By: Carrie Baker
“The Christian religion is a religion of adoption. The Gospel tells us that one becomes a father or mother only if one adopts our children. One does not become a father or mother, even if one is a natural father or mother, until the day when one says to his son: ‘I chose you out of love.’ Such is a model of the Holy Family. The natural law no longer exists, it is the law of love which counts first.” –Michel Serres, philosopher
One of the most selfless but misunderstood aspects of our society is the process of adoption. It is not only a journey that has the potential to simultaneously fill us with so much joy and heartache, but it is also something that has touched so many lives, including some of those on our campus.
Professor of Communications and Media Studies Dr. Matt Bernico and his wife, Shannan, a graduate admissions counselor, started their adoption process over two years ago. For them, this decision was always very intentional. “Adoption is interesting because it’s a type of familial relationship that doesn’t rely on biology, but on choice. It’s the construction of family through other means,” Bernico stated. He expressed his belief in adoption as an inherently theological concept, proposing that Jesus himself was placed with a family through extra-biological means. He stated that this idea—this emphasis on the creation of a family and the expression of love as an intentional choice—deeply resonated with him, especially as a father pursuing adoption in a world that has a hard time understanding it.
GU student Maci Sepp, who was adopted as an infant, echoed these statements, saying that adoption is something that she’s still trying to decipher. However, as she’s grown, she has begun the process of peeling back the layers. In fact, for her honors thesis, Sepp is researching how accurately transracial adoption is represented in media and visual culture. She believes that this process has helped her assess the ways that society has influenced her own experience, as she explores aspects of adoption like the language society uses and the assumptions that are made in regards to adoption. Bernico mirrored many of the same concerns regarding societal perception of adoption. He believes that one of the hardest and most unanticipated struggles of his adoption process was the latent anti-adoption sentiment rooted within our culture, including the negative language surrounding parents who make adoption plans for their children. He expressed that unfortunately, all of these latent narratives lead society to place a cultural stigma on adoption, which proposes it as secondary or inferior to biological reproduction—and that just isn’t true.
Bernico acknowledged that “adoption is a difficult terrain that many people misunderstand,” but proposed that the only way to get past this disconnect is honest dialogue. Sepp’s sentiments reflected Bernico’s. As an adoptee herself, she especially encouraged others to stand out in courage and talk about their experiences. She said, “By not talking about adoption, the topic becomes more distant and abstract, to others and ourselves.” For many, the adoption journey, though long and complex, is joyful; families unite and love wins. But the key word here is journey. The process doesn’t begin or end when a child enters the home, and neither should the conversation.