Monthly Archives: September 2013
By Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
Rosaria Champagne, was a very successful tenured professor at Syracuse university. Holding a PhD in english literature & cultural studies she was the key professor in the critical theory department. Her specialty was queer theory. (a post modern form of gay & lesbian studies) She endeared herself to “radical leftist ideology” embracing the philosophical & political views of Freud, Marx, and Darwin. She genuinely believed that her perspective and her activism was making the world a better place. As a result, she was deeply loved by the GLBT community and served as faculty advisor for all the gay and lesbian organizations on campus. She was a sought after key note speaker at gay pride parades and desired visiting lecturer at such reputable schools as Harvard. But all that changed…
The local newspaper had printed her scathing assessment of the “gender politics” displayed by a national evangelical Christian organization. As usual mail that hated her, and adored her poured in. There was one letter, however, which didn’t seem to fit in either pile. The letter from pastor Ken Smith suggested that she explore and defend the presuppositions that undergirded her conclusions. The letter was gentle, open, inquisitive and challenging. Rosaria was unable to let the letter leave her mind.
Life moved forward and Rosaria decided to write a book on the religious right. She believed that religion was as Marx wrote. “The opiate of the masses” an imperialist social construction made to soothe the existential angst of the intellectually impaired. But in the interest of good scholarship she knew she must study. She learned Greek, started reading the Bible, and tried to immerse herself in this thinking that was so foreign to her. It didn’t take long before she knew she needed a tutor. She thought of Ken Smith, Rosaria, suspected all Christians to be narrow minded, bigoted, and anti-intellectual, but maybe, just maybe, Ken was different. She called and started blasting him with questions. Ken responded, “These are the kinds of questions that need to be talked about in my living room in front of the fire place after dinner, would you come?” And so it began, the remarkable friendship between a 36 year old lesbian feminist, and a 70 year old reformed Presbyterian minister. After 2 years Rosaria converted to Christianity. She describes her conversion as a “train wreck” because of the massive destruction that it wrought in every aspect of her life. “When you die to yourself you have nothing from your past to use as clay out of which to shape your future.” Rosaria has little use for the concepts of easy believism. As Roseria reflects back on her incredible transformation she has a multitude of wisdom for us. I think it best to simply quote her.
- Where everyone thinks the same nobody thinks very much.
- There is a core difference between sharing the gospel with the lost and imposing a specific moral standard on the unconverted.
- In the court of public opinion, Christians have lost the war on intellectual integrity.
- I couldn’t come to church, it was too threatening, too weird, too much. So Ken was willing to bring the church to me. Ken Smith spent time with me — and not just spare time. He spent pricey time — real time. He didn’t hide behind bumper stickers or slogans.
- How do you have the strength of character to repent for a sin that at that time didn’t feel like sin at all — it felt like life, plain and simple…sins of identity take a while.
- Repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin.
- Christians 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.
- I needed to be shepherded, I did not need the glitz and glamor that has captured the soul of modern evangelical culture.
- God’s people surrounded me. Not to manipulate. Not to badger. But to love and to listen and to watch and to pray. Eventually instead of resisting, I surrendered.
- Homosexuality — like all sin — is symptomatic and not casual — that is it tells us where our heart has been, not who we inherently are or what we are destined to become. Pride and not sexual orientation is the root problem.
Roseria, had come to see herself as the controlling, manipulative, arrogant, rebellious person that she was. She stopped justifying herself and repented even when the feelings were not there. Differences in her were duly noted by her network of friends. Her lover suggested she take a holiday. Her drag queen friend told her she was sick. Eventually, Roseria knew she had to “come out.” She picked The graduate student orientation convocation as the time and place to do it. She was the key note. Towards the end of her speech which landed like a bombshell in the ears of all her listeners she said:
“I discovered that God isn’t just a narrative we pick like summer berries or leave for the next person; nor is God a set of social conventions tailored for the weak of mind; nor is God a consumerist social construct who exists in the service of Christian imperialist ideologies and right-wing politics. Rather, I discovered that God through Jesus Christ exists, the triune God of the Bible exists, whether we acknowledge him or not. I discovered that God wasn’t very happy with me.” (August 1999, Graduate Student Orientation Convocation) Syracuse University.
