Rosaria Butterfield

Butterfield 1Rosaria Butterfield was a feminist academic who self identified as lesbian despite previously having had male partners, who was then converted to the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, married and had children. What do she and others say about this experience? What do I hear?

What I hear is the exultant conservative Christian message, that gay sex is sinful and God can save you from it, so if you are still gay your faith is wrong. People say that. Webutante steals lengthy passages from Butterfield’s book, in particular chapter two, “Repentance and the Sin of Sodom”. Butterfield there argues that the sin of Sodom is Pride and love of wealth, from which come other sins including homosexuality unless we discipline ourselves by God’s standards.Gay Pride!” exults Webutante, quoting Proverbs 16:18- Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. But you need not go to Webutante, because it is on Google Books. Just before the excerpt ends, Butterfield writes that anyone may repent and turn from that sin, seeing God’s power manifested. When she repented, Butterfield imagined that celibacy and the single life would be her way, but in the preface she gives away the happy ending of marriage and children, and, oddly, continuing love of Wealth: “get a pedicure, buy a new TV!”

Wheaton students protestButterfield has the odd dig at conservative Christians, who still scare me when they reduce Christianity to a lifestyle and claim that God is on the side of those who attend to the rules of the lifestyle they have invented or claim to find in the Bible… narrowly circumscribed lives… Republican politics, homeschooling biases, refusal to inoculate children etc. She is right to say that too often the church does not know how to interface with university culture because it comes to the table only ready to moralize and not dialogue. She values the human encounter: though obviously these Christians and I were very different, they seemed to know that I wasn’t just a blank slate, that I had values and opinions too, and they talked with me in a way that didn’t make me feel erased.

There is value in her book. What you get from Webutante is “Gay is Sin!” But the evangelical Carl Trueman notes that gay perceptions of Christian hatred, intolerance and ignorance are too often rooted in reality. Julie Rogers, a gay Christian who feels called to celibacy, is sufficiently self-confident of her own position to welcome Butterfield’s story, for if she hears conservatives say that God can make you straight if you have faith, she can explain Christianity- sanctification- to them. That helped me, and prompted me to this post, though Rogers’ post has those vile, self-righteous and self-pitying comments from Lili, a woman unable to hear or see her own daughter.

Tell me who you are, what you desire, feel, think, believe, and at best I am enriched by it. Tell me I should be that way too and you attack me, aiming a blow which I must evade any way I can. I have been too conscious of the kicks, seeing too much as an attack. As I gain self-acceptance as a trans woman, through the love of Christ, I may be able to see Rosaria Butterfield past the facile gloating of Webutante and others, and allow even her to be herself too: but only when I feel safe to be myself. And- I hate the oppressors who use her, like these homophobes where I got the photo; and as she permits herself to be so used, she remains my enemy.