Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English professor’s journey into Christian faith, Crown & Covenant, 2012
This is the conversion testimony of a (former) lesbian English professor but it is far more than that. It is about hermeneutics and worldview, education, evangelism, church planting, Christian sub-culture, public worship, church membership, mercy ministry, sanctification, marriage and adoption. The chapters are few and long (for those of us who have got used to books with short sharp chapters) but the writing flows and I read this quicker than any book I’ve read in the last year. She’s got some very striking statements and turns of phrase:
“How do I tell you about my conversion to Christianity without making it sound like an alien abduction or a train wreck? Truth be told, it felt like a little of both.”
“Sin, when unrestrained, infantilizes a person.”
“God doesn’t act quickly, he acts suddenly.”
“betrayal and risk are at the heart of the gospel life”
“Rahab the Harlot. Mary Magdalene. We love these women between the pages of our Bible, but we don’t want to sit at the Lord’s Table with them”
You won’t agree with everything in these pages. I didn’t buy the arguments for the regulative principle in public worship and exclusive a capella Psalm singing. But basically it’s a great book. What I found particularly helpful was three things:
- The way Butterfield can still remember what it feels like (and thinks like) to be an outsider and an outcast. Her observations on what the Christian (sub)culture looks like from the outside are razor sharp and need to be read by all Christians, particularly those of us who have grown up in Christian families. And yet at the same time she doesn’t cross over into hyper-critical superior church-rejecting criticism (“They’re all hypocrites”) as many who have been hurt by the church tend to do. She writes as an insider as well as an outsider. She is honest about her church’s faults and failures but also about her own and she still clearly deeply loves the church and shows how it was absolutely crucial to her own conversion, healing and perseverance.
- In relation to homosexuality her exposition of Ezekiel 16:48-50 is excellent and her self-analysis is very perceptive and honest without being at all prurient. Her material on this is also well balanced by a chapter dealing largely with the positive biblical model of marriage.
- She is a very powerful advocate for adoption as a ministry of mercy and as a wonderful parallel to God’s adoption of us. You may need a box of tissues at hand for this last chapter.
I’ll write some more about Butterfield’s perspectives on sexuality and healing from same-sex attraction in the next issue of Conversation but for now I just want to warmly commend this book.