Friday, March 07, 2008

Unfit (Pretend) Parents

We went to see the Lost and Found concert tonight. It was swell -- we had pretty much a standing-room-only crowd, from all over the area, and the kids really got into the music. (The band does sound like The Ramones -- imagine The Ramones singing "The Church's One Foundation," and you'll have a pretty good idea of Lost and Found's rendition.)

During the concert, the band directed the crowd to an information table in the narthex, for a child-sponsorship organization; one of those places where you sponsor a kid and the kid's family for so many dollars a month. The guys noted that they themselves sponsored children, and had actually visited their sponsored kids' families in various countries, and could vouch for the effectiveness of the program.

Now, I tend to be suspicious of such operations in general, and I've also questioned the wisdom of providing these sorts of piecemeal solutions to problems, in ways that aren't equitable within a community; it's why it usually makes more sense to me to help a village build a school or start a farmers' cooperative than to extend help to just one family. But by the end of the concert I felt my resistance wavering; and when FT said, "I'm going over to that table," I pretty much knew how this story would end.

So we are now the proud pretend parents of a four-year-old in southern Asia. His mother is a single mom, which we know makes for an exponentially harder life in an impoverished, patriarchal society; she's a sometimes-day laborer. He looks remarkably like FT's two sons when they were little -- gangly, stick arms and legs and big, intense brown eyes.

But when we got home, and started reading the literature about how to interact with our sponsored child, we were struck by the astoundingly homophobic warnings in the brochure -- how sponsors can't "condone lifestyle choices inconsistent with [the organization's] beliefs...condoning sexual relationships outside the heterosexual marriage covenant...advocating the living out of a homosexual lifestyle."

Well, excuse me...what sort of freak show do these people think we run? Why would we be condoning any kind of sexual anything to a little kid? We're going to be condoning playing and studying and praying and daring to believe in a world that God cares about and where people take care of each other. And what part of our family's 'homosexual lifestyle' does this organization fear will taint the souls of these children, or jeopardize the organization's work overseas?

FT's eyes grew wide as I read the brochure aloud. "Does this mean we're in trouble?" she asked. "Or does it just mean, 'Dont ask, don't tell'?" She also noted that the person at the table must have seen that we were clearly a couple, yet didn't seem to have a problem taking our money.

I don't think, by the way, that the attitude of this organization is reflective of the attitude of the band. But it did -- once again -- give me a reason to get angry at conservative Evangelicals. Whenever I let down my guard and try to think ecumenically, as I tried tonight -- Kumbaya, here we are, sisters and brothers in Christ, all enjoying a pleasant evening of music and helping underprivileged children -- they kick me in the teeth somehow. Again and again and again.

But anyway...

So here's the deal. We want to do something for this kid and his mom, to give them a chance. (On the way home we observed, somewhat glumly, that the odds were probably better for this overseas child than for the kids across the street.) The fact that idiots want to stand in the way of our helping is simply a minor speedbump in the process. I thought of that word that stood out for me in the mysterious Latin blog post I recently received: caritas.

So Fellow Traveler is going to become Pretend Mother of Note. Insofar as I wind up in the narrative of our letters, or in our photos, I am going to be FT's friend and neighbor. (Both of which things I am, really...the latter in a moral/theological sense, but still.) I'm okay being Ethel to FT's Lucy. I'll play that game.

Are you happy, Child Sponsorship Organization? Are your "family values" nicely preserved now? Meanwhile, don't feel you need to rush cashing that queer check of ours -- we're good for it, and we're not changing our minds about our commitment. That's, like, one of our family values.

Meanwhile...I look forward to the novelty of receiving a Mother's Day card this year.


zorra said...


P.S. an after-thought said...

That sucks. Before I read that you had already put down your money, I was going to mention one of the organizations listed on the sidebar of my blog. Because my husband has actually visited the place where they work in another country. And because only 3% of the funds goes toward fund raising, etc.

Well, just concentrate on the good part of this. The money spends the same way.

It is really too bad that they wrote that stuff anyway. What do they think? That sponsors will write propaganda???

Mary Beth said...

This made me cry. (LC & FT)

Verdugo said...


It reminded me of ordination exam questions of the "what's wrong with this picture?" sort where it takes you 4 hours to list all of the above. What a moral connundrum.

To detour into pop culture a bit, it reminded me of last night's episode of Grey's Anatomy, when a white supremacist was resisting being treated by Bailey, an African-American doctor. When one of the white doctors commented to her that she didn't have to do the surgery, someone else could, Bailey remarked, "that would make me just like him."

Thank you and FT for not being just like them. Truly a chairos moment.

Choralgirl said...

I'm in the same place, Sister. Have sponsored Justine in Nigeria since she was 8; she's 14 now, and doing well, but we have not much of a relationship, as I just don't have the energy to lie about my partner or the rest of my life. I pray for Justine, make sure she has what she needs, and leave it at that. Sigh.

Cecilia said...

Oh God. It is all so wearying, in the end.

Blessings. None of us, I pray, will ever regret that we gave of ourselves.

Pax, C.