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From an article I wrote a few years ago for Modern Reformation:

We don’t regard our transracial adoption as something especially noble or sacrificial, or anything like a social statement. This is simply the way that God in his providence has designed our family to expand, and we sense his great grace in the way he has knit our family together.

But some people still wonder if transracial adoption is all that wise. What if they are called names in school? What if their friends tell our children that my wife and I are not his “real” mommy and daddy? What if our kids have an identity crisis, unable to figure out who they really are?

All of these things may indeed happen with our children.

But the truth is, all of our children are going to face various forms of challenges, and we simply cannot predict with any degree of certainty what particular obstacles they will deal with. Nor can we prevent all of them.

Will our kids be eloquent and persuasive, or stammer with stage fright? Will they be the star athletes, or the class klutzes? Will they be leaders or followers? Trendsetters or always one step behind? Will they be healthy or sickly? Will they be mocked for following Christ and swimming against the culture stream? We simply don’t know, and there usually does not seem to be much purpose in planning our lives around the minimization of challenges we cannot control.

It’s important to recognize that in the midst of talking about spiritual adoption, Paul listed a requirement of kingdom citizens who are to be heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ—we will receive an inheritance “provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:17). To be a Christian is a call to suffer: “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). If we’re surprised at suffering then it’s because we haven’t read our Bibles closely enough: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet. 4:12). If a disciple wants to be like his teacher, and a servant like his master, then we are going to be maligned like Jesus was (see Matt. 10:25).

Now with all of this said, no one wants to create situations of undue suffering for their children. There are times when transracial adoption may be unwise. For example, we have American friends who are in the adoption process and who will be serving in cross-cultural missions in the Middle East. Being an African American child in a white family in an Islamic country that already stigmatizes adoption would be exceedingly difficult.

As long as sin remains—this side of the return of Christ and the ushering in of the news heavens and the new earth—racism will remain. There is virtue neither in overstating or unstating this reality. But the idea of having qualms about transracial adoption (or interracial marriage) because it will create opportunities for more racial prejudice doesn’t ultimately make a lot of sense. As John Piper has commented, “It’s like the army being defeated because there aren’t enough troops, and the troops won’t sign up because the army’s being defeated.”


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20 thoughts on “The Risk of Transracial Adoption?”

  1. G Crowley says:

    JT says, “Now with all of this said, no one wants to create situations of undue suffering for their children. There are times when transracial adoption may be unwise. For example, we have American friends who are in the adoption process and who will be serving in cross-cultural missions in the Middle East. Being an African American child in a white family in an Islamic country that already stigmatizes adoption would be exceedingly difficult.”

    I would be very interested to know if there is any evidence that this would be unwise. Or does it seem that way and serve to illustrate your point. Thanks, Greg

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      I only said it “may be unwise” and that it “would be exceedingly difficult.” But that’s certainly not a law to say it should never be done. Like anything, there’s usually a spectrum of difficulty, and we should think through it.

      1. G Crowley says:

        True enough, Justin. Maybe, I shouldn’t take my children to the Middle East because, “Being an African American child in a white family in an Islamic country that already stigmatizes adoption would be exceedingly difficult.” We have agonized over this very thought. What I would like to know is there any evidence behind this claim. Thanks for anyone that can speak into this dilemma. I have only always heard what people’s gut-level sense is. No evidence. And gut-level responses range all over the board. Thanks, Greg

        1. G Crowley says:

          My wife graciously informed me that I did not give enough context to my comment. So here goes. We have three children. Our firstborn was adopted and he is biracial, though he looks very Mediterranean. Our middle child is white from our bodies. Our youngest is African American. 7, 6, and 3. We also have looked hard at moving to a Muslim country in the MENA region. I have heard people in the field who don’t have transracial families say it would not be an issue for Muslims or our children. I have heard your comment, which plays to my fears as a parent that it would be exceedingly difficult. You have adopted, but don’t live in a Muslim context. So my question remains, does anyone know anyone that has attempted to move to a MENA region country to reach out to Muslims with the Good News that God id adopting a transracial family to be his own?

          1. G Crowley says:

            The last sentence should read, “So my question remains, does anyone know anyone that has attempted to move ‘their transracial family’ to a MENA region country to reach out to Muslims with the Good News that God is adopting a transracial family to be his own?

  2. JD says:

    This is excellent. Thank you.

    1. Brian Auten says:

      Amen, amen and amen.

  3. Aaron Britton says:

    I have two adopted children, one from Ethiopia, one from Uganda. I can say without hesitancy that the racial/identification difficulties that my adopted kids face are not close to the hardest thing about this. The harder things are pain from the past, and my wife and I being sanctified and pruned by our Lord Jesus as we continue to die to ourselves and parent these kids in a way that will benefit them.

    My Ethiopian son is actually just starting to notice the difference “Dad, you’re white and I’m brown”. . He’s 4. It’s been a great opportunity to talk about what race means, what skin color means, and how he’s a part of our family no matter what. Great lessons can be learned here.

