Thursday, December 13, 2007

Article Review: Blessed are the Barren

After much anticipation, I found last night that Christianity Today had finally uploaded the cover article of its December 2007 Print edition, entitled Blessed are the Barren. Straight away I set down to read it.

I was so disappointed!

The article is perhaps one of the most disorganized, poorly supported articles I've read on any topic.

The author makes a very strong case for adoption by Christians. She offers solid biblical support for our identity as adopted sons and daughters of God and for the gift adoption can be for both parent and child.

But she perpetuates the same myth that so many others do: that adoption is for the biologically childless and that is a logical substitute for natural childbirth. Her basic thesis (I think) is that though the blessing of barrenness is "apocalyptic," the barren are blessed now because they adopt and understand the richness of God's adoption of us. I think she would even argue that there ought not be a distinction between adopted and natural, especially since the adoptive families more closely resemble the family of God anyway. As noble a goal as this might be, I don't know anyone who is cured of the pain of infertility because they can "just adopt." Sometimes I even felt like she was saying "get over it." I don't think God intends for our hearts to be healed by treating adoption as a substitute for the natural desires He has placed in us. Adoption is not a substitute for anything or a lesser good.

The reality of it is that adoption should have very little to do with barrenness. The scriptures do not command "ye who are barren care for the widows and orphans." Additionally, Jesus does not say "Blessed are the barren because they adopt the orphans." Barrenness has little to do with the truth of the author's conclusions about adoption and I think that constantly associating the two only perpetuates the problem of indifference on the part of so many who are able to have (or think they are able to have) biological children.

I could go on, but that is the most significant of my objections to this article.

This is a very excellent article on why adoption should be practiced in the church. But I have very little appreciation for it as an article that appropriately handles barrenness.


  1. That's so weird. I read that article recently and my impression was completely different. The impression I got was that she was trying to paint infertile people as people out of time, people living with apocalyptic virtues that don't fit their non-apocalyptic environment. The word-picture in my head on reading that article was of her walking through a sort of a Purgatory (in the best, Dante-esque sort of the word).

  2. Thanks Jess, for the alternate perspective. I'll read the article again to look for cues of what you gleaned, to see if my appreciation or understanding of it can't be expanded.

  3. I'm so glad to hear that I wasn't the only one that was disappointed in the article. When it arrived in my mail, I was so thrilled to find an article that might speak to me and my struggles, but at the conclusion I felt rather let down, and frankly, a little confused by her conclusions. Like you, I thought it dwelled very heavily on adoption, but did not touch on any of the other ways that infertile women can serve God's Kingdom.

    Jessica, I'm going to read the article again and try looking at it from another standpoint.

    Anyway, like I said, I'm relieved that I wasn't the only one who put the article down and was less-than-thrilled.

  4. If it means anything, I'm chronically and unsuccessfully single. I'm not barren, but I totally get the frustration of others trying to convince me of how blessed I am. I know I'm blessed, but I didn't design me either. If I was supposed to grow old alone, then why not design me to want to grow old alone? Be disappointed in the article and justly so.

  5. Interesting - thanks for your thoughts. I haven't read the article yet. You do a great job reviewing articles/books. :)

  6. I've always found it insulting to pretty much say if you can't have children naturally you just adopt and you cannot complain.

  7. Although I didn't get as much the idea of her pushing adoption for only barren folks, I was somewhat disappointed by the article as well. I found this article to be a little too dark. I see what Jessica was saying though, the article having a Dantesco bent (parallel to the imagery of the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, my compatriot :) It was very introspective and highly academic, which is okay, but when talking about such personal subjects, meaning it evokes so many strong feelings, very different at times, to those who are struggling with infertility issues, just didn't seem to have a right ending, like an incomplete circle.
    Obviously I am not as good at reviewing or knowing what I want to say. I will have to read it again. We have two copies now b/c dh bought one too!