Saturday, October 5, 2013

"The Child Catchers" Draws Fire from Conservative Christian Commentators

The American media has recently devoted attention to Christian international adoptions, not only because of the tragic death of Hana Williams, but because of a new book on the American Christian adoption movement. Kathryn Joyce, author of the eye-opening book Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, recently released a new book on the dark side of the Christian adoption movement, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption.

In articles written for the New York Times, Mother Jones, the Nation, the Atlantic, and the Daily Beast, Joyce sheds light on problem that erupt when Christian "orphan theology" ignores corruption and fraudulent practices among global adoption agencies, such as agencies recruiting children from intact families and misleading the biological parents of adopted children. Stronger regulations and oversight of international adoption are needed, Joyce argues. To boot, Joyce observes that in their zeal to adopt foreign children in difficult circumstances, evangelical Christians risk ignoring the roots of orphans' hardships, such as poverty and inadequate child welfare systems.

Conservative Christians have taken offense at Joyce's book and articles, accusing her of  sensationalism, distortion, and anti-Christian malice. Several conservative Christian commentaries have defended Christian adoption efforts, rejecting Joyce's research as flawed.

First, in an April 26th commentary at the Christian Post, "Left Launches Attack on Evangelical Adoption", David French of the America Center of Law and Justice takes offense at The Child Catchers. He frames Joyce's critique as a spiteful left-wing attack on conservatives, dismissing criticism of Christian adoption efforts as the venom of "unapologetic advocates for abortion-on-demand".
"To many on the left, if you are conservative then there is nothing you can do that is virtuous. Even the good that you do will be dismissed as cynical or destructive. The idea that my friends and family, who love their adopted children more than they love their own lives, have "orphan fever" is disgusting. Given that much of this criticism comes from unapologetic advocates for abortion-on-demand, I'm reminded of the words of Isaiah: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.""
French insists that Christian Americans who adopt overseas are scrupulous about the ethical and legal details of the adoption process.
"I don't know of a single adoptive parent or informed observer who doesn't unequivocally condemn child trafficking, and I don't know a single reputable adoption agency that tolerates the practice. In fact, the better Christian agencies actually prioritize family reunification ... The Christian families I know have all been painstakingly thorough during the adoption process, and every family who undertakes adoption should be prepared to scrutinize every syllable of every scrap of paper you receive. Examine your documents just as you would the ultrasound of your unborn biological child."
In an April 19th commentary at Christianity Today, Ed Stetzer blasts Joyce's work as "a hit-and-run journalistic hatchet job on evangelical adoption." While admitting that child traffickers and corrupt adoption agencies do exist, Stetzer insists that corruption is not the norm in international adoption. He accuses media outlets that feature Joyce of using fringe examples to demonize Christian adoption efforts.
"Yet, I have to say I am stunned by the fact that this author would use fringe examples to try to paint a movement that is seeking to do good as actually surreptitiously evil.

It's worth noting that no media outlet would present fringe Jewish or Muslim groups as representatives of the whole. They would rightfully be labeled as anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and simply unfair. I'm glad that's true for Jews and Muslims. It would be nice if NPR, Mother Jones, and Kathryn Joyce would apply the same standard to evangelicals, particularly when those Evangelicals are caring for "the least of these."

I guess I should not be surprised. It seems that Evangelical Christians must be doing something wrong if they care about the hurting. It just can't be that they care. And, I guess those orphans matter a lot less than scoring some points against the right-wing evangelicals."
In an April 18th commentary at Religion News Service, Jonathan Merritt responds with anger to Joyce's article at Mother Jones. "No one will ever accuse Mother Jones of being friendly to Christians, but you know their disdain for the faithful has reached fever pitch when they begin attacking Christians for the good things they’re doing," he writes. He accuses Joyce of relying on weak research "to paint a partial and distorted picture" of international Christian adoptions.

Merritt criticizes The Child Catchers for allegedly using fringe examples while ignoring mainstream Christianity. For instance, he dismisses the book's content on Above Rubies, Acres of Hope, and Michael and Debi Pearl because he never heard of them. Additionally, he criticizes Joyce for not offering solutions to the world's orphan crisis, ignoring Joyce's calls for stronger adoption regulations and poverty initiatives.
"In the end, Kathryn Joyce curses the darkness without lighting a candle. She attempts to pour cold water on the Christian adoption movement, but her ideas for actually solving the orphan crisis that now affects more than 100 million children are more than lacking; they’re non-existent. We should expect more from even an unashamedly partisan publication like Mother Jones. Not to mention a writer who recently published a 352-page book on the subject."
Finally, in a September 24th commentary, Rob Schwarzwalder of the Family Research Council was quick to dismiss Joyce's observations by pointing out her "inimical" point of view and pro-choice connections.
"... Kathryn Joyce is closely identified with the pro-abortion movement. She writes for such Left-liberal publications as Mother Jones, The Nation, and “RH Reality Check: Reproductive and Sexual Health and Justice News and Commentary,” one of whose stated goals is “to restore and sustain abortion coverage for low-income women.” “RH Reality Check” exists to advance abortion as a fully justified means of women’s health care and debunk pro-life arguments and initiatives.

Ms. Joyce writes frequently about what she regards as the dangers of Evangelical Protestantism; that’s her right, but let’s be clear about where her biases lay.

Ms. Joyce is not a dispassionate journalist but an advocate for a point of view. Again, advocacy for one’s convictions is perfectly legitimate. What isn’t appropriate is for her and her champions (e.g., the editorial page of The New York Times) not to disclose her allegiance to a movement and point of view inimical to those about whom she is writing."
In their haste to criticize Kathryn Joyce and defend international Christian adoptions, I fear that the above commentators are shooting the messenger. Instead of taking Joyce's warnings seriously and addressing corruption and abuse in global adoption networks, some commentators accuse her of attacking Christians. Hopefully, The Child Catchers will motivate other Christians to address problems in global adoption networks and create a more just and transparent adoption movement.

(Hat tip to Patrol Magazine)

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