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Monday, May 13, 2019

To Buckle or Not to Buckle

Today follows our national tribute to mothers. The mother of my children gets frustrated in hearing generic wishes for “Happy Mother’s Day!” She knows, as we all should, that this special greeting should be reserved for a child of any age sending greetings to his or her mom.

A more serious situation is to hear of the massive number of children who have mothers but are separated from them. Causes are many, but the ones I’m talking about are those who are in foster care or in need of adoption. In most cases, a family breakdown has occurred. Let’s get past the blame as to why for a moment.

What we should hope for in these situations is that a loving family will surface to offer a safe and strong support system to nurture these children. Here’s where it gets messy. We no longer have agreement on what defines a healthy family environment if we’re discussing same sex couples. And that’s become a battleground in many states.

Regrettably, high quality programs such as Bethany Christian Services have gotten caught up in the politics of the issue. Bethany provides pregnancy counseling, private adoption, and refugee settlement services. They’ve been doing so for over 75 years. They also offer temporary foster care and foster care adoption services through many of their locations, not only in this country but around the world.

This wonderful humanitarian organization found itself in the crosshairs of political manipulation in Michigan. Bethany believes, and rightly so, that a child placed by their organization will thrive best with a mom and a dad providing the nurturing support. Not a mom and another mom. Or a dad and another dad.

The state of Michigan does not agree. So the gamesmanship of politically correct posturing meant demanding that Bethany be willing to place foster and adoptive children with so called “gay couples.” The ministry resisted. For a season. And then...caved.

I realize this is a seemingly harsh judgment. So it’s best if you read the reasoning behind their decision as explained in a recent Christianity Today article titled, “Christians Can’t Back Out of the Foster System.” Bethany Christian Services was faced with a challenging conundrum.

The ministry has quite the impact in Michigan. In 2018, “Bethany provided foster care services for 1,744 children and helped 381 foster children be adopted into forever families.” That translated into 263,923 days for care in foster homes.

Should they shut the door on this need to hold on to so theological conviction? Probably the man who wrestled most with this decision was Bethany’s President and CEO, Chris Palusky.

He weighs his options this way. “At Bethany, we believe the Bible is the living Word of God, and we still believe in God’s plan for marriage and family as it is outlined in the Scriptures. At the same time, it is clear to us that Bethany cannot cede the foster care space completely to the secular world and leave children without the opportunity to experience Jesus through our loving care.”

Both lines of thought seem to lead to a somewhat untenable situation. Especially when the state of Michigan shows little respect for Bethany’s core values and strong service record. So it was Bethany who budged. And they asked for prayer as they pursued their mission “in Jesus’ name.”

Bethany was not the only such group facing unwieldy decisions from government. It’s happening many places, including Illinois. American society at large has embraced a new view of marriage and family. We can only await the consequences.

I’m most concerned about the trade offs that result. If Bethany held their ground and and refused to change their policy, it would not be them who abandoned the cause. Damage done would be on the heads of the legislature and courts.

It seems that several issues like this are surfacing. Bake cakes for gay weddings or not. Welcome illegals and support violating our immigration laws or deprive those in need. Open dressing rooms to boys who think they are girls...or risk offending the few.

Followers of Jesus should be champions of compassion. Should we also be champions for moral truth? It leaves us with difficult choices.

Put another way, we are faced with what may be a faith stifling decision: to buckle...or not to buckle.

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