Every Christian must be involved in adoption—without exception

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”- Galatians 4:4-6

Adoption is a legal contract in which a child not born of DNA becomes as real as one who is. Unfortunately, the Christian church mostly sees adoption in the same way as Islam does.

Those of us engaged in the pro-life movement can recite some of the core scriptures we use in advocating adoption. In particular are these (All scriptures cited in this blog are ESV):

  • “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” –James 1:27
  • “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” –Malachi 4:5-6

While these verses may seem overused, they also are foundational for orphan and family ministries. I’ll come back to these in a minute. But let me shift to the religious differences between Islam and Christianity. I doubt I have to lay out much of an argument showing how these top two world religions are so different. “Of course they are different!” most Christians would exclaim. “Jesus is the truth and Islam is a lie.” The chorus from Christians sounds something like that; however, sans the remnant who is adopting and working to expand this area in the church, much of the church lives with an Islamic ideology when it comes to family.

Bear with me as I take us all back to the very basics of the Gospel. Again, these are phrases and verses we hear so often, we often take them for granted. Few would disagree that the single verse that encompasses the gospel is John 3:16:

  • “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

That core verse that is the essence of our salvation is only part of God’s family story. To understand the entire gospel is to understand adoption, for it was in Jesus that we were allowed to be “grafted in” (See Romans chapter 11 for an in-depth explanation of this reality). Familiar refrains of scripture remind us of the truth of the gospel as it related to adoption, as well:

  • When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4-7)
  • You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him (Romans 8:15-17)
  • He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:4-6)

These verses are only a few of myriad examples of the reality that the gospel has adoption at its very core. Without adoption, every Gentile would be without access to the Father. When Jesus died, He made a way for all Gentiles to become sons and daughters. A legitimate, real, legal son or daughter. Perhaps no piece of writing about adoption has impacted me as much as John Piper’s essay, “Adoption: The Heart of the Gospel”—please lay aside any opinions you have of the man or his doctrinal beliefs about other things because his teaching on adoption is 100% biblical. If you only want to skim, please focus your attention on these two of the eight points he makes:

  • Adoption did (for God) and does (for us) involve the legal status of the child.
  • Adoption brought us, and brings our children, the rights of being heirs of the Father.

I return you to James 1:27 and Malachi 4:5-6 now, where I began. The Bible implores us to care for orphans (and widows, but that’s a point for another post). The Bible is clear that God is going to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of their children to their fathers. The Bible is also clear that without these things happening, we’re in trouble—whether it be “stained by the world” or worse, having the earth stuck with a “decree of destruction” (some translations say “curse,”) these are not multiple choice questions for God the Father.

To care for the orphan, to care for the fatherless, we must give them status as a son or daughter. If they cannot be reconciled to their families and are able to be adopted, to do anything less is to shortchange them.

Family is our core. Even if we had a rotten family experience, it’s still our core. Our identity was forged in family—or from lack of it. If we had a healthy and godly family experience, it probably shaped our view of God in a positive way. Seeing God as Father was a natural extension. Sadly, that’s not the reality for many in modern times, but that’s why there are so many inner healing ministries focus on mother and father issues. We were destined to be in family. God’s plan was family, on earth as it is in heaven.

Adoption is truly a legal contract. There’s no way around it. When a child is adopted, he or she becomes as much of an heir as the children birthed who share DNA. There is absolutely no distinction in the law, or in the hearts of adoptive parents; all their children are their children. For parents, bringing children into their family, their “labor” included home studies and legal paperwork; for others, it was 32 hours of labor with or without an epidural. But there was still labor, as Piper posits.

For the church to understand the gospel we must understand adoption. This is not a side ministry for a few committed pro-life Christians. This is the core of being a Christian. While every single member of the body of Christ is not called to personally adopt, every single one is called to be a part of adoption in one way or another; adoption is the very heart of Christianity. For some, it’s financial, supporting a family as they, on a moderate income, navigate the legal costs involved in adoption. Some provide nannying, babysitting, or respite care to adoptive families. Whether it is serving an adopted family or becoming one who adopts, real Christianity has no out clause on the adoption question. Adoption is the central theme of the gospel. Further, James makes it clear that “faith without works is dead.” Thus, to understand the gospel core and not act on it is an indictment of our faith.

