Forgive me, but this might become somewhat of a rant. Either I see this written as a presumption about myself and other outspoken adoptees or as a question fired directly at me. Why this annoys me so much is something I’ve yet to actually break down and attempt to convey.
First, let make that mandatory statement that my intention is not to come down on any religion or religious people in general. My belief is that religion and spiritual beliefs or lack of them are very personal matters. As long as people aren’t hurting other people, they can worship Eris or Bill Gates for all I care. To sum it up, I’ll throw in a quote from one of my favorite songs entitled Precious Declaration which says, “Yours is yours and mine you leave alone now.” Appropriately enough, the band’s name is Collective Soul. Of course, interpretations may vary. It’s become my anthem for the year.
As per the question, I’ve lived roughly half my life as a Christian and half as a Muslim. There has been no lack of “God” in my life, thank you very much. I’ve learned much from both religions and still identify as Muslim. However, I’ve been re-thinking my spiritual beliefs for some time now. As I move from blind obedience to attempts at understanding, my views and concepts of “God” are slowly changing. Where I’ll end up is anyone’s guess. Yes, I can hear some people out there thinking, “Probably Hell.” *bites down on snark
When I read references or receive emails referring to the lack of God in my life, I have to bite my tongue to keep the snark at bay. What most people don’t realize is that the re-evaluation of my beliefs coincided with a closer and more truthful look at my adoption experiences and how I felt about them. It wasn’t “lack of God” that set me upon this path but a more honest examination of everything I’d been told as a child. I don’t want to oversimplify the process, but a large part of what pushed me down this road was the discovery of a lack of honesty, both on the part of myself (denial) and others. Ironic. One might conclude that it was taking a closer look at my adoption story that set off my spiritual review rather than the other way around.
Aside from all that, often the context in which I receive this question relates to my being labeled as “the angry adoptee.” It’s assumed that I have a void in my life that only God can fill. I’m missing something alright, but it isn’t the Almighty. Even if I didn’t believe in the existence God, it would have little to do with my outspokenness. Belief in God does not necessarily a “happy adoptee” make. There are still the matters of corruption and abuse that feed to the market side of adoption, still a failure in many cases to fully recognize the needs of the adoptee, still myths and misconceptions about adoption and adoptees. It just goes on and on. There are just some wrongs that we ourselves must strive to recognize and correct.
For as long as I can remember, God was used to explain everything away and gag any complaints or questions I might have had surrounding my adoption. I don’t believe the people who did this were intentionally manipulative. Many times, they just had no answers and for whatever reason couldn’t bring themselves to simply say, “I don’t know.” Let’s just blame it on God, shall we?
When an adoptee asks, “Why was I adopted?” answering with, “Because God meant for you to be with us,” is such an incomplete answer. I was satisfied with this for most of my childhood, because it didn’t occur to me to think outside the framing. That began to change as my mental processes became more complex in the way I processed thoughts of my adoption and the world around me. Suddenly, the answer began to sound like a cop out. God became the stool pigeon.
On one hand, I was expected to accept absolutes like good and evil, black and white in regards to myself but the ones who had all the power were excused. They were allowed to use God to explain away their own choices or lack of forethought. For me, it’s not so much about assigning blame, but more about taking responsibility. My own circumstances put me on the fringe of most adoption experiences, but I still see God being used in a similar fashion across the sphere.
It’s not that I’m suggesting adoptive parents coldly tell their young children something akin to “shit happens, deal with it”. There are better ways. And again, no, I’m not knocking people who are religious. Religion can be helpful but if anything. I wish adoptive parents would be aware of the difference between teaching faith and catering to their own lack of willingness to deal with the challenges that come with being an adoptive parent.
It can become very confusing to a child when he/she asks, “Why did you adopt me?” and the parent answers, “Because God meant for you to be with us.” What that parent might be indirectly telling the child is that “God killed your parents or made your mother abandon you, etc because he’d rather you be with us.” Many of us grow up and begin to question the validity of such an answer.
I remember a teacher telling me something similar and the great conflict in faith that followed. How could God be so cruel? Now this was a question that left people speechless. I wanted answers but many of those around me had already painted themselves into a corner. All they could say was, “God has his reasons.” Again, God was to blame for everything. Looking back, I’m amazed that I didn’t grow up completely hating this mean “God” who did bad things for the heck of it.
Nothing made sense. I can remember going to Sunday school and singing “Jesus loves the little children…red, yellow, black and white…” Okay, then why is everyone but me in this church white? Anyone care to take that one on? No? Oh, I get it. Jesus loves them as long as they stay in their own church. When I’d play that hand thing where you’d clasp your hands together, pinkies up and say, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open it up and see all the people.” I’d picture them as all being white, except for me of course. Why was I so isolated and alone? Because God wants it that way.
I think now is a good time to point out that I’m speaking from a perspective that involves the idea of God from an Abrahamic tradition. My realm of experience is thus far limited to that perspective. I can’t speak of families where adoptive parents were Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist, etc. It would be interesting to hear from adoptees and adoptive parents who can speak from those perspectives.
All that being said, yes, I’ve got God though my idea of what “God” is has changed over the years. If people find peace and resolution in their beliefs, more power to them. What I hope some people come to understand is that spiritual fulfillment or lack of it should not necessarily be associated with “the angry adoptee.” If I am to be called “angry” it’s as much or more because of what I see still happening today rather than from my own experiences.
From my point of view, the “God explanation” cannot excuse away things like the abuse and corruption that exploit adoption as a business or the active denial and/or dishonesty that some adoptive parents practice and pass on to their children. I can be at spiritual peace but still speak out as my conscious requires. It’s even quite possible that the more inner peace I achieve, the more outspoken and active I may become. After all, the less time I spend fighting my inner demons, the more energy I’ll have to fight the ones out there. Since when does inner serenity have to equal outward complacency?
Hmm…that became somewhat of a ramble, but I hope I at least got my point across.