This is a very insightful, perceptive expression from a lady who has truly experienced God's hand in her life. Rosaria is an educator and intellectual who connects a Biblical worldview and the life of the Evangelical community with contemporary social issues and culture. She is particularly in depth in describing the categories and experience of same sex attraction and the connections with Christian faith. All Christians should read these thoughts to gain a better understanding of the issues and how the church should relate to those with such issues. The concluding chapters are less in depth and deal with the practical aspects of Christian community and evangelism. There is a certain uneveness between chapters, oscillating between college classroom and family conversation.
A few years ago, Rosaria Champagne Butterfield wrote a memoir. Her book was about her journey from being a lesbian, women's studies professor in upstate New York to being a Christian pastor's wife and mom of four kids. Her book was aptly titled The Secrets of an Unlikely Convert. She was won over to Christ, not by man's words or by the four spiritual laws, but by Christ and the Word of God. Her first book was intended to share her story--to encourage people to love instead of to preach. There was a pastor and his wife who God used to encourage and walk alongside her quietly, listening in love, unwavering in God's Truth. This book was not intended to be one given to someone living a homosexual lifestyle with the hope that it would convince them of the truth.
But, Ms. Butterfield has now written a second book with tackles sexual sin and God's Truth. This new book is one that can be given to one who is struggling. It is one that addresses all sexual sin and the roots of that sin. She writes in the same writing style--you can tell she was a college professor. So, it isn't always an easy read, but rather a worthwhile read packed with nuggets of thought worth chewing on and mulling over. I deeply appreciate Ms. Butterfield's commitment to God's Truth.
Concern has filled my heart as I've watched the changes in our culture at large and even within the Christian community at large. Christians seem to be of two minds when it comes to homosexuality. One camp says that it is not being homosexual and struggling with that temptation that is the sin, but it is acting on that temptation which is sin. We are all tempted by different sins. WE are ALL sinners. This is true. Another camp says that it is okay for a person to be in an actively homosexual relationship because loving another is glorifying to God. This second camp relies heavily on the claim that parts of the Bible have been mistranslated or are only culturally applicable to the time in which it was written, therefore the scriptures (which are many) that say homosexual acts are sin are invalid. Last year, a few years ago a Christian recording artist chose to tour with an lesbian singer and there was some concern deep in my heart. A year and a half later, that recording artist got a divorce due to his infidelity. I don't know if there is a connection, but I do know that when we decide we only want to live by part of God's Word we put up walls in our hearts as if we are saying to God, "This isn't comfortable and it doesn't make people feel good, so I don't want to agree with that part of the Bible anymore." The problem is that the Bible isn't about making us feel good. It is about God. Life is hard and all of us should know that just because something feels "good" doesn't mean that it is "right".
Last Sunday evening, I was teaching my Sunday School class about Moses and the Ten Commandments. I emphasized to them that God told the people not to touch Mount Sinai or they would die. I put a fence up in front of my cardboard model to emphasize this point. One little boy asked with glee, "Well, what if I just throw something at the mountain?" He thought he could get away with it--going around the exact rule. I responded that the person would die, because God was concerned with their hearts. Now, I know that isn't in the Bible, but I do know that Scripture tells us over and over that God is concerned with our Hearts. (Proverbs 21:2, Matthew 6, 1 Samuel 16:7, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) The little boy was shocked when I told him that he couldn't be sneaky and get away with it. We need to live by God's terms, not ours. He gave us the Moral law in Exodus 20 to help keep us safe--to protect us from harm.
In the same way, Ms. Butterfield writes about our hearts. She wants to challenge us to look at not just our actions, but what is inside our hearts. It isn't the act of throwing a stick that would alarm God, but the heart behind it. God is calling us to live on His terms, not our own.
I deeply respect Ms. Butterfield for writing this second book, Openness Unhindered. But, I respect her more for walking a tough road than for her writing. That is what is toughest. I was shocked to realize how some Christians have treated her over the years. Her stories challenged me to look at my own heart. On page 32, she says, "It is sinful to write people off because they sin in ways that offend you." Wow. She's right.
This book tackles important topics that I think we all need to think about community, loving sisters in Christ that you disagree with about this issue, repentance, sexual orientation, and self-representation. The ideas she introduces can be applied to other areas in our lives. For example, on page 133, she insightfully explains that "Our tendency is to find others who sin just like we do, so that we won't be alone. We search for role models, so that we might minimize the sinfulness of our sin. We enlist others to help us in calling our sin a sanctifying grace. But we ought to quake in fear when we find ourselves traveling that path. Because without intending it, such "covering of sin renders us enemies of God, and not friends." That nugget of truth applies to anger, gossip, lying, cheating... not just to sexual sin.
I grieve to think that there will be Christians who attack this book and the author. Please pray for her and for those who attack it. There are many Christians today who are buying into the belief that we all have a right to be "happy" and because of this, they are absorbing ideas that include thinking that the Bible has been mistranslated and misinterpreted. Yes, it is hard when people we love are declared sinners by the Bible and that they will go to Hell when they die if they don't believe in Jesus. I have people in my own family who have outright denied God and attacked Him and His Word. Should that change that I view the Bible as the infallible, inerrant Word of God? No. I am sad for them, but God's Word is the Truth.
If you are struggling as a Christian to know how to think about homosexuality, how to respond and love people well, how to stay strong in the Truth that you read in God's Word about homosexuality, and get mind around what is changing in our culture, then I highly recommend that you read this book. It will give you an enormous amount of food for thought. I know that it is going to give me much to think about for a long time.
Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from the publisher, Crown and Covenant Publications.