Christian Islam?

Now let’s shift gears to the opposite of Christianity: Islam. We know some basic differences. We’ve certainly heard the scare tactics preached about Islam. We tell stories of bombs and destruction, neglecting to acknowledge the many Muslims who actually do live in peace—at least socially speaking, for Islam is antithetical to Christianity. This is evident in multitudinous ways, but none is as obvious as Islam’s views on family and adoption.

I have shared with many about my own adoption from the Middle East. I was born in Bethlehem to an unwed mother. In that society a woman is not allowed to keep her child, even if she desires to do so. It is a scandalous shame to the culture. If the family is Christian, women will often be allowed to birth their child and place the child in an orphanage. In Islam, the woman can be killed to “avenge the family honor.” In fact, Jordan only recently banned honor killings. It is an astounding fact to us here in the United States, but it’s reality in Palestine, Jordan, and surrounding regions. Whether it’s legal or not, honor killings still occur today, but usually if the baby lives, he or she is given over to an orphanage. And it’s what happens then that feels so hopeless.

The sad truth is that, under current laws in Palestinian areas, a child is destined to forever be illegitimate. Up until a few years ago, some of those children could be adopted, but an immigration law a few years ago changed that. This law means certain paperwork must be generated for the child to be adopted, and some of that paperwork deems the child Muslim. And there is no adoption in Islam. This was the horrible reality I faced when I began searching for answers about my own adoption, that led me to go back and fight for the right for those orphans to be adopted—despite Islamic law.

But if there’s no adoption, why are there Muslim “adoption” agencies? You have to read the fine print to understand why these agencies call themselves “adoption” agencies. For the sake of making a point here, I’m going to provide information from one of these places, New Star Kafala, which calls itself “A Muslim Adoption And Child Advocacy Agency.” However, a closer look at the fine print explains what “adoption” means in Islam. The link to the explanations is here. I encourage you to read it further, as it’s impractical to quote it all here, but it’s all worth reading and understanding. Here’s the summary, directly quoted from the aforementioned link, though I have added bolded emphasis to highlight some aspects:

“According to the Sharee’ah (Islamic law), there is no legal adoption. It is prohibited for a person to legally adopt a son or a daughter of whom he is not the biological father… According to the Quran, one cannot become a person’s real son merely by virtue of a declaration; Allah Says (what means): “…And He [i.e., Allah] has not made your claimed [i.e., adopted] sons your [true] sons. That is [merely] your saying by your mouths, but Allah says the truth, and He guides to the [right] way. Call them [i.e., the adopted children] by [the names of] their fathers; it is more just in the sight of Allah. But if you do not know their fathers, they are your brothers in religion…” [Quran 33: 4-5]

“…[A] figure of speech cannot make the blood of a man run through the veins of the adopted child, produce natural feelings of affection found in normal parent-child relationships, or transfer the genetic characteristics, or physical, mental, or psychological traits. Islam views adoption as a falsification of the natural order of society and reality. The prohibition of legal adoption in Islam was ordained to protect the rights of the adopted, adopter, biological parents, other individuals affected by the adoption, and society as a whole.

“The child is an extension of his father and the bearer of his characteristics. He takes his name and increases his progeny. Likewise, the child in Islam also has the equally inalienable right to legitimacy. The principle of legitimacy holds that every child shall have a father and one father only…. adoption cannot be used in Islam to hide the illegitimacy or the paternity of the child.

