get family I have issues with advertising them like that. Thanks!!

A Beautiful Mess said...


The Gang's Momma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Gang's Momma said...

I am saddened by this perspective on the campaign of awareness, but I am trying to respect your perspective. I do have to say, I've never been in a church service where a child's birth country was denigrated. Nor was their plea for adoption portrayed as a rescue mission. Never was a domestic/foster orphan disparaged or portrayed as a charity case. The live broadcast of the "Orphan Sunday" movement is very respectful of the identity and background of all of these children who wait. They are determined to work with existing organizations domestic and abroad to support and care for those waiting for a family.

It saddens me that the global church's efforts to increase awareness and to call others who might have previously been unaware is being disparaged as proselytizing. There's no doubt that there are those who see adoption as that (and I'm heartily sorry for their narrow view of this huge issue).

But there are far MORE of us who see it as so much bigger than that. Yes, as Christians, we cannot separate our faith and our desire to share our faith with our children. Muslims and Hindus who adopt must share their faith. They too have a mandate from their belief system to share and teach their faith. As a Christian, it's the most loving thing Todd and I can do as parents. But for most of us, it is NOT the primary motivation behind adoption.

Building our family and expanding our home of love is.

Molly said...

Thanks for this. I could not agree more.

TK said...

Thank you "the Gang's Momma." Would it be better to say nothing at all and let children to continue to live in orphanages? Why turn something that helps children into something negative because of your own feelings?
I thought the program was wonderful.

Anonymous said...

I have my daughters and niece thanks to someone coming to church to "proselytize". It would never have occurred to me that I could have adopted as a single parent if not for this person. It would not have occurred to my sister and her husband that they could adopt internationally 13 yrs ago. Maybe all 3 would have been better off remaining in their orphanages. A few weeks ago my sister met a boy who had come from my niece's orphanage in Romania. He was a few years old than my niece when adopted, and he told her that the one thing that he remembered most about the orphanage - the agonizing hunger. Nothing but constant hunger, it was all he could remember. Curse those orphan Sunday proselytizers, helping children find homes where starvation becomes a painful memory, rather than daily reality.

Elizabeth J.

Wendy said...

For those who feel the need to defend this type of "advertising" it is clear you are missing the point completely and doing the very same thing that those of us who see the damage this type of "advertising" does. The constant equating languishing and/or starvation shows that you are not seeing the larger issue.

Malinda, thank you for the post. At least most people seem to be coming to a new understanding, I think education, consequences, and global awareness is lost on some people no matter how hard you try. Some will always see their lives as better, not recognize their priviledge, and allow religion to overshadow the issues at hand.

Anonymous said...

Yes, there is just so much wrong with this that I can't count the ways -


Many churches and organizations have hosted “Orphan Sundays” over the years. With a nationwide Orphan Sunday, the Christian Alliance for Orphans and the Cry of the Orphan partners seek to add a unified voice and coordinated effort to the many worthy efforts that preceded this year.

The seeds of this united Orphan Sunday come especially as a gift from the Church in Africa. While attending a church service in Zambia, an American visitor was struck by the pastor's passionate call to care for orphans in the local community, which had been ravaged by AIDS and poverty. Members of the church faced deep need themselves. But as the service ended, one after another stepped forward with money, food and other goods-some even taking off their own shoes and placing them in the offering for orphans.

The visitor, Gary Schneider, was so impacted that he began to help Zambian leaders coordinate Orphan Sunday efforts across Zambia. These efforts spread to the U.S. in 2003 with help from Every Orphan's Hope and other organizations. (Orphan Sunday is licensed to the Christian Alliance for Orphans as a registered trademark of Every Orphan's Hope).

Elizabeth J.

malinda said...

Elizabeth, The problem is that whatever benign intent went into the beginnings of Orphan Sunday, it has completely outstripped that intent. I am Christian, I am pro-adoption, I consistently donate to orphan care. All of these are good things.

