Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Christian Response to Paying a Bribe in Adoption

So often we live our Christian lives without thinking. I have often heard a person say ‘it is never right to do wrong to do right.’ They are, in fact, using this as a trump card to end discussion. The truth is they are actually making two statements. The first is that it is not proper to sin to do right. The second is that the thing being discussed is sin. The first statement is true. The second may or may not be true. Too often we simply let this cliché theological statement end the debate. It should not. The second implied statement needs to be explored.

One example I would like to deal with is that during an adoption paying expediting fees/ bribes/ or exploitation fees are morally wrong or sin. When I was initially beginning the process of bringing my three sons into our family I was firmly in the above camp. Then something happened. Through a series of miraculous events I ended up on an airplane next to a missionary from Ukraine who had been involved in helping resolve an international incident. We spoke about expediting fees and I firmly said ‘I’m not going to pay ANY of those BRIBES!’ His response shocked me. This ‘Christian’ man said “Why?”

I was unprepared. I had my cliché but I didn’t have a reason for believing it. My entire view on this subject was based on a feeling and the group-think of like-minded Christian people. He challenged me to search the Bible and see what God actually said about bribes. When I actually looked at what the Bible said I was forced to change my view.

Over the last few years as I have advocated for orphans I have been alarmed at how some Christians have allowed a flawed view of what is right when a corrupt judge or bureaucrat denies justice unless a bribe is paid effect how they respond. I have seen some prospective parents thinking themselves doing the ‘right thing’ make a choice with tragic consequences. Too often Christian prospective adoptive parents let an uninformed cliché drive their decisions.

I have concluded that paying expediting fees to facilitate an adoption is morally right and not paying them when demanded is wrong. I am including the following apologetic below to prove my conclusion.

Demanding a bribe is wrong. Paying one is not.

Exodus 23: 8 provides a clear understanding about bribes. In the NIV we read ‘Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous.’

2 Chronicles 9:7 shows us God’s command for judges related to bribes. In the NLV it reads ‘Fear the LORD and judge with integrity, for the LORD our God does not tolerate perverted justice, partiality, or the taking of bribes.’ Once again the command is about demanding a bribe not paying the bribe.

In Proverbs 17, we see examples of paying a bribe and the receiving of the bribe. In verse 8 we read: ‘A bribe is a charm to the one who gives it; wherever he turns, he succeeds.’ Just 15 verses later in Proverbs 17:23 we read: ‘A wicked man accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the course of justice.’ In this chapter we see the payer of the bribe is ‘successful’ but the receiver of the bribe is ‘wicked.’

What Christ said about being exploited

During the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told us what we should do when somebody is trying to exploit us. In Matthew 5:39-41 we see the words of the Messiah:

But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

Based on this scripture we could possibly even conclude that when somebody is trying to exploit us we should not just pay their price but the most spiritual response may be to offer them double. We also have a responsibility to be good stewards. For a moment, though, imagine the shock of a corrupt judge who asks for $1,000 and you give him $2,000 instead and tell him why you took that action.

When faced with an apparent moral dilemma there are times when things that may appear wrong are, in fact, right.

Rahab in the book of Judges lied to protect the Hebrew spies. The lives of these men were at risk and when directly asked by soldiers Rahab told them the men had already left the city. All the people of Jericho were later killed but Rahab and her family was spared. The Messianic line came through Rahab’s family according to the genealogy in Matthew 1. In Hebrews we see Rahab included in the Faith Hall of Fame. Lest we are confused we read in James 2 that Rahab’s actions protecting the spies was evidence of her faith.

In Exodus 1 we read how a new Pharaoh came to power who was intimidated by the size of the Hebrew population. The king perceived them as a threat. He ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill the male children. The midwives refused and when confronted by the Pharaoh they lied and told him that the Hebrew women delivered their own children before they had a chance to arrive. In verse 20 we read that God BLESSED these midwives for their actions.

One of the modern heroes of the Christian faith is the Corrie Ten Boom and her family. During the Second World War while the Nazis were exterminating Jewish people Corrie and her family acted to hide Jews from the death camps. The family lied and bribed local officials but eventually they were found out but not before dozens of lives were saved. Corrie and her sister Betsy were sent to the notorious Ravensbruck concentration camp. Betsy would die there but before her death shared this great truth; "There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still.” It is self evident that the Ten Boom’s were morally right doing what they did to protect human life.

While this evidence is overwhelming we should not take this as a moral license to do as we see fit. In Acts 8 we see an example where somebody tries buying something to which he is not entitled. When Simon Magus saw John and Peter lay hands on the disciples in Samaria he asked to buy the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Peter condemned Simon and told him, ‘May your money perish with you because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money. This argument should not be misconstrued to argue for doing something that is actually wrong. We must also not fall down the rabbit’s hole of situational ethics where we are doing what ‘we see as right’ as did the Israelites of Judges 21:25.

