Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor's Journey Into Christian Faith by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield book review


The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor's Journey Into Christian Faith

Rosaria, by the standards of many, was living a very good life. She had a tenured position at a large university in a field for which she cared deeply. She owned two homes with her partner, in which they provided hospitality to students and activists that were looking to make a difference in the world. There, her partner rehabilitated abandoned and abused dogs. In the community, Rosaria was involved in volunteer work. At the university, she was a respected advisor of students and her department’s curriculum. And then, in her late 30s, Rosaria encountered something that turned her world upside down—the idea that Christianity, a religion that she had regarded as problematic and sometimes downright damaging, might be right about who God was, an idea that flew in the face of the people and causes that she most loved. What follows is a story of what she describes as a “train wreck” at the hand of the supernatural. These are her secret thoughts about those events, written as only a reflective English professor could.

"Conversion put me in a complicated and comprehensive chaos. I sometimes wonder, when I hear other Christians pray for the salvation of the “lost,” if they realize that this comprehensive chaos is the desired end of such prayers. Often, people asked me to describe the “lessons” that I learned from this experience. I can’t. It was too traumatic. Sometimes in crisis, we don’t really learn lessons. Sometimes the result is simpler and more profound: sometimes our character is simply transformed." —Rosaria Butterfield

My Review: 9/10

I've been wanting to read this book for a long time but it wasn't easy to track down through my library.

It was very insightful and I'm so grateful that Ms. Butterfield had the courage to share her testimony despite there being some painful backlash from people she cared about.

To be honest, her account as a former lesbian confirmed some opinions I had- namely that as group the LGBT community is no more accepting or tolerant than the religious community. They have a reputation for being inclusive, but what I read was prejudices against Christians, open mockery of Christian beliefs, disdain and feelings of superiority, and a hard heart against people of faith, being unwilling to listen and have an open mind. Accepting only those who believe as you do is not acceptance.

I know that there is a lot of hate out there. And some people try to do what is right in wrong ways. We all do from time to time. But "homophobe" has become a label (more like a slur) used to shut conversation down. This is a particular pet peeve of mine as it is inaccurate (the vast majority of people labeled this way do not have any fear at all of homosexual people) and hypocritically hateful.

The saying goes that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and so, the loudest, most obnoxious protestors get the most attention and unfortunately can end up representing a group of people that never asked for it. The trouble is, that as Christians we've been taxed with loving people and loving God. When you love someone, you don't help them hurt themselves. You don't enable them. God teaches us through the Bible that homosexuality is sexual sin, though perhaps no more weighty than any other form. As such, it drives a wedge between a person and their heavenly Father, and bleeds into other areas of life. As a Christian, trying to love people and our God, how can we encourage and support something that takes people away from Him and ultimately hurts them? That's a position that holds no single right answer. I think the right way to handle it varies from person to person. I felt that Ms. Butterfield's story gave me a new appreciation for unorthodox ways and for patience and gentleness.

However, her LGBT background does not dominate the book. This book ran the gamut, covering a lot of information and a lot of years. At times, it seemed to go off track into dissertations on religious beliefs or practices (possibly due to her background as a professor). But the majority of it was a personal history and I appreciated her transparency. Her struggles and pain were relatable and her triumphs inspiring. There was still a layer of pride to a lot of the things she relates, probably emphasized in audio book format (she reads VERY emphatically). But thinking our own way is the best way, if not the only way, is common among human beings and (hopefully) makes me more aware of this tendency in myself.

I highly recommend this book as it is thought provoking, challenging, and opens channels for communication.

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