#ErasingFamily: how did we get here?

erasing familyI love the work being done by #ErasingFamily. They are calling attention to how the judicial system perpetuates injustice by alienating parents from their children during divorce proceedings. This is truly a great mission. I hate our divorce system in the United States. It is a unilateral, involuntary system that drags legally innocent people into an often years-long emotional morass that costs them their children and their assets. It is a monster that needs to be destroyed. There can be no justice in unilateral, involuntary divorce.

So I love #ErasingFamily for calling attention to our corrupt divorce system.

But I also want to step back and consider how we got here. How did we get to the place where an phenomenon like #ErasingFamily even needs to exist?

I believe there are three cultural shifts that contributed to the #ErasingFamily movement.

First, it began in an unlikely place: when we reframed adoption. Adoption used to be a child welfare measure of final resort. And that is how most people still view it. But it has morphed into something more than that. Not always, but often enough, it is a system that finds children for people who want to be parents. The focus shifts from what the child needs to what the adults want.

By reframing adoption, we legitimized chopping down a child’s family tree for the sake of the desires of the new custodial parents. We told adoptees that they shouldn’t care about where they came from. We suppressed their birth records. We failed to address their root issues during therapy sessions. We ignored the social science that tells us their elevated risk for suicide. We failed to try and keep the family together.

So you can see how erasing family began.

Once it was socially acceptable, even lauded, to erase a child’s entire family to fulfill the wishes of adoptive parents, the logic follows like this:

  • it is then acceptable to split the child’s family in half (divorce, two homes) due to the parent’s wishes.
  • it is then acceptable to erase 1/2 of the child’s family (#ErasingFamily, anonymous sperm/egg donation) due to the parents’ wishes.

Second, we changed divorce laws. It used to be that courts sided with the innocent spouse. Now they side with the spouse who wants the marriage the least. Legal innocence or or legal guilt does not play a role in how divorce courts operate. This system favors the person who is most ruthless.

Third, we started to believe that adults are entitled to do pretty much whatever they want sexually. This frees them from any responsibility towards their child’s opposite sex parent, which means that they are entitled to ignore half of who the child is. Look at the photo above and compare it to this video. The logic plays out perfectly even though the sexual preference of the parents is different.

It used to be that sex and family went together as a package deal, but not anymore.

So this is the recipe for the #ErasingFamily brew in which we find ourselves today.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about how people can avoid being erased from their child’s life.

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Child of divorce testimonial: I hate divorce

I hate the splintering of two lives resulting in the children having to clean up the aftermath. I hate being a daughter of a broken marriage. I hate having trust issues and fear when it comes to romantic relationships. I hate that I desire so much security to come from a man.

I hate it because I wish I didn’t desire it.

I hate that I have lack.

Read more here: I hate divorce

Expand social justice to include children’s family trees

Social justice typically has to do with promoting equality under the law, and equal access to resources (such as education and healthcare).

archimedesHowever, these advocates don’t seem to realize that by embracing sexual and reproductive liberty, they have inadvertently fostered inequality for the children who are created as a result of those choices. In embracing sexual and reproductive freedom, the older generation uses technology and ideals like a fulcrum to lever the younger generation, their children, in a way that suits them even though it violates the child’s ontology. This is often not what their parents did to them. Some examples:

None of these are what is best for the kids. They are all manifestations of the older generation taking advantage of the power imbalance between them and the younger generation.

Sexual and reproductive liberty is a “might makes right” philosophy.

 

Abortion is the most obvious example of how this plays out. Sex makes babies, and having even contracepted sex is a dice roll. There is no such thing as a guarantee for pregnancy-free coitus.

This means that when people roll the dice and turn up pregnant, that doesn’t give them a right to an abortion. They engaged in an activity that had no assurance of being 100% pregnancy free. If they then destroy that life, they have used technology and ideals to take advantage of the power imbalance. The have participated in “might makes right.”

