There are a lot of ‘unlikely’ converts out there. I guess in some way, all who have made Jesus Lord and Savior of their lives were at one time ‘unlikely’ to do so.
But, there are certain groups of people that we Christians are guilty of thinking might never come to the Lord. It is almost as if we have written them off.
Think about it. The intellectual elite. The homosexual community. The wealthy and comfortable who seem to not need God. Those committed to other faiths.
These are just a few of perhaps more ‘groups’ of people that we Christians show a distinct curiosity about when they DO come to faith in Christ and experience radical change.
“The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert” is the surprising story of one person who represented several of these ‘unlikely’ groups. For me, her story was a good reminder that no one is outside the bounds of God’s reach, even if his people sometime assume so.
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield was a tenured English professor at a major University in New York. She lived a committed lesbian lifestyle and was the faculty adviser to the student LGBT association.
Certainly she fit the category of ‘unlikely convert.’
She was an activist who thought Christians, in her own words, were “bad thinkers” and “bad readers” who were “sheltered from the world’s real problems.”
She felt this way, that is, until she became unlikely friends with a Presbyterian Minister while working on a book about the Religious Right in America.
As Rosaria and Pastor Ken became friends, she met in him a Christian who was hospitable, caring, interesting, well read, loving, and who actually enjoyed tough questions. He seemingly broke all of her stereotypes of what it means to be a Christian. She was struck by how ‘unselfish’ Ken and his wife were.
Over time and during much struggle, Rosaria came to faith in Christ. She writes of her conversion experience…one night
“I prayed and asked God if the gospel message was for someone like me, too. I viscerally felt the living presence of God as I prayed. Jesus seemed present and alive. I knew that I was not alone in my room. I prayed that if Jesus was truly a real and risen God, that he would change my heart…I prayed for the strength of character to repent for a sin that at that time didn’t feel like a sin at all, it felt like life…I prayed that if my life was actually his life, that he would take it back and make it what he wanted it to be. I asked him to take it all…” (pg. 21)
Butterfield’s story provides many insights for those seeking to understand how someone so ‘unlikely’ comes to faith in Christ.
What I Liked:
- The vivid description of her conversion as a ‘train wreck.’ We Christians should remember just how traumatic and not just how joyful coming to Christ can be.
- Her honest critiques of the church and Christian’s approaches to ‘unlikely’ people.
- The point that our cultural debates often hinge on worldview: Christians operate from a spiritual worldview, while much of the world operates from a secular/materialistic one.
- She had some insightful reflections on adoption.
- Her many pithy quotes such as…
I’ve discovered that the Lord doesn’t change my feeling until I obey him.
Sins of identity have multiple dimensions…pride, for example, informed my decision making…my unwillingness to forgive others landlocked my heart in bitterness.
Sometimes in crisis, we don’t really learn lessons. Sometimes the result is simpler and more profound: sometimes our character is simply transformed.
Homosexuality – like all sin – is symptomatic and not causal – that is, it tells us where our heart has been, not who we inherently are or what we are destined to become.
Sin, when unrestrained, infantilizes a person.
We are only righteous in Christ and in him alone. But that’s a hard pill to swallow, especially if you give yourself kudos for good choices.
What I Didn’t Like:
- She seemed to go from one extreme (very unlikely to come to Christ) to another (very fundamental Presbyterian church). As an example, she says that God has only ordained the singing of Psalms in worship to the exclusion of man made hymns. (What about passages in the NT that are reportedly hymns from the early church?)
- She skips over important details. I felt like she would touch on a struggle of belief, then just write as if she had accepted a change and moved on. I wanted more on what that transition was like for her.
- She writes a lot about Reformed Presbyterian theology and practice. I didn’t buy the book to read about how the RPC worships.
- She spends the last few chapters just talking about adoption. She did get married to a man and adopt children. That’s good, but I thought that material could be better served in another book.
Butterfield was raised a Catholic and so she did not come to the Bible without some knowledge of Christ or the gospel. But, it was through the faithful, loving, generous influence of humble and intelligent Christian friends that her heart was opened to the Lord who loved her.
Overall, Secret Thoughts is a good read. It was helpful and inspiring.
You never know who the next ‘unlikely convert’ might be…