Tonight, I read a book that I’ve had highly recommended to me: Rosaria Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Pittsburgh: Crown & Covenant, 2012). My mother recommended it because Rosaria provides such a striking description of looking “into” Christianity as one who was very much an outsider, and of her response to the Christian pastor who reached past her lesbian identity and asked probing questions about her ground-level presuppositions (he “stressed that he accepted me as a lesbian but that he didn’t approve of me as a lesbian,” p. 14). This was indeed a profitable aspect of the book, as were quite a few other aspects:
* Learning more about the LGBT community from someone who was very much on the inside. Butterfield provides frank discussions on how that community “was accepting and welcoming while the Christian community appeared (and too often is) exclusive, judgmental, scornful, and afraid of diversity” (5). That may sound offputting at first read, as if Christians should simply be very affirming and not worry too much about people’s sin. She is pointing, though, to the real problem of Christians’ unwillingness even to communicate the gospel with those who are significantly different than they (here, those who identify as LGBT).
* Listening to Butterfield work through her move from strident feminism to full-fledged participation as a pastor’s wife in a conservative Christian denomination (Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America) which holds to male-only church leadership.
* Nodding as I read her occasional critiques of the evangelical movement (and of American Christianity in general). I note a couple of pertinent excerpts below.
* Reading her ruminations about worship, as she describes and defends the regulative principle. “Upholding the Regulative Principle puts real pressure on real issues: in an RP church, you will get no show, no comedian pastors, no rock bands, no skits, no videos, no interpretive dancing. Either Jesus comes to worship with us and the Holy Spirit fuels and fills us and God is honored or we have simply, painfully, nothing at all.” (pp. 91-92)
Butterfield on the evangelical movement (and/or American Christianity in general):
Because conversion, in scripture and in my personal experience, is arduous and transformative, I fear the consequence of the easy believism that typifies modern evangelical culture. I live now in a neighborhood that often seems like the Disneyland of evangelical culture. I have neighbors who are members of one of the big churches in our community. Their church has a fast-food restaurant (so no one gets hungry), a well-known coffee chain (so no one gets sleepy or feels deprived of creature comforts), and a Moon bounce (so children will think that God just wants you to have fun). The church organizes a church-sponsored pool (i.e., gambling program) around the NCAA Final Four. When we compare what we did at church, what we learned in Bible study and what we mean when we call ourselves followers of Christ, our vocabulary may be the same, but the meaning behind our vocabulary is vastly different. And when it comes down to how we parent our children, the differences are profound. (pp. 34-35)
All of the testimonies that I had heard up to this point were egocentric and filled with pride. Aren’t I the smarty-pants for choosing Christ! I made a decision for Christ, aren’t I great? I committed my life to Christ, aren’t I better than those heathens who haven’t? This whole line of thinking is both pervasive among evangelical Christians and absurd. My whole body recoiled against this line of thinking. I’m proof of the pudding. I didn’t choose Christ. Nobody chooses Christ. Christ chooses you or you’re dead. Period. It’s not a pretty story. (p. 81)