Monday, July 11, 2016

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Rosario Champagne Butterfield

This book has been recommended to me by friends for a number of years, but I had never managed to read it. In the meantime, Husband bought it, read it, and handed it to me!

It is the story of a university professor’s almost unwilling conversion to Christ. Rosario was a tenured English professor specialising in gender studies and queer theory, living in a lesbian relationship and a key supporter and advocate for the LGBT community.

After publishing a critique of a religious group in the local paper, one pastor write to her a letter she couldn’t ignore. It was a letter that asked her gently how she arrived at her theories, what her presuppositions were, and whether she believed in God. Intrigued by its tone and content, she got in touch with the author. It started a deep friendship with him and his wife, in which they talked about what they both believed over meals and time together.

In time she came to believe in Christ: “Although grateful, I did not perceive conversion to be “a blessing.” It was a train wreck.” (p25)

“This word - conversion - is simply too tame and too refined to capture the train wreck that I experienced in coming to terms with the Living God. I know of only one word to describe this time-released encounter: impact.” (xi) It is an open and honest account of how coming to know God completely altered her life.

She details her life prior to conversion, but only in an informative and descriptive way. At once everything changes - partner, friends, teaching, writing, lifestyle, clothes, speech and thoughts. In time, she marries a pastor, they adopt and foster four children and currently home-school them.

You never know when you read a book like this quite what it is going to say. It could obviously go in many directions. It could be lewd. It could be judgemental. It could be shocking. It could be self-aggrandizing. It is none of these.

She is honest about her struggles, open about her questions, and clear that she had much to learn. She is never hostile to the gay community, and continues to love and serve friends who are part of it.

If there is any group who come under her critique - it is those of the Christian faith who are unthought in their responses and unloving in their words and actions, those who are unable to remove the speck in their own eyes before they remove the planks in others. She challenges those in the church to see our own blinkers and blindness and judgmentalism. She challenges church prejudices, the failure to love and to serve.

It’s a biography - one woman’s account of her own experience. At the same time, it is a clear challenge to think deeper on a number of issues. How well do we really love the outsider? How hospitable are we really? Do we know how casual comments and unwise words can cause deep hurt? Are we willing to cross the bridge of culture and belief and talk with anyone, kindly and gently, about what we both believe?

For Christians - this is a book worth reading, it might challenge you and make you uncomfortable - hopefully about yourself. And that is a good thing.

One quote (almost random considering the rest of the subject matter) stayed with me – her comments on being a pastor’s wife and they echo my own thoughts:
I believe… there is a little known secret about the inner spiritual lives of pastors’ wives. The experience of really knowing the man behind the pulpit, counting the costs of his week, palpably knowing how deeply Satan wants the gospel to simply die from lack of interest, and seeing the Holy Spirit triumph in his preaching even when just the hour before all looked grim, is a great shot in the arm to enduring faith. I wish that others knew this: Pastor’s wives get the cream of the ministry, even as we sacrifice certain aspects of our personal, private and family lives to have this. I have found my life as Kent’s wife to be full, rich, amusing, edifying, and exciting. I have tasted a small bit of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I would not trade this for anything. (p129-130)

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