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Archive Book Reviews Steven Wedgeworth

The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption

Kathryn Joyce,
The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption
PublicAffairs, 2013

joyce_book Kathryn Joyce’s The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption is in many ways a sensationalist and inflammatory book. Even its promotional blurbs on the back dust jacket pitch it in this way, with one calling it a “chilling exposé that promises to become a muckraker classic” and another saying that it “takes us for a fast and frightening ride down a road to hell that’s paved with ‘good intentions,’ willful ignorance, and outright deception.” This has led, unsurprisingly, to some advocates for evangelical adoption characterizing the book as an “attack” from “the Left” against both evangelical Christianity and right-wing American politics. And while Ms. Joyce’s typical publishing venues (The Nation, Mother Jones, etc), her previous book (a similar ideological “exposé,” this time on the Christian patriarchy movement), and her journalistic narrative style lend some weight to these descriptions, it would be a mistake to dismiss The Child Catchers as mere propaganda. It is especially important to see the ways in which the religious and ideological motivations for adoption might contribute to the various cases of abuse which the book chronicles.

It is important to note the actual concern of the book: adoption abuse, particularly in the international field. At no point in her book does Ms. Joyce condemn evangelical Christianity or adoption as such. She is clearly disturbed by certain trends, and she likely does disdain pro-life arguments and demonstrations (though she doesn’t explicitly say this in the book), however, she attempts to strike a balance between critique and objective reporting. In her preface she explains her general outlook:

When I titled this book The Child Catchers, I thought of the tension between two possible interpretations of that phrase: a savior catching a child falling in midair and bringing him to safety  or the darker image of someone’s offspring being snatched away from her family and home. It’s the same tension that underlies the dueling narratives about the institution of modern adoption, often viewed as an unqualified good or an unqualified evil, purely rescue or purely theft. The truth, as usual, probably lies somewhere in between, a different answer from case to case. (xvi-xvii)1

And while the issues surrounding adoption ethics are broader than the unique expression of Christian adoption, “the Christian adoption movement threatens to tip that balance” (xvii). This is why, she says, the emphasis is here placed on the religious subculture:

This book focuses on evangelical Christians as the dominant group in adoption today, promoting an agenda that shapes larger trends. However, many of the same complexities are present in all adoptions, domestic and international, religious and secular… the movement’s failures reflect the broader problems in the adoption industry as well as the intricate moral balance of how Americans and Westerners should engage in child welfare missions on the global stage… the sense of mission has frequently obscured the harm the industry can do, excusing missteps as the cost of doing God’s work. (xvi-xvii)

Ms. Joyce does not condemn the movement outright, nor does she call for the abolition of adoption. “It doesn’t have to be that way,” she writes, “but figuring out how to do better means understanding what has gone wrong” (xvii). Some readers may not be able to believe that Ms. Joyce does indeed want the Christian adoption movement to “do better,” but even if they cannot, they should still themselves want to see the abuses around the adoption industry reformed, and thus there is no reason that they cannot gain valuable insight from The Child Catchers. As we will explain in more detail, Ms. Joyce even highlights certain evangelical Christians who are themselves calling for adoption reform. She treats them with respect and takes their arguments seriously. We should return the favor;  evangelical Christians ought to take Ms. Joyce’s work seriously ourselves.

While not laid out in any systematic order, The Child Catchers is an investigation into: 1) reports of outrageous abuse and widespread corruption in both adopting families and adoption agencies, 2) an ideological critique of the founding philosophical and religious principles, 3) the effect of international adoption on developing countries, 4) the coercive treatment of the birthmother on the part of adoption agencies and crisis pregnancy centers, and 5) the racist and imperialist undertones of much transcultural adoption. These topics are not treated separately in the book but are rather woven in and out of the various journalistic narratives. We will not here attempt to summarize and explain the entirety of The Child Catchers, but will instead highlight the most foundational issues, as we understand them.

It should also be observed that The Child Catchers interacts with both more mainstream forms of evangelicalism and its fringe expressions– notably the “Quiverfull” movement treated by Ms. Joyce’s earlier book. This is important because some of the cases of abuse could well be explained, not by the interest in adoption per se, but rather because of the various oddities of these fringe groups. Still, Ms. Joyce also points to potentially troubling ideological commitments held by the more mainstream spokesmen, and it is here where evangelical readers should be most attentive. Is there a logical connection between the ideology and theology held in common among all the evangelical proponents of adoption, regardless of their other sociological distinctives, and the harmful practical results highlighted by The Child Catchers? In our opinion, that question ought to be the most pressing.

