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A Christmas Family Story

This Christmas Dr. Russell D. Moore might call upon us to think of Joseph, Jesus’ father, and his role in the nativity story. Dr. Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, argues that Joseph’s decision to be a father to Jesus reflects God and the way he treats his Christian children. “Joseph acts as a father when he takes Mary into his family, when he takes her as his wife,” said Dr. Moore at a recent Family Research Council event. “He acts fatherly toward Jesus in terms of identity (naming him),” Dr. Moore continues, “in terms of inheritance (he becomes a Nazarene because of Joseph)–and through adoption Joseph becomes so really and truly a father to Jesus, that the lineage that Matthew uses to establish the fact that Jesus is qualified to be Israel’s Messiah goes through the line of Joseph.”

“If adoption doesn’t create something real, then you and I do not have a real Gospel,” he asserts.

According to Matthew 1: 24-25, in the New International Version, When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”

Dr. Moore expressed his frustration of toward the “Darwinian” approach many Christians have toward adoption, although he mentioned that he and his wife had been infertile prior to adopting. “Now, this sense of reluctance that many Christians have, even when it is unspoken, that somehow adoption is something that is simply the Plan B for infertile couples, shows that we often have more of a Darwinian understanding of what love is about, and family is about, than we do a Christian understanding of what love and family is [sic] about,” said Dr. Moore. (Also, there is historical precedent which indicates this desire for blood relatives may come from tribalism as well, and not just Darwinian beliefs.) With regards to his own family, some people would ask whether his boys were “really” related. “The problem was that there is a tendency to think of reality as being simply about bloodlines and DNA, as though at least if these two boys were biologically brothers then there would be something that is real and lasting, and I, I in my frustration as a new father was trying to say that ‘no, the adoption itself creates something that is real.’”

Dr. Moore found a scriptural foundation for this approach, especially in the Christmas story. “When you see the way that the New Testament gives a model of a reality of a new identity, and we also see the fact that this adopting power is rooted in God’s creation of the natural family, so that even in this adopting act, even in the act of incarnation itself, God demonstrates that a child needs both a mother and a father, and in this the leadership happens as the father carries out this reflection of the image of God,” he said. In other words, God chose to incarnate Jesus into a family with both a mother and father so Joseph could reflect God’s loving power.

However, he noted in passing, all too often these days, especially in America, children are viewed “artificially” as a “consumer expense, to be a burden to be borne.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a “Cost of Raising a Child Calculator” on its website. “According to the most recent annual report from the USDA, it now costs $234,900 to provide a child with 17 years of food, shelter, and other necessities, “ reported Colleen Kane for CNBC this September. “For 2011, that broke down to an annual cost for two-parent, middle-income families of $12,290 to $14,320 –depending on the child’s age.”

Dr. Moore said that raising a family entails hardship and self-sacrifice. In the case of an adoption, he said, the child’s background often entails some sorrow, be it the death of the natural parents or time in an orphanage. “Every human relationship brings with it a level of risk and of hardship,” he said. “As a matter of fact, as we do so we need to remind them that those who would seek to live a life without risk, and without self-sacrifice, not only shouldn’t adopt and shouldn’t foster, but shouldn’t marry, shouldn’t have children at all, shouldn’t be involved in any kind of friendship or any human relationship, and should simply go and hide under the bed,” argues Dr. Moore.

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