But there are other inequalities as well, stemming from the “might makes right” thinking fostered by sexual and reproductive liberty.

We see a tremendous and growing amount of inequality in children’s family structures, and in the respect shown to children’s family trees. If you are lucky enough to know where you come from, and to have an intact ontological understanding of yourself, it is probably not due to your parents engaging in sexual and reproductive liberty. It was probably due to them staying together and making sacrifices. I don’t find it coincidental that kids raised with their own married parents fare better, on the aggregate, than kids raised any other way.

Sometimes an inequality can happen due to unforeseen circumstances, a parent dying, for example. If this happens, we all understand it that pain. There is lots of emotional support for those kids. For example, there are lots of sympathy cards available for people who have lost a mother or father due to death.

sympathy card loss of your mother
This card was designed for somebody whose mom died. It was not designed for kids with two gay dads.

But when a child’s family tree is severed or split due to somebody exercising sexual or reproductive liberty, there is zero cultural support for those kids. They’re supposed to stop feeling sorry for themselves, care more for their parents’ happiness than their own, get over it, and just, somehow, get on with their lives as if nothing is wrong. I believe that this teaches them to lie and be codependent. They have to ignore how they feel in order to make their parents happy.

i wish i had a dad

I would like to see the social justice community defend children’s family structures, their family trees founded on natural marriage, and therefore their ontological understanding of themselves. It would mean that they would have to stop supporting sexual and reproductive liberty. But I think it would be a good trade since they have inadvertently embraced a “might makes right” way of dealing with the younger generation. The pro-life movement is a youth movement for all the reasons I’m outlining here. Abortion supporters did not predict this after Roe v. Wade. Shouldn’t social justice advocates acknowledge this and incorporate the zeal and energy of the youth into their advocacy?

As I have argued before, Christian sexual ethics is better than any of the alternatives in this regard. I cannot go along with the injustice of chopping down or dismembering a child’s family tree for the sole purpose of making adults feel comfortable, happy, or fulfilled.

Image citation: Salak, Janna. With Deepest Sympathy. Jackson: 3dRose LLC, n.d. Amazon.com. 3dRose. Web. 28 May 2016.

 

I used to be pro-contraception

 

Birth control word cloud

For most of my life I was pro-contraception. During my time on AOL (pre-internet, c. 1998?), I had online discussions about it, with those who held that contraception was wrong. These people were fellow homeschoolers who were Quiverfull Evangelicals. Their argument was that as Christians, we needed to trust God for the number of children we should have.

My argument was that God gave us a brain and we had an obligation to use it. Thus, if our circumstance warranted it, we were free to use contraception, perhaps we were even required to use it. Not using it in a circumstance that warranted it seemed naive to me, almost like resorting ONLY to prayer instead of going to a doctor when really sick.

Plus, I looked around at the Quiverfull women I actually knew. There were several of them in the homeschooling group we were part of. I loved these women but to be honest they all seemed dejected, overworked and burdened. I took this as evidence that their “trust God” argument was not valid. And of course, my husband and I were contracepting.

Years later I learned about the Catholic teaching on contraception and it really spoke to my heart. It spun me around in a major way.

The Catholic view is different than the Quiverfull view, at least as it was presented to me back at that time on AOL.

The Catholic view is not founded on an admonition to trust God. Certainly trusting God comes into play. But the Catholic view is, first and foremost, an appeal to the beauty and fidelity of what God said in the Bible about the two becoming one flesh in verses like these:

As Christians, I’m sure we can all agree that God wants men and women to become one flesh inside marriage. 

union of two setsUnfortunately, our culture has embraced an untrue idea, and it has crept into many or even most marriages: we withhold a part of ourselves from our spouse, but we believe this does not impact our “one flesh” union. And what do we withhold? Our fertility. 

When we hold back even a small part of ourselves, are the two one? If so, how?

