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Christianity and Adoption ~ an Atheist’s Perspective

by Laura on December 19th, 2013

Yeah, I said “atheist.” During the holiday season, no less. But don’t worry, this is not a trigger-inducing, Scrooge-worthy post. Quite the opposite (in my opinion).

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In young adulthood, my boyfriend-at-the-time was endlessly exasperated by my “insistence upon always being different.” Even what I considered mere “timid-outlying” exhausted and frustrated him.

Full disclosure: this was in my Pre-Search Life, otherwise known as an identity-creation-limbo which occurred after I turned 18 (when my records were unsealed), and before I had the courage to defog enough to find my first family. I may have been just a little high-maintenance. My husband today would wonder how I’m not high-maintenance.

Feeling like an Outsider <—— totally an “adoptee thing”

Now, many years later, I often still feel like an outlier. I’m sure he thanks his lucky stars every day that we broke up.

Logistical things like, I’m a fish-eating vegetarian (pescatarian for all you word-o-philes) in a serious-about-their-meat country. I’m not kidding. The only accepted excuse for vegetarianism in Serbia is by doctors orders only; implying a sickness that ought not to be discussed.

I’m an American living in Serbia. It doesn’t happen often, but an old lady told me the other day that the politics of my country make everyone think that Americans are strašno (terrible). Good times.

I’m an adoptee living in a country in which adoption outside the family is uncommon and certainly not spoken about.

Specifically … I’m an out-of-the-closet, vocal adoptee participating in a global, internet-connected society who would rather celebrate and promote adoption than critically examine it.

Then, there’s the whole religion thing.


Culture and Religion

Gonna come right out and say it: I’m a cultural Catholic living in an Eastern Orthodox country, whose holidays don’t follow the Gregorian calendar.

Point-of-reference: Jews are about 2% of the U.S. population, and public schools are closed for many Jewish holidays. People. The Serbian public school my daughter attends is OPEN on Dec. 25, but canceled her classes in honor of the most popular (Serbian) slava day, St. Nik.

This has GOT to be photoshopped ~ “St. Sava Temple In Belgrade, Serbia”

You may not know this about me, but [spoiler alert!] I am not religious.

Some might call me an atheist.

I don’t like that word, because for me, growing up in a White American Catholic (by ethnicity) community, “atheist” connoted people who go around actively trying to convince others that God does not exist. Not knowing any atheists myself as a child (I know, weird, right?), I imagined that they were angry and evangelical about it. I may have been scared of encountering one, and then I went ahead and married one. Go figure.

Personally, it’s just that: I don’t know. You could call me “agnostic,” but, I’m not really spiritual.

I know it’s hard to believe that I simply don’t believe; it just doesn’t inform my daily life (thank God!). It doesn’t keep me from breaking the 2nd commandment, either.

However, one place where I keep on running into religion is … you guessed it … ADOPTION.

I’ve avoided the whole faith/religion/adoption discussion, because really, I’ve felt like it’s not my pot to stir. I don’t like sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong.

Then this happened, and I had an epiphany of sorts. I saw a video called “An Adoption Story” shared on Facebook, with comments such as:


Tears in my eyes.

God’s love is so deep, praise God!

As a thinking individual, I could take an educated guess as to the viewpoint, but as one who always tries to keep an open mind, I clicked through hoping to be surprised.

Sadly, I was NOT surprised.

This is where I feel that the traditional, Christian narrative about adoption … that it’s for the orphan, that Christians a called to care for the orphans … butts up against the reality that, um, sorry to be blunt … They simply don’t.

There’s so much to unpack in the video, but let’s just start with this:

This video would better be called, “An Infertile Couple’s Journey to Complete their Family.”

Adoption was not created by God (if there is one); adoption, as it exists as a legal construct, is an institution created by people. It is an institution that is supposed to be about finding homes for needy children, but instead is often about finding children for needy couples. For “religious expert backup,” I will quote Pastor Deanna Doss Shrodes

To parallel what the flawed man-made government regulated worldly institution of adoption does to what God does when He adopts us through salvation is a mockery to what Jesus accomplished by His sacrifice on the cross.

I love adoptive mom Shannon Dingle’s view

I love adoption. You don’t become a mother of six, including four who were adopted, without loving adoption. But I love adoption in the way I love the cross: despite the pain involved and because of the beauty borne out of that sacrifice. Glorifying adoption without acknowledging the brokenness involved is like celebrating Easter without Good Friday.