But Orphan Sunday is no longer about providing support for needy orphans, it's now about ADOPTION and only adoption. The call for adopting orphans is often so powerful that people stop really looking to see if the children are truly orphans! And adoption is argued for as a way to bring children to Christ -- that's using adoption to proselytize. It isn't that you should adopt children, and teach them whatever religion is in your heart. It is that CHRISTIAN and only CHRISTIAN families should adopt to bring those children to Christ. And since saving their souls is so important, again, little attention need be paid to whether the children are really orphans.

Churches are given scripts for their Orphan/Adoption Ministry that tells them to "break the congregation's heart" for the poor suffering children who need to be adopted. There are usually special speakers -- adoptive parents who are hailed as true Christians in having saved children and grateful adoptees (and only grateful adoptees, no others need apply!) who testify as to how adoption saved them both materially and spiritually.

I DON'T want my children sitting there to hear that. It reduces adoption to charity, it makes them charity cases, it implies that I "saved" them from something horrific. It suggests they should be grateful for that fact.

Sometimes the message isn't that explicit, oftentimes it is.

Can you really imagine your children as young teens sitting the the church on Orphan Sunday,describing their prior lives as "orphans," listening to all the remarks people make to you in their hearing about what a wonderful thing you did?

I think explicit calls to adopt in that environment makes Orphan Sunday really adoptive parent focused. Imagine instead what former orphans in the crowd might be thinking. . . . Have you asked your neice what she thinks of Orphan Sunday?

Cheyelle said...

I grew up in care and I did notice that in some 'caring' organizations, their religion was the caveat for their kindness. Interesting post...

A Chinese Dad said...

I feel both sides have some excellent points. As Chinese by race and Christian by grace, I definitely do not want to be sitting in a church in America when the message is on China, Chinese orphans, or missionary work in China. I have sit at some of these churches too many times in the early years of my life in America. There was obvious ignorance, arrogance, and self-righteousness in those parishioners whom I encountered. It seems to me this trait of Christian arrogance by some American Christians has not changed much in the last 150 years. Please read this biographical story on Mr. Song when he was living in America over 100 years ago as a young boy and later a young college student. The conflicts of modern Chinese history can be summed up as the conflicts of the Song sisters. So this article is worth a read.

On the other hand, I personally have known many wonderful, humble and meek American Christians who would probably give a message at a church on Orphan Sunday. While I agree with Malinda's message, I feel her presentation is hard to swallow. Some of the comments supporting her view are hard to swallow as well. Maybe you need to be more specific and zero in on what you think is bad about Orphan Sunday. Sorry, I read it several times and still came away with a feeling of someone who has an ax to grind with Christians.

For years, I was a faithful listener of Focus on the Family. I always thought Dr. Dobson had some really good advice on marriage and family. Dr. Dobson is a political active Christian Right leader. One day (in the late 90's) in his radio show he was talking about cultural warfare and how badly Judeo Christian based Western culture had been tarnished by secular religions. In a slip of the tongue, Dr. Dobson called Chinese culture kaka meme. He made this reference when he was comparing Western Medicine and Chinese medicine. To me, maybe Dr. Dobson represents these churches that support Orphan Sunday. They all look nice outside, but inside they are nothing more than a bunch of arrogant cultural chauvinist.

Anonymous said...

As you know, I wrote about this here:

My objections to Orphan Sunday are as follows:

1. The number of adoptable children is consistently over-inflated to render the impression that Christians must do something about a crisis. That something focuses heavily, if not exclusively, on adoption. Even children with one parent are considered to be adoptable because children "need two parents".

2. The choice is presented as institutionalization versus life with a new Christian family. The role of orphanages as shelters where desperate parents leave kids, usually with the best intentions of reclaiming them, is never mentioned. In the rush to adopt, there is little examination of the deep inequities that cause family separation in the first place.

3. Corruption in international adoption--a real and pressing problem--is never discussed.

4. There is open proselytizing and sometimes open rejection of the child's original faith.

5. Issues of race and cultural identity are given little attention because love is all that matters and God loves all orphans and wants them to be happy in their Christian homes.

In short, the rhetoric of Orphan Sunday sidesteps the most pressing issues in international adoption today in favour of one big bandaid: adoption. In its place, churches should should consider holding reflection-on-adoption Sundays where the ethics of international adoption can be openly discussed. BTW, I am not anti-adoption either and I am a single mom through adoption.