Rosaria Champagne Butterfield shares her dramatic testimony of coming to faith in Jesus Christ after living as a lesbian who was vehemently opposed to Christianity and the Bible. (Part 2 of 2)
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Dr. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield: One of the things that I did learn is that sexuality in the safe and the God-covered protection of biblical marriage is something I had never experienced before. See and that's what we need to get away from these terms "heterosexual" and "homosexual," because homosexuality is not a behavior to be modified. It's a sin to be mortified and then what happens after that is up to you.
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John Fuller: A provocative comment coming from Dr. Rosaria Butterfield. She's a former feminist and lesbian professor and our conversation with her on "Focus on the Family" became one of our most popular programs of 2016 and because her amazing story of coming to Christ resonated with so many of you, we're sharing it again today. Thanks for joining us. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, speaking of how powerfully this program has impacted people, we received many comments from listeners earlier this year when we first aired our conversation with Rosaria. For example, a man named Noah said this: "I am an ex-homosexual as of three months ago and I'm so glad I heard your broadcast today. In the past I felt so confused. Sometimes I was close to God, but at home with my partner, I felt alone. Your program was very encouraging to me and I praise God when I look back and see the huge difference in my life."
And a woman named Debbie told us how the entire gay and lesbian club from her high school was attending her driver's-ed class and they were intrigued by Debbie's beliefs as a Christian. She says our broadcast will help her better minister to this group of students.
And what's so amazing is how we never know who's listening and how God can impact them in amazing ways through programs like this, John, which prompts me to say this. Thank you. Thank you to all of our friends who have been so faithful in supporting Focus on the Family this year. We wouldn't be here without you and look what the Lord has done through our partnership together.
Now if we haven't heard from you in a while or you've never supported this ministry, could I invite you to do so today? So many good things, life-changing impact is occurring. I want you to be a part of it for the kingdom of God. There are people like Debbie and Noah who depend on this kind of godly encouragement and advice to strengthen them in their witness before the world. And we're only able to provide programs like this and websites and counseling and the tools because of you.
John: And you can join the partnership team when you call and donate, 800-A-FAMILY or do so online, www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: And we need to get to part two of our conversation with Dr. Butterfield and if you missed our program last time, get the download or a CD when you contact us. This is one of those amazing stories that shows you the miraculous nature of God. Rosaria was a professor at Syracuse University and an outspoken advocate for LGBT issues. She was critical of organizations like Focus on the Family and Promise Keepers and she was hostile toward God and Christians in general.
But as we heard last time, a pastor and his wife befriended her and invited her into their home for meals and just times to share together and they were courageous enough to talk through the very different and difficult worldviews without compromising or condemning Rosaria's lifestyle. They encouraged her to read the Bible, which over time, transformed Rosaria's beliefs and attitudes. And eventually that led her to accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior and that puts a smile on my face, John.
John: It's an incredible story and Dr. Butterfield captured it in her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. We'll hear more about it on this Best of 2016 edition of "Focus on the Family."
Jim: So, you have a lengthy encounter and discovery spiritually. You have the moment where you realize I need Jesus.
Rosaria: Right, right.
Jim: You embrace Him. How does your life change then? How do you go back to your lesbian lover and say something's different; something's new?
Rosaria: Right, yeah, that was miserable.
Jim: Well, and how did you talk to your friend, the transgendered friend who followed you into the kitchen.
Rosaria: Right, y eah, that was miserable, although she was my friend until the end, so yes.
Jim: And talk about that, post embracing Christ, you had a lot of stuff to deal with.
Rosaria: Right, right, absolutely, absolutely. Well, you know, God does not say that [when] you will inherit the kingdom, that doesn't mean you're not going to be ridiculed in the process. So, I very much became the example of what not to be.
And so, I shared openly with my community what was going on. I immediately removed myself from dissertation committees that I could not in good conscience direct. And let's put yourself in the shoes of that Ph.D. student, who came internationally to work with me and all of a sudden, I am saying, "I'm sorry; I'm no longer directing dissertations in queer theory. I'm only directing dissertations in Christian hermeneutics." You would rightly be angry.
