Jun 4, 2013

An Afternoon With Dr. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Dr. Rosaria Butterfield was in Little Rock yesterday to do an interview on the subject of her blockbuster book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, at Family Life Today, the radio ministry of Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine.  Due to the graciousness of a special friend (Stephen Bean), and the FL staff, Janet and I were invited to sit in.  We have greatly anticipated this interview for a couple of months and were not disappointed.  In fact, all present were riveted by what is surely one of the most important/pivotal interviews yet to come from FLT.  I made a comment to this effect to one of the studio engineers—he agreed that it was “certainly in the top group.”

In the introduction, Bob Lepine stated that Butterfield’s book was the most important book he’s read this year; I have stated several times that it was likely the most important autobiography I have read (perhaps due to its relevance), and certainly the best of the last 50 books I have read.  Point being: everyone needs to read her book, listen to her Patrick Henry interview, read the various articles available by/on her, peruse her website, and then listen to the FLT broadcast scheduled to be aired over 3 days in September (2013). 

For almost 2 ½ hours, the half dozen of us present were virtually mesmerized as Dr. Butterfield shared a testimony that desperately needs to be heard by us all.  It was so rich that it’s going to take me a few days to process it.  Fortunately, the FLT staff generously sent me home with the entire uncut interview on flash drive.  As an unexpected bonus, they have graciously volunteered to allow me to use the content in my apologetics courses (provided I do not make the audio files available).    

Over a couple of hours, Dr. Butterfield poured out her thoughts on some of the most relevant social/cultural issues facing the contemporary church in America.  I think all of us, including the host and co-host had the sense that we just needed to sit quiet and listen.  Point being, it would be impossible for me to try and summarize the interview except to say that it follows the themes of her book, though explores select, crucial questions in more detail.   I think we all felt that the interview really should be given more than a three day slot, though that’s likely unpractical.

As I mentioned, I don’t think I can adequately summarize the interview, but I took notes and will provide a couple of thoughts that I highlighted.    

1.)  Rosaria Butterfield is brilliant, though humble and self-deprecating, a comprehensive worldview thinker, fiery, and will never fit into a nice, comfortable evangelical box.  E.g. in her presence, I suspect the typical evangelical will always feel challenged, though in a healthy, refreshing way.  At least this is my experience. 

2.)  I was impressed with the reality that Rosaria Butterfield is a special trophy of God’s grace, raised up for a special time and place in the history of the church (perhaps a kind of 21st century American Esther).  I am excited to see how she will be used of God in the years to come.  She currently has a very busy schedule.  E.g. she’ll be giving an open lecture to the Family Research Council June 12th, something in regards to which she has asked us to pray, and by extension, I am asking you to pray.  She needs to be heard, and she deserves our support.

3.)  In my view, this interview, and Dr. Butterfield’s larger testimony, is pivotal for understanding the socio-sexual dynamics of homosexuality in our culture. If you don’t care to understand this, I doubt you’re interested in meeting the culture where it is with real answers, which leads to the next point.

4.)  The following is the take home point I want to leave with anyone reading this post.  Prior to coming to faith, Dr. Rosaria Champagne’s key problem with Christianity was Christians, whose response seemed to always be that “Jesus is the answer, without bothering to hear what some of my questions might be.”  Her conclusion was that Christians were dangerous, anti-intellectual, and Christianity was a “Strange mixture of patriarchy and superstition.”  She explained that as an intellectual, scholar, and professor, “... one of my jobs was to be on a war against stupid.”  This resulted in her being at war against Christianity, and this continued until she “Met people who could talk openly and honestly about sexuality and not fall down dead in the process.”  For her, these people arrived in the persons of Pastor Ken and Mrs. Floy Smith, who “genuinely became my friends.”  She explains that Pastor Smith’s “gentle authority allowed me to open up.”  In the end, this gentle, strong (and perhaps daring) pastor and his wife led her to faith in Christ.  From this, Butterfield explains a key lesson for Christians: “Hospitality is the God ordained path to evangelism.  Your home is a way of escape for somebody.” However, she cautions, “Hospitality does not mean fellowship, but going and getting the stranger from the gate.”  Pastor Ken “didn’t attempt to bring me to the church; he brought the church to me.”  “He made the long journey to me, and then made the long journey back [with me] to Christ.”  It was somewhere in this loving hospitality that she repented and came to a realization: “I realized this in my repentance, ‘Jesus, I was persecuting you the whole time.’” 

5.)  Much to my delight, Dr. Butterfield has tentatively agreed to do a Skype/Facetime interview for my next apologetics course, likely at BMATS (Conway campus), provided we can get the dates/times worked out.  If you're interested in seminary training designed to prepare you for ministry in the 21st century, be sure to check out our catalog and/or call the Dean, or email me.  Hopefully we can schedule this for next Spring (2014) or the following Spring (2015).  

           i. Here’s a link to some of the notes I made while reading her book.  They need to be updated and edited, so please excuse any formatting issues: http://metataphysika.xanga.com/771966404/trainwreck-conversion

ii. Here’s a link to Rosaria Butterfield’s website: http://rosariabutterfield.com

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