Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Preaching practices

A report on ABC (US) television’s World News Tonight yesterday talked about how evangelical Christians in America are urging their followers, especially childless couples, to adopt or foster children as part of a nineteenth-century sounding “orphan care” (they take their charge from a bible passage that tells people to look after widows and orphans).

Critics have suggested that it’s merely a political move to counter criticism that by focusing so much on opposition to abortion, rightwing christianists act as if the right to life begins at conception and ends at birth. Their other obsession—gay rights—has led them to oppose not just same sex-marriage, but also adoption by same-sex couples. Their new-found promotion of adoption by their ranks deals to both by providing a place for unwanted children as well as an alternative to the parents they seek to exclude, and that’s politically useful, even if it really isn’t the reason.

Other criticism centres on promotion of their religious beliefs—promoting to their adopted children may be one thing, but clearly they have no right to force it on children in foster care. They counter that they don’t believe in compulsion, but their track record creates some scepticism of that claim and, in any case, religious fundamentalists of all types expect varying degrees of compulsion by definition.

Most of America’s estimated 65 million evangelicals are white and rightwing Republicans. Most children needing adoption or foster care are from racial or ethnic minorities. Can these rightwing white folk provide a home to children who have a racial and cultural identity so different from their own? And what if a child they foster is gay or lesbian or transgendered? Given their belief structure, are we to believe that they wouldn’t attempt to “change” or “cure” the child? Suicide is already the leading cause of death for GLBT young people, so is it really a good idea to potentially, at least, put them in harm’s way?

So, rightwing christianists think that same-sex couples are automatically unfit to be parents. I happen to think that many rightwing christianists are unfit, too, especially to be foster parents, because of the harm they may do to a child they don’t understand or accept. The trouble, you see, is that when anyone starts with the presumption that all people in a class of people are unfit for something like parenthood, you invite the same charge back at you. The difference, of course, is that I’m prepared to accept that some rightwing christianists might make good parents, while they’re not willing to make the same admission.

So, in a turnabout is fair-play kind of mindset, I couldn’t help but think that if evangelicals are promoting adoption and fostering among couples that can’t have children themselves, maybe it’s as case of “They can’t reproduce, so they recruit.”

Further reading:

Evangelicals Start Adoption Push (AP via ABC News)

Evangelicals See an Evolution of Their Own (ABC News)

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