By adopting someone’s child as one’s own, the rightful and deserving heirs to the property of a man are deprived of their shares. Hence, Islam has made it Haraam (forbidden) for a father to deprive his natural children of inheritance. Allah has established the distribution of inheritance in order to give each eligible person his or her share. In matters of inheritance, the Quran does not recognise any claim except those based on relationship through blood and marriage. The Quran stipulates (what means): “…But those of [blood] relationship are more entitled [to inheritance] in the decree of Allah. Indeed, Allah is knowing of all things.” [Quran 8:75]

“If the adopted child were to receive a claim on the inheritance of the adopter, the real relatives may become rightfully angry feeling that the adopted child has received something that is not rightfully his, depriving them of their full inheritance. This could lead to quarrels, fights and the breaking of relations among relatives. Therefore, adoption is not conducive to family solidarity and overall harmony and peace, which are necessary for social stability.”

The post goes on to explain “Allowable Forms of ‘Adoption’ in Islam,” including “orphans” and “foundlings”:

“[Orphan adoption] is a completely different form of adoption, which is not prohibited by Islam – that is, when a man brings home an orphan and wants to raise, educate, and treat him as his own child. In this case, he protects, feeds, clothes, teaches, and loves the child as his own without attributing the child to himself, nor does he give him or her the rights which the Sharee’ah (Islamic Law) reserves for his natural children.

“A foundling or abandoned child is also regarded as an orphan, and one may apply the term ‘wayfarer’ to him as well. In this case too, as in that of orphans, the child’s lineal identity must be unchanged and parenthood to the natural parents should not be denied.

“If a man is childless and wishes to benefit such a child (orphan or foundling) from his wealth, he may give him whatever he wants during his lifetime.”

What this all means should cause a startling awakening for the church. In Islam, adoption is a violation of the law of Allah, and the only real and legitimate families are those born from the parents’ DNA. Blood family is the only “real” family in Islam. While Allah considers it a noble act to take in an orphan and raise him or her, there is a limit. That limit means the orphan is always second best to the natural born child. What a horrible burden to put on the adopted child, to walk his whole life, knowing he can never be a real son, knowing he is second best, an impure reflection of family. It is the opposite of real adoption, and the opposite of what God the Father ordained through Jesus. We are not second best because we are Gentiles. We were given access to the best, without restrictions or limitations. It cost God everything, but our adoption was worth everything to Him. Islam says the opposite.

We are quick to acknowledge that Islam is the opposite of Christianity, but much of the church lives with the Islamic paradigm about family. “Us four and no more,” “My blood is my family,” “I mean, I’d love to adopt but I can’t do that to my children…,” “I just don’t think I could love someone else’s child as my own the same way,” “It’s just different when it’s your own child,” “It would mess up our family dynamic to adopt an orphan, especially one who is older,” “I might consider it if I can’t get pregnant and all the fertility treatments don’t work, but that’s the only way I would” (second best). The list goes on. Many believers shudder at having an outsider over for a family gathering or holiday, let alone bringing that non-blood person into the family legally. They are afraid, they tell me, of how their birth children would feel if, for example, someone outside the family were invited to spend Christmas with them. These are phrases and ideas (excuses) I have actually heard people say over the years. While those comments have always grieved me to some degree, the impact of those phrases, those reflections of Christians’ very hearts, took on new meaning when I discovered what the Quran said about adoption.

We claim to be radical Christians. We will obey God, even when the world doesn’t, we boldly proclaim. We are not like “those Muslims.”

Except we are.

Every time we have a similar attitude about adoption—legal, authentic, heir-granting, costly adoption—every single time, we are channeling the spirit of the antichrist. We eschew movies with magic and demons, we homeschool to avoid the “evils” of public school, we have “trunk or treat” to avoid Halloween—but we live with the spirit of the antichrist in our own hearts with the way we view family and who can be legitimate.


Tim and Janette with their daughters, Hannah and Bekah

God the Father gave His only son for the sake of adoption. This is not a feel-good memory verse we got a sticker for reciting in the second grade: this is reality. God, the creator of everything that exists, the One with all power, that same God gave His only son, His heir, His DNA, to allow us to be legally adopted into His family. Jesus was the legal contract—sealed with blood, written in the Word. Adoption is not merely a human declaration; it’s not a feeling. It is a legal contract, sealed in court records, stretching the family, creating heirs to the name, giving new identity to the adopted child.

