Rosario Champagne Butterfield is a former tenured professor of English and women’s studies at Syracuse University who is now the wife of a Reformed Presbyterian pastor. She became a Christian in 1999 after a series of lesbian relationships and a promoter of LGBT causes. She has written two books. The Secrets of an Unlikely Convert is the story of her journey into Christianity. Her second book, Openness Unhindered is subtitled, Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert – Sexual Identity – Union with Christ. It is a book which every church leader and every Christian who has questions about this subject, especially in the light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling making same sex marriage a civil right, and the media coverage of transgender issues, would profit by reading.
My first response to her book is that it is well written. She is after all a Ph.D. from Ohio State in English and Critical Theory. She knows all the arguments about postmodern interpretations of texts and the use of words to define issues.
My second take away is that she has a very high view of Holy Scripture. After arguing with Scripture and trying to toss its teachings in the trash she capitulated to it.
“I was fighting the idea that the Bible is inspired and inerrant – that is, that its meaning and purpose have a holy and supernatural authority that has protected it over the years of its canonicity, and that it is the repository of truth. How could a smart cookie like me embrace these things? I didn’t even believe in truth. I was a postmodernist. I believed in truth claims. I believed that the reader constructed the text – that a text’s meaning found its power only in the reader’s interpretation of it. As I told my students over and over again, without the reader, a book is just paper and glue. How could this one book lay claim to a birthright and progeny different from all others?”
My third reflection is that when she became a Christian she realized how pride was her worst sin from which she needed to repent. Her identity in Christ became the most important part of her. She had to reject the Romantic illusion that truth is known through your personal experience and your feelings. The belief in sexual orientation creates fictional identities that rob people of their true identity as male and female bearers of the image of God. She argues that we are not oriented or framed by our sexual desires to make us separate species of people.
“Indeed sexual orientation went from a categorical invention to unheralded immortal truth in one hundred years, taking out the concept of being created in God’s image and bearing an eternal soul in its wake. It is now a term embraced uncritically by believers and unbelievers alike. Sexual orientation defines selfhood as the sum-total of our fallen human desires. Through it, we get no glimpse of how the covenant of grace defends our true real identity in Christ, or why, say, biblical marriage is a God-designed creation ordinance and a living reflection of Christ and the church, and not merely a man-made convenience.”
Her LGBT community believed that sexuality was fluid and a social construct. They claimed psychological proof that gender and sexuality were freely chosen and matters of personal expression that could be changed, resisted or shaped as their own individual sense of personal integrity and desire allowed. Conversion to Christ meant that you left everything, including your former lifestyle, and followed Jesus as part of his family, the church (Mark 10:28-30).
Lastly, I was impressed by her compassion and sensitivity to the LGBT community and her recognition of the struggle they have with their feelings and their understanding of their identity. She dialogues with other Christians who feel defined by their sexuality as well as their Christian identity. She champions the need of the church to be a real community which treats everybody by their Christian identity and not by their past sins.
This book is a very helpful treatment of both our redemption in Christ and the manifestation of original sin in our lifestyles and attitudes.
To gain more insight in her response to the marriage debate go to her website: www.rosariobutterfield.com.