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The Failed Quest of Orphan Theology

After her uterus nearly erupted, Vyckie Garrison was rushed to the hospital to give birth to her seventh child. The emergency caesarean section nearly killed her. Her doctor warned the family to stop having children. Her friends balked at the prospect, promising that God would see to it that she was OK.

“Jesus died for us,” Garrison said. “We should be willing to die for him.” Her next two pregnancies have resulted in miscarriage.

As part of the Quiverfull movement, it is Garrison’s role to keep churning out as many babies as possible, in hopes of transforming America into a fully realized Christian country. This evangelical subset teaches complete submission to the husband; women are considered little more than vessels of reproduction.

I became aware of another movement bent on creating ‘God’s Army’ eight years ago when discovering Patrick Henry College, a Virginia University specifically designed to send young Christians off into a life of politics, where they transform religious values into public policy.

The process is simple enough to explain, if nearly impossible to digest: raise as many children as possible to beget as many children as possible; home school them, the Bible being their main textbook; ship them off to a Christ-centric college.

The major problem is that not all eight children (Vision Forum Ministry pastor Doug Philips calculated that eight children will each beget eight, and so forth) are going to get down with the program. In fact, it appears that is rarely the case.

Yet there are alternatives, evidenced by Kathryn Joyce’s article in Mother Jones. Borrowing from her new book, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption, she covers another evangelical movement: Liberian adoption.

According to Joyce, hundreds of families rushed off to the America-invented African country to, once again, cross an ocean and fuel modern religious enslavement: shackling children with the chains of doctrine.

In 2005, the same year that the New Yorkerexposé on Patrick Henry College was published, Above Rubies publisher and home schooling cheerleader Nancy Campbell began advocating for American families to adopt Liberian children. She thought this was the most ‘cost-effective’ method of adoption (unsurprising, considering some agencies were illegitimate) in a nation in which she claimed one million children die every year—in a country of under four million. 

Campbell’s ‘orphan theology’ sent hundreds of American families to Africa, gleeful papas hauling back five, six or more children—some congregations scooped up a bulk rate of 100 and passed them around.

As can be expected, plenty of turmoil ensued: beatings, sexual abuse, death, and a host of families attempting to return the African children who would not ‘Americanize’ quickly enough.

Such an unfortunate reality can be expected when encouraged by an ulterior motive. The Liberian—and as Joyce writes, other denominations have focused elsewhere, such as in Ethiopia and the Congo—orphan theology was not founded to help children, but to make them part of the Army. The children’s well-being was secondary. As Campbell wrote at the time,

When we welcome a child into our heart and into our home, we actually welcome Jesus Himself.

Today—literally—Campbell continues to promote female subservience on her Facebook page. The failed orphan theology has quieted, though not ceased. The many faces of this growing Army continue to emerge; barely a day can go by without evidence of such. Most unnerving, parents are not even attempting to raise independent children to be responsible, free-thinking adults. They are breeding moral machines programmed to recite rhetoric. 

When a defector appears in the ranks, he or she is treated with scorn and derision; disownment is a predictable fate. Parents claim how hard they tried to raise him righteously; it’s his fault for not understanding the truth of their god. The Army marches forward, undeterred and maddened, the carnage of family and friends a mere toll for their piety, stopping at nothing until their vision of reality manifests.

Image: Anelina/


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