In math, union means all. It doesn’t mean some. It doesn’t mean most. The union of two sets means all of the elements of both sets. If one element of one set is missing, it is not a union.

sperm and eggIn biology, when a sperm unites with an egg, the two individual cells become one cell. They are not somehow still two cells in a mysterious way.

And then there’s God: we know God doesn’t hold back part of Himself from us. And certainly Christ doesn’t hold back part of Himself from the Church.

It looks to me now that contraception mars the beauty of the “one-flesh” teaching. It is like a small wedge between the husband and wife.

I still remember the moment all of these pieces dropped into place. I saw how the Catholics were the only Christians maintaining complete fidelity to the “one-flesh” Scriptures. They were correct regarding the very cornerstone of human life. It is so foundational to marriage, the family, sex and children. And I thought to myself, “Wow, I want that.” The moment I saw that that the Catholics were correct on this point, I began to wonder what else they might be correct about.

And that is the story of how I went from being pro-contraception to embracing the Catholic teaching on it. I was first persuaded by its beauty and fidelity to Scripture, then went on to learn more.

I feel a little insecure about posting this, since there may be some gaps that I need to fill in. Plus I realize it is not the most robust description of the Church’s teaching you can find. It’s just how things worked for me at the beginning of my journey into the Church.

If anybody is interested in learning more about the difference between the Catholic view and the Quiverfull view, here are two links that discuss it in more detail:

Image citations:

The Union of Two Sets. Digital image. Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2016.

Rivas, Anthony. Sperm and Egg. Digital image. Medical Daily. N.p., 04 Apr. 2014. Web. 27 May 2016.

Divorce as ontological brokenness…

Wow, this is really good. It’s by somebody named Paul Maxwell. Here is part of it, but please read the whole thing. He describes the ontological-tearing aspect of divorce really well.

… Divorce “attacks the self, because the self is formed within the belonging and meaning provided by the family. When it is destroyed, the threat of lost place and lost purpose becomes a reality. Without place or purpose, one becomes a lost self” (Andrew Root, Children of Divorce, 21). More than losing myself, though, I lost the ability to relate to my heavenly Father. I certainly didn’t think that God had anything to say, or even cared, about the mangled, overturned vehicle in our living room. I’m sometimes still tempted to think that way today. But he does. He speaks. And he cares.

… This isn’t meant to judge divorced parents, or to deter parents from getting divorced for legitimate reasons (abuse or adultery). The point is to see how, as children of divorce, Jesus Christ is a light in dark places, a hope for the broken, confused, and lonely. We will piece together some themes from Scripture to explain how God understands and relates to children of divorce, in ten points…

Read the whole thing here:

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/to-the-sons-and-daughters-of-divorce

 

 

I love being Catholic

I really love being Catholic. It makes me so happy just to write those words. I wish I could convey my love so that others could see what I see.

The Church is a good mother.

She helps me grow closer to Jesus. She teaches me how to pray. She loves art, music and beauty.

holy familyShe taught me about marriage and the family. She showed me how they are a reflection of the Trinity. This insight is the the firm foundation for all of what I write about here.

She gave me my baptism and my confirmation. She gave me Sacred Scriptures and teaches me what they mean. She gives me the fulfillment of John 6:53 every Sunday, the body and blood of our Lord, as He commanded.

She gave me an identity, one I will have forever.

I know these things because she is His bride, and she loves her Bridegroom. They are one. Where she is, He is. Where He is, she is.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I love the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

Divorce profiteering and misleading ads

lifes short get a divorce advertisement

Yea, this is a real advertisement for legal divorce services. It says:

Life’s short. Get a divorce.

I may comment on the images in a future post. For now I’ll just say this:

Divorce shortens children’s lives. Divorced people of both sexes have elevated risks for suicide, but among men the elevation is much greater.

Given this, maybe the ad should say:

Life’s short. Make it shorter by getting a divorce.

