Editor's Note: Jason Locy is co-author of Veneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society. He and his wife are adoptive parents and participants in Safe Families for Children, a voluntary alternative to foster care.By Jason Locy, Special to CNN
When the Arkansas Supreme court struck down a voter-approved initiative that banned cohabitating straight and gay couples from adopting orphaned children, the Christian community predictably erupted.
Byron Babione of the Alliance Defense Fund, a coalition of Christian lawyers, attributed the April ruling to a “political movement afoot to undermine and destroy marriage.” Baptist Press, the publications arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, ran an article that quoted Babione as saying the ruling reflected “a campaign to place adult wants and desires over the best interests of children."
On one hand, these comments aren’t surprising. Conservative evangelicals have decried “the anti-family gay agenda” for decades. On the other, they underscore the way many Christians denounce a social problem that they have no plan for solving.
And the problem here is not ultimately gays adopting — the prevention of which, I believe, was the impetus behind the Arkansas initiative and behind adoption restrictions in various other states. The problem is a global orphan crisis involving tens of millions of children.
In the United States, there are approximately 116,000 foster children waiting to be adopted. That means a judge has either severed the rights of the original parents or the parents have voluntarily signed their children over to the government.
To put this into perspective, we might compare the number of American orphans to the purported 16 million Southern Baptists who attend more than 42,000 churches nationwide. Quick math reveals that there are roughly 138 Southern Baptists for every child in the American foster care system waiting to be adopted. To say it another way, this single denomination has an enormous opportunity to eradicate the orphan crisis in America.
If you’ve spent any time in church, you’ve probably heard a sermon on Noah or Moses or David. But how many sermons have you heard on the biblical mandate to care for orphans?
When was the last time you heard your pastor declare, “if you choose to adopt a child we will stand with you. We will provide respite care, financial help and do everything possible to meet the needs of that child?”
Southern Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics — the Christian Church — can provide safe, loving, permanent homes for these kids. Our faith dictates that we fight for a better way in both words and deeds.
When Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, and Peter responded yes, Jesus didn’t tell him to picket the wolves. He told Peter to feed and tend his sheep.
Some churches and Christian groups are stepping up. Focus on the Family launched a Wait No More initiative in Colorado in 2008, forming partnerships between local churches, adoption agencies and the government in order to encourage families to adopt through the foster care system. As a result, the number of Colorado orphans waiting for a family has been cut in half.
Christianity Today ran a 2010 report headlined “Adoption is Everywhere,” illustrating the trend among churches and Christians who are giving “attention to orphans, adoption, the fatherless, and so on.”
Despite such efforts, the American orphan crisis remains. Too many churches still find it easier to stand behind a megaphone decrying the morality of laws than to stand beside a child in need.
Thousands of orphaned children in America need grandmas and grandpas, embarrassing uncles and crazy aunts. They need someone to teach them to fly a kite and throw a ball and read a book and tie their shoes. They need someone to call mom and dad.
In fairness, adopting a child is not easy and many of these children face difficult adjustments once they’re adopted. They have experienced pain, loss, hurt, confusion and misplaced trust. They have endured physical, emotional and sexual abuse — things most of us don’t even want to imagine.
In 2008, when my wife and I adopted through Bethany Christian Services, the organization educated us on the possible challenges of adopting a child. They informed us that even though our daughter was a baby when we brought her home, she would eventually ask tough questions, as would our friends and family.
But my wife and I know our faith demands action and that sometimes action takes us out of our comfort zone.
As a father of three — two biological children and an adopted child — and a host to a number of children that have needed a temporary home I can tell you these kids need less arguing over who should and should not be allowed to adopt and more families stepping up and saying, “we will adopt.”
It is time Christians decide to either step up or shut up. If a Christian group wants to wade into the discussion over who should adopt, it needs to put its money and manpower where its mouth is.
That means not only challenging families and churches to adopt from foster care (which costs virtually nothing financially) but also to adopt children resulting from unplanned pregnancies, children with special needs and children of mixed race or minority ethnicity.
If Christians’ only desire is to fight the culture wars and score political points, then they should continue to lean on empty rhetoric. But if they truly care about the family and the Bible, they’ll begin caring for children who desperately need a home.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jason Locy.