Book Review: The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

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The Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith
by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
Publication date: 2012 Date read: March 2013
Source: borrowed from a friend
Recommended by: two of my friends, and then also reviewed by Dawn
My rating (out of 5): ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Highly recommended.

Summary

A tenured, happy English professor of Queer Theory is called by God out of that life and into salvation, and she shares of her transformation into a homeschooling pastor’s wife.

Review

This is a book, a memoir, to make you think. Written by an English professor, it is sharp and crisp. She has her points, and she takes you from one to the next with wit, humor, and piercing clarity.

The theme that struck me most, though she had several woven throughout, was the theme of hospitality.

First, her path toward Christ began with a pastor extending hospitality toward her. He reached out to an unknown opponent and enemy of the gospel with love and kindness. She accepted his hospitality and became drawn into a relationship first with this pastor and his wife and then to Christ Himself. She points out several times that this hospitality was not easy or comfortable, but it was gracious, humble, and generous.

Second, she tells how hospitality is a known important aspect in the gay community. In her position in her community, she was practiced at hospitality. She had an open door. She knew that hospitality and sharing life and food and homes was how community was built, and she was committed to building that community. Sometimes hospitality can feel like a tertiary obligation that can be pretty safely ignored if one is too busy, but the enemy is more wily and strategic than we are. Hospitality is a known and used strategic practice. People want to belong, people need a safe place, and people need others to reach out to them. We neglect the Bible’s hospitality commands to the Church’s detriment.

Third, hospitality remains a huge part of her life after she is married (and before, really). She talks about the wear and tear on the house, their budget, and her nerves. She is honest, but she sees and knows the value of sharing one’s home and life. In her reckoning, the cost does not outweigh the worth of the service. In telling her story, she gives an authentic picture of what really opening up oneself to others (and not just easy friends) can look and feel like.

Her message is loud and clear: Our homes, ourselves, are given to us to be used as tools of ministry (and this is real discipling, not just get-them-saved evangelism); if we use them merely to enjoy ourselves, we are missing out on the true fullness of life.

Favorite Quotes

Even though obviously these Christians and I were very different, they seemed to know that I wasn’t just a blank slate, that I had values and opinions too, and they talked with me in a way that didn’t make me feel erased.


I learned that we must obey in faith before we feel better or different. At this time, though, obeying in faith, to me, felt like throwing myself off a cliff.


And what about my home, my habitus? A habitus is a way of life that forms habits of the head, habits of the heart, and habits of the mind. My habitus had heretofore been a bastion of leftist political activism. What does a Christian habitus look like, especially one run by a single ex-lesbian with a now defunct PhD?


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.


Making a life commitment to Christ was not merely a philosophical shift. It was not a one-step process. […] Conversion didn’t “fit” my life. Conversion overhauled my soul and personality. It was arduous and intense.


I had learned in a rich and organic way that the Bible webs into all conversations and cultures, like active verbs in sentences or oxygen in the atmosphere.


I had been the beneficiary of real Christian evangelism. Ken Smith spent time with me – and not just spare time. He spent pricey time – real time.


We in the church tend to be more fearful of the (perceived) sin in the world than of the sin in our own heart. Why is that? […] When fear rules your theology, God is nowhere to be found in your paradigm, no matter how many Bible verses you tack on to it.


Real fellowship requires stepping outside of you, and our church community stretched us and enriched us.


Learning to be refreshed in the context of intense labor is important spiritual work.

Books I Added to My “To-Read” List Because of This Book

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2013 Reading Challenge

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3 Responses

  1. Clare
    |

    Thanks for posting this review. People have been talking about this book at church and I def want to read it. There’s an interview with her here: http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/2013/02/14/rosaria-butterfield-%e2%80%93-fascinating-new-autobiography-of-an-ex-lesbian-english-professor-who-finds-christian-faith/

  2. dawn
    |

    Hm, I thought I posted this, but Great Review!

  3. kort
    |

    i just told my husband that i think one of the best things you can say about a book is that it made you want to read more! i think you’ll really like Making Room by Christine Pohl!