Adoptions Gone Wrong

The largest portion of the book, and the part which grabs the most headlines (and therefore drives sales), are the narratives of abuse and tragedy. These are, unfortunately widespread among adoption agencies and adopting families, particularly within the evangelical subculture. Each chapter in The Child Catchers features a story of this sort, serving as the platform for further ideological investigation. Ms. Joyce covers a wide variety of cases, taking the reader through Haitian, Ukrainian, American, Ethiopian, Liberian, Rwandan, and Korean adoption cases. While the nature of the abuse differed between the cases, the lack of appropriate institutional oversight and an intense hostility towards any scrutinization of the practices on the part of adoption advocates are characteristics which appear as unifying factors and serve to undergird most of the abuse.

Ms. Joyce begins her book with the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake in 2010. Predictably, she highlights the farcical Laura Silsby who attempted to take 33 children out of Haiti without any documentation or legal provision (6-16). Beyond ignorance, or, as it turns out, defiance of, the law (Ms. Silsby was warned repeatedly beforehand that what she was planning was illegal, 15-16), Ms. Silsby also failed to identify actual orphans –all 33 of the children she attempted to “rescue” had at least one living parent (13). And the biggest problem is that the Silsby narrative is not actually an isolated instance of willful negligence in the name of humanitarian and even Christian motives. Ms. Joyce notes multiple stories of abuse in Haiti and explains how the context should have lead us to expect such problems.

Because of the media attention accompanying the earthquake, Haiti went from being a very minor player in international adoptions to a cause célèbre. “At some point a shift happened, and the silver lining to Haiti’s tragedy became the main story” (2). The mission became saving children, but not merely from temporary danger but “from Haiti itself” (5). And this quickly became less about the actual children’s specific needs and more about the opportunity to provide salvation:

Again and again Haitian children were characterized as prisoners in a backward nation, their ambiguous orphanhood overshadowed by their status as victims. Few asked where these children came from, if they had surviving family and friends in Haiti who were looking for them, or if they wanted to leave their country. As it would turn out, many were not actually orphans. (5)

Ms. Joyce describes the problem in terms of naive trendiness and the white savior complex, but she also notes that the Christian organizations were the most forceful critics of any legal oversight and accountability, particularly when it came from UNICEF. Dixie Bickel of “God’s Littlest Angels” orphanage said that UNICEF isn’t “working for the good of the children.” Randy Bohlender of the Zoe Foundation said that UNICEF was “nation-pandering,” implying that Haiti should not have a say in the treatment of its own citizens. And Vision Forum Ministries claimed that UNICEF was holding Haiti’s children “hostage” (11). This hostility was caused, in large part, by the Christian groups’ confidence in the righteousness of their mission and an identification of international adoption with the kingdom of God. Unfortunately, they allowed such convictions to justify the rejection of ordinary legal protocol and careful prudence.

Ms. Joyce even documents adoption agencies that purposely deceive foreign governments in order to circumvent the law. A representative from Bridges of Faith ministry in Alabama stated, “We don’t use the ‘a’ word–adoption… Since we are not an adoption agency, we do not exist in any way to arrange adoptions” (30). However, this same ministry also advertises themselves as a great way to adopt children from the Ukraine. Tom Benz, the ministry’s founder, explained, “Our program in Ukraine, if it were about adoption, it couldn’t happen… Everyone knows it’s about adoption, but it can’t be about adoption” (32). Ms. Joyce fills in the rest:

The reason it can’t be about adoption is because Ukraine has cause to enact limitations on its hosting exchanges. Although Ukraine has long sent children for international adoption in the United States, in recent years it has tried to replace this with domestic adoption by Ukrainian parents instead, as the nation’s economy has grown and the country faces its own increasing infertility issues. In past years the pressure to find children for lucrative foreign adoptions has led to scandals, including a baby-selling scheme in which Ukrainian mothers’ children were stolen after birth and offered for adoption as orphans. These days there are no healthy children under three years old available for international adoption from Ukraine, and very few under six. (32-33)

Faced with this sort of restriction, Bridges of Faith chooses to deceive and bill themselves as an orphan “outreach” ministry. The disguise does not go very deep, though. “These kids are not told it’s about adoption… because in Ukraine, it’s not about adoption. But the kids all know… They’re smarter than the government” (34).

