The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, an English professor’s journey into Christian faith by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert is a multi-layered book. First, and most likely the reason most read it in the first place, is that it chronicles the story of a former lesbian feminist scholar whose specialty was “queer theory” (p. 2), who has radically turned to Christ and from her former life style. While Butterfield does not want to be used as a representative of coming out (p. 171), or as a “poster-child for gay conversion” (p. 81), her account nevertheless richly contributes to the discussion of the possibility of sexual-orientation change. While stopping short of promising similar changes in other homosexuals who come to Christ, nevertheless the author firmly believes that God can transform our sexuality (pp. 24-25). More pointedly, she declares it is homophobic to believe God cannot change homosexual orientation (pp. 169-170). In Butterfield’s case transformation was slow, imperfect, messy and difficult, but it began with repentance and obedience. It was not till later her feelings changed (pp. 22-23, 49, 172-173, 179).
A second layer of the book, and perhaps the most valuable, is the promotion of hospitality. From preconversion to the present, hospitality has played an invaluable role in Butterfield’s life. From pastors and their wives, to Christian leaders, to numerous others, the author’s journey has been made possible because of hospitality. Rather than force the faith upon her, God’s people accepted her where she was, talked endlessly with her, loved and fed and befriended her. Now as a pastor’s wife much of her ministry revolves around her hospitality to others. These reflections will serve as a catalyst for the reader’s involvement in this vital ministry (see pp. 113, 153-158, 161-164).
The third layer is the author’s interest in adoption (pp. 119-148, 176). She and her husband have adopted several children and been foster parents of others. She homeschools these children, which is the fourth layer. It is interesting that earlier in her Christian life, even as that of a pastor’s wife, she viewed homeschooled college young people she encountered as overly sheltered, ill-prepared for life and ruled by fear of the outside world (pp. 115-118; 127, 176). Yet now she is a convert to homeschooling, using the Classical Conversation method (pp. 127, 131, 134-148). She never really says why she changed, nor how her homeschooled children will be different from others, but she is a cheerleader for it now.
The final layer has to do with her view of worship using the Regulative Principle and especially Psalm singing (pp. 86-94, 136, 176, 181-186). Her arguments are unconvincing but the reader can at least receive an understanding as to why Psalm singing is the conviction of some.
Butterfield is a serious, thinking Christian. She dislikes bumper sticker Christianity (pp. 4-5, 67-68, 81) and our modern Disneyland evangelical culture (p. 35). But she loves Scripture and rightly states, “The Bible interrogates us, we do not interrogate the Bible.” She strangely seems in agreement with some views of Freud (p. 53) and Clyde Narramore (p. 15) and lists the Catholic Encyclopedia and Brian McLaren, without comment, in her bibliography of Christian living resources. Overall The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert is a valuable read, especially in regards to the first two layers.
The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, an English professor’s journey into Christian faith by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield (Pittsburgh, PA: Crown & Covenant Publications, 2014), 191 pp. + xiv, paper $10.99
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher Southern View Chapel.