The question we must ask ourselves, the question we must honestly answer before the Lord, is this: How can we truly love Him and not have a heart for adoption? We cannot reject what God has not only ordained, but given His son’s life to do for us. Jesus died to redeem us from the law that left us as orphans. This isn’t just a Bible story. It is reality.

When we reject adoption, when we call it second best, when we say “you’re just like family,” but we won’t pay the price to “make it real” if that person needs a family, when we refuse to give an orphan a birthright, we are reflecting Islam and the spirit of the antichrist.

Many of my friends are pioneers in the adoption revolution, which is small but mighty; there are two phrases I’ve often heard them say, which have never made more sense to me as they did upon discovering what Islam teaches about adoption and family.

  • Adoption is spiritual warfare.
  • The greatest evangelizing I do is through adoption.

Several years ago many teachers and preachers seemed to land on warning the church about the rise of Islam as it related to the growth of Christianity worldwide. We’re not talking “First Assembly of God in Anytown, USA” church growth, but the growth of Christianity worldwide versus the growth of Islam worldwide. Repeatedly, Islam was deemed the fastest growing religion, and the reason for that is related to family demographics: “Muslims have more children than members of the seven other major religious groups” and “In all major regions where there is a sizable Muslim population, Muslim fertility exceeds non-Muslim fertility.” Thus, to battle the rise of Islam and its ideology, while ignoring adoption as a key in the process, we miss a key weapon of our warfare and reduce our evangelistic reach. If the heart of Christianity beats because of adoption, and the heart of Islam is opposed to it, what a force of spiritual warfare it is to be a key player in the adoption movement.

You know what happens to the kids in the orphanage where I was? They age out of there after a few years and go to children’s homes. Most of those homes are Islamic homes since the church is the ruling body in Palestine, where there is no national government. Therefore, they are set on a path to be Muslim orphans. Forever. And we, ourselves, were set on a path to be Gentile orphans forever. But God said otherwise. And He did otherwise when He gave His only son, his DNA, His seed, and let Him die so we could be reconciled to Him and no longer be orphans. We’ve heard that truth all of our Christian lives, yet I suspect we don’t really understand it. If we did, there wouldn’t be an orphan eligible for adoption. In the United States alone, about 100,000 orphans are eligible to be adopted just from foster care (and, sadly, adoptions in the United States are declining); worldwide, there are an estimated 140 million orphans. When we refuse to give a child a birthright and share our family, we proclaim the mindset of Allah, rather than that of God the Father.

Spiritual warfare and life-changing evangelism starts right in our homes and hearts. Adoption is not only for a select few who are called to it; we are all called to be a major player in adoption if we are children of God.


Jonathan and Lisa with their daughter, Piper Rose

As Christians, we have a responsibility to be an active player in adoption, and, above all, we must support adoption boldly and vocally. We must eschew the ideologies of Islam, which is the spirit of the antichrist, and we must proclaim the truth of Christianity and the reality of adoption through Jesus Christ.

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.


Selected Resources (feel free to add your own in the comments)


Yes, Mr. Blogger, LifeWay most certainly is pro-life

If you know me, you know that people joke I can make the Pope look pro-choice. I am pro-life to the nth degree, so much I irritate other pro-life Christians sometimes. There are places I won’t shop and things I won’t be involved with because of abortion ties. I research, read, write, and breathe LIFE. I say all this to say that the last thing you will ever find me doing is covering up for anyone in this arena.

That said, I am disturbed by a blog that is going around social media, in which the writer, Mike S. Adams, asserts that LifeWay’s book division is not pro-life. In his critical blog, Rightly Offended, Mr. Adams details his shopping trip to buy the new book on late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell, entitled, Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer. After his attempt to order the book on Amazon was met with a lengthy shipping delay, he goes to Barnes and Noble to purchase it. Critically commenting on the store itself, he remarks his journey to a far corner of the store that held only one copy of the book, which was not discounted like other new releases (since it is on the main B&N site, he doesn’t say if he asked for the discount in case it was a store mistake). Upset, he headed to his local LifeWay store, which is the real subject of his blog—using the missing book to make a parallel with the church’s silence on abortion. He says:

After looking through the small section and not finding Gosnell, I approached the woman working at the register and asked her to direct me to the pro-life section. I was disappointed when she told me Lifeway doesn’t have a pro-life book section. All they have is a section called “current issues.” She assured me that I could find the pro-life books there.

