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FIRST-PERSON: Russia’s orphans & the Father of the fatherless

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Somewhere in the Kremlin right now, officials are weighing whether to cut off the adoption of Russian children to Americans and other foreigners. As I type this, two former Russian orphans, my sons Benjamin and Timothy, are running around my chair singing songs.

At issue are a series of horrible abuse cases in which American families have harmed, or even killed, their children. These cases have given impetus to a nativist Russian nationalism that hates the idea of their children becoming, of all things, Americans. At one level, I can understand this. Imagine if the United States collapsed into a hodge-podge of independent and impoverished states and American children were being adopted by citizens of a Cold War triumphant USSR.

Nonetheless, it would be quite different if there were a vibrant adoption culture in the former USSR. This is not the case. The leftover effects of Communist materialism matched with the instability of the new economy have resulted in a skyrocketing abortion rate and orphanages filled with abandoned infants and children. The children who are not adopted languish in these orphanages until they are old enough to be thrown out into society, where they often find few options beyond the Russian military, prostitution or suicide.

The Russian orphanage where my wife and I found our sons, then Maxim and Sergei, was the most horrifying place I have ever been. Its sights and smells and sounds come back to me every day. But, even more so, before my mind’s eye every day are the faces of the children we couldn’t adopt. Until now, my hope has been that Christians from America, Canada, Germany, France or somewhere may have adopted them, to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. If the anti-adoption Russians get their way, I fear that these children will be sentenced to institutions, never to find families.

The plight of Russia’s orphans ought to spur American Christians to prayer and to action — not only for Russian children but for abandoned children across the globe. What if Southern Baptist pastors encouraged, from the pulpit, families to adopt orphans domestically or from across the sea? What if older, more affluent Southern Baptist couples pooled money for young families who wish to adopt, but cannot afford the seemingly astronomical costs?

Yesterday my now four year-old Benjamin walked up and hugged my leg, saying to me (in the little southern accent he picked up from us): “I’m glad you’re my daddy, and I’m glad I’m your son.” I have learned more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ from such statements than from all my studies in systematic theology. Before I met these two, I “knew” all about what it means to have a new name in Christ, a new household, a new identity, new brothers and sisters. But I knew so very little about these things.

There are other Maxims and Sergeis, sitting day and night in cribs somewhere in Russia. Let’s pray that the Russian people make the right decisions for them. And let’s pray for the providence of the One who promises to be a Father to the fatherless, the One who has adopted us as sons in Christ (Romans 8:15), teaching us to cry through the Spirit what many of these children will never learn to say: “Abba, Father.” As perhaps one of the world’s greatest examples of the “least of these,” they are Jesus’ little brothers, after all (Matthew 25:40).
Russell D. Moore is dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. This commentary is adapted from an article written for “Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity,” where Moore serves as contributing editor.

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  • Russell D. Moore