I know, crazy. I just posted something about Easter, and I don’t even believe! What am I doing addressing the Christian perspective on adoption?

Well … it’s pervasive and it’s unavoidable, and I feel I must speak to it, and I must speak in theological terms, as this is how the arguments are made to continue what I consider unethical, morally questionable practices.

Here’s an alternate idea:

Adoptees at the center of adoption.

In other words, Put your money where your mouth is.

To ignore the adoptee voice such as this piece does, is a gross injustice, not to mention a huge disservice to those who would say that adoption is about finding a loving, stable family for a child in need. It bears repeating: This video shows that adoption is about finding a baby for an infertile couple.

The main problem I have is that the video shows the pain that the adoptive couple have experienced do to infertility. It shows it, kind of. It shows how they are really sad, but it is VAGUE. There is no clear, concise explanation of what happened. To be blunt: there is no shot of the adoptive mother having an intrusive procedure at a hospital, and then receiving the devastating news that she will likely never carry a child.

Okay. I get that; it’s personal, right?

But then, ohhhhh but then!

I love how they are so vague about how and why they are infertile, but have no problem showing photos of their son—in the hospital, fresh from the womb, being passed for the first time to his adoptive parents. Like that’s not personal?

Also, here’s a great question: Where is the mother?

No, no, no. Not the adoptive mother; the person who made this baby. In her womb. Yeah her. Probably crying in a recovery room somewhere, all alone. Now that the papers are signed, all the “support” for her has disappeared. Just sayin’.

She didn’t “selflessly” give her baby to another couple so that he could have a better life. How could I know this? It’s a matter of ethics. If the mother had been truly educated about her options, if she had been given real and actual support, the adoption agency NEVER would have had the adoption all-but-finalized in the hospital.

Let me be clear: It is so very unethical to have relinquishment take place while a mother is still recovering from giving birth. Hello?! Hormones. Drugs. Emotions. Family interference. All make it difficult for a mom to think about her options. Taking away a woman’s baby is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Let her take her baby home; don’t make her go home with empty arms.

Let her try. Give her support while she tries.

She may decide to relinquish, and that’s what adoption is for, ultimately.

There’s the hearts-and-minds change that we are combatting, and there’s the feet-on-the-ground legislative fight for open records that we are fighting.

The last thing we need is a video like this, perpetuating the notion that the Christian God loves for mothers to  selflessly give their babies to rich, clearly more worthy Christian couples.

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Image credits from “Religious Atheist Or Agnostic On Checkmark” by David Castillo Dominici, St. Sava by adamr, and “Madonna And Jesus Child” by sritangphoto.


From → Adoption

  1. Hmmm…this one really makes me think. I agree with everything. Mother's should be given support BEFORE and AFTER birth before their baby is relinquished. I have gained an understanding of adoption from this blog that has been of great value and shockingly insightful, scary, and painful. (Cheers and snaps for you, Laura) But what about the babies that ARE relinquished. Is adoption so awful in that case? I understand how flawed and unethical the "system" is. But these babies who HAVE been relinquished…isn't it better for them to be adopted than not? I often get confused when I read this fabulous blog, and when I think about adoption. I get that our American version of adoption is a shame. ("A shame" being a phrase that does not carry the power of the word or phrase for what I am trying to say but don't know the right word or phrase to convey the power.) If a baby IS relinquished how is adoption so terrible? Babies and children, do after all, need a home. I agree that the support is not there. I agree adoptees do not have the rights they deserve. I agree "paying" for a child is a horrific concept. But there are babies that don't have homes. Babies who's first mothers (rightfully or not) relinquish them and no other first family members step up to care for the child to avoid the trauma of adoption. I have learned so much about this from this blog. I'm NOT talking about the whole, "I'm such a good person. I'm such a hero because I adopted a baby," syndrome. I'm also not fighting for infertile couples to "finally get that family they want" by snatching the baby from a mother who was not given a shred of a chance for the support she needed or didn't even know was available (if it is at all) to her to raise her child. But these babies or children who are in the situation of not having their first mother or anyone from their first family care for them, isn't adoption a good thing? I mean what happens to the babies or children in that situation who are not adopted? Is adoption, as corrupt as it is, still better for the baby or child that does not have a chance with their first mother or first family, than not being adopted at all? I'm very confused by this.

    • Laura Dennis permalink


      Good questions, Becky. It's true, when adoption does happen, it should be ethical and these days the trend is open adoption. I've written about it a lot, and have learned so much from people like Lori Holden and Judy Miller about creating and maintaining openness in adoption.