Rosaria: I think what people don't realize is that when one sinner comes to Christ, it is a train wreck. And in a train wreck, there's a body count that's bigger than yours. These were hard things. I also, in God's providence, was scheduled to give the incoming address to all graduate students and at the time that I had agreed to give this incoming address, I was planning on speaking on queer theory, but at that point that I was writing, I couldn't do that.
And so, I in some ways, my coming out letter was to, I don't know how many people—hundreds or at least 1,000—in this case I called it "the Solomon Problem" in academics. And I talked about Christian hermeneutics and why I could no longer work in queer theory. And that was crushing. I was gentle. I was kind, but you can imagine how you would be hurt.
And yet, at the same time and I think this is really key, it was not just me and Jesus. See, this wasn't just Rosaria came to faith and now in the power of the Holy Spirit, look at her go. I was a mess!
Jim: Oh, I can imagine.
Rosaria: Ken and Floy Smith took me in as a daughter in the Lord and I'm still very much their daughter in the Lord. This church took me in. When I gave that lecture, I had friends from the church who were there, listening and praying for me to the Lord. And when I went back to my office and the line was so long of people who were angry at me, it wrapped around the building, I had Christian friends waiting to walk me back to my car.
Jim: For safety?
Rosaria: No, not safety, for emotional support--
Rosaria: --and for dinner and for rhythm of life. It's hard to betray people because you love the Lord Jesus Christ, but that betrayal is for real.
Jim: Yeah and I was gonna say, a lot of people lose their way at that moment, you know.
Rosaria: Well, and I think that's where Christian community comes in. You know, the Lord brought me to a Christian community that was ready to really not only be in my life, but be in my world.
Rosaria: So, a month later when one of my graduate students who was pretty upset with me, tried to commit suicide, I was still the person on the list of whom to call from the hospital, from the ICU ward, because I was her advisor.
Rosaria: And I realized when I got this phone call and it was one of those weird 3 a.m. phone calls. And I thought, well, what am I supposed to do? But it became very clear to me that she would need the lesbian community there and I would need the Christian community there. And you know what? Everybody showed up.
Everybody showed up at the hospital and for a season, there we all were together, you know, takin' shifts, getting each other coffee. The Christians were praying openly, right. My unbelieving friends of the lesbian community were benefitting from that. And when this student had no place to go after she was released from the hospital, I mean, look, we're a great community, but we were all 80-hour-a-week professional women. We weren't exactly a nursing bed. Where did she go, but Ken and Flory's house, of course! Of course! And so, there was a lot of that. It was hard. It was miserable. I will tell you that I am a weak woman. I would never want to relive that again.
Jim: Yeah and I mean, He showed up.
Rosaria: But the Lord was so good. He showed up and He showed up through God's people. And you know, if we can't be there for people when you share the gospel with someone who just deals daily with unwanted homosexual desires and really is not seeing a kind of heterosexual marriage in their future, you must know that part of your job is to share Mark 10:28 to 31.
The Lord promises there that even though you're gonna give up everything, God's people are going to return it to you 100 fold. And you know what that practically means? That practically means you, Christian, share the gospel with a house key.
That practically means you Christians share the gospel with an invitation that, hey, you know what? Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, my house, there's no question about where you're going to spend your birthday. You're my brother. You're part of a family. And this is the part that Christians need to know. When you have lost "a daughter or a son to the LGBT community," that's a real community. That's a community that is in each other's lives, not just for or about sex, but for deep friendship and deep family. It functions as a family. The Christian community exists sometimes on what I like to call a starvation diet of community.
Jim: Right, well, and let me pull us back for a moment from the theory of what's happening to that practical application, what happened in your own life and what God did for you.
Rosaria: Yeah, right, right.
Jim: 'Cause we're moving -in and out of that.
Jim: Here you are now. You've "come out." It's interesting that you use that term. You come out as a Christian--
Rosaria: I come out as a Christian, right.
Jim: --on your campus and all the fallout from that.
Jim: You get through that. Then you're moving toward, I guess what some would say with no offense intended, a more traditional view of life.
Rosaria: Right, yeah, absolutely.
Jim: Did God bring you a husband?
Rosaria: Yeah, absolutely, He did.
Jim: What happened with all that?
