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Your “orphans” aren’t; the rise of the “orphan” industry based on a lie

November is the time of year when Bastards and (original) Families get it with both barrels.

double-barreled

Those who prefer the “adoption” language take up every square inch of media real estate with National Adoption Month. (What began with a focus on foster kids and has shifted towards the adoption industry’s marketing of infant adoptions) and its spawn, such as the wretched National Adoption Awareness Month and efferts overseas such as the UK’s National Adoption Week.

Meanwhile, over in the realm of the theologically based adoption movement, it’s all “orphans” all the time.

Yesterday for example, was the church based evangelical adoption marketing program quaintly titled “Orphan Sunday.”

It seeks to drive up demand among lay couples churchwide to either “hunger for” or impulse shop for “orphans” as part of a christian movement growth strategy.

As I’ve said many times before, the means by which to grow a movement are relatively limited:

  • high internal to the group birth rate (and desperately attempt to keep as many “in” as possible over their lifetimes)
  • gain converts (which christian evangelists readily admit is high investment for low returns, particularly once a target reaches jr. high school or older)
  • and/or get a hold of someone elses’ kids, which in this American context means both foster and adoption.

Naturally, along with these come other enabling subculture hindrance taboos complete with generated phobias such a:

  • preventing or eschewing contraceptive use
  • rejection of the morning after pill
  • tribal efforts to intercept any information that may interfere with both conception (such as sexual knowledge and understanding)  and pregnancy continuation (likely health risks, etc)
  • and of course, abortion deterrence at every level

“Orphan Sunday” marketing efforts then fit into that broader framework.

It is an annual event when the very concept of the world’s so called “orphans” being not only the church’s “responsibility” (not governments, nor secular alternatives) but actually being the church’s god granted entitlement already, and thus kids are portrayed as merely waiting for the church to “come & get ‘em.”

Entire ministries have been built off these core concepts, to the point that yes, there are those who receive their weekly paycheck and groceries as a result of selling churches and churchgoers on the notion of collecting other people’s children from around the world.

Along with that come video producers, ever on the lookout for human misery and wide eyed children who are photogenic, and their ilk, along with christian adoption agencies always at the ready to set up a marketing materials table out in the vestibule.

Also central to these events is the idea of getting teens and children of the congregations involved in an effort to shape their fundamental attitudes towards adoption, pregnancy, other people’s children around the world, evangelism, and voting habits at a young age.

In case churchgoers just couldn’t get enough of those adorable starving children photos, today, then was World Orphans Day, whose mission statement is perhaps a bit more explicitly politically focused, aiming at getting governments on board.

See the following excerpt:

Only a large scale and sustainable political, social and moral awakening and movement by global governments, NGO’s and religious groups can address this.

As I said, it’s all orphan everything, all the time.

Why?

Because “orphans” (unlike “Bastards”) are theologically useful.

“Bastards” the to biblically biased, can mean anything from “illigitimate children” to “children produced as a result of having sex with those of other tribes”, but no matter the nuances of the interpretation,  sooner or later, those who base their lives around the book run headlong into Deuteronomy 23:2,

A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord.

Which of course comes after the section on how those with various male genital injuries are likewise, not welcome.

The Brick Testament has not portrayed our Bastard specific verse, but their visual portrayal of  Deuteronomy 23:1 certainly covers our situation as well:

not-welcome

Simply put, if we’re “Bastards,” the “not welcome” sign should ultimately go out were these people ever actually chose to live out what their book actually says.

I’ve joked in the past about printing up “exempt” cards to hand out to overzealous evangelists, who by and large have never actually bothered to think about the implications of the various proscribed classes listed  in Deuteronomy.

What part of “Not so fast, go read your book, I’m a Bastard, and therefore not allowed in!” do they so consistently fail to understand?

“Orphans” on the other hand, serve as nothing short of a biblical mandate.

You want to get the crowds riled up, just mention the word “orphan.” All the more so if you have those in any given church dealing with infertility issues of their own.

Not unlike Disney, the book relies on “orphans” as plot devices at almost every turn. We’re remarkably useful.

Bastardette just did a post yesterday covering some of the nuances of certain theological uses of orphans, see:

God’s Heart Adoption: An Adoption Theology Cheat Sheet

Those who want to play the “Orphan” game have plenty of verses to chose from.

They tend to quickly step over inconvenient verses like Exodus 22:22

Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan.

Or Exodus 22:24:

My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.

Or other not dissimilar verses about ensuring there be “justice” for the orphan (see Exodus 24:17):

Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge.

Or the even more strongly worded Exodus 27:19:

Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow.

(to pull just a couple I happened to have handy)

and instead, jump headlong into sermon notes and resources pushing adoption (link opens a pdf) in the modern American interpretation of the word complete with sealed records and identity forfeiture.