      Check out these links:
      About Lori's book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole (Hardcover) —

    • Mary Kate permalink

      Becky, I think that's Laura's point — that there are children who need homes. That adoption, if it is to ever exist ethically, must do so because CHILDREN need homes, not because adults want to be parents. It sounds like semantics, like word play, but it isn't. When adoption is because adults want to be parents, then the focus of adoption is on the needs of adults. When adoption exists because children need homes, the childrens' needs become the center and focus of how adoption happens, and that means that some form of open adoption would become the norm, as we all need and want to know where we began, how we came to be.

      • Thank you for your comment. I agree 100% that it is about children and not “needy adults.” But, still, I feel a tiny confused because shouldn’t a child ONLY be adopted by someone who actually WANTS to be a parent?

    • Claire permalink

      Babies that ARE, HAVE been relinquished? How does that work?
      ***It's not how a baby, or child, becomes available for adoption that determines whether adoption is, or is not, terrible.***
      Adoption is terrible for what happens to someone who is adopted. Adoption is terrible for the falsified birth certificate … and all the other lies and expectations that have been listed here, there and everywhere. All that terribleness of adoption doesn't go away when a baby IS relinquished. Capitalizing the letters doesn't change the experience of living as an adoptee. How a child comes to adoption does not change the terribleness or the experience of living as an adoptee.
      As to what happens to babies and children who do not live with family and are not adopted. That is a whole different topic and a very different discussion when adoption is not used in the answer. So what does happen to children who live in a world, country or culture that does not have Adoption?

      • Thank you for your comment. I appreciate everyone's perspective. Isn't being relinquished traumatic regardless if the baby is adopted or not? Wouldn't it still be better to have adopted parents that are aware of and "proactive" in helping the child through the trauma of being relinquished than not be adopted at all?

      • Claire permalink

        The following is something I found and tweaked:
        "Adoption is what you do when you can’t have kids.
        Fostering is what you do when you want to help kids.

        Adoption is what you do when you can’t have kids because it means you get to take someone else’s kid on “as if born unto” yourself. It means you get to pretend that you’ve got a kid of your own, who you can try to mould into some resemblance of yourself, and who you can pretend will take after you.

        Fostering is what you do when you want to help kids because it means you get to give kids a solidity and stability that they may not otherwise attain. It means that you are there for them for as long as they need you, and you treasure that person as their own entity, refraining from trying to make them into copies of yourself, or pretending that there is anything other than love and care between you.

        Adoption means that the kid is beholden to you for the rest of their life, no matter how your relationship goes.
        Fostering means that your help forged an independent spirit who comes back to see you in their happiness at having your aid during their start in life.

      • I am sorry Claire, it seems as if I have unintentionally upset you about this topic. Assuming these claims of all adopted parents is not honoring their story as well as making claims about all adoptees is not honoring their story. I'm sure that must be the experience of some or even many adoptee/parent relationships. However, it's hard for me to believe that those feelings and actions are the only intention of all parents who adopt a baby. Foster care is a wonderful and necessary thing. I am not claiming a stake that adoption is better than foster care in any way. However, isn't foster care also traumatic? Those are still babies and children who have been relinquished or taken from their homes. Can we just agree that all of these situations are difficult? Again, I deeply apologize and I will refrain from any more comments.

    • Claire, I also mean refraining from any more comments in a respectful way and not in a defensive or insensitive way.

  2. P.S. i am not an adoptee, nor have I relinquished a child myself, nor have any of my family members, so I have no personal reference to the trauma and injustice involved with adoption. I am not infertile. I have suffered a life threatening ectopic pregnancy with emergency surgery and removal of my ruptured fallopian tube. I am also bipolar and worry about my genetic probability of passing this very difficult and painful illness onto another human being. It is a life full of difficulties I wish upon no one. And some may say the very fact that I am bipolar would make me an unfit mother…I have talked about that extensively on my bipolar blog. Many may belief I should not be a mother to any child regardless of how they came into my life because of my mental illness. But, oh boy, that's a whole different conversation. At this point in my life I am uncertain on whether or not I should "join the ranks" of motherhood. And, by the way, I would NEVER have a child without absolute certainty that i was ready or felt "fit to be a mother." And I may never feel that way and never choose to be a mother and that's okay too. Again, oh boy, a whole different conversation. But I cannot endure the chance of repeating another ectopic pregnancy emergency as I did. It was a horribly traumatic experience in many ways. Not just the obvious ones, but the treatment I was given at the hospital etc. So, I have come to terms with the notion that I will never be pregnant again. Does that mean I should never adopt a child? Does that mean I should never experience mothering a child. (and not the poor me…I WANT to experience mothering) but the notion of caring for a child. The joys and pains of helping a human being grow into a person they would want to be. Sorry to have two such long winded responses, but I am so confused by all of this. Would it be WRONG for me to adopt a child?