I took a look through the entire “current issues” section. There were a few books on homosexuality and a few dozen by authors telling us they were sure the world was about to end. But there was no Gosnell and only one book on the issue of abortion. It was on how to share the gospel with a woman after she had an abortion. It was only about 100 pages long. Just to the right of the book, I found a “finance” shelf with close to fifty different selections.

That pretty well sums up the state of the American church. For every Christian committed to defending the unborn, there are fifty “Christians” who are only committed to defending their 401k.

I wish Lifeway would make a statement by putting a pro-life apologetics section in all of their stores. But they are a just a business that serves and reflects the interests of churchgoers rather than proactively shaping the Christian culture.

Regardless, the book selection at Lifeway is a crude reminder of the indisputable fact that abortion only exists with the consent of the church.

Some of you may be surprised to hear me counter this blog because I absolutely agree that the church, overall, is silent on the issue of abortion. But LifeWay isn’t. Let me take you back to the day I made history without even trying. LifeWay had published a Here’s Hope Breast Cancer Awareness Bible, but it donated some of the proceeds to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, who funds the nations number one abortion provider, a fact LifeWay, like many at that time, did not know. I wrote an article about this—and suddenly it was on the front page of every major media outlet in the nation (and some outside the nation). So horrified was LifeWay to realize they were funding a direct abortion connection that the pulled the Bible off every retailer and ceased the sales taking a heavy financial loss. LifeWay head, Thomas S. Rainer issued an apology:

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That action became a catalyst for Komen making a decision to defund Planned Parenthood. The head of Komen at the time Karen Handel wrote about it in her book Planned Bullyhood, saying that article was one of the last straws. (Eventually Komen caved to the bullying and reinstated the abortion giant’s funding, and Handel left and wrote her book).

I have to admit, I was stunned that LifeWay did what they did because Adams is right that usually even Christian businesses can tend to focus on the bottom line of the almighty dollar in cases like this, but not LifeWay. I realized then that this was a corporation that was truly Christian. The moment they realized the connection with abortion they apologized and reversed the action—true corporate repentance.

But the story didn’t end there. Many months later, it turned out that some employee in a Walmart warehouse found a box of the Bibles that were to be sent back and somehow got overlooked—and he put them on walmart.com for sale. I can’t even recall how I came across it, but I did. I was shocked. I ordered one (with the intention of returning it for a full refund) to be sure it was a legitimate order and not leftover. It shipped, and I contacted LifeWay, ready for a fight if they went back on their word. But there was nothing to fight about. They got to the bottom of it, the employee error, having those Bibles sent back, as they were supposed to be. I had managed to come across it the very time the rogue employee found them, so the Bibles were never sold. Except the one that got through to me.

During this time, I had a conversation with one of the heads of LifeWay. I had left the company a voicemail the night I found the Bibles, and he called me back at 10 a.m. the next day—apologizing for taking “so long” to get back to me. Of course, it wasn’t long at all, but that’s how urgent he saw it. When he received my message—which had to be sent from whomever checked the voicemail on to him, he headed to meeting of the leadership team at LifeWay who would be the ones to contact about the issue. He explained he finally found the leadership team and they were in a prayer meeting so then he had to wait longer while they finished. He was offering this by way of apology for his “delay” in returning my call. Then he explained how they had tracked down the Walmart mystery and there would be no sales of that Bible. Either way, they had pulled out of Komen, so the pink organization wouldn’t be getting anymore blood money, Bible or not.

