Allow me to be more transparent and vulnerable than I am comfortable with. I need help.
For several years I have fought for ethical adoption practices. I've spent long nights negotiating with stakeholders in the adoption market. I've driven the six hour round trip to the capitol multiple times to see Act 1022 become law. I've met with legislators and adoption advocates. I've never turned down an interview or speaking request in hopes that talking about the issues will keep the conversation going and result in further reform that protects children, expectant mothers, and hopeful adoptive parents. I've sparred with lawyers who've hurt people and stood in the gap between unlicensed adoption practitioners and those they prey upon. Through it all I've never asked for anything that benefits me personally.
That paragraph was exceptionally hard for me to write. I read it and see the potential for others to take it as boastful and arrogant. Please see and hear my heart - I have no desire for self promotion. On the eve of battle, King Henry in Shakespeare's Henry V disguised himself and spent time with his soldiers. Among those who chastised the King not knowing it was the King to whom they were speaking, King Henry said of himself "I could not die anywhere so contented as in the king's company, his cause being just and his quarrel honorable." Henry V, Act 4 Scene 1. I feel the same way. I know the cause of child-focused, ethical adoptions is just and the fight for reform is honorable.
I'll fight until I can't fight anymore, but that point is closer than I want to admit. Between the trips to Little Rock, preparation time, all nighters, research, and fights in the legislative and judicial branches of government I have funded all I can fund. A modest estimate of the amount I have personally invested in this cause between litigation costs, hotel rooms, travel expenses, and time diverted from income producing activities in just the last twelve months is no less than $40,000. I've lost paying clients because of the time this effort has required. I've put myself between detractors and friends to absorb heat that could have ended a good thing. I've declined cases that I could have permissibly taken because perceptions might be wrong. My family has suffered. I don't know how much fight I have left. My position just isn't sustainable, and so I write to ask for your help.
Join me. Join me in the fight to see Arkansas setting the bar nationally for basic standards of ethics and competency for adoption practitioners nationwide. Join me in the struggle to clean up the mess left behind by people now behind bars for their unethical adoption practices. Join me in protecting those who are vulnerable, marginalized, and victimized. Join me in preparing to clean up more messes as more adoption practitioners are expected to be indicted any day now. Join me in preparing the final push for meaningful, systematic reforms to adoption law that starts next week.
That's right - despite everything going on in the judicial arena, I will be in in Little Rock on November 4 presenting legislation to the House Committee on Youth, Aging, and Military Affairs. It is labeled as Interim Study Proposal 134 (ISP-2019-134). What isn't printed in the ISP are other ethical issues that we must raise: racial cost disparities in adoptions, inadequate enforcement of licensing laws, and the recognition of open adoptions. That will cost a full day, gas, printing costs, preparation time, and more. We are fighting a war on no less than two fronts; we are burning the candle at both ends.
Based on where what I expect to come in the near future, I need to raise around $16,000 over the next two months to keep the fight going. After that, we should be able to sustain things on just $2,000 per month until we can declare victory. This recoups monies I've personally spent to clean up the mess resulting from Mr. Petersen's arrest and establishes a modest fund from which we can draw to press home legislative reforms going into the 2021 Arkansas General Assembly. With the momentum we have right now, this fight must be pressed forward on all fronts. We stand to see major victories if we can just find it within our hearts and, at the risk of sounding crass, within our pocketbooks to stay the course and keep fighting until we see the reform we know we need.
The cause is just and the quarrel honorable. Two scenes after King Henry uttered these words the battle had come. Henry addressed the troops: "From this day to the ending of the world, we in it shall be remembered - we few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother." Henry V, Act 4, Scene 3. Those who have been so vocal and passionate about adoption reform are relatively few. We few will be remembered for the fight we face. We may not shed our actual blood, but if we are to be victorious it will cost us all. I thank you in advance for paying that price with me, brothers and sisters.
Will you donate now?
If 100 people could spare $80 per month for the next two months we'd have this first goal licked. If those 100 people gave just 25% of that every month after that, we'd be able to make huge strides. A company in the army consists of about 100 people. Will you join me in an Adoption Reform Company?
What if we could raise a battalion? A battalion is made of at least three companies (usually). If 300 people could spare $60 per month we'd have this mission accomplished. If we kept that going we could expand to even more states, engage in public opinion campaigns, hire professional lobbyists, and have dedicated staff. What if we could raise a regiment? A regiment consists of usually at least three battalions. If 1,000 people could spare $20, we'd meet our goal before Thanksgiving.
The point is we need donors to be recruiters too. After you donate, would you like and share this blog post?
Again, thank you for your help!
Moral Monday is a weekly blog by Josh Bryant on ethical issues facing Christians and churches.
by Josh Bryant
I'm not interested in debating global warming. I'm don't really want to talk about climate change. These issues have been so highly politicized that it is really pretty difficult to determine what the truth is. Both sides of the debate accuse the other of lying for votes. There is a lot we could talk about ethically as a result, but we'll save that for another day.
God doesn't lie. There is much in God's Word that speaks directly to this issue. First, we know God has commanded us to subdue the earth and rule over it (Gen. 1:28). This commandment was given before sin entered the world, so even in that state of perfection the earth needed to be ruled and God appointed us for that job. When sin entered the world it just made the job more difficult.
And He said to Adam, "Because you listened to your wife's voice and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'Do not eat from it': the ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you wre taken from it. For you are dust, and you will return to dust.
