05 December 2007

Adopting a pet or a child?

Here are two poignant sentences from Russell Moore's must-read article "The Brotherhood of Sons" in a recent Touchstone journal:

It is one thing when the culture doesn’t “get” adoption, and so speaks, for instance, of buying an animal as “adopting” a pet. When Christians, however, think the same way, we betray that we miss something crucial about our own salvation.

So let's learn and love it, friends, with passion and action. We meditate too little on how, through the Messiah whose birth we celebrate during this season, we now have the perfect love of the perfect Father. And we marvel too little at how earthly adoption can help us see that reality a bit better. The reality Moore conveys about the Russian orphanage where their boys lived for too long can help us do exactly that, yet it deserves warning: it is emotionally and spiritually hard to read, making me want to simultaneously genuflect in gratitude for my own adoption as daughter to the Most High and crawl on those knees to the nearest airplane that can transport me to Russia.

All that said, I have one critique for the article: Moore insists that when they teach their boys about their cultural heritage, that means teaching them about what it means to be a Moore, with all its Mississippi-ness, but not what it means to have been a Russian, with all its Tchaikovskian folk opera.

Now, maybe the spiritual precedent would suggest that it's better to know as little as possible about the previous reality but to live robustly the new adopted life. But as it pertains to human existence and adopted life, I worry a bit about this idea. I worry about it culturally, because I think everyone should have broad cultural educations, and a family with adopted children from other cultures has a particular privilege to learn such business with a great deal of personal investment.

I also worry about it socially and economically, for it is often the privilege of the relatively wealthy to adopt, and when the wealthy adopt children from foreign countries where disadvantage is the norm, then that cultural heritage is threatened with weakness and perhaps even extinction. If God has designed the Church with cultural diversity as an integral component, then local churches whose members have adopted have, again, a particular privilege to practice such stuff.

Finally, Americans are particularly good at privileging American-ness. We live rather obliviously to the global community, partially because we spend too much time in our own virtual worlds of materialism and celebrity culture. It's necessary that the adopted Moores understand their Moore-ness, with all its Hank Williams and Charley Pride, but there's nothing particularly smashing about those things. All the Moore boys, and all of us too, would do well to know some "Peter and the Wolf" too, but the Moores especially.

After all, adoption is the privilege of leaving what was squalid and empty to enter into what is rich and yours. But human adoption isn't quite like spiritual adoption in that some of that richness is of the flesh, and some of the yours is really ours. That is, human adoption does liberate orphans from a kind of loneliness into another, like the consumerist supremacy of McDonald's. But transcultural adoption liberates the adopting family from its monotony of blood into a hegemony of culture, like the broadening of Moore-ness for all the Moores from Mississippi to Russia.

For now, to be a Moore means more than Baptist ministers and the Confederacy. Now it means to be a Russian brother.

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