Words Matter (continued)

Friday, June 21, 2013

In my previous post, I asked about the use of the word “orphan” for children in foster care in the U.S. and received several thought-provoking responses.

So now let’s move outside the U.S. to developing countries, where there are roughly 20,000,000 “double orphans”, children where both parents have died. Here the debate is not the use of the word “orphan”.

The question I have is this….. Is it appropriate to use the phrase “rescue an orphan” when talking about adopting internationally?


Anonymous said...

This is such an interesting discussion, and which words to use has occupied my mind often lately. As we've been waiting for our match with a birthmom, many of our well-meaning loved ones have said something to the effect of how good we are to "rescue" or "take in" a helpless orphan. I have a few problems with that. First of all, the word rescue inherently implies to me a one-sided gift one person (or people) is giving to another. If we are "rescuing" a child, then he/she brings nothing to the table, so to speak. Now we feel exactly the opposite - that WE are the ones being rescued, being blessed - by both the baby and the birth family. Actually I don't like to use the word "rescue" much outside of fairy tales - it very rarely describes what happens in real human relationships. We bring something to the baby and the birth family, and they bring something so precious also. That's what makes adoption so incredible. So I don't like "rescue." For similar reasons, I don't like the idea of how "good" we are for "taking in" a child. Taking in is what you do with a stray animal - it doesn't describe what we have done: a passionate, long-term, prayerful, difficult search for what we so desperately want - a child to give our love and devotion to. Maybe "take in" would have been more appropriate in another time, when people showed up at the orphan train and picked out a suitable kid to bring home. But it doesn't describe what we feel we are praying for every day. And as far as us being good, I ask myself regularly what I would have done if I had become pregnant when I was too young or otherwise unable to care for a child. Would I have had the selflessness, the courage, the pure guts to give up my body for nine months - and then to hand over the product of that ordeal to someone else to ensure the very best chance for my child? I honestly don't know. If there are awards going around for being "good" (and there aren't), I would definitely nominate birth parents way before adoptive parents.
- Melet

Frank said...

I agree with just about everything you said and I love the way you wrote it. I also have trouble with the concept of how "good" any of one of us is for "taking in" a child. But I remain torn on where I stand regarding "rescue". I read a book a couple of years ago on evangelism (wish I could remember the name). It talked about how God reaches down and rescues us as if we are drowning (we are) and He is the life-preserver (He is). It doesn't feel inappropriate to me to analogize this to the situation of most orphans.

Zach said...

In my opinion, it is not appropriate. It doesn't matter if it is correct in some cases that children are being rescued from poor conditions. Even then, to say the child is being rescued is just not respectful.

I think part of the issue with the way people talk about adoption is that many people assume a couple's reason for deciding to adopt. Every couple comes to the decision differently. For some, it is literally just a matter of wanting to be parents. For others, their desire is to help a child less fortunate. That specific reason leads more to the "rescue" terminology, while it is not the reason that every couple adopts.

Comparing our salvation from God to an adoption is very common, but I don't feel like that is appropriate either. For one, it is saying that adoptive parents are analogous to God. For another, orphans are not orphaned because of their choices. We need to be rescued by God because of our own actions.

Frank said...

Excellent comments. I was seeking to have my view better informed and these responses have done that. Thanks.