Rosaria: He did; He did. Well, that was very powerful. The Lord really did put upon me a desire to be a godly wife. It was just a kind of visceral feeling. And so, I was left with the sense of a divided heart. My flesh was saying, but Rosaria, you know, you tried that and that didn't work. And my soul was saying, "God seems to be putting this desire upon me." And so, I went to women in my church and there are three women. I talk about them in the first book, Secret Thoughts.
Jim: And this is Ken's church.
Rosaria: Yeah, this is the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Syracuse and I said, "Look, I need to talk to you. I am feeling this, but this is my history. What in the world do I do?"
Jim: Were they able to help?
Rosaria: Oh, they were wonderful. Do you know, nobody pointed me to sin. In fact, each pointed me to Proverbs 31 and each woman said, "You know, the Lord is not going to call you to something that He does not equip you to do." And one of the things that I did learn is that sexuality in the safe and the God-covered protection of biblical marriage is something I had never experienced before. See and that's what we need to get away from these terms "heterosexual" and "homosexual," because homosexuality is not a behavior to be modified. It's a sin to be mortified and then what happens after that is up to you.
But you know, I've had people who have said to me, in fact, people have said to me, "Wow, you know, when did the just unnaturalness of homosexual sex just hit you upside the head? You know, when did you just become disgusted with yourself?" And I've had to say, "You know, that's not how this played out.
My walk with the Lord played out like this. The sinfulness of my sin unfolded in the Bible alone and in my growing union with Christ and in my growing separation from the identity of myself as a lesbian, into an identity of myself as a Christian woman, saved by grace."
And what had happened very early on is I realized and this was shocking-- I had an identity crisis; I mean, there's nothing short of that--what I realized is that I was standing in a long line of godly women, the Mary Magdalene line and that, that was right where God had me and that my sin was wiped away and if He brought to me a godly husband, He would make me a loving godly wife and the Lord did that.
Jim: Wow. I mean, that is amazing, that God,boy, you can trust in Him, can't you?
Rosaria: Yes, you can, but you know, where else, you know, Peter says, "Lord, You have the words of grace. Where else can I go?" You know, many times we trust the Lord, not because it's our first inclination, because Peter's question is our question. Where else can we go?
Rosaria: But I am concerned with seeing heterosexuality as the solution to homosexuality, because if God's call on a person's life, singleness is a holy form of sexuality. And Christians ought not despise it without realizing that you are despising the Lord yourselves. And so, God put a call on my heart and then He put a godly husband in my life that confirmed that call. But that is not a better or a higher form of Christian living.
John: You're listening to a Best of 2016 broadcast with Dr. Rosaria Butterfield on today's "Focus on the Family." And yesterday and today she's been describing her remarkable journey from homosexuality into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. And the conversation is based on her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. Order that and get a download or a CD copy of our two-day conversation at www.focusonthefamiy.com/radio.
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Jim: When you're a Christian and you're reading the way that you love to read and you're now confessing Christ as your Savior.
Rosaria: Yeah, right.
Jim: And you're picking up the broken pieces. And all of this is happening, that yoke you talked about last time, that His yoke is light, did you feel that when you were still experiencing—
Rosaria: Yeah, I did.
Jim: --negative stuff when this new love relationship broke down—
Rosaria: Right, I did. Right.
Jim: --and you thought, "Okay, Lord, why would You be doing this?" Did You have any bitterness?
Rosaria: No. I didn't think, "Oh, Lord, why would You be doing this?" because my--I talk about it in Secret Thoughts--the person to whom I was engaged first had also been struggling with a very deep sexual sin and you know what? It just hadn't broken.
And I was a little scared by that. You know, I didn't know why the Lord had given me deliverance and not him, but I knew that I couldn't not keep going forward with the Lord. I had come too far. What the Lord had continued to do was every time I would, very weakly, I am a weak and sinful woman, every time the Lord would very weakly allow me to take one step forward in obedience, whatever that bridge I had to walk that was behind me, He would just tear down and I couldn't go back.
Rosaria: And so, two things made me realize that I had no course for bitterness. No. 1, it was very clear to me in Scripture that whatever cross I was bearing, Jesus was going to carry the heavier part of that cross, but that I was going to carry a cross.
Jim: You had a responsibility.
