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An article titled "The Evangelical Adoption Crusade" appeared Friday in The Nation, lodging a hard-hitting critique of Christians and adoption. Those who disapprove of Christian adoption efforts do so for many reasons. Some are troubled by real and perceived ethical concerns. Some feel an orphan's ethnicity matters more than their need for a family. Some have encountered purported Christians who bear little resemblance to Jesus. But whatever the motives, supporters of Christian adoption and orphan care can gain most not by merely dismissing the critics but by learning from them—even when we disagree profoundly with their claims and conclusions.

Such is the case with "The Evangelical Adoption Crusade." Author Kathryn Joyce spent more than a year seeking to find and amplify what she feels are the worst flaws of the Christian adoption and orphan care movement. But while the article may distort as much as it reveals, Christian orphan advocates would do well to listen to Joyce's concerns. Even if mistaken in many regards, a critic will almost always wake us to legitimate issues if we're attentive. Several vital reminders, in particular, can be taken from this article:

Affirm the complexity and engage it wisely. Every orphan's story includes tragedy, and bringing healing to tragic circumstances is never simple. We must acknowledge this and talk frankly about hard issues like how to do more to hold fragile families together and how to appropriately honor birthmothers. If we're serious about loving orphans well, we must do the hard work of study, preparation, and continual recalibration. The history of efforts to help the needy—both secular and religious—is rife with good intentions gone amuck. Christians should ...

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April 2011

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