NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Adoption advocates are rallying to speak up for the world’s orphans in light of an upcoming Warner Brothers horror film that depicts a young adopted orphan girl as a murderer.
The movie “Orphan” hits theaters Friday and tells the story of a couple who adopts a young girl named Esther from the local orphanage. She appears sweet at first but turns out to be, to put it mildly, a terror. The trailer shows her being picked on by school classmates and then, seconds later, on a murderous rampage.
One early version of the trailer — which apparently was pulled by Warner Brothers — ended with a despondent Esther saying, “It must be hard to love an adopted child as much as your own.” The movie’s promotional poster depicts the lead character, stone-faced and in pigtails, with the teaser title, “There’s Something Wrong With Esther.”
Adoption and orphan advocates fear the movie feeds what already is a natural concern on the part of some couples who are considering adoption, particularly of an older child. Those advocates also fear the movie could lead to some couples deciding altogether not to adopt.
To counter the movie, the Christian Alliance for Orphans launched a website, OrphansDeserveBetter.org, with pictures of smiling orphans — a direct rebuttal of the movie poster — as well as orphan facts.
Playing off the movie’s theme, the website shows a picture of a needy orphan with the headline, “There’s Something Wrong With Millions of Children Having No Family.” The website is urging Warner Brothers to contribute a part of the proceeds from the movie to help orphans. It is also asking visitors to the website to submit their positive stories about orphans.
The United Nations estimates there are 145 million orphans in the world. There also are 130,000 children in the U.S. foster care system waiting to be adopted, the website says.
“[When] you imagine kids who are growing up without parents, they already have the wind in their faces and face great challenges. This just doesn’t help them to be lumped in with all the horror figures of Hollywood lore,” Jedd Medefind, president of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, said recently on the “Albert Mohler” radio program. “… It hurts them in another way, and that’s fanning natural fears parents have about bringing an orphan in into their home, whether through adoption or foster care or otherwise. It could rob these kids of the one thing that they most need in the world, which is a loving family.”
Russell D. Moore, dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said the movie got him “riled up,” even though he acknowledges he’s not the “kind of person” who typically rails against Hollywood. Moore and his wife adopted two boys from a Russian orphanage, and he recently wrote a book, “Adopted for Life,” which spotlights adoption.
“I think this movie is going to hurt kids,” he said on the Mohler program while serving as guest host. “And I think the answer to this movie is not simply to rail against [it and say], ‘Can you believe Hollywood’s doing this?’ Instead, it’s listening to Hollywood and saying, ‘OK, we understand the question that you’re trying to pose, but we’re going to give you a different answer. We’ve seen a different story.'”
Jerry T. Haag, president of the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes, said his heart aches for adopted children who “may see the movie’s trailer.” Moore said he struggled to explain the meaning behind the movie’s poster when his two sons saw it.
“My concern is that adoptive children or children waiting to be adopted will face cruel jokes and ridicule from other children as a result of just seeing the previews,” Haag wrote in a Baptist Press column. “I shudder to think that families considering adoption will be negatively influenced by unfounded fears.”
The answer, Medefind said, is to tell the truth about adoption and orphans and to view the issue through a biblical lens.
“[Orphans have] often been through a lot. They come with great needs. Like anything worth doing, loving orphans can require sacrifice,” he said. ” … At the same time, statistically, if you look at the research, kids who are adopted do very, very well — in most cases as well and in some cases better than their peers. Study after study shows that kids who have been adopted succeed in school. They are emotionally well-adjusted. They feel as connected to their family as their non-adopted siblings.”
Medefind added, “We want to raise the banner for the needs of orphans and the real joy found in loving them. Frankly, I believe that most of us need orphans perhaps even more than they need us. The church needs orphans, because it draws us to the heart of Christ when we extend ourselves beyond just selfish lives, beyond self-centered religion and truly live out the mandate of Christ to look after kids who have no one else in the world.”
Moore said it’s essential for Christians to keep the Gospel at the center of the discussion.
“It’s not just a matter of rescuing children,” he said. “It’s a matter of seeing the Gospel and of living out the Gospel and of benefiting ourselves and our churches with what the Gospel is all about.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.