Rosaria: I had a responsibil[ity]. That as part of the job description. I also realized that I'm a very prideful woman and the Lord was using this to break down my pride and that anytime the Lord does that, He does it in love and that what humbles us is not going to hurt us. And then finally, I came to realize that the real sin that was, you know, this was hurtful. It kinda messed up my life, if that makes sense.
Rosaria: But I came to realize that the kind of thing that was going to kill me was my own sin, not his.
Jim: Wow, how many marriages need to hear that?
Rosaria: Oh, let me tell ya, it was my own sin, not his and so, I prayed and the Lord moved me on.
Jim: But you did have the story, the fairytale. You met Kent.
Rosaria: It's not a fairytale (Laughter).
Jim: Well, you met your man.
Rosaria: But I did; I did, yeah, absolutely and so, and Kent is a wonderful husband and we are absolutely a good match. I mean, I think sometimes there are people who looked at us immediately and thought, "Whoa--
Jim: Why would they do that?
Rosaria: --not good." Well, you know, because you know, Kent had kept himself pure. He had never been married. He was a godly man and I was Mary Magdalene. So, what do you do with that? You know, one thing you do with that is you see Christ and the Church. (Laughing) But the Lord knew I needed Kent, who is a godly leader and a good husband and a loving father and fun and also fearless in the way he shares the gospel, humble.
You know, the ministries that we do, we do together, including this. You know, I don't show up here in Colorado without Kent's blessing, right. I mean, I'm not a free agent. There isn't an invitation that comes my way that doesn't have my husband's blessing as the head of our household.
Jim: I've gotta ask you though, when you look at that, coming from where you came from, that you can understand that relationship, that it's two of you working together, because I would think in your former life, that would've been appalling to think—
Rosaria: Right, oh, yeah.
Jim: --you would have to ask your future husband—
Rosaria: Oh, absolutely, right.
Jim: --for permission to do anything.
Rosaria: Right, you're right, absolutely.
Jim: I mean, that's transformational.
Rosaria: But you know what? I totally messed it up. I mean, let's be very clear. You know, whatever gifts God gave me, the first time around they almost killed me. Now, you know, now that I've written these books, I do go to audiences and I speak and I go to churches and campuses and I've had more than one occasions [sic] where a woman will come up to the microphone during the Q&A and she is just almost in tears and she says, "Rosaria, it's so painful to me that you've become this dupe. You used to be this strong powerful woman and now you're just this domestic who cleans toilets and you know, wipes babies' behinds. And you know, poor you." And I have to sort of scratch my head and say, "Sister, pull yourself together. Here I am talking to you and a thousand other people and guess who's homeschooling our kids right now?"
Jim: (Laughing) Yeah, right.
Rosaria: "My godly husband."
Rosaria: It's a partnership.
Jim: If you were to summarize our discussion and you're speaking to that Christian who has had deep resentment to the gay community, their heart is hardened. One of the things and one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show at Focus was to hear your transformation, to hear your heart, to hear you go from a hardened protestor—
Rosaria: Yeah, right.
Jim:--a feminist, a lesbian, to someone who embraces Christ. Speak to that person who is leaning into the pharisaical side of religion—
Rosaria: Right, yeah.
Jim: --side of religion—
Jim: --and following the rules without knowing the heart of God, what Jesus attacked.
Rosaria: Right, yeah, no, that's true.
Jim: We can take it, but we need some truth-telling.
Jim: We need to hear where we're going astray in that.
Rosaria: Sure, sure.
Jim: Speak to me.
Rosaria: I will; I will. And first of all, I would just say, "Look, I love you, brother." You know, "I love you brother and what you're struggling with, guess what; I'm struggling with, too, that when anger is in my heart, I can't think clearly. You know, when I'm feeling a kind of root of bitterness springing up against a people or a people group or you know, a person in my life, I can't think clearly either." And you know, the airlines have it right. You know, you gotta put on your oxygen mask before you deal with your kid sitting next to you. And the same is true for you, Christian, whom I love. You're my brother. Deal with your own anger first.