I forget some of the details of our talk, but for some reason he had to email me something related to it later in the day. I will never forget that afternoon. It was a Wednesday. I was in the prayer room at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, laptop open, getting some work done, but enjoying the atmosphere. I can recall where I was sitting and the “feel” of the room based on the Wednesday regulars I would always see at the 4 p.m. intercession set. I have such sensory memories of that day because of the email exchange between the LifeWay leader and me. We had a brief email conversation the afternoon of our phone call, and then at the end of it, he added something I will never forget. He thanked me. He thanked me for writing the first article and exposing the connection because they would not have known otherwise. Because of that, he said, they were able to get that book off the shelves and not be a party to funding any place connected with abortion.

The man who is a leader in a business thanked me for costing him money and horrible publicity. I wrote an article that got them criticized and had the media descending on them. My article was quite critical, though it was also quite true. It cost them publicity, popular opinion—and cold hard cash. And that afternoon one of the heads of that organization thanked me for doing it because they had more interest in the truth and being no part of abortion than they did money.

And I cried.

Right there in the prayer room, with happy music coming from the stage, and intercessors pacing as they prayed, tears flowed from my eyes. They thanked me. They loved truth.

I’d just come out of a season of losing friends and even ministry because I had been so determined to stand pure in the area of abortion that I eschewed eating or drinking foods connected with its funding. I had refused to be associated with compromise, and it cost me (by the way I don’t regret that either). And people were upset with me because they felt “judged” or that I was too “self-righteous.” In truth, I could do nothing else because the Lord had drawn me into the pro-life movement with a powerful and unmistakable call. And then He gave me both a voice and a pen to speak. But it costs you to do that. And on that day, here was a man whom I had cost thousands of dollars, and he and his organization loved truth more than cash. He helped heal some of that pain with that thank you.

Let me be clear: He got nothing out of it. The stories had been written; the tale was complete. It was all after-the-fact conversation. He wasn’t thanking me to get good spin on a new story, for there wasn’t one left. In fact, this is the first time I have publicly written about that event.

Since then I have gone out of my way to buy from LifeWay when I am in areas that have their stores. Every time I see a LifeWay store my spirit soars a bit as I remember the bold witness they took for LIFE.

So tonight when I saw that blog from Mr. Adams, I felt righteous indignation. I don’t know all the facts. LifeWay may not be carrying this book, but I assure you the reason is not that they are afraid to take a stand for LIFE. The publisher of the Gosnell book is Regenry, a conservative book publisher, but not an overtly Christian one. Maybe Lifeway doesn’t have regular connections with them or a distribution contract. Maybe they only sell Christian or inspirational books since they are a niche store and not a general bookstore. The Gosnell book is an important work and a best seller already. But a Christian bookstore doesn’t always carry secular best sellers. I actually would not expect to find it at a Christian store. That doesn’t even make sense to me.

I am also troubled by the fact that Adams’ n=1. He went to one store and then wrote a blog. Did Mr. Adams call LifeWay? I can assure him that LifeWay is responsive to bloggers’ inquiries.

Mr. Adams is correct about the lack of books on abortion. But that’s not LifeWay’s fault, nor should the Christian company be the scapegoat for Adams’ frusrating shopping experience. A few years ago, I was in a private meeting with the publisher of a major Christian imprint and a Christian speaker who is a household name in the church world, who wanted to write a book about abortion. I was going to help write it. The major publisher (whose name you would also know) told us that people don’t want to read books about abortion. And while I found that a sad fact, it was not surprising to hear.

Indeed, our pulpits are all-too-silent. I was in Christian ministry before I ever heard a sermon about abortion. It surely did not happen in my local church, though my churches would acknowledge abortion was bad, but that was the extent of it, usually. Last year I was privileged to be part of a pro-life apologetics class at Oklahoma Wesleyan University. I read multiple books on abortion for that course—and none was easily available in the mainstream. This crisis of knowledge does not exist because of isolated incident like one LifeWay store not selling a secularly published book.

I agree with the indictment of the church’s silence and have said as much many times, but I vehemently disagree with singling out a business of great integrity in the pro-life arena over one incident that probably has more to the story than he sought to discover.

