Would a Spirit of Adoption Make Us Relate?

(Based on my previous post, a classmate from my Collegeville Institute course challenged me to find a current news hook and submit something perhaps as an Op-Ed to the Star Tribune. This is what I wrote, but it wasn’t picked up. There were many urgent issues for comment this week.)

Take this theological concept outside, please!

Thousands who make it inside a church this Sunday will hear about the “spirit of adoption” in one of the lectionary* Bible readings (Romans 8:12-25), while members of adoptive families like mine live it every day. Does this phrase and concept only matter to those whose lives are connected to adoption, foster care, kinship adoption, or adoption by step-parents? Or could claiming it as a goal transform our public life, and painstakingly drag us out of the polarized camps where we have become entrenched since before last fall’s election?

A “spirit of adoption”: Minnesotans know a bit about that. Minnesota has a huge adoption community, bolstered by Lutheran Social Services of MN, Children’s Home Society, the International Adoption Medicine Clinic at the U of M and adult adoptee advocacy organizations like LGA, all based in the Twin Cities. A “spirit of adoption” could and should be in the air here. Yet it’s not something we receive passively. And that’s the point. Adoption makes new family of unrelated people. It’s a choice to relate to others, and commit to being family with those who did not come from you, do not resemble you, and will sometimes exasperate you beyond your limits. Nurturing a “secure attachment,” in adoption lingo, requires consistent, repetitive effort, especially because bonds of trust have been broken before. It is a lot of work, but having a family, committed to us no matter what, launches us into the world to multiply the good, instead of scrambling to take care of ourselves.

I wonder what it would be like if neighbors made a commitment to standing by one another, like an adoptive family does – not because of our similarities, but because our differences make such a commitment necessary. What if residents of a city or town decided that just because another person was also a resident in their town, despite living in a different area, being of a different race, speaking a different language, or practicing a different religion, we were still related just because we are all members of the human family? What happens to them therefore matters deeply to us: in a show-up-with-a-casserole, testify-at-city-hall, confront-negligent-landlords kind of way. The “spirit of adoption” means defending and loving our family no matter what.

In families there is sometimes the matter of inheritance, and always the matter of legacy. We divide and sometimes fight over the material goods, money or resources, as our communities might when making budget decisions on the local and state-wide level. We lick our wounds and take stock of what we received from previous generations: assessing what to keep and what to throw away. It’s hard for those who thought everyone was getting a fair share to hear the opposite without getting defensive. But family, it must be done. If we are committed to staying at the same dinner table no matter how the conversation goes, our legacy will be to nurture belonging instead of walking away.

*The Revised Common Lectionary is a 3 year cycle of Bible readings followed by the majority of Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopal, UCC and Roman Catholic churches.

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