While the threat to the orphan’s life not adopted today may not be as imminent as the above examples there can be no doubt that the orphan’s life is in grave danger. Many will not live to see their 18th birthday.(1) Millions will face AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.(2) Thousands upon thousands will be prostituted as children.(3) The displaced and orphaned child will often be conscripted into militias or armies as child soldiers.(4) Scores will take their own lives in despair. Many will be homeless and be murdered on the street.(5) Sadly, the outcomes of foster children in the United States are comparable to the third world orphan.(6)

If the Hebrew midwives, Rahab or the TenBoom family failed to act, the people they were helping would have surely died. With the first two examples we have clear biblical evidence that the actions were held in high regard by God. With the TenBoom family the evidence is prima fascia that their actions were heroic. While the imminence of the threat to the orphan may be delayed it is real. Much like the lost soul who refuses salvation may not be in immediate peril, the orphan that misses his adoption or ‘day of salvation’ will eventually face destructive outcomes.

A final example of God’s heart towards paying a corrupt price to facilitate adoption

The strongest evidence is the central purpose of the Christian faith. In Ephesians 1 we clearly see that the purpose of our universe in the reconciliation of man to God by redemption through adoption in Jesus Christ. We are joint heirs of the Father with the Messiah only through adoption. The cost of our spiritual adoption by God the Father was paid for through the most corrupt, evil, diabolical, unfair and unjust price ever demanded in all of history.

Our adoption required Jesus to accept the limitations of a human body. The Christ was without guilt but was falsely arrested. Pilate found no fault in him but He was wrongfully condemned in a sham trial. Jesus was unfairly tortured and ridiculed and then nailed to a cross where He died amongst criminals. Our redeemer willingly laid down His life to pay the price of our adoption. Only through His willful choice to be unfairly and unjustly exploited, are we sons and daughters of God Almighty.

It is not fair that we may have to pay for justice. Those who hold these orphans hostage for bribes and expediting fees should live in fear of God. Justice is transcendent. There is no excuse for denying the orphan justice simply because an evil person is exploiting you. Justice gained is justice, even if it must be paid for, just as justice denied when we refuse to pay for justice is injustice.

1. Human Rights Watch NGO Report Children Abandoned to the Russian State: Cruelty and Neglect in Russian Orphanages http://www.crin.org/docs/resources/treaties/crc.22/Russia_NGO_Report.pdf

2. UNICEF’s 2004 report Children on The Brink plus the unknown number in North America and Europe http://www.unicef.org/publications/cob_layout6-013.pdf

3. The Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation http://www.uri.edu/artsci/wms/hughes/factbook.htm

4. Child Soldiers: Global Report 2008 http://www.childsoldiersglobalreport.org/files/country_pdfs/FINAL_2008_Global_Report.pdf

5. Children in Brazil: Death Squads http://homeport.tcs.tulane.edu/~rouxbee/kids99/brazil9.html

6. Child Welfare and Crime: Measuring the Effects of Foster Care, http://wings.buffalo.edu/soc-sci/economics/NewFiles/doyle_fc_crime_march07.pdf


C bennett said...

Steve, This was a great post.

Melissa said...

Found your post through the Ukraine Adoption Group. I have to say I agree whole heartedly. I have had people look at me like I'm crazy when I say I will pay a bribe if I have to. But, I do look at as a ransom - just like Jesus ransomed me

Janet said...

I also found your post through the Ukraine Adoption Group. I also agree. I know bribes are being paid in order for us to adopt our son. I'll pay what I have to pay for him. I am also a Christian. Thanks for your post.

Alan said...

Wow maybe you are opening a can of worms. I only have experience with Ukraine, but imagine other places are similar. We also paid fees but I just considered it part of the cost. Like when you see something advertised on TV they will tell you the price and say, "plus 11.99 shipping and handling". Well how much does it cost? x or x+11.99? Is that dishonest?

Frankly, that is the culture they live in and it is their system. Who am I to pass judgment on that? If I go to an African village and it is the custom of the native women to be topless is that wrong? I'm not so sure. In our case, we could have probably gotten by without fees for expediting but we were told it could take months to resolve certain issues according to Ukraine law. Who has that kind of time? In the end, the fees were a small fraction of our overall cost.

Alan said...

I would also add, this could come down to an issue of legalism and law. In I Cor. 10:27 Paul says it comes down to a matter of conscience.

If my drink of wine is an offence to you, I should not do it when I am with you, but it is not wrong for me to do it when I am not with you. My conscience is not bothered by that.

Similary, with bribes, some peoples' consciences are bothered by that and for them, they should not do it.

They might say, it is never right to sin. That is true. The issue here is, is it sin? I think we are saying that it is not.

Anonymous said...

Steve, this is an awesome post! We adopted from Ukraine in 2009-2010. Our adoption took over 9 months, largely due to the fact that our facilitator REFUSED to pay bribes to move the process along. His actions caused so much pain and frustration for our entire family, not to mention money for extra plane tickets, lodging, etc. Thank you so much for verbalizing so well what we have believed all along!

The McEacherns said...

Another adoptive mom once said to me, "It's just ransom money." Jesus paid a great price to ransom us, so why wouldn't we pay a great ransom to rescue one of the many orphans He directs us to care for?

Anonymous said...

Welcome back! We followed your adoption journey (being fellow adopters from Ukraine), and your blog once you returned. We've missed your blogging, but know you're a wee bit busy with 6 children. Once again I can only say, "Amen" to your postings. We felt it was our duty to get our children home as quickly as possible. We weren't about to let money get in the way of becoming a family. Money vs. children/family?Hmm, I'll take the children. They are more precious than any amount of money.

Unknown said...

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Unknown said...

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