    So, I agree with Justin that the racial “difficulties” should not be a detriment to interracial adoption, and I would add that this particular difficulty is not the hardest thing about this kind of adoption and folks seeking to eliminate risk should probably think about a different ministry :).

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Great word, Aaron.

  4. taco says:

    What would be the difficulties these children would face if not adopted? Would it not be better to be adopted? I have to agree with your concluding paragraph JT.

  5. theologian says:

    JT,

    Just curious actually as to why the comments have been shut down on tye Driscoll post. I read his post on his site as well, it seems like a great decision by Mark. Am I missing something about this or is ther controversy surrounding this situation that I am unaware of? Just curious….

  6. Jacob Brothers says:

    Love the article. My wife & I are prayerfully investigating adoption. Just to let you know… Toward the end of your article, you wrote, “news heavens” instead of “new heavens”.

  7. Kim K. says:

    Your first paragraph states exactly how we felt about adopting our kids – who are not the same race as we are. (We also have 4 biological kids.) We felt that if their race wasn’t an issue to us then it shouldn’t be an issue for anyone. I think that was perhaps a too idealized philosophy; whatever is an issue for my children IS an issue for me. I agree “all of our children are going to face various forms of challenges, and we simply cannot predict with any degree of certainty what particular obstacles they will deal with. Nor can we prevent all of them.” However, I know what it’s like to be a klutz, I was not a star athlete, I am more of a follower than a leader, and I am in good health. I have no idea what it’s like to look completely different from my parents, know I have someone out there who is my – real, other, biological,didn’t want me – parent, or have phantom siblings and relatives. Those feelings are very real for my kids – to the extent they can articulate them. Explaining something to a 4-year old and explaining something to a 14-year old are not the same things. I am not trying to throw cold water on transracial adoption. On the contrary, I wish more people would do it. However, explaining that “God loves everybody no matter what your skin looks like” is not the only explanation that will work when the child gets older.

    1. Aaron Britton says:

      Kim, I appreciate your concerns. . .and I wasn’t trying to brush aside all difficulties within the race issue. My point is that the word “risk” is kind of hilarious here. . especially when we talk about the alternative for a kid whom we might adopt. How about the “risk” of an orphanage overseas, or the corrupt Foster Care system domestically? (there are wonderful foster parents who deserve our support and praise. . but the system, generally speaking, is broken)

      My point is that while race will be an issue when our kids “look different” than us; it is not the hardest thing about trans-racial adoption, and it is something that kids can and will work through. Might it be very difficult for some? Yes, of course that’s a possibility. But, “risk” and perhaps “difficulty” is not a reason to not do something. This is especially true here, when the alternatives have not only more “risk”, but measured and documented abuse, neglect, and corruption for the children.

      Let’s step into the messiness and risk here. . . for the Glory of God and the furtherance of His Kingdom.

  8. Jeff says:

    Thank you for sharing, very timely as we are expecting our child any day now thru adoption. We will keep this article close at hand, especially when questions start being raised.

  9. The Dandler says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve often thought about adoption. In the midst of all my friends having tons of kids (which is by no means wrong!), I can’t help but think of all those kids who have no parents and hardly any future. It’s the closest thing to the heart of God – to take what isn’t yours, to take someone who you don’t have to care for, and care for them. To choose someone who “doesn’t deserve” sonship and make them a son. A child you have naturally you can barely help but love. It’s a part of yourself. But an adopted child is a product of a redemptive, rather than a creative act, and I thank God for all willing to undergo it.

    1. JW says:

      We have two daughters from China, both of whom have physical disabilities. We also have two biological children. Of course, there are risks associated with any adoption and many unknowns – but isn’t that what it’s all about. God has provided us with an opportunity to live out the gospel in our family by adding two who don’t look like us at all (and graft them in). I know questions will come down the road and I will try and be ready for them. But right now, they know I am their dad, and that’s good enough for me.

  10. Stephanie says:

    reblogged this article on our blog.

  11. Brenda says:

    As an adoptive parent cross-racially, I am thoroughly blessed with our daughter. When she first arrived, we got lots of stares as our biological children were all boys and we are both Caucasian. At first I felt uncomfortable with the staring, but then realized I needed to bring out a smile and include the starers into this irresistible baby girls life. Great opportunity for teaching. Now that she is 18, she has integrated her native country through cultural traditions, but mostly sees herself as American. Not white or any other color. As for the Muslim question, we had Muslim students in our homeschool charter in the US, who when spoken to with a hello, distanced themselves with Americans of all races. Being American maybe the issue to ponder.

  12. Jaime Layton says:

    Great article! I just wish, as Christians, we could get away from the word Transracial. It is the correct term, but we know that God only created one race (human) and many cultures. I guess the term I prefer is Multi-cultural family. :)

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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