This sort of Christian vigilantism can easily spill over into outright tyranny and abuse. By far the most disturbing story in the book was that of Serene Campbell Allison, of The Above Rubies Ministry, an expression of the “Quiverfull” movement which Ms. Joyce treated in her previous book. As a part of a Liberian adoption drive promoted by Above Rubies, Sam and Serene Allison adopted six children from Liberia (178, 181). You can read the whole story online here, but it can be briefly summarized as follows. After adopting, the Allisons went on to exploit and abuse their adoptive children in incredible ways, forcing them to sew traditional African dresses (dresses they had never actually worn in Africa, 181), to carry out construction work on the survivalist-style cabin (lacking reliable power and water and having no air conditioning), and to kill and dress their own geese and turkeys for food. “We went from Africa to Africa,” said one of the adoptees (182). The situation eventually devolved into outright child abuse (184), and one of the children was even (illegally) sent back to Liberia (189-190, 203)! The other children were handed off to foster care, with the Allisons explaining themselves by saying the children had “rejected” their love and care (191).

While it might seem that the Allisons’ case was extraordinary, it again seems to exist within a certain sort of recognizable context. Ms. Joyce writes:

Stories began to pile up of children being returned to Liberia. “You heard about the Tennessee case that returned a child to Russia?” Edward Winant, former vice consul in charge of adoptions at the US Embassy in Monrovia, asked me. He was referencing the adoptive mother in Tennessee who had sent her seven-year-old Russian son back to Moscow in 2010, with a note pinned to his coat charging that he was violent and mentally unstable. “We’ve had at least three similar cases, where the parents took the child, for some reason they couldn’t handle them, and sent them back.” In one case, Winant said, a Liberian girl between seven and ten was found wandering the Brussels airport with $200 in her pocket. (200)

The website Pound Pup Legacy has an archive of various cases of adoption abuses and even murders coming from so-called “fundamentalist” or extreme homeschooling communities. The value of this observation, it seems to us, is not to imply that the particular religious or theological context itself causes the abuse, but rather that it can easily and significantly contribute to the abuse because of its resistance and even hostility towards proper oversight and accountability. And this brings us to a second important point of the book, the flawed principles of the evangelical adoption movement.

A Radical Theology

Ms. Joyce nowhere attempts to lay out the philosophical (or theological) principles behind the evangelical adoption movement. In this respect, then, her book is significantly weakened. Rather than explaining how certain associations are meaningful– that a certain adopting family also homeschools, practices corporal punishment, or believes in patriarchy, for instance– she simply states them as obvious examples of irrationality or abusive disposition. When she does this, she both gives up her claim to objectivity and gives the recipients of her criticisms valid reason to ignore or reject what she has to say. In short, she too falls into the “culture war” trap, assuming the side of the enlightened progressive. But Ms. Joyce does not only deal with the far-right fringe of evangelicalism, but also includes more mainstream voices like Rick Warren and Russell Moore, both Southern Baptist ministers of some note. Is there  actually some ideological bridge between these men and the more abusive faces of evangelical adoption? Ms. Joyce hints that there is, but leaves it up to the reader to form the connection.

Ms. Joyce does try to give us some tools for making sense of it all. She notes that what sets evangelical adoption apart from other adoptions is its infusion of religious imagery and themes into the adoptive process. Thus adoption is often advertised as a way to help children find “new life in Christ” (8). This does not mean physical and temporal life only, but rather, “to those who understood evangelical manners of speaking, the term ‘new life… seemed to cast adoption as one way of making new Christians” (8). Indeed, according to some advocates for adoption, Christians “aren’t just called to adoption; they are commanded to it” (37). This is all bound up in a specific adoption and “orphan theology” (57) which drives the movement as a whole. Adoption, we are told, is both the foundation for and the necessary application of the gospel itself.

It is precisely in its inability to explicitly and critically engage with this theology of evangelical adoption that one sees The Child Catchers’ most glaring weakness. Ms. Joyce clearly finds the rhetoric alarming, but she chooses to maintain the style of the reporter, and, as such, she can only highlight the major talking points. Still, these ought to be enough to guide the more informed reader. Ms. Joyce cites the Southern Baptist Convention’s resolution “On Adoption and Orphan Care” as a typical expression of the theology of adoption (55). The argument there could be expressed simply: God has adopted Christians, therefore Christians ought to adopt orphans. While that resolution does not explicitly call on every Christian to adopt, but to seek God’s guidance on the matter, Russell Moore, a primary drafter of that resolution went on in the next year to publicly state that “every Christian is called to rescue orphans.” He explains what this means in his 2010 article in Christianity Today:

In saying that orphan care is missional, I do not mean that every Christian is called to adopt or foster a child. But every Christian is called to care for orphans. As with every aspect of Christ’s mission, a diversity of gifts abounds. Some have room at their table and in their hearts for another stocking on the mantle by this coming Christmas. Others are gifted financially to help families who would like to adopt but cannot figure out how to make ends meet. Others can babysit while families with children make their court dates and complete home-study papers.

