Here’s a recent quote from US evangelical Christian leader Pat Robertson that has lit a wee fire of soul-searching and condemnation from many in the Christian world. Robertson was responding to a woman’s question about a boyfriend who didn’t want to marry her because she had kids she had adopted from orphanages overseas. He had said that if they were her kids, that would be a different story. Robertson’s response was:
“A man doesn’t want to take on the United Nations, and a woman has all these various children, blended family, what is it – you don’t know what problems there are. I’m serious. I’ve got a dear friend, an adopted son, a little kid from an orphanage down in Columbia. Child had brain damage, grew up weird. And you just never know what’s been done to a child before you get that child. What kind of sexual abuse has been, what kind of cruelty, what kind of food deprivation, etc. etc. You don’t have to take on somebody else’s problems. You really don’t. You can help people – we minister to orphans all over the world, we love helping people. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to take all the orphans around the world into my home.”
You see – children are a bit like used cars. You want to know their history. You want their records of service. But even with all that, you don’t know how aggressively they’ve been driven, how rough the previous owner has been on the gearbox or the chassis, how swiftly problems have been addressed. It’s a risk. Better to get a new one.
(It brings to mind a conversation I mentioned in an earlier post, when I met a guy with spina bifida who was well into his fifties, slaloming down an alleyway in an electric wheelchair. As spina bifida is a disorder that can be detected in utero, many parents-to-be now opt to abort fetuses who test positive… Fair enough – God knows how difficult it would be to raise kids with physical or mental disabilities. But either way, the chilling fact remained that this happy, funny, intellectual and outgoing guy may never have existed if his parents had that option open to them.)
But back to Robertson. Now – if he was saying that there is no law or moral code saying that the boyfriend has to marry her and has to take on the kids that would be one thing. Of course your partner’s children must be considered when marriage is on the cards. But instead of saying hey – it’s a big step, find out what these kids need, and if you feel like you can’t fulfill that role, then yeah, maybe you aren’t suited to be their new father. He’s saying whoa! No way – you don’t want to get involved in that shit. `Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!
(I’ll not mention the “United Nations… blended family” comment that smacks just a little of racism. Won’t mention that at all)
In making his point Robertson takes the trouble to point out that his mob love helping people and orphanages around the world. But obviously, that help must be administered at an arm’s length. Actually stepping in, making a difference, rescuing children from poverty, abuse, war, disease… meh. You don’t really want to encourage that behavior now, do you? That involves action and risk, whereas helping from a distance just feels gooooooood…
This guy doesn’t know if the children have any disorders, he just thinks that because they may have been abused in some way, that means they may be a little weird in some way. Why bother finding out? Toss ‘em away! Bruised apples are only good for the compost heap.
What really bugs me is this idea that people who are in some way not whole, who are battered, bruised, and a little bit broken, that they are a little off. That carrying a scar or two through your life makes you less desirable as a person. That if you have been fucked up you aren’t worth fixing because you’ll never really run properly again.
I’m even bugged by the idea that people who “run properly” are desirable in the first place. Or that they even fucking exist.
Look – I’m not much of a christian at all. In the words of my favorite theologian, Mr. Nick Cave: “I don’t believe in an interventionist God”. I haven’t been – as a smart person once put it – ‘blessed with the gift of faith’. My saints are the rugby player Michael Jones, and Johnny Cash – one because he walked the walk, the other because he limped the limp. The Jesus I look forward to meeting is the one who went to the poor parts of town, the one who was raised by an adoptive father, the one who… (what’s your phrase Mr Robertson?)… grew up weird as a child, the one who picked fights with bankers and with the heads of the Church, who liked to hang out with foul-mouthed fishermen, who had a girl-Friday who was a hooker, the Jesus who opened his arms to the sick, the poor, the lame and the needy and told the rich to either fuck off or get rid of all their wealth, all their material fixations before they could follow him. I believe in the Jesus who will take the little kid that I was, confused, hurt, angry, and will clean away all the shit that was done to him, and not reject him as unworthy because of it. I believe in a god who is Love.
Love is a big thing missing from Mr Robertson and his ilk. Love makes spina bifida man (Spina Bifida Man!!! Able to… umm… able to…)… Where was I? Yes – Love makes him happily slalom his wheelchair down the alleyway. To tease me because my wheels weren’t motorized (I was on a skateboard). Love is what makes every injury we bear worth bearing – because those injuries are sometimes the things that make us most worthy of love.
Look – I posted a link to a Paralympics ad the other day. I’m going to be watching all I can. Because when those athletes take to the track, the things that slow them down are the things that make them worth watching. The injuries, the disabilities – it’s the rising above that makes that shit compelling.
I read an online comment (why? God knows) where a woman said that everyone should watch the Paralympics – that they’ll all shut up about their own problems. But I disagree. I don’t think the Games are there to say hey – your problem isn’t important so shut up about it, but to say hey – look at what they can do. Can you do it too? Isn’t that why we use the word inspiration?
You see – children who have been messed up and abused may struggle. They may never escape, but then again, they may soar. Their chances of the latter are greatly enhanced if we look beyond trauma and see the soul within – to find out what they need and see if we can provide it for them. Don’t dare toss them aside because they may be broken. Seriously, Mr Robertson – go on and ask yourself “What would Jesus do?”
You sad, old, worn-out, self-obsessed, bag of shit.