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Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

By Rosaria Champagne-Butterfield
October 2013 | Review by Simon Arscott

Synopsis

Rosaria, by the standards of many, was living a very good life. She had a tenured position at a large university in a field for which she cared deeply. She owned two homes with her partner, in which they provided hospitality to students and activists that were looking to make a difference in the world. There, her partner rehabilitated abandoned and abused dogs. In the community, Rosaria was involved in volunteer work. At the university, she was a respected advisor of students and her department's curriculum. And then, in her late 30s, Rosaria encountered something that turned her world upside down — the idea that Christianity, a religion that she had regarded as problematic and sometimes downright damaging, might be right about who God was, an idea that flew in the face of the people and causes that she most loved. What follows is a story of what she describes as a 'train wreck' at the hand of the supernatural. These are her secret thoughts about those events, written as only a reflective English professor could.

  • Publisher: Crown & Covenant Publications
  • ISBN: 978-1884527388
  • Pages: 128
  • Price: 5.99
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Book Review

Secret thoughts of an unlikely convert
Rosaria Champagne-Butterfield
Crown & Covenant Publications
128 pages, £5.99 (Kindle edition)
ISBN: 978-1884527388
Star Rating : 5

This book is unusual. It’s a memoir of a former English professor at Syracuse University, New York, who specialised in Gay and Lesbian studies but who now finds herself a Christian, a home-schooling mum and married to a Presbyterian minister.
    Mixed in with her memories are insightful reflections on homosexuality, God’s guidance, hospitality, exclusive psalm-singing, world view, home-schooling and fostering.
     The author is clearly conscious of the dangers of ‘giving your testimony’. Halfway through the book, she describes how reluctant she was to share her testimony when asked for the first time.
    She felt the trite and formulaic clichés we can trot out do a massive disservice to what repentance and faith actually involve. This, I think, is what makes the book so successful. She doesn’t divulge inappropriate details, but manages to convey the bitter-sweet nature of conversion.
    Her conversion meant ‘betraying’ a close circle of friends, abandoning her career and then, as a young Christian, walking through the distress of having her engagement called off weeks before the wedding.
    It’s a reminder that, as a culture moves further and further from the gospel, conversions will be much less neat and tidy; and, when Christians witness to people, we’re not asking them to do something fun, but to come and die.
     Chapters 1-2 deal with the author’s conversion and chapters 3-5 detail her move to teach at a Christian college, her marriage, her experiences fostering and adopting children, and what it’s like to home-school.
    This shift in emphasis is quite noticeable, and some readers might feel the gripping story covered in the first couple of chapters gives way to a narrower and less significant set of concerns. However, I think that would be a mistake.
     In the second half of the book, the author makes some keen observations on the nature of the Christian life. She highlights the importance of love for ‘strangers’ and exposes some of the Christian phrases beneath which we can hide deeply unchristian attitudes.
    Likewise, she encourages us to think carefully as believers and her love for learning is infectious. She even includes lists of recommended books at the back.
     There are things the author says which I would disagree with, but I challenge you to read this book and not come away from it, both encouraged by the power of gospel and challenged to go the second mile. It was a pleasure to read and comes very highly recommended.
Simon Arscott
York

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