There was nothing in the speech the was pejorative or inflammatory, but even still it wrecked everything. The line up outside her office became long and the requests for her to resign her advisory posts poured in. She remembers one exchange with a young GLBT activist;
“How do you know you are not gay?”
“How do you know you are?”
“I’m a gay man because the GLBT community is the only safe home I have, a home that was made safe by you! How could you?”
She had nothing to say, she just hugged him while he cried.
Rosaria ends up becoming a pastors wife, adopts 4 children, and takes on the role of homeschool mom. As a reformed Presbyterian she embraces something called the “regulative principle of worship” — essentially all singing in a church gathering is reduced to the the singing of psalms without accompaniment. She attempts to make the case for this position by saying. “If God gave us a book of praise songs, who are we to add to them?” However, If God gave us creative minds and gifts. Who are we not to use them for his glory? To not use our gifts is to insult the giver of these gifts. I recognize that all followers of Jesus practice some form of regulation when it comes to worship. The RP practices the strictest of regulation, that’s fine. Rosaria makes her case and leaves it at that. Diversity among Christianity is healthy.
This is my favorite book of 2013 so far, and a worthy read no matter what perspective you are coming from.
A nude man yells at us for asking him to put clothes on. We didn’t want our children to be exposed to his nudity, is that so bad? He is incredulous at the inconvenience we are causing him. Us telling him that there is a nude beach available for him not far away, does little to quell his fury.
A music teacher at our school can’t understand why we object to a song she is teaching our second grader. The song talks about eating each others brains, “But it’s a really fun song” she says.
“It’s just words, It doesn’t matter! They are having fun!” was the angry retort my wife received. A local college first year initiation rite involved songs that promote rape. My wife, simply said it was not a good idea. “but there is nothing funny about rape, ever.” was her comment. Eyes rolling, our friend just shakes her head and walks away, mumbling something about how my wife is not liberated enough to understand.
“Life is better when you share it” says my poster. It’s an invitation for the people of our neighborhood to come together at my house for a BBQ. It has pictures of about 30 of us, smiling and enjoying each other and good food. The other night it was torn down. “We don’t want that kind of thing around here” is the obvious implication. It’s hard not to notice that posters like “Rent Money” remain unscathed. It’s a local strip club’s attempt to “help” the more financially challenged of our female population come in once a week to give a show. They take off their clothes, the audience deepens it’s sexual addiction, women in general are further objectified and these girls get their rent money. How nice.
Complaint’s trickle in to the school: “We don’t want churches in our schools.” What does that mean? We don’t want people of faith helping to make our schools better? Why not? What would happen in our neighborhood if someone said we don’t want Asian people helping to make our schools better?
Will our society flourish? Will our children be safe? Will there be more peace and prosperity? What is the stuff that’s really needed for human thriving? I think it is relational stability and longevity. If that’s true, will we thrive if we have a culture that embraces nudity, celebrates death and darkness, condones sexual violence in media, celebrates proudly and publicly sexual freedom in all it’s forms and continually marginalizes those who believe in loving a real God and loving their neighbors? I don’t think so. Our society’s path is not taking us to better places. I know this because I can see it in the faces of the people that walk down my street. There is a reaching but a never finding. There are deep wounds in these smiling faces. We are upside down. We’ve come to think of wrong as right and right as wrong. The brights of our era have worked hard to erase both of these categories, but as humans we just can’t, so we’ve inverted them. We are like my daughter hanging from her legs on the monkey bars. But we can only remain upside down for so long until all the blood rushes to our head. Eventually we will pass out, as we slip from consciousness there might be a bit of euphoria but a great and painful fall is the end result.