Rosaria Butterfield was, at one time in her life, an English professor at Syracuse University who specialised in gender studies and queer theory. She was also a lesbian and in a committed relationship. Now, married to a pastor in a small reformed denomination that only sings Psalms she homeschools her adopted children. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert records some of that massive leap.
Butterfield writes superbly and as such it stands out from many Christian books purely on the strength of her writing but there’s also real steel in this book delivered by a strong woman who doesn’t pull her punches. I have highlighted more quotes and passages (49 of them) in this book than any other I have read for a long time. Here’s why.
The author really understands repentance, she really gets what it means that the ‘old has gone’, that one must ‘die to self’.
“I learned the first rule of repentance: that repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin. How much greater? About the size of a mustard seed. Repentance requires that we draw near to Jesus, no matter what. And sometimes we all have to crawl there on our hands and knees. Repentance is an intimate affair. And for many of us, intimacy is a terrifying prospect.”
“How did the Lord heal me? The way that he always heals: the word of God got to be bigger inside me than I.”
“When I became a Christian, I had to change everything – my life, my friends, my writing, my teaching, my advising, my clothes, my speech, , my thoughts.”
That’s something I worry about; is it the case that with most educated, middle-class, nice converts – not much changes but a few things get added on? Christ transforms all of us, totally. Everything must change. As Butterfield writes hitting the nail right on the head,
If my life was the only evidence that Christ was alive, would anyone be convinced?
Butterfield also gets the gospel, she gets what grace is, she gets the power of adoption both of Christ and of children and she highlights the powerful strengths and incredible blind spots of cultural Christianity in America. It’s a great example of how to build bridges across gaping cultural divides with the gospel and share Christ
In addition she has powerful insights into the nature of sexuality and sexual sin, and as the issue of homosexuality in the church is a controversy that will continue for the foreseeable future, this is a book that every pastor should read.
For example we would all do well to remember this insight,
My sexuality was sinful not because it was lesbian per se but because it wasn’t Christ-controlled. My heterosexual past was no more sanctified than my homosexual present.
There are gaps, one moment she’s a lesbian struggling with her identity in Christ and the next she’s engaged and you miss some of the wrestling that she must have gone through about her identity. I would have loved to have read her reflections on the process of discovering her identity and how she wrestled with orthodox teaching on sexuality.
For some, I guess, the swing from gender equality and sexual activist to complementarian wife of a pastor will be too great but there’s nothing here that should be so easily discounted. You may not agree with everything but there are insights on every page. This is an incredibly helpful book that for anyone thinking through, in particular human sexuality and the gospel, would be well advised to have on their shelves.
For another glowing review, read this by Carl Trueman.