I heard ten minutes of this show this morning which included a discussion about the adoption law that was challenged as discriminatory yesterday in Belfast, a significant step for Northern Ireland. I couldn’t help but use my words in an email to the Evangelical Alliance afterwards to outline some of the frustration I felt with what they said and how they said it, credit to them for going on as a more moderate voice, which certainly encourages me to contact them in the hope that it may improve conversation in general. If you want, feel free to copy and/or write your own emails too…
Dear David Smyth, (Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland – Public Policy Officer)
I think it was good that you agreed to speak on the Nolan show with John O’Doherty this morning, I appreciate a more moderate voice than some of the angry and/or explicitly homophobic interviewees they have had on in the past. So thanks for going on.
I am aware that you represent a conservative Christian point of view and so it would be unreasonable of me to expect or hope for you to be more considerate of the potential of joint adoption by unmarried and/or same sex couples (as opposed to sole adoption). What I would ask though is that you identify yourself as such, you did very well in saying that you spoke from a ‘biblical’ perspective and you didn’t make any secret of the fact, but I think in saying that you imply that other Christian people (who exist in the evangelical community as much as anywhere else) who don’t share your view are not using scripture to inform their theology or interpretation of current affairs. As you should probably know, the word ‘biblical’ can refer to a sub-culture within Christianity (usually evangelical) that describes particular positions and interpretations, but this sub-culture and the use of this word implies an exclusivity which is just not fair to other faithful Christian people using, wrestling with and applying the Bible. As a Christian, I would ask you to (as well as taking the pains to identify your perspective as ‘biblical’) point out that your view is a particular reading or interpretation of the Bible and other Christians think differently. Something that is so alienating for me about your organisation is that you claim to speak for (evangelical) Christians, when you don’t really represent the breadth of faith & opinion of this group, and you never say this, you never acknowledge a diversity of perspectives. I certainly know from pastoral work over the years that it is incredibly liberating for people of faith to discover diversity and questions and discussion rather than doctrinal, ‘biblical’ directives.
My second point is that whilst you spoke about the vulnerability of children in care well, you said that most children in care are there as a result of relationship breakdown. As a foster carer who has a bit of experience of both children remaining in care and moving onto adoptive carers, I found this generalisation problematic. It seemed to simplify the complex and long drawn out incidents and dynamics of abuse that social services often work with prior to children coming into care, and where a relationship breakdown is the least of the causes of a child coming into care. If you meant domestic violence, and I don’t know if you did, please call it domestic violence because living in and with an abusive relationship and trying to stay safe moves far beyond the simplicity of a relationship breakdown. Indeed, many relationships breakdown that have children in them and the children do not end up in care. Furthermore, I would suggest you to speak to more carers outside the church about their experiences of foster and adoptive care, because I would guess that your interviews inside the church again are probably limited in perspective.
I appreciate you participating in the conversation, and offering a more moderate and informed voice, I would just ask that you clarify your position a little more than just ‘biblical’ if speaking about this issue again and of course refrain from making generalisations about the complexities that result in children being taken into care.
I would be really happy to meet with you if you wanted to discuss my email further,