  3. Thanks for speaking out about this video, in particular. It was triggering for me when I first saw it posted on the newsfeed and even more so, the more people kept posting it. I wasn't even ready to write about it yet. Thanks for articulating this so well for us, today.

    Love you

  4. Mary P permalink

    This made me ill. At about 5:50 into the video the guy says,"he had no name…he didn't belong to anyone." That's bullshit. There's a girl down the hall bleeding from childbirth and grieving like a mother who's lost her child. This couple makes no mention of the mother. They're thanking god, like the stork dropped it into a chute in the hospital. This is not the WHOLE picture of the adoption experience. It's not complete without looking at ALL the perspectives.

  5. David permalink

    This type of video really worries me. Because I want something and I get it it is God will. Maybe a closer look at that viewpoint is in order. Just because you get something doesn't mean it is because it is Gods will. Just to look at one aspect of the "mechanics" . Surrounding most adoptions are secrets and deceptions. Was the birth mother told the likely outcome, was she told about all the support that was available? Was the adoptee told that they were adopted. were they told the truth about why they were relinquished? Does their birth certificate say who gave birth to them? Where the adoptive parents told that their adoptee may one day question what occurred and seek out birth parents In Australia do the adoption advocates like DLF tell the truth about the real situation (no they don't). I could go on. What really are these secrets and deceptions. Sorry but I believe the term is lies.. So if an adoptive parent gets a baby due to a number of lies and intends to continue lying is that Gods will ? Does God work through lies ? Not my place to answer that. How something is achieved is usually more important than what has been achieved.

  6. I suspect DLF, now she appears to have the PM in her corner, will work tirelessly to overturn current adoption laws in Australia that enable the adoptee to seek out their birth parents, or have any knowledge of them. This women is a serial pest and needs to be challenged on her actions – as does the PM and every politician in this country.

    • Gaye permalink

      Agreed Merlene! Aus is going back to the '50s. Money talks.

  7. Gaye permalink

    Thanks Laura – topic I find frustrating and incites an angry response.

  8. Anyone interested please visit my blog

  9. I don't understand why I am getting so many "thumbs down" on my comments. I do not mean to be insensitive and I deeply apologize if I am offending anyone or unintentionally pushing anyone's buttons. I am just trying to gain a better understanding. I am in no way minimizing the trauma of being an adoptee that I will never understand because it is not my personal experience.

  10. Sickofthecrap permalink

    I think adoption IS pretty much proof that there is no god.

  11. Melanie permalink

    I'm experiencing this right now. I already knew when my ex left me and my then 6 month old daughter, to go live life and forget us, that I didn't have the resources to take care of both babies by myself. One is enough and I can't be the best mom if I'm struggling to have them both. I haven't found a family yet, I'm an atheist and everyone is religious in adoption it seems, and I'm probably going to have to accept my son's coming sheep brainwashing.

    I know that I could have tried but I already know that it's best for all of us if one child starts a more stable life and has everything instead of struggling. Maybe I'm wrong, and my heart does hurt. I am happy though to give him a new life. I hope that he loves the life I am planning for him.

    • Laura Dennis permalink


      A dose of truth: your son wants YOU to raise him; not strangers! No matter what material wealth they can give him, YOU are the best person to raise him. It doesn't sound like you are an "unfit mother," or in the throws of addiction, simply someone who has some shitty circumstances handed to her.

      Please, I would like to try to help you — please email me at Perhaps we can brainstorm resources so that you don't lose a child to adoption. Please reconsider!

      Peace and love,

  12. merlenefawdry permalink

    Melanie, I would be interested to hear how you made the decision as to which child to relinquish and if you would be as eager to let your daughter go if the adopting party favoured that gender. It is very hard being left with babies and small children, however, it can be done if the heart is in it. At 24, my husband left me with 5 children, aged 1-6, in a less than supportive social time. The hardships endured were worth it rather than sacrificing any to the 'lucky' draw of adoption where the ideal is 'happy ever after' but the reality is often something quite different due to the feelings of detachment and abandonment experienced by so many adoptees.

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