Friday, November 10, 2017

Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield

I enjoyed this wonderful, non-syrupy testimony of God’s transforming power. Butterfield writes, In the pages that follow, I share what happened in my private world through what Christians politely call conversion. The word conversion is simply too tame and too refined to capture the train wreck that I experienced in coming face-to-face with the Living God.

At the time of her conversion, Butterfield was a tenured professor of English and Women’s Studies at Syracuse University. Her specialty was Queer Theory. She was living with her female partner, was faculty advisor to all of the gay, lesbian and feminist groups on campus, and was writing a book against the Christian Right.
Sadly, the only contact she had ever had with Christians had been hate mail. So when she received a letter from Pastor Ken Smith, inviting her to talk about some of her opinions, she was intrigued enough to accept. Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert recounts her growing friendship with Ken and his wife, and how reading the Bible turned her world upside down. 

Because of her secular, feminist leanings, she seethed through every sermon by her pastor. How dare he use male pronouns? But oddly enough she kept coming back for more. Was I a masochist? I wondered. Or was I learning to forbear? I came to believe that my job was not to critique a sermon, but to dig into it, to seize its power, to participate with its message, and to steal its fruit. I learned by sitting under Ken Smith’s preaching that the easily offended are missing the point. I was learning to examine my gender politics against the teachings of Scripture. And I was learning that it was safe to do this.
The first half of the book is about her conversion and the second half is about the subsequent years of ministry, marriage and child-rearing. Her “secret thoughts” are negative opinions about people who put Bible verses up on their lawns, Rick Warren’s (and all mega church's) ministry, and homogenous churches; she has positive opinions about church membership, a capella psalm singing, the authority of the Bible over all of life, and the beauty of the body of Christ when it’s functioning properly. I agree with many of the reviewers at Goodreads who say the second half is weaker than the first. Butterfield may have felt compelled to add the post-conversion info because (as she states early in the book) she doesn't want to be mainly seen as a "poster child for lesbian conversion."

This is a very unusual testimony and a very important book for Christians who want to learn how to break down barriers that hinder them from reaching non-believers.

I've had this on my Kindle for two years and I'm grateful to the 2017 Christian Books Challenge for finally nudging me to read it.


Michele Morin said...

I also loved this book, and it led me to try (as well as I can) to keep up a bit with Rosaria's speaking ministry through the Gospel Coalition. She's very articulate and very relatable. I'm glad you had the experience of discovering her as well.

Barbara H. said...

This was one of my top ten books the year that I read it. It was eye-opening in so many respects. I learned a lot from the example of her pastor. It also gave me great hope that if one so adamantly opposed to the Christian faith could in fact be saved, then my loved ones who don't know Him can be, too. I know they can, of course, but seeing such a change in someone's life feeds that hope, too.

Perhaps another reason for the second half of the book is to show that she was truly converted, that it wasn't just phase, but a true life change that affected every area. It was maybe less dramatic than the first part, but I enjoyed reading about the process of those changes as well.

Carol said...

Maybe Ken Smith should write a book. I haven't read Rosaria Butterfield's book but would like to. I recently read another review & they made a similar observation about the second half of the book but Barbara's comments above made sense.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I read this one last year and loved it. One of my big takeaways was her passion for adoption.