As you may have remembered from my previous posts on the subject, my wife and I have been in the process of adopting a child from foster care for the past 18 months. A few weeks ago, this dream became a reality–a beautiful, challenging, and life-altering reality.
I have been reflecting a lot on the nature of the Gospel ever since our family grew this summer, especially because our newest child is not a practicing Christian. I have no five-year plan of conversion, nor is this a criteria for her being a part of our family. I have only the Gospel, and we have only the simplest call to preach this message in our daily lives.
It feels so tangible sometimes, this thing called the “Gospel.” My prayer life might be challenging, my theological thoughts far too analytical and political, but the life of faith seems far more natural when one encounters another person daily to whom life has been cruel. The Gospel shifts then, in the depths of my being.
– – – –
Typically, this sense of belief finds itself amidst an analytical exercise between atheism, agnosticism, and belief–the most common of debates at the posh levels of upper class intelligentsia. Or, perhaps, this sense of belief finds itself in a political battle of applying Christian beliefs to socio-political arguments: military, health-care, gay marriage, abortion, socialism, capitalism, etc. These discussions are all important, of course, but sometimes I feel they diminish the Gospel en masse. The Gospel becomes a tool, a thing to be used for one purpose or another. Even in a debate about belief-in-general, the Gospel becomes a small thing in the midst of an ancient debate–it is not about a Way…it is about Deities, Divine, and whether one can know such a thing exists.
Indeed, my dissertation topic and much of my research lives at this crossroad of belief, rationality, and indecision–where reason meets faith, where science meets theology. Its a messy subject full of reversals and contradictions, but there is beauty in the chaos of individuals searching for hope and faith amid an ever-changing technological world. The search for the Gospel amidst these discussions is at times a search for a needle in a haystack–finding traces of compassion and mercy, traces of good news and hope amid despair, traces of Christ amid claims of Divine Monarchy.
But over the last few weeks, I have been humbly reminded that if the Gospel can be found as a needle in the haystack of historical politics, the Way of Christ is still ever present and ever needed in the minutiae of the everyday. To show someone love unconditionally, without pain, without abuse, without limitations or threats of leaving…and to be shown such love…this is the imago Dei for which I often search in my academic life. There is such peace in the Gospel, such peace in the analogia entis made known in the knowledge of unfailing love.
– – – –
If I could set every Christian on a path toward older child adoption, I would. If I could get Bishops to spend time touring “group homes”–modern day orphanages in the US, which are run by corporations and paid for by the state–I would. Not even 100 years ago, the Catholic Church was known for orphanages and caring for unwanted children. Convents and monasteries, for as long as they have existed, have been a sanctuary for abused children, a place of holiness in the cruelties of life. In the 21st century, especially in much of the Western world, this is simply not a part of the call for sisters and brothers in the Catholic Church. Perhaps it could be again, I don’t know, but I lament the shifting of this practice to the state.
What I do know is that sometimes we get too set in our visions of families and wholeness. The choices are too firmly fixed in the modern Christian narrative: married with kids (adoptive only if you can’t conceive biologically), single, or religious. There is no space for differences: single, but with adoptive children; religious, but a foster parent; married with bio and adoptive children; married with an open home for young adult orphans; single but the mother of 5, bio and adopted. When one realizes the strength of the love of the Gospel, there is so much desire to spread that love further. While this is often interpreted as having more biological children, this need not be the only interpretation of such a desire.
There are so many in need of life-giving, unconditional love. There are so many in need of the Gospel.