Thursday, June 25, 2015
The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert
The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert is Rosaria Champagne Butterfield's testimony of how she went from an esteemed professor in 'Queer Theory' at a university and in a long-term lesbian relationship, to becoming a follower of Jesus. In the world's eyes, the church's eyes, and even her own eyes, Rosaria seemed like the very last person who would ever become a Christian. But God had different plans for her and when she encountered the Almighty, she describes her life as a 'train wreck at the hand of the supernatural'. Her faith in Christ changed everything - she was writing a book she could no longer write (on the hatred of the Religious Right in America towards homosexuals), she left her position at the university, ended her relationship with her lesbian partner. She eventually married Kent Butterfield, and is now a pastor's wife and mother to four foster children, three of whom still live at home.
Here are some things I learnt from reading Rosaria's story:
1. Often it takes a long time for someone to come to faith in Christ
I guess I kind of already knew this (coming from a non-Christian family who appear to show no interest in Jesus certainly helps you develop patience and perseverance in prayer and faithful witness), but a lot of Christians seem to assume that they can do an evangelistic course with a non-Christian and that at the end of six weeks (or whenever) they'll be ready to accept Christ. The couple who played a big part in Rosaria coming to faith were an elderly pastor and his wife she was interviewing for her book. It took a few years of them patiently opening their home, sharing meals and answering her many questions. If you have a friend who you think may never come to Christ, don't give up. God is mighty to save.
2. Everyone is really an 'unlikely convert'
Rosaria may label herself an 'unlikely convert' but, in reality, we all are - gay or straight, leftist or rightist, hardened criminal or upstanding citizen, Christian or secular or some other religious upbringing - all of us have rejected God, no-one seeks Him, we have all turned away. I had people say to me after I became a Christian, "Oh I knew you'd become a Christian because you're so nice." No, my conversion was a miracle of God, as is everyone's.
3. Not every non-Christian is 'seeking'
I hear a lot of testimonies where the person shares how they felt lost and that they felt something was lacking in their life. But not everyone is like this. Rosaria openly admits she was very happy with her life and had no need for God. He was the one who found her when she wasn't looking.
4. Don't wait for your friend to change before you invite them to church
Pastor Ken, who Rosaria was meeting with, invited her to visit his church and, after some reservation, she eventually came. He didn't wait for her to stop being a lesbian before he invited her. He invited her to come and hear God's Word. God is the one who can change people, not us imposing a 'moral standard on the unconverted'.
5. Do we really believe God can change people, and do we really see ourselves as sinners?
I get really disgusted when I hear Christians using derogatory terms towards gay people and refusing to associate with them. Are we being like Jesus when we behave this way? Jesus welcomed sinners and ate with them. Too often, Christians place homosexuals in the 'too hard basket', but no-one is too hard for God or beyond His love and grace. Rosaria shares the horrified reaction from a lady from her church when she confessed her past to her:
Someone I valued as a friend, a founding church member with influence, asked me what I would do if a homosexual entered our worship service. I quickly shared with her my testimony, apologising that I hadn't done so earlier. I gave her a chapter of the book that you are holding in your hand and I asked her to read it and to let me know what she thought of all of this. A week later, she came to talk.
She took a deep breath.
All the colour drained from her face.
She looked like she had just witnessed a crime scene.
Manifesting disgust and horror, she told me that she wished that I hadn't shared this with her. She quickly added, "Oh, I'm fine with this information, but X (another weighty founding church member) could never handle it. Do you have to tell people about this?" This. Rosaria's unmentionable past. Rahab the Harlot. Mary Magdalene. We love these women between the pages of our Bible, but we don't want to sit at the Lord's Table with them - people like me - drinking from a common cup. That's the real ringer: the common cup - that is, our common origin in depravity. We are only righteous in Christ and in Him alone. But that's a hard pill to swallow, especially if you give yourself kudos for good choices (page 138).
I loved her honesty and while I don't agree with everything she says (she comes from a denomination which believe Christians should only sing the Psalms, not other Christian songs), this book should be high on the must read list for every Christian.