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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
|Publisher:||Crown & Covenant|
A voice worth listening too
So why five stars? It’s not the title – although the by-line appeals to me ‘ an English professor’s journey into Christian faith’. It’s not its slick presentation or that it has a clear target audience – in fact I’m not sure who the target audience is because it ranges across and through so many themes. The title actually describes it well – ‘secret thoughts’ and the reader is taken into the mind of a perceptive and articulate woman who loves God but her journey has been anything but conventional.
The book opens with this declaration:
‘When I was 28 years old, I boldly declared myself lesbian. I was a teaching associate in one of the first and strongest Women’s Studies Departments in the nation.’
She considered Christians bad thinkers and anti-intellectual, but they also scared her:
‘Here is one of the deepest ways Christians scared me: the lesbian community was home and home felt safe and secure; the people that I knew best and cared about were in that community; and finally, the lesbian community was accepting and welcoming while the Christian community appeared (and too often is) exclusive, judgmental, scornful, and afraid of diversity.’
This book shows how God brought her to himself through the loving and gentle friendship of a pastor and her devouring of the bible. It was not an easy transition; she refers to her conversion like experiencing a train wreck, as she moved from radical feminism to being married to a pastor of a Reformed Presbyterian Church (unaccompanied Psalm singing). Yet this book is so much more than the story of her conversion albeit a powerful witness to the way God transforms the most unexpected people. It looks at issues of sexuality and witness to the gay community but it is not a book primarily about the gay issue although it is worth reading for this alone.
This book shows a person working out their theology having come to church as a total outsider for whom everything must be questioned and grappled with. It looks at what it means to be part of a church, relationships in church, the value of worship, hospitality, and serving others. She examines the principles of Christian marriage, and is a passionate advocate of adoption, fostering and home-schooling. She discusses bible reading, hermeneutics, worldviews and education. Her perceptions are sharp, witty and thought provoking, I don’t agree with all of her conclusions (if I did I would be in a Psalm singing church) but she makes many poignant and pertinent observations.
Reading this book felt like finding a friend. Like all good friends there is room for disagreement but like the best friends we have there is much to learn. Rosaria defies easy categorisation but I believe this book despite its American context has much to teach us and not least how to share the gospel with our gay friends.