I just finished reading The Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield (Crown & Covenant Publications, 2012). Here are my thoughts about the book:
Why I picked it up: I recently heard an online interview with Rosaria. She is a former English professor at Syracuse University. She also lived a lesbian lifestyle and taught gay and lesbian studies . . . before embracing Christianity. I wanted to read her story because according to our culture one doesn’t abandon a life of homosexuality for Christ unless they are (1) hopelessly ignorant or (2) brainwashed by some religious group. Rosaria’s story helps to challenge those paradigms.
What I liked about it: I liked how Rosaria tells her story with such raw (sometimes shocking) transparency. I also appreciated some of her very unique descriptions of her conversion from lesbianism to faith in Christ, such as how “the word of God got to be bigger inside me than me,” “conversion put me in a complicated and comprehensive chaos,” and lesbianism as “a case of mistaken identity.” Her book renewed my confidence in the power of Christ to transform lives and also reminded me of just how revolutionary conversion can (and should be) in a person’s life. What an incredible irony that Rosaria is now married to a Presbyterian pastor!
What I didn’t like about it: I got bogged down in the second half of the book as Rosaria spent a lot of time getting sidetracked (I thought) with thorny issues such as why Christians should only sing psalms in church and with lengthy descriptions of her and her husband’s wedding, adoptions, and homeschooling. But on the other hand, the second half of her book shows just how dramatically Christ has changed her life.
A question it left me with: What softened Rosaria’s hostility toward all things Christian was the friendship and hospitality of an elderly pastor and his wife. I wonder why we Christians today don’t show similar hospitality and love toward those outside the faith. We/I don’t do a very good job of following Jesus’ example of being “a friend to sinners.” We seem to be more threatened by them than we are confident in the power of Christ’s love to change their hearts. (Editorial comment added later: If Jesus, who never sinned, could be a friend of sinners, why do we who are sinners ourselves have such a difficult time loving our fellow sinners? Also, our friendship should never be conditioned on whether or not the person ever responds to Christ. It should rather be a natural expression of Jesus’ love for all people)
Who I might recommend this book to: A gay person who is struggling with issues of identity and meaning at the core of his/her life. A skeptic who thinks that a homosexual who converts to Christ faces a life sentence of pleasureless misery. And a Christian who would rather avoid and condemn gay people than love them.