Still others can lead mission trips to rock and hug and sing to orphans who may never be adopted. Pastors can simply ask whether anyone in their congregation might be called to adopt or foster parent, or to empower someone who is. And all of us can pray—specifically and urgently—for orphans the world over.

What differentiates Moore’s description of orphan care from the universal “love your neighbor” principle–a tenet held by all Christians– is its particular theological grounding. For Dr. Moore:

Adoption is, on one hand, gospel. Our identity and inheritance are grounded in our adoption in Christ. Adoption is also mission. In this, our adoption spurs us to join Christ in advocating for the poor, the marginalized, the abandoned, and the fatherless.

Even despite his qualification that not every individual Christian must adopt, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that adoption is the highest goal for Dr. Moore and the best form of orphan care for the church. Indeed, it is adoption which Dr. Moore singles out as a means of “advocating for the poor, the marginalized, the abandoned, and the fatherless.” In fact, adoption is a way for the visible church to make itself resemble the invisible, the spiritual kingdom of Christ. It is a way for the church, in the words of Dr. Moore, to “transcend categories of the flesh.” And this is why Dr. Moore ultimately looks forward to all churches being multiracial and multiethnic. Adoption is a primary way to bring about this reconstruction of the human race. “That’s adoption,” writes Dr. Moore, “We’re part of a brand-new family, a new tribe, with a new story, a new identity” (71). But, as Ms. Joyce points out, this also includes, for Dr. Moore, exchanging his children’s Russian heritage, not simply for a spiritual Christian one, but also for a Mississippian one– “trading Dostoevsky for Faulkner” (71). This exchanging of earthly cultures will be a theme to which we return below, but it is clearly a point where the current Evangelical advocates for adoption depart simple Christian charity and actually argue for a distinct form of culture-making.

That earthly human adoption is the apotheosis of evangelical adoption theology (rather than simply one part of a larger world of orphan care) can be seen in the various moments of pastoral application in key sermons. This is particularly evident when Rick Warren said at a 2010 Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit, “When I say ‘orphan care,’ it’s adoption, first, second, and last” (41). Obviously not every evangelical believes that adoption excludes foster care, assisting orphanages, and strengthening local communities. Dr. Moore, as we noted earlier, attempts to offer other means of orphan care. Still, the major talking points and conference speakers overshadow the very important nuances. For example, Jason Kovacs of the ABBA Fund explains his desire for the church to build an “adoption culture,” by saying “Get as many people in the church to adopt, and adopt as many kids as you can” (42). The problem is made worse when such rhetoric is couched in the context of James 1:27, as Warren’s was, suggesting that contemporary adoption is the primary mode of “pure and undefiled religion.”

The effect of this theology is that it makes earthly adoption a divine command, de jure divino. Every particular adoption is thus seen as “God’s will,” and any regulation or limitation of it is therefore a case of obstructing religious expression. Ms. Joyce notes the persistent language of predestination in evangelical adoption literature, that the adopted child somehow always belonged to the adoptive family and that it was “meant to be.” This serve the purpose of “aligning prospective adopters’ desires with the will of God” (75). On this point Ms. Joyce conflates a simple belief in predestination with a mysticization of the doctrine, one which seeks to identify God’s secret decree with an internal intuition. An orthodox predestinarian would admit that whatever result comes about, whether it be a successful adoption or not, is God’s plan. What Ms. Joyce is attempting to identify, however, is something different. The executive director of Open Adoptions & Family Services observed a very similar feature occurring on an institutional level, “A lot of the religiously affiliated agencies start from the adoptive parents’ perspective and cast them as saviors and angels” (65). And of course, there can really only be one source of opposition to saviors and angels.

