Keith Durso, Ph.D. Norman, Oklahoma My wife and I are the parents of two adopted Korean children. When we meet Koreans living in the United States, they often say the same thing to us: "Thank you for adopting these children. But I’m so sad.`
Such a response puzzles me for a couple of reasons. First, my wife and I have not done anything for which we need to be thanked. Like most biological and adoptive parents, we started our family to satisfy our own desires. The fact that our children have a home and parents who love them immensely is a wonderful feeling, and I must admit that being thanked for adopting our children is quite flattering.
However, we must remember that most adoptions originate from a couples desire to fulfill their parental needs and desires, not from altruistic motives.
A second reason that our Korean friends response puzzles me is that their gratitude is mixed with sadness. I have never asked my friends why they are sad, but I assume that being a citizen of a country from which foreigners adopt babies must be an embarrassing, if not humiliating, experience.
If my assumption is correct, how can my Korean friends, or any Korean who find this situation embarrassing and humiliating, assuage their pain?
My simple answer to this complex problem is that Koreans should consider adopting Korean orphans. Before explaining my answer, I must state outright that I write from a Christian perspective. Thus, what I have to say is directed mainly, though not exclusively, to Koreans who hold a similar faith perspective to mine.
I realize that Korean culture emphasizes the importance of biological roots. This emphasis, however, is not uniquely Korean. Most, if not all, cultures emphasize the biological relationship between parents and children.
I do not want to denigrate the biological bond between parents and children, but I do want to stress that this bond is not a god that should be worshipped and accepted without exception. Such a bond becomes destructive when orphans are deemed to be undesirable, unwanted, and unworthy of a home. As a Christian, I attempt to guide my faith and life by the Bible, which stresses the importance of the role of parents and conveys the concept the familial ties must be respected and cherished.
The concept of family in the Bible, however, is extended beyond biological ties to include the larger covenant community. Thus, the Bible lays the foundation for understanding the importance of biological ties in parenthood and for broadening the concept of family to include those who are not related genetically.
Both the Old and New Testaments suggest that God intends that the concept of family be extended beyond biological ties. The story of Ruth and the Old Testament laws demanding that people who have lost their biological ties (widows, orphans, and sojourners) be cared for and nurtured, show that family transcends genetics and that parenthood should be understood in broader categories than simply having biological children.
The New Testament also extends the concept of family beyond genetics. Jesus extended the understanding of familial ties to include people who are joined together by faith. When someone told Jesus that his mother and brothers asked to see him during a time when he was teaching, he responded: My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it (Luke 8:21).
Jesus also challenged his disciples to be willing to leave their families so that they could follow him and become part of the church (Luke 18:29-30).
These illustrations show that spiritual relationships are stronger than those based on genetics. The Apostle Paul broadened the concept of family ties in his writings by calling his fellow-Christians brothers and sisters and by referring to the church as the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). Biological families are important and should be respected, but where biological ties are severed, the community at large has the responsibility to become a person’s "family".
The Bible also characterizes the relationship between God and his people as that of a parent and a child. God is portrayed as a nurturing caregiver and a loving and forgiving father.
(See Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 1:31; Isaiah 63:16; 64:8; Jeremiah 3:19; Hosea 11:1, 3-4; Luke 15:11-32; Matthew 7:7-11; and Romans 8:15.)
In his epistles, Paul encourages the Christian community to use the Aramaic term `Abba`(`dear father`) when addressing God (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). Thus, the familial relationship between God and his people is based on God’s loving choice and initiative, not on biological ties.
If the relationship between God and his people can be described as a relationship between a parent and a child, then this parent-child relationship is extended beyond biological ties. I believe that no Christian community should let cultural mores dictate how it lives out its faith.
If having foreigners adopt Korean children is painful and humiliating, the Korean Christian community has an opportunity to alleviate this painful and humiliating situation and to share the love of God to Korean orphans.
Remember the words of James: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans... in their distress, (James 1:27). Remember the words of Paul: God sent his Son... so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying Abba! Father! (Galatians 4:4-6). That my two children are not my biological children is evident to anyone who knows us.
Their thin dark hair, dark complexion, and almond-shaped eyes distinguish them from their father of European descent. Despite the obvious lack of a genetic bond, I could not love my children any more than I do now.
A poem written by an anonymous adoptive mother describes how I feel about my relationship with my children.
Not flesh of my flesh, Nor bone of my bone, But still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute, You didn’t grow under my heart, But in it.
My wife and I should not be thanked for adopting our children. We are the ones who should be thankful. We thank God for the privilege, the opportunity, and the responsibility of parenting our son Michael (이도균) and our daughter Alexandra (안명애).