Posted by: gmscan | July 1, 2013

Rosaria Butterfield, Part Two

When we left Rosaria Butterfield last time,  she had converted to Christianity, and not just any Christianity, but a very orthodox version – the Reformed Presbyterian Church. She had left (I won’t say “renounced”) her previous life as a lesbian radical feminist college professor to begin a new life as – well, she wasn’t sure quite yet.

She spent a year teaching at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. There she was mentored by a number of Christian pastors and professors. They encouraged her to provide a conversion testimony to the college community, but she was reluctant. She didn’t want to become the token lesbian convert and she was put off by most of the egocentric conversion testimonies she had heard from others —

“Aren’t I the smarty-pants for choosing Christ? I made a decision for Christ, aren’t I great? …. My whole body recoiled against this line of thinking…. I didn’t choose Christ. Nobody chooses Christ. Christ chooses you or you’re dead….”

I don’t want to get into all the specifics of her false starts and temporary detours, other than to say she was being lead by God through all of it. After much seeking and learning, she ended up marrying a seminary student, Kent Butterfield, who soon became a pastor, and the two of them were assigned to church planting in the mid-Atlantic states.

She says the bromides of a Rick Warren and others are dangerous because they rest in us rather than in Jesus. She relates a time when she and her husband attended a “community church” while on vacation n South Carolina –

My conservative Reformed Presbyterian pastor and husband noted when we got back to the hotel room that we had just witnessed a service that contained a baptism without water, preaching without scripture, conversation about disappointment and pithy observations about financial responsibility without prayer, the distribution of flowers and trinkets without grace, and a dismissal without a blessing. Everyone was smiling, though, when it came time to walk out the door. This church’s conversion prayer was printed in the bulletin. It read like this: “Dear God, I’m so sorry for my mistakes. Thanks for salvation.”

She responds –

These misrepresentations of the gospel are dangerous and misleading. Sin is not a mistake. A mistake is taking the wrong exit on the highway. A sin is treason against a Holy God.

Eventually she became focused on adoption (she was 39 when she married, and felt it was too risky to bear children herself), taking in foster children, and home schooling.

She has a very interesting discussion of all this. She reminds us that Christians are all the adopted children of God. She cites the Shorter Westminster Catechism’s question 34 –

What is adoption?

Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have right to all of the privileges of the sons of God.

Her experience with adoption is moving and wonderful. It is not painless and it can get confusing, especially when dealing with other people. She says, “One of the distinct challenges that families like our face is race and a confusion of birth order.” Most, maybe all, of her adopted children are black and their ages do not comport with the time spent in the family. One Christian asked her if it was chic these days for white women to adopt black children. But keeping Christ at the center of their family helps them find answers that sometimes surprise even the Butterfields.

She reminds us that “adoption is not only a powerful mission, but is also a central Christian doctrine,” and concern for widows and orphans is paramount throughout Scripture. She urges infertile women not to see their infertility as a curse, but a blessing: “God is not crushing the dreams of parenthood when he deals the card of infertility. God is asking you to crush the idolatry of pregnancy, to be sure. And he is saying: Dream My dreams, not yours!”

I am making this all sound too intellectual. The magic here is not in doctrine, but in love. Butterfield relates stories of both triumph and tragedy in telling us about her experiences adopting and foster-parenting children. They wanted to adopt one child they had been fostering but the social worker thought this girl should be placed with a black family. The Butterfields grieved deeply over losing this child they had come to love. But some time later, the new family showed up at the church where Kent was preaching to thank the Butterfields for their work in nurturing their new daughter.

Similarly with their experience in home-schooling. Their kids are simply receiving a much better education than they could get in a public school. The children are more intellectually curious and better grounded than their friends who attend public school.

There are many other challenging ideas for Christians in this book. One is that Butterfield insists on singing only acappella Psalms in church. Their denomination will not sing traditional hymns. She makes a case for it, but I am not convinced. The Psalms themselves are full of entreaties to praise God with harp and lyre. Here is one example from Psalm 43:4 –

Then I will go to the altar of God,

to God my exceeding joy,

and I will praise you with the lyre,

O God, my God.

Or Psalm 33:2

Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;

make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!

As far as I am concerned, she may praise God however she wants, but her insistence that there is only one proper way smacks a little too much of the Pharisees for my taste.

Next time I want to look at some of the other downsides of Butterfield’s testimony



  1. […] refresh your memory, we have dealt with Dr. Butterfield’s conversion to Christianity in Part One, and her life as a Christian in Part Two.   Now I want to look at something a little less rosy, […]

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