My friends, LifeWay is not the problem, and Mr. Adams is not “rightly offended,” as the title of his blog says. LifeWay most certainly is pro-life. Its leaders have great integrity and love Jesus more than money. Someday I hope to meet them in person because the last email with that man was an invitation to contact him if I were ever in the Nashville area so he could give me a tour of LifeWay and meet me in person. Know why? Because LifeWay loves LIFE.


The LifeWay leader pointed out to me that I could keep the Bible from Walmart.com because Komen wouldn’t be getting “one more cent” from them. So I ended up with a memorial stone from the Lord Himself. The book reminds me every time I see it that one blog can make a difference and alter many things, and the Bible reminds me that there are bold witnesses of truth and LIFE who care more about Jesus than money.


Precious moments: being “too Christian” in graduate school

In graduate school I was “too Christian.”

We were training to be teachers in the humanities department, and I was taking a required colloquium in teaching class as a graduate assistant. That day, Professor X came to guest lecture. X was telling us how these vulnerable freshmen come to us and have been raised in a bubble all their lives. He said, back in the late 90s, “Just like that: Bill Clinton, Jesus, and Santa Claus.” He followed it with a WHOOSH sound, as if to say the reality that none was real overtook these poor misguided kids.

You could see my reaction. I was indignant It was not raging anger, not hatred, certainly not agreement.  I was indignany that somehow Jesus was supposed to be reduced to fantasy if I were an intellectual. I knew better.

It was October, and since August I’d been on a new spiritual journey, unlike any before in my Christian life. I had a spiritual mom in my life who prayed with me often, who talked to me about God like He was a real person. And I had begun to change. I was alive again. Alive for the first time, really. And there was no way Jesus was in the same category as the fallen Bill Clinton and fictional Santa Claus. I felt like someone had just dissed by BFF. Because he did.

I went quiet the rest of the 2 hours and 40 minutes. It was a turning point in my spiritual life, that day. It was the day I knew I either had to acquiesce to the culture around me, or stand up for what I knew was true. My job as a teacher was not to change student’s beliefs; it was to help students question things in a productive way to ensure they understood what they espoused about anything. That’s a fine line, but it is a distinctive one. One tears down, as if to say “I’m right, and you are misguided.” The other deconstructs and puts the pieces back together one at a time to build understanding and come to conclusions. My job was to create learners and thinkers who could construct knowledge and induce reasoning to deduce the world in which they live. I was not going to be part of telling people their beliefs were wrong. I was going to be a part of helping people figure out how to be sure of what they believed—whether about human nature, personal values, or Jesus Himself.

That week I prayed. A lot. I talked to my spiritual mom. I wrestled inside myself. I knew it was a turning point. The next week I showed up to class in a t-shirt that had the Bible verse where Paul says, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2). That was my answer. Looking back I see it was a bit “in your face,” but I think God honored me because of my heart, if not my methods. I didn’t stick my backside at anyone so they could read the shirt or anything, but I wore in on purpose; I wore it for myself, my banner. And the class debrief began.

The teacher asked what we thought of Professor X’s lecture. And the students gave all the right answers. Except me.

“I didn’t appreciate what he said about Jesus being a myth.”

The teacher backtracked. “I don’t think that’s really what he meant,” she said. But I quoted him again. “Yes, he did. He said that exactly.”

That wasn’t the end of the Christian debate. The next week was the time to highlight all the “embarrassing” Christians. You know, the ones “with bumper stickers that say ‘I heart TBN,’” one said. “Or Precious Moments,” someone added, giggling at the cheesiness. “Someone gave me a bunch of Precious Moments stuff,” she said, sarcastically.

That was it. Without missing a beat, and without a hint of anger, I opened my purse and took out my checkbook. My Precious Moments checkbook. The one I thought was cute, and was no reflection on my level of thinking ability or intellectual endeavor. I liked seeing praying kids and scriptures when I paid bills.

I showed them the checks.

