What can a former tenured radical lesbian English professor and community activist teach us about living as Christians?

I have to admit, when a friend loaned me her book “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert” by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, I was hesitant.  Probably another book to beat Christians about the head, I thought, to say that they needed to reach out in love to the gay community more, followed by lots of advice about how to do that and a measured amount of guilt for failing to do so.  The first half of the book would detail her slide into being gay, and the second half would record her path into faith and how God had led her to help others minister to reach people like her.  I started reading it with my guard up.

Rosaria starts her book like this.  “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.”  And she ends the first chapter having made the journey into faith and out of lesbianism.  What would she talk about in the remaining 80% of the book?  My guard was down, and my interest was piqued.  I finished the book, as I recall, in two or three days.  Before returning the book to my friend, I got on and ordered the book for myself.  When I received it, I read it again over the course of a week, this time with a pencil to underline and to note ideas I wanted to remember.  I usually reserve that kind of interest for historical fiction or mysteries.

I was captivated by several things.  First, the quality of her prose.  Lines like “This was my conversion in a nutshell.  I lost everything but the dog.”  Or “It was the motliest Bible study I have ever had the privilege to enjoy.”  Or “We have decided that we are not inconvenienced by inconvenience.”

Second, the willingness to simply share about life or truths she has discovered, whether it fits any preconceptions or not.  Truths about how the gay community sometimes demonstrates care that Christians don’t.  Truths about how living faithfully hurts people who trusted you and can hurt deep inside you.  Truths about how sin might lie deeper than what we show to the world.  Truths about how we may not be in control of events, but God is.  Truths about the implications of ministering to others.

Third, the range of what is in the book.  It isn’t just about gay people or coming out of a gay lifestyle.  It’s about how to be a friend; about how to connect with people of all backgrounds; about worship at church, in your neighborhood, and at home; about marriage and the challenge of male and female roles; about the joys and heartaches of adoption; about raising an active and diverse family; about mercy and ministry.

There are some statements in the book that I still need to think through, and some implications that I haven’t fully absorbed.  But I believe it is well worth your attention.

By Ron Dick

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