As a result of sin, the ground - the earth itself - was cursed. There will be harmful things for us in this world because of sin - earthquake, hurricane, tornado, tsunami, disease, illness, drought, flood, famine, cow farts, global warming, climate change, and death. We must work hard and painfully in life because of Adam's disobedience (and our subsequent disobedience). Sin did not nullify God's command; this cursed world is what we must subdue and rule.
How do we do that? Are we to rule over the world in such a manner that it is more harmful for us than God intended it to be? Or are we to improve upon it and make it better? I think the latter is true. God told Adam - humanity's representative at that time - that we would eat the plants of the field. We would take what was wild and grow crops. Adam's son Abel was such a farmer. This was an improvement for humanity.
We must also remember to whom this world belongs.
The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the LORD: for He laid its foundation on the seas and established it on the rivers.
Since this world belongs to God, we should do what we can to be good stewards of it. We are only His managers; He is the owner. One day, God made flesh - Jesus - will return. What will He return to? A world that His stewards have trashed or one that we have responsibly subdued and exercised dominion over for our good?
The trajectory of humanity in eschatological (the study of end times) is an improvement.
Then the One seated on the throne said, "Look! I am making everything new." He also said, "Write, because these words are faithful and true." And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End."
God is the beginning and the end; He is making everything as it was. This is what we call the restoration. One day everything will be made back as it was before sin; it will be made perfect. With that as our goal, we should also look to provide a little slice of it on earth in the here and now. Should we utilize earth's resources to help make life more comfortable and convenient? Absolutely. Should we do so haphazardly or recklessly? I don't think so. It is a good thing to reduce our dependency on material things that will only fill our landfills. It is a good thing to reuse what resources we can, and to manufacture things such that they can be reused. God is a compassionate God. It is good for us to keep our air breathable and not pollute it with things that cause COPD, asthma, and like ailments. It is good for us to keep our water drinkable to prevent cholera and other water borne illnesses. It is ok to try and reduce your carbon footprint and waste.
God gave us the earth to subdue and manage. We should long and strive for what He intended for us - an Eden. We should take care of the planet. That doesn't mean we should stop mining minerals and fossil fuels or growing genetically modified plants for food. It means we should do so responsibly.
by Josh Bryant
Many a pastor has heard the phrase "we're married in God's eyes" as a justification for cohabitation outside of marriage - at least cohabitation prior to a wedding ceremony. The argument is that Scripture does not describe a wedding ceremony and thus it is not required. All that Scripture requires is a commitment to be married. Although it is claimed that this line of reasoning is based on Scripture, it ignores an overarching theme of the New Testament.
Marriage in the New Testament is clearly utilized to depict Christ's relationship with the church. Jesus described the Kingdom of God in the parable of the wedding feast (Mt. 22:1-14). In that parable, the King throws a wedding banquet for His Son. He sent servants to summon those who were invited, but the did not come. In fact, the invitees mistreated and killed the servants. The King instructed the servants to go into the world and invite everyone to the feast, and the banquet was filled with guests. Paul expands on the parable in a much more practical sense in demonstrating how marriage reflects Christ's relationship with the church (Eph. 5:22-33). John described the celebration after the defeat of Babylon as a vast multitude saying "Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty, reigns! Let us be glad, rejoice, and give him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has prepared herself... Blessed are those invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb!" (Rev. 19:6b-7, 9b).
Clearly there is soteriological and eschatological significance in marriage. Couples often are forced to invite people they barely know and rarely see to their wedding. Likewise, we are commanded to go and make disciples of all nations, to invite everyone we meet to the wedding feast of the Lamb. Inasmuch as there is no salvation without a public confession of Christ as Lord (cf. Rom. 10:8-10 "If you confess with your mouth...you will be saved...one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation."), there is no marriage without a public confession of one man's and one woman's confession of their commitment to lifelong fidelity.
Additionally, the church is the original arbiter of biblical marriage. Government involvement in marriage is a relatively new creation. In 1215, the church created the "banns of marriage" which required a public proclamation of the marriage from the pulpit. It wasn't until the 14th century that the church conscripted governments to help enforce the banns of marriage by requiring governmental permission to get married - a marriage license.
Now in the 21st century, government's role in marriage and marriage-like relationships is starting to deteriorate. Most scholars agree that Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), has ended the notion that cohabitation outside of marriage is a crime. Common law marriage and "palimony" still enter into the picture when a relationship ends that does not involve a wedding ceremony. Marvin v. Marvin, 18 C.3d 660 (1976). All that remains is the different tax treatment of lawfully married couples. Some legislatures have even taken up legislation that would remove the government from the process all together after Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (2015), which legalized same-sex marriage across the country. As such, the church is likely to be the sole arbiter of marriage; legally the institution seems to be losing favor.
All that to say, marriage without ceremony is no marriage - at least not in the biblical use of the word. Pastors should not shy away from arguments that a couple is married in the eyes of God. Without the church, that is not biblically the case.
I follow Christ. I have a beautiful wife Megan and three wonderful children, Harrisen, Rebekah, and Carter. I am a candidate for a Ph.D. in ethics from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, have an M.Div. from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and a JD from the University of Arkansas, am licensed to practice law in several state and federal courts, and live in Rogers, Arkansas. I write a blog and produce a podcast. And I do it all that others may know Christ.