Viewed in this light, the current evangelical adoption theology can be seen as a form of the old Schwärmerei, a name given by Martin Luther to the radical reformers represented by Thomas Müntzer. The English name was “Enthusiasm,” highlighting the sort of mysticism identified earlier: Enthusiasts believed that they possessed a personal and individual inspiration, with the Holy Spirit speaking to them directly and infallibly. In so attempting to mix general and special revelation, this enthusiasm effectively identifies the invisible realm with the visible work of Christians, whether in the institutional church or in their parachurch activities. This theological error is the shared principle among the disparate evangelical adoption advocates, and it causes them to downplay and sometimes even reject earthly legal practice and oversight, experienced common wisdom from the wider human society, and a proper understanding of human vocation. Further, by putting nearly exclusive focus on individual adoption, this theology greatly limits the socio-political imagination of its practitioners, keeping them from seeing alternative and perhaps more comprehensive options for caring for orphans and widows, as well as the impoverished across the globe.

While Ms. Joyce does not give an extended critique of this theology, she does reference the work of Dr. David Smolin, himself a conservative evangelical Christian (his denomination, the Communion of Reformed and Evangelical Churches, would no doubt qualify as “fundamentalist” according to the standards of Ms. Joyce) and an adoptive parent. In particular, she cites Dr. Smolin’s “Of Orphans and Adoption, Parents and the Poor, Exploitation and Rescue: A Scriptural and Theological Critique of the evangelical Christian Adoption and Orphan Care Movement.” In that essay, Dr. Smolin makes a number of criticisms, noting 1) the failure of most evangelical proponents of adoption to carefully examine the definition and content of “adoption” in the Bible (with contemporary advocates using current American legal practice as the assumed standard), 2) the resistance to proper accountability which amounts to “willful ignorance of what has come before them in the wider history and world of adoption,” 3) a failure to treat “orphans and widows” as a combined unit, and 4) a failure to consider the wider context and cause of the orphan crisis in various countries. Of this last point, Dr. Smolin writes, “A rational ‘orphan care’ movement would be strongly focused on reforming the practices that continues to place and maintain children in such substandard and damaging institutions in the first place, particularly since such intercountry adoption will only reach, at best, a small minority of the children.” Far from being primary, Smolin believes that adoption ought to be a temporary means to solving a much larger and systemic problem. While we have some disagreements with Dr. Smolin’s essay, we should say that we are largely sympathetic with his critique, and our own practical concerns closely mirror his.

A New Colonialism

This last observation brings us to another of Ms. Joyce’s major criticisms. The international adoption movement has actually served to further a certain sort of imperialism and cultural domination. At the time of the earthquake, Haiti’s prime minister illustrated the problem of adoption being seen as the primary means of international aid, asking The Wall Street Journal rhetorically “How can we rebuild a nation if the only chance that parents have to give their children a future is to part with them?” (5). The unfortunate fact is that international adoptions may help specific children, but taken collectively, they can (and often do) subvert local communities and greatly weaken impoverished nations as a whole. Some critics have even said that international adoption is effectively working to destroy politically weaker and materially impoverished cultures.

A similar problem occurs with inter-racial adoptions. When pitched as “a second chance to get it right” in regards to race relations (71), the complications are rarely discussed:

[T]he orphan crisis “affords the church a tangible opportunity to live out a God-based ethic of racial relationships and to engage in racial reconciliation to its utmost.” But practically speaking that means the SBC [Southern Baptist Convention] is addressing its racism most prominently not by talking to black adults, who may have endured the effects of the church’s institutional bias, or by making its congregations more appealing to people of color but instead by adopting children from other races and cultures—frequently, these days, from Africa. (71)

In reaction to this sort of social idealism, a sort that is shared by many non-Christian activists as well, “the Association of Black Social Workers famously declared that emerging trends of interracial adoption of black children by white parents seemed more like theft than solidarity” in 1972 (71). Ms. Joyce also records the observation of Karen Dubinsky on this topic:

“There was this fledgling attempt to make interracial adoption a good thing in the public view,” recalls historian Karen Dubinsky, author of Babies Without Borders, “with white liberals saying that integrating our families is making our families look like how we want the world to look. When all of a sudden these cranky black social workers say, ‘Stop stealing our children.’ That’s the way the history has tended to be remembered: that ‘kidnapping’ came along and spoiled all the fun.” (72)

Ms. Joyce sums up this parallel by saying, “Today’s Christian adoption movement is meeting the same critique that secular, liberal interracial adoption met years ago: that rescuing children through adoption can leave them unrooted and estranged, caught between dueling identities and never quite at home” (72).