And there are [a] couple of things you might want to do. I mean, I think that we're at such a crucial point right now. We're at a necessary point. We need you. You're my brother. I need you to get to a posture where you know that Jesus did dine with sinners. He did not sin with sinners, but He dined with sinners. It's okay. You want to get your theology right; you want to talk that particular way among your Christian brothers, absolutely. That's not a sin. But if the sword of the Spirit is attacking another human being, instead of really attacking these spiritual forces, you know, you're off track there. There are God's people in the LGBT community with whom you have a divine appointment. And I might've been one of them.
Jim: Well, for Ken, the pastor, it definitely worked.
Rosaria: Yeah and that's [the] whole church.
Rosaria: And you know what? I'm sure there are a lot of people in that church who are struggling, too. I pushed a lot of buttons, but the Lord led us through.
Jim: He did and what a beautiful result.
Rosaria: Yeah, it is.
Jim: I mean, your testimony speaks to all of us. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, your book that we talked about today, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. Thank you for being with us. Thank you for following the voice in your heart, the Lord saying, "Come; come." He drew you to Him.
Jim: It's a beautiful story.
Rosaria: Amen, we praise God for that. All glory goes to Him.
John: And that concludes this Best of 2016 conversation with our guest on today's "Focus on the Family."
Jim: John, this program is so meaningful to me, because this is the end product that we want to see. This is what we all hope will be the outcome when we share our faith and show God's love to someone who is far from Him, even someone who hates us for what we believe. The sixth chapter of Luke reminds us to love our enemies and do good for them and I'm not sure I do that very well all the time and I know the church has failed in the past. But praise God for Ken and Floy Smith and their loving witness, which impacted Rosaria so profoundly.
As Christians, we need to stop being so defensive about sexuality and particularly homosexuality in our culture today. I'm not saying we should compromise or back down from the truth of God's Word, but debating this issue and responding with harsh judgment isn't going to change anyone's heart and it certainly wasn't working for Dr. Butterfield and her friends in the gay community.
But if we are willing to respond with Christ's love and engage regularly with people who disagree with us, you know what, amazing things can happen. And it's as if the Holy Spirit simply starts to move and I urge all of us to reflect on the lessons we've learned from Rosaria's story. It doesn't mean it's always gonna be that kind of outcome, but God owns that. He just asks us to be faithful in delivering the message.
And I hope you'll share her book and maybe a CD copy of this two-day program with your family or your friends, whoever might need to hear it. This is such a great message and we would really appreciate your help in getting it out to more people. If you're able to make a donation of any amount to Focus on the Family today, I want to send you a free copy of Rosaria's Secret Thoughts book and that's our way of saying thanks for your support.
John: Our number is 800-232-6459. Call with your gift today, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or donate at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. And the timing of your donation is crucial. We need to hear from you today because of a matching grant opportunity that a number of generous friends have provided for us, so that your gift is doubled. Don't delay; make that gift today.
And don't forget about our Best of 2016 collection of programs. These wonderful broadcasts can strengthen your marriage and empower you as a parent. They'll encourage you in your daily walk with Christ. Ask about the collection when you get in touch.
And if you liked what you heard today from Dr. Butterfield, I'll encourage you to pay attention to our broadcast schedule. We've got a follow-up conversation with her in just a couple of weeks. That airs on January 10th and 11th.
And then coming up tomorrow on "Focus on the Family," how to reconnect with a troubled child, especially when there's been trauma in your family.
Dr. Karyn Purvis: If the child has hospitalization, a tough car accident, watching scary movies, I mean, so many things can evoke terror in our children. But every child, God made us with the same kind of tank that's got to be filled with human love and His love.
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John: The late Dr. Karyn Purvis on our next program with a powerful message about connecting with your child, even when you need to correct their behavior. Well, I'm John Fuller and on behalf of Focus on the Family president, Jim Daly and the entire Focus on the Family team, thanks for listening.
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Rosaria Champagne ButterfieldView Bio
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield is a former tenured professor of English and women's studies at Syracuse University. She became a Christian in 1999, describing her conversion as a "train wreck" because of how it radically transformed her life, identity and relationships. Her memoir, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, describes that difficult journey. Rosaria has taught and ministered at Geneva College and is now a homeschooling mother, a pastor's wife, a part-time author and an occasional public speaker. Learn more about Rosaria by visiting her website, www.rosariabutterfield.com.