The one making fun of it immediately looked a bit embarrassed, and she genuinely and kindly offered to give me the Precious Moments gift she had been given. I still appreciate that because I saw her heart was good and she didn’t realize that her attitude could be perceived as negative. But in most cases I just became a freak show.

Later that class the teacher said, “You know, SM, you really might consider going over to the education department to get your degree since humanities is more for future professors, and you just want to teach junior high.”

“No,” I said, resolutely, “I’m positive I want the master’s degree in humanities.”

And so I stayed. But not as much because very suddenly there was no graduate assistantship left for me. I was half time, and it seemed they needed to cut back on half-timers. I knew darned well that wasn’t the reason. Most people need assistantships to stay in school. It was a push to get me out. In fact, they told me I wasn’t really like everyone else because I just wanted to “get [my] degree and get out.” There was a club forming in the humanities department, and I was too Christian to be in it.

I walked over to another department where I had a bit of work experience in their field and applied for an assistantship. I got it. I was paid double, kept all my benefits, and worked half the time as the other one. God took care of me better than if I had stayed. It was one of my first lessons of Him honoring His word and those who keep it.

I had switched major advisers early on, and I had a lovely woman who supported my work and research. I’m not sure where she was as far as sharing values, but that’s good. She didn’t let her opinions be known. This endowed professor and scholar of worldwide renown taught me, mentored me, and got me through my thesis research, which was especially controversial, but fully substantiated. Now I see it was also prophetic. Since that time I have literally watched things I wrote about being possible in the future fully come to pass.

The day came to defend my thesis. I had one person on my committee who was having issues with some of my assertions, such as things I said about the right-to-die movement. He was going to be my only hurdle, and while I knew it would be okay, I was trying to fully prepare for a real defense. Would you believe he was too sick to attend? He got better, but he actually felt so bad he was unable to come–he had an ongoing problem, but that one day, it was just too much for him. Since the rest of the committee and grad school faculty were there, the defense went on. I did well. Really well.

The icing on the graduate school cake happened that day. The director of graduate studies commented that my thesis was more well-written than the dissertation that just got defended last week—and said I needed to seriously consider coming back to do my doctorate. There. In the department that wanted to move me to the other school. It was the ultimate vindication for me in that entire experience. I finished in about three years, average time for that program, which included both a thesis and comprehensive exams. During most of that time I was working in another department and just taking classes because after the first year, I was not conformed enough to join the prevailing thought and ways. I realize that statement sounds dramatic, but it’s also true and I was told as much many times. I had to examine a lot in those years, but soon after the class confrontations came my deepest encounter of my life with Jesus—one that impacts me to this very day. In the season I was most challenged to either conform or be set on the back burner, I had enough in me to know what my choice was.

The opening of my thesis includes a reference to Romans 12:2: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” In the end it was published—and, ironically, sits in a specialized research library in Washington, DC, where my research contributed to the body of work on topics of nonconformity.

What I learned most in my season of graduate school wasn’t about other people. The Bible tells us people will be hostile to–or at the very least not understanding of–Christianity. What I learned was what I ultimately wrote about in that same thesis: That we must know why we believe what we believe, or when it is challenged we will fall. I learned that my faith was real and worth standing for. at whatever the cost, and it did cost me. But God covered me too. I don’t even remember at this moment the precise moment, but at the end of my program right around my defense, the Lord gave me Isaiah 55. The part that I recall sticking out the most was this:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts. (v. 8-9, NKJV)

As I reread this chapter to quote here, I was also struck by the fact this was at the end of my program that the Lord gave me this and what it says in that chapter:

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

“For you shall go out with joy,
And be led out with peace; (v. 11-12a, NKJV)

This was my promise fulfilled. I went out with joy and peace. But I didn’t do it for the promise. I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen; what I knew was that I loved God more than being part of the jokes about him, no matter how logical they seemed.

In the end, Professor X’s visit was a blessing. God will use anyone and anything He wants. Professor X was never my enemy. He was a catalyst to a great move of God in my life.

And that’s the moral of this story.