Making a life commitment to Christ was not merely a philosophical shift. It was not a one-step process. It did not involve rearranging the surface prejudices and fickle loyalties of my life. Conversion didn’t “fit” my life. Conversion overhauled my soul and personality. It was arduous and intense. I experienced with great depth the power and authority of God in my life. In it I learned—and am still learning—how to love God with all my heart, soul, strength and mind. When you die to yourself, you have nothing from your past to use as clay out of which to shape your future. -Rosaria Champagne ButterfieldSometimes you close the cover on a book before you’ve finished it, deciding it’s not worth the time it would take to complete. Sometimes you close the cover and tuck it away between a few grey cells as a “good book.” And then there are books you read that you close the cover and have nothing to say. Words can’t quite do justice to explain the change that has been effected in the depths of your being just by reading the words that have been formed into sentences to communicate thoughts. That is this book.
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield has rocked my world. A former tenured professor of english and queer theory at Syracuse University and outspoken LGBT activist, her book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert is her account of how the Christian God of the Bible rocked her world. The same God she devoted hours and years of energy and thought and writing and speaking to disprove stopped her in her tracks, and she now confesses that “God isn’t just a narrative we pick like summer berries or leave for the next person; nor is God a set of social conventions tailored for the weak of mind; nor is God consumerist social construct who exists in the service of Christian imperialist ideologies and right-wing politics. Rather, I discovered that God through Jesus Christ exists, the triune God of the Bible exists, whether we acknowledge him or not.”
But this book is more than a pretty picture of a sinner saved that I could read, get that warm fuzzy feeling, and then go on my merry little same-ol way. Rosaria not only tells a compelling account of her “train-wreck conversion” that leaves me speechless in awe at the power and grace of my God, but also exposes and slices through Christian hypocrisy with her incredible intellect and life-experience.
Sin is sin, she says. Homosexual sin is equal to lying sin which is equal to pride sin. “Are our testimonies honoring to the whole landscape of the Christian journey? Not if they only speak of the “how-shocking-was-my-sin-before-I-met-the-Lord” story. (As though the sin I commit today is less shocking!). Not if they only share the safe feelings, rehearsed responses, and good “decisions” for which we give ourselves unearned credit.”
And if sin is sin, the antidote for all of it is precisely the same. “How did the Lord heal me? The way that he always heals: the word of God got to be bigger inside me than I.”
And if sin is sin and all is atoned by the blood of Christ, then we Christians should not, must not, cannot shy away from sinners just like us. “Rosaria, if people in my church really believed that gay people could be transformed by Christ, they wouldn’t talk about us or pray about us in the hateful way that they do.” This was the heart-wrenching change-effecting truth I took from this book - that I am no better off and no worse off than my lesbian neighbor, and if I treat her with anything other than dignity as a human, respect as an intellectual being, and love as a daughter of God, I ought to be anathema.