That would be more honest.

 

 

 

When family building becomes family breaking

“Family building” is a euphemism. It is a nice sounding phrase that hides unethical practices.

Euphemism means: “a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.”

OK, so if it’s a euphemism, what is the harsh or blunt aspect?

Here’s an example. Check out this resolution by a group called RESOLVE, The National Infertility Association:

RESOLVE believes that everyone facing infertility deserves access to all family building options.

It means that infertile couples have a right to obtain human beings by whatever means. That’s the harsh or blunt aspect.

Hey look, I have heard heartbreaking stories of how painful infertility is. I have no doubt about those stories. I empathize with their pain. Let me be clear that I don’t like pain and I don’t want people to feel pain.

But no amount of pain gives people a right to parent an unrelated child. 

Notice the part that says, “… all family building options.”

I don’t think they thought that through very well. There IS such a thing as unethical “family building.” In fact, I would argue that anytime you see the phrase “family building,” it referring to an unethical practice.

Do moms and dads who are married to each other use that phrase? I don’t think so. There is only one way to ethical “build” a family and it goes like this:

  • Save sex for marriage.
  • Marry somebody of the opposite sex.
  • Don’t deliberately wait until the woman’s peak childbearing years are behind her.
  • Have children in marriage.
  • Stay married and raise your children.

I know there will be detractors and nit-pickers who say, “What about death? What about divorce?” So let me be clear: a family that loses one parent to death is ethically the same as if the parent didn’t die. Sometimes a divorce must happen because one parent is being horrible. But those things are not “family building,” are they?

Here’s another sad fact: what we call “family building” is in fact “family breaking.”

For the sake of the custodial parents, it:

  • Chops off a child’s family tree entirely (adoption)…
  • Or it splits the child’s family tree in half (remarriage after divorce)…
  • Or it chops off one-half of the child’s family tree (surrogacy; egg donation; sperm donation; single-parenting-by-choice).

I can hear it now: “But ADOPTION is all sweetness and light. It is always beautiful and wonderful.”

No, it isn’t.

Adoption is supposed to be an institution that finds parents for children who need them. Adoption is supposed to be a child welfare intervention of last resort.

This means that the kid is in dire straights. It can mean any of these things:

  • The parents are dead or incarcerated or have abandoned the child.
  • There is no related family that can be found, or that wants the child.
  • There are no measures available to help the mother or other family members keep the child. Poverty.

When people adopt in those circumstances, that’s not for “family building” reasons. That’s because a child needs a family, not because certain couples want a family.

Unfortunately, there are far too many instances where adoption is used to give children to parents who want them. That’s not now it’s supposed to be. So please stop using adoption as an excuse to cut down a child’s family tree.

This is what “family building” looks like to me:

Family building is chopping or dismembering a child’s family tree so that certain people can have their pain relieved.

It shifts the pain from the adults to the child. Now the child has to spend his life pretending that he’s OK with having a family tree that was deliberately cut off or dismembered. He has to navigate the world without an intact ontological understanding of himself.

Worse, the very parents themselves often have intact family trees. So they can’t relate to the pain of a lost or fractured ontology and what it is like to live in the liminal space this creates.

I’m sorry for the pain caused by infertility, I truly am.

But it is not an unrelated child’s job to remedy that pain.

Instead, join a support group. Start a blog. See a counselor. Talk to friends. Yell at God. Cry. Repeat over and over.

I hate to say this but I know from my own experience: some things in this life won’t be healed. I know because my family tree will never be healed. The psychologists and psychiatrists were wrong. Very wrong. Divorce was not a one-time shock from which I recovered. It permanently split my family tree, my ontology, into two distinct halves, then the remarriages were like inserting wedges into the split. Divorce taught me to lie, to pretend, it created confusion and doubt, loneliness and emotional isolation. Nobody shared that experience with me. Nobody else had that family. I was truly alone there, always feeling that one-half of myself wasn’t welcome no matter which home I was in. There is a place in my heart that has ached for over 40 years from the split and I do not see how it will be healed in this life.

