Rosaria Butterfield is the kind of woman she herself once bitterly opposed. The homeschooling pastorâ€™s wife and adoptive mother of four was not raised in the Reformed Presbyterian Church. She was a self-described â€œlesbian postmodernist,â€ (p. 41) a professor of English and Queer Theory conducting research on the Promise Keepers movement, when she encountered Christian hospitality at the home of one of her research subjects, the pastor of a local church. Her hosts, she reports, had a â€œvulnerable and transparent faith. . . . When the meal ended, and Pastor Ken said he wanted to stay in touch, I knew that it was truly safe to accept his open hand.â€ (p. 11) Two years later she gave her life to Christ. In her memoir, she describes her struggle (â€œHow do you repent for a sin that doesnâ€™t feel like a sin?â€ [p. 21]), her prayers, and her ultimate commitment (â€œI asked [God] to take it all: my sexuality, my profession, my community, my tastes, my books, and my tomorrows.â€ [p. 21]) She broke up with her partner, grew out her crew cut, and began looking for new fields of research and teaching. Two years later she left academia altogether to embrace a new role as pastorâ€™s wife, mother, foster parent, and homeschooler. Yet she is still an educator. â€œMy whole life, currently defined as a home-school Mom in the classical Christian tradition, relies daily on my educational training and the discipline and intellectual rigor developed over the course of my life. . . . I like to share with others what all English PhDs take for granted: fluency with words and their origins, the ability to parse any sentence at any time, an appreciation for the grammar of all fields of study, and a fearless embrace of broad reading lists.â€ (p. 139)
Itâ€™s hard to review an autobiography. Who am I to critique someone elseâ€™s story? Whether or not I agree with her, these were Dr. Butterfieldâ€™s experiences, and I am grateful to her for sharing them. Not only does she open up her intriguing life story to her readers, but she shares intensely personal experiences of both faith and sexuality. Dr. Butterfield has my utmost respect and her story challenges me as a Christian, as a woman, as a teacher, and as a member of a local church. Ours would be a better world if more people were like her.
I could comment on any number of themes in the bookâ€”the Christian family, interracial adoption, Reformed Presbyterian theology, Classical Conversations homeschooling, a capella psalm singingâ€”but for the purpose of this blog, I want to respond to those aspects of Dr. Butterfieldâ€™s story relevant to me as a Christian who remains in academia. While I respect her decision to leave research and teaching behind, I canâ€™t help but wish her story had a different ending. Butterfield writes movingly of the conflicts she experienced as a new believer in a field often hostile to Christians. I can only imagine the difficultiesâ€”personal, theological, political, socialâ€”of remaining in her field as an ex-lesbian and a struggling young believer. She felt alienated from friends who could not understand the changes in her life. Students shunned her, feeling betrayed. At times her worlds collided. A highlight of the book for me was when her new church family rallied alongside the LGBT community to support one of her grad students who had attempted suicide. [Read more…] about Review: The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert