Rosaria Champagne Butterfield in an amazing writer. Her platter of buzzwords leave my mouth watering for more.
Yet, I can’t help but feel really sad reading her book.
Because, Rosaria’s story feels like a missed opportunity.
She operates on the basis that homosexuality and godliness are mutually exclusive. But are they really?
The Plot of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert
In The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, we learn that Rosaria Champagne Butterfield holds a PhD in English Literature and Cultural Studies. Once upon a time, she held a tenured position at a large university, taught Women’s Studies and was a radical feminist- whatever that means. Also, she specialised in Queer Theory, which is a postmodern form of gay and lesbian studies. She had a live in lesbian lover, who was practically a wife by common law. On top of all that, she was an atheist.
Then one day, she comes to know Jesus and accepts Him as her personal Lord and Saviour. I rejoiced at this point, as the angels in Heaven did. But the joy was short lived; violently hindered by what came next.
The Problem with Rosaria’s Reasoning. Is Homosexuality Really a Sin?
Rosaria is convinced that homosexuality is a sin. Therefore, in line with her new found faith in God, she breaks up with her lesbian lover, T (p23). In retrospect, Rosaria did admit that T was starting to bore her, so this might just be a convenient excuse to exit a relationship she no longer desired.
I can’t help but feel really sorry for T. Jo once said that in case of a break up, never ever say “God made me do it”, it’ll make the person really question God. But Rosaria does exactly that.
Rosaria and T were once in love. Suddenly, Rosaria decides to break her heart, which is her right, no doubt. But then she breaks up with T, emphasises God’s role in it, then writes a whole book describing the ordeal. Here’s the worst part, she portrays her time with T as a dark and sinful time. A time that T might regard with fondness, Rosaria is telling the world that it was satanic.
“I lost my community when God saved my soul,” (p39) wrote Rosaria. Aunty Rosie, I think you could’ve had both! You could’ve embraced your G0d-given sexuality as a member of the LGBT community, AND served God in an arena where labourers are greatly lacking!
From my point of view, Rosaria mistakenly abandoned a field where the harvest is ripe.
Rosaria concedes that she didn’t change immediately. “When Christ gave me strength to follow Him, I didn’t stop feeling like a lesbian” (p23). In fact, even after she married a man, she never states a definite halt to her attraction to women. Rosaria dated men before coming out as a lesbian (p29), so it is the theory of many people including myself that Rosaria is bisexual, although she denies this. What happened after her conversion is that she simply embraced her heterosexual tendencies.
As far as Rosaria, homosexuality, and sin is concerned, she clearly didn’t understand why homosexuality is depicted as a sin- “I prayed for the strength of character to repent for a sin that at that time didn’t feel like a sin at all” (p23)/ “I didn’t understand why homosexuality was a sin, why something, in the particular manifestation of same-gender love was wrong in itself” (p27). It is a classic case of I-don’t-understand-why-but-the-Bible-says-so-just-do-it-don’t-question.
I believe our God is a logical God. I also do not believe in blind faith. Maybe that makes me the kind of person that cannot fit through the eye of a needle. But I maintain that if something isn’t logical, if people tell us something is a sin, and it doesn’t feel like a sin, we must definitely question if it is truly a sin. Vice versa applies too.
Nevertheless, Rosaria concludes that homosexuality is harmless, yet a sin. This is because it is the manifestation of the pride in us (p27-28). She believes that homosexuality is a sin that results from sin. Well, Aunty Rosie, assuming you are correct, the complementarian view also results from sin. The complementarian view dictates that men and women have different roles. The egalitarian relationship, I strongly believe, was God’s perfect design for mankind. As we can see in Genesis 1, the roles of men and women we equal. Equal standing. Equal authority. It was because of sin that a chasm appeared, and a complementarian relationship was born. In other words, the complementarian relationship is a result of sin. Yet, Aunty Rosie is relentless in her support of the complementarian view.
Don’t agree with my logic? I think mine is more comprehensible than Aunty Rosie’s.
Rosaria unpacks sin, reading in between lines that are not there. She whip concepts out of thin air. She doesn’t indicate that these are her personal viewpoints, so we get the impression that she believes she is speaking on God’s behalf. To summarise, Rosaria believes that pride leads to homosexuality, that homosexuality is the symptom of pride. That’s why although homosexuality may not feel like a sin, it is a sin, because it is rooted in pride. Did I get that right? My england kurang bagus.
Actually, Rosaria makes sin sound very complicated (p27-31). I think sin is very simple. Sin is harm done unto others or self. Sin is those times we disobey God by failing to love in the way He intends. Sin is the fruit of those times we forget to love. I struggle to see how sin exist in situations where the only fruit is love. And I believe very much in judgement by fruit (Matthew 7:16).
Or maybe my intellect is simply no match for her academic one. Maybe we are both right in different ways, I don’t know?
She means well. Unfortunately, it is my opinion that exactly this kind of mindset- suspicion of sin lurking around every corner- that turns us into cowards afraid of our own shadows. Instead of being free in Christ, we tiptoe through life, scrutinising everything just in case it sends us to the raging fires of hell. This feels unnecessary and a terrible way to live. Worse still, we make Christianity look like a prison cell. We make Christianity look very unattractive. We become stumbling blocks.
What Has Christianity Got to Do with Dressing “Like a Girl”?