See, we’re simply too useful, to let reality intrude.

I’ve written before (in this case, in relation to adoptions from Vietnam) about the magical number inflation these orphan evangelists engage in.

How they conflate lay ideas of what an “orphan” must mean for churchgoer mobilization purposes, with the actual legal definition that pertains to intercountry adoptions, thus ensuring kids with surviving parents or other family often willing to take them in, suddenly get rebranded as “orphans” to feed that newly generated market demand:

…terminology such as “orphan” in international adoptionland does not necessarily refer to ‘a child whose parents are dead’ or ‘a child bereft of parents.’ “Orphan” in relation to international adoption law has a very specific meaning.

Children adopted internationally after being designated “orphans” often have one or both parents still alive (and yes, in some cases even still seeking them, as often parents are lured into signing paperwork and leaving their children at ‘orphanages’ with promises of it ‘just being for a short duration’, perhaps until the parent has more money to care for the child.)

While the idea of a child whose parents are now dead tends to be the non-technical/non-legal definition in lay or common use, “orphan” as relates to international adoption has a very specific technical meaning embedded in international law in relation to the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act and a set of criteria laid out in its definition of an “orphan.”(WAY too huge to lay out here, instead use this search tool of the document, searching on the term “orphan.” “Sec. 1101. Definitions” contains the technical definition of “orphan” for purposes of international adoption.)

“Orphan” is not the only linguistic stumbling block, Look here for a definition of how “Abandonment” is defined in relation to the USCIS Guidebook for international adoption and how that begins to pose a new set of issues in relation to Vietnamese adoptions. (The entire guidebook is well worth glancing through.)

The 145 million children worldwide “orphaned or displaced” number that evangelicals fling around so casually as justification for anything they might want to do next “for the sake of the orphans” must also be viewed in full context.

It’s from the U.N.’s 2008 ESTIMATE based on 2007 numbers.

Specifically, it comes from The U.N’s “The State of the World’s Children” report. Here’s a link to the executive summary (link opens a PDF.)

As an aside, isn’t it hysterically funny to watch wingnuts who otherwise reject, demonize, often outright hate the U.N., viewing their efforts in outright competition with the U.N. for access to kids, then turn to the U.N. for such when they need “big numbers”?

All the more so in that UNICEF’s position on adoption can hardly be considered supportive of any notion of the adoption free-for-all so many christian ministries salivate at the thought of.

But again, what criteria has the United Nations used to generate those numbers?

See the way the U. N. describes what their estimate number constitutes:

children have lost one or both parents due to all causes

Similarly, also see another of the U.N.’s reports from that same year: specifically see footnote 1 on page 13 of The Global HIV Challenge: 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic (link opens a PDF):

Contrary to traditional usage, UNAIDS uses “orphan” to describe a child who has lost either one or both parents; the organization uses the terms “maternal orphan”, “paternal orphan”, and “double orphan” to describe a child who has lost its mother, father, or both parents, respectively.

So what then are the “orphans” in this number?

In some cases, those numbers can simply represent kids who lost a single parent.

We’re not talking about 145 million kids with no parents, or ” in need” of new parents.

Quite often, we’re talking about kids with one parent, just  more often than not living in poverty.

These are viewed as exploitable people, deemed worthy of little more than having their children taken and provided via the adoption market to “good christian, heterosexual, two parent, wealthy American homes” instead.

Leave it to an evangelist to inflate their numbers, using kids in poverty as a justification to mobilize modern American largely suburban churchgoers.

The mythical “orphan crisis” is built upon a lie.

A misuse of statistics in an effort to generate adoption demand, and a desperately desired spike in the now crumbling inter-country adoption market.

Total Fiscal Year 2009 Adoption Statistics

As I wrote just this past week:

The 2004 peak of 22,990 has now been nearly cut in half over the past six years.

and

This has left the adoption industry scrambling, consolidating, engaging in scams and fraud, and pushing “bargain basement” adoptions from African countries such as Ethiopia and Uganda, essentially a “two for the price of one” steal compared to prices from before the adoption market crash.

Agencies are being squeezed out as the desperate race to make kids available to the adoption process folds in on itself.

There those who stand to gain by inflating these numbers, both the adoption industry and the christian movement growth efforts. More often than not the institutions themselves, individual agencies and the like represent both under a single roof.

When the American government then pushes adoption as both domestic and international policy, over and over again, it ends up pushing what is essentially a theological stance and theologically aligned institutions.

You want genuine Justice for the orphan?

Let kids grow up within their own families, keep their identities intact, and refuse strip mine pregnant women, or Mothers and Fathers of their children. Refuse to participate in the global trafficking in children.

Lest (the believers among you) find yourselves “cursed.”

Or, at least your names cursed among Bastards and their Families.

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