Some things won’t be healed. But that doesn’t mean we stop living. It doesn’t mean there is no joy or comfort. There is joy and comfort amid the pain.

So I get it. I get how some things hurt for a very long time. I am totally sympathetic to that idea and to anybody who feels that way for whatever reason.

But it’s not fair to push that pain onto somebody who has no choice or voice or language to even express it. Don’t you agree?

I hope I have convinced even one person to refrain from separating a child from his family tree (the whole thing or parts of it) as a way to relieve the pain of infertility.

Because when that happens, family building becomes family breaking.

The professional class destroys what it does not understand

I will use the phrase “the professional class” from time to time. Instead of defining it each time, I will define it here then link back.

Short definition:

The professional class is the group of people who are supposed to understand family issues better than the average person and who give advice, and/or craft/enforce policy surrounding those issues.

Long definition:

I am thinking of specific professions, such as psychiatrists and psychologists. People in this category typically have at least a master’s level of education. Often they have PhDs. I include MDs in this category, although I do not include PAs or RNs (or other nursing designations).

I also include:

  • Any religious leader or religious staff person who counsels people
  • Politicians, since they craft family policy
  • Judges, but only those who enforce family policy
  • Lawyers, but only those who profit from breaking down children’s family trees in various ways (divorce, surrogacy, adoption that caters to custodial adults)

Because of their education or status, they give advice to people (or craft/enforce policy that influences people) related to family issues. Often, they are paid for giving this advice. For example, therapists charge anywhere from $75-$200 per hour. Politicians and judges are paid for crafting/enforcing policy and typically make at least six figures annually. Family lawyers can range from $75-$400 per hour. Divorce lawyers typically charge between $15K and $30K for a divorce. Adoption and third-party reproduction have expensive fees as well although I’m not sure how much the legal or psych portion is.

It bugs me that these people make money on the destruction of children’s family trees. But let me be clear: in principle I am pro-profit. I understand the role of profit. Legitimate businesses need to earn profit. They will fail if they consistently do not earn profit, taking all the jobs down with the failure. Profit serves the need for job creation.

But profit can be used for ill and so must be suppressed by legal means from certain spheres of life. Anything to do with the creation and maintenance of somebody’s family tree shouldn’t be influenced by a profit motive.

But this upsets me even more: these professionals should know better. They are supposed to be educated and knowledgeable about these things. They are far too cavalier and often gloss over the long-lasting issues that these kids have to live with.

They destroy what they do not understand.

HuffPo is on a roll: adoption ain’t all that great

 

Since I started researching the ugly underbelly of adoption, I’ve come to an unusual conclusion:

At some point, our culture embraced adoption practices that served the desires of infertile couples, instead of viewing adoption as a child welfare intervention of final resort.

When we did this, we created the foundation for all of the other unethical family-structure practices surrounding children.

Once we accepted that it was OK to chop down a child’s family tree through adoption so that infertile couples could be parents, it was natural and even logical for us to be willing to:

  • Split the child’s family tree down the middle (kids of divorce; kids of unmarried parents)
  • Chop off one-half of the child’s family tree (kids of third-party reproduction; two moms; two dads; single-parenting-by-choice)

So I’m really happy to link a recent post from HuffPo, talking about the ugly side of adoption:

On the Venerable American Bar Association or the Myth of Normal and Good in Adoption

This runs counter to their normal cheer leading about how great “alternative” families are… in other words, their normal cheer leading about how great it is to chop down or disfigure a child’s family tree. Yea for HuffPo! I’ve been pretty critical of them, so need to give credit where it is due.

Edit: I originally copied and pasted the entire post here, but because of copyright laws I’m not sure that was OK to do. So I just deleted it. Please visit the link instead. Thanks.