Another thing that troubles me greatly is that following her conversion, Rosaria started wearing dresses and “girl shoes”. She grew out her butch haircut. Hmm. Can’t a Christian wear jeans and spot a pixie cut? Why does knowing the Lord require a makeover? God doesn’t care if she wear jeans everyday or have hair akin to a SEAL cadet. He certainly doesn’t care that she goes stomping around in “boy shoes”.
Why Does Rosaria Make Feminism Sound So Anti-Bible?
I am also vastly grieved by how Rosaria depicts feminism as anti-Christ. I think feminism is synonymous with Christianity. I believe with all my heart that equality is God’s design for mankind. She talks in her book about controlling theme. Well, the controlling theme of this book is that women should aspire to be heterosexual, married (preferably to a pastor), and with children (biological or otherwise). While those characteristics are desirable, they are no more desirable than homosexual, unmarried, and childless. God has a different plan for each of us, plans to prosper and not to harm us, plans to give us a hope and a future. Guess what, they don’t all necessarily look alike. God’s plan does not necessarily include being heterosexual, married, and children.
The Reformed Presbyterian Denomination
On top of that, I think it is fitting to mention that upon knowing God, she joined the RP (Reformed Presbyterian) denomination. I’m not terribly informed about this denomination, but I don’t have very good impression of the reformed churches in Malaysia. They tend to behave as if they have ALL the answers to life. They have a flair for extremism. Their commitment to understanding God’s word is very admirable, but the accompanying smugness is what irks me till no end. In the case of the RP, they tend to take the Bible literally, which also explains why they sing only Psalms A capella. In fact, she spends 5 and a half pages defending their enigmatic brand of praise and worship (p61-65). Given all that we know about their denomination, it is no surprise that they have strong stances on abortion, gambling, and homosexuality.
Let’s not even get started on their treatment of women.
I suspect Rosaria is one that, despite her undeniable intellect, obeys church leaders unconditionally. The man at the pulpit is always right, and it’s always a man in the case of her denomination.
I Feel Like Rosaria has Been Very Unkind to her Former Community
Before I started reading Rosaria’s book, I read reviews, so I had an idea of what to expect. I admit I was initially annoyed, but tried my best to be fair and unbiased. However, by the time I got to the part where she “comes out as a Christian” in a lecture called “The Solomon Problem” (p34-38), I was seething. The lecture in itself is not a problem, but the implication of it is. The implication is that she will now turn her back on the LGBT community- the community that has supported her, loved her, confided in her, held her hand all these years. Think of all the embarrassment this will cause her friends.
She sees this moment as a triumphant success, a necessary evil in the name of evangelism. But me, I see it as pure evil, completely lacking love, and absolutely unnecessary.
B, who was the president of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered undergraduate student collective stormed into Rosaria’s office, fuming and crying (p38) after the lecture. He felt understandably betrayed. He had confided in her, depended on, and she just pulls the plug and leaves. And what does Rosaria do? She describes him in an undesirable light- “B was a skinny boy, high on prescription medication for ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, and who knows what else. He had been flunking out of school since his first day on campus.” (p38) Aunty Rosie, this is no way to treat a man you just hurt so deeply and unnecessarily.
On a separate occasion, she also refers to the gays on her campus as “wackos”. “I didn’t want every wacko on campus to confess his or her feelings of same-sex love or homophobia or refer for counselling for their gay aunts or neighbours” (p58). I read a review from a member of the LGBT community who was understandably very hurt by this. But in all fairness, (a) it was just an offensive writing style, and (b) the homophobic are also wackos, according to her.
This Book is Not All Bad
Having said all that, I agree full heartedly that pride is the sin we all struggle with. I know I do. I am also challenged to surrender all to God, the way Rosaria did when she left her comfort zone at Syracuse University. Furthermore, I am very humbled by her and Ken’s (her husband) willingness to adopt and foster children. I will never in a million years question her heart to serve. I also now see that God’s plan for her is to be a mother to many. God has a different path for each of us. Again, they don’t all look alike.
Hospitality has always been Rosaria’s calling. She simply went from hosting LGBT individuals and activists to fostering children. In both cases, her willingness to open her home is very commendable.
What We Can (and Shouldn’t) Take Away from This Book
As far as literature goes, the prose is beautiful. I expanded my vocabulary inhaling her pages. There is plot, twist, love, heartbreak, and character development. This book is amazing, but only if you leave your sensibilities at home. If you insist on bringing your brain along, please take her Bible interpretations with a pinch of salt. Dig into God’s word yourself. Pray. Ask God the hard questions.
Please think of this book as a story of an atheist that found her way to Christ, nothing more.
I won’t insist on being God’s personal mouthpiece, but it is my view that God does not forbid homosexuality. I believe that homosexuality has no moral flaw, and is not a sin. It don’t buy her long-winded justification for treating homosexuality as a sin. Conversion therapy has been proven to be dangerous, and is even banned in many countries including China. I strongly believe people should embrace their God-given sexuality, as long as nobody gets hurt and the marriage bed is respected.
If you are reading this, are a member of the LGBT community, and are seeking affirmative counselling/ support, please don’t hesitate to contact me. No, I don’t counsel. I’m not qualified to counsel even a piece of broccoli, but will do my best to connect you with counsellors and churches that will affirm your God-given sexual orientation.
Remember, God didn’t make you to be self-hating or hated. God loves you just the way you are. I strongly doubt God will ask you to change something as innate as sexuality to be accepted.