All adoptions, no matter their context, will result in some amount of alienation from the original family and thus a resulting identity confusion. In fact, in almost every case of adoption, that alienation and confusion was already present in some degree. So the real problem is in the nature of the “rescue” and of the “rescuers.” International adoption has often been charged with colonialism and imperialism because it “rescues” children from their native homelands, cultures and families, inserting them into someone else’s homeland, culture and family, usually that of white Americans. It is not so much cultural redemption as cultural exchange, with the adoption agencies and adoptive families holding the vast majority of the power and influence. And it is at this point where one might ask the question never raised by Joyce: to what extent is the evangelical adoption movement necessarily bound up in the “white savior” complex, and to what extent is this merely promotional rhetoric used (and thought to be necessary) to encourage people to take on a costly (both financially and emotionally) and intimidating work? Ms. Joyce also glaringly omits the role of black pastors in the evangelical adoption movement, a feature that would add considerable complexity to the narrative, particularly when it comes to questions of cultural imperialism.

The Beginnings of Internal Reform

The Child Catchers is actually not a wholly negative book. It notes several voices of reform coming from within the evangelical adoption movement. In particular she mentions Tom DiFilipo, Chuck Johnson, and Brian Luwis of the National Council for Adoption, as well as the Christian Alliance for Orphans’ Jedd Medefind, and the already-mentioned David Smolin. Mr. Johnson explicitly criticized the notion that “to be an American or to be prosperous is better than to be poor and in another country” (227). He went on to reject the notion that the ends of adoption justify immoral means, saying, “In the heat of the moment, people will feel led to break the rules, which is a feeling I encourage them to question ,because it really is hurting the process” (228). Jedd Medefind even said that he believes that it was a mistake for the US to “emphasiz[e] adoption over other forms of orphan care” (234).

For his part, Dr. Smolin is encouraging a redirection of funds and energy to the impoverished local communities themselves:

Seeing adoption as a divine mission leads people to embrace an industry in which they routinely spend $20,000 to $40,000 to adopt a child without being willing to spend several hundred dollars to preserve the original family. Taking children from the poor becomes normalized standard practice, justified by the sense that adopters are emulating God. A truly just orphan-care movement, he said, would be a poverty alleviation movement. (236-237)

“The root problem remains the same,” Dr. Smolin writes. “[T]he need is less children requiring adoption than poor families desperate for support” (238). Ms. Joyce concludes this section by noting that pastor Rick Warren had responded favorably to a number of these criticisms and has begun to implement many of the suggested reforms. She is especially optimistic about the work going on in Rwanda.

Conclusion

There is plenty for readers, especially evangelical readers, to dislike about The Child Catchers. At times Ms. Joyce is unable to fully hold back her disdain for the evangelical context, and she writes condescendingly of homeschooling, certain forms of childrearing discipline, and more conservative evangelical religious teachings such as predestination and complementarianism. This often allows her to group otherwise diverse personalities into the shared group of “fundamentalist” or “evangelical,” and it does give the reader occasion to wonder whether or not it isn’t simply a “left-wing” culture war “attack” of its own. Still, Ms. Joyce does not actually condemn her subject matter as irredeemable, and her outrage is generally aimed at the truly outrageous abuses, as well as at their ideological and rhetorical engines. The positive portrayal of men like Rick Warren and especially David Smolin give support to Ms. Joyce’s original stated goal of her “figuring out how to do better” (xvii). We have in an earlier piece noted John Piper’s measured response to The Child Catchers. It is our hope that all evangelicals will be able to respond in such a way.

We could wish for more on the side of positive proposals. After all, many of those Christians who are to seeking to adopt are not actually motivated by a desire to take over other cultures and countries, either wittingly or unwittingly. They are just trying to help children in need. And those children are, in fact, in need, whatever the best way to meet those needs might be. There is also perhaps the most common motivation of infertile couples seeking to have children of their own, to fulfill their natural drive for family in the face of a natural obstacle. The various critiques leveled above would not stick to these groups. Thus it would be helpful to discuss the ways in which adoption should be carried out, and by whom, as well as the other means of helping orphans and widows that are available to concerned Christians. Perhaps future books and future conversations can further this very important issue.

  1. All parenthetical citations will refer to Joyce. Other sources will be explicitly noted in the body of this review.

By Steven Wedgeworth

Steven Wedgeworth is the associate pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, British Columbia. He writes about theology, history, and political theory, and he has taught Jr. High and High School. He is the founder and general editor of The Calvinist International, an online journal of Christian Humanism and political theology, and a Director for the Davenant Institute.