Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s Conversion

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Wonderful! In defiance of time and space, the soul of man, with all its powers and faculties, becomes an annexation to the empire of Christ. All who sincerely believe in Him, experience that remarkable, supernatural love toward Him. This phenomenon is unaccountable; it is altogether beyond the scope of man’s creative powers. Time, the great destroyer, is powerless to extinguish this sacred flame; time can neither exhaust its strength nor put a limit to its range. This is it, which strikes me most; I have often thought of it. This it is which proves to me quite convincingly the Divinity of Jesus Christ.

Napoleon on Christ

 

 

 

 

A powerful, and unlikely, conversion account, demonstrating that no one is beyond redemption and hearing the call of God’s grace.  When it comes to religion no atheist is ever completely guarded from a question that has haunted mankind since the Crucifixion:  What if Christ is who He said that He is?

The word Jesus stuck in my throat like an elephant tusk; no matter how hard I choked, I couldn’t hack it out. Those who professed the name commanded my pity and wrath. As a university professor, I tired of students who seemed to believe that “knowing Jesus” meant knowing little else. Christians in particular were bad readers, always seizing opportunities to insert a Bible verse into a conversation with the same point as a punctuation mark: to end it rather than deepen it.

Stupid. Pointless. Menacing. That’s what I thought of Christians and their god Jesus, who in paintings looked as powerful as a Breck Shampoo commercial model.

As a professor of English and women’s studies, on the track to becoming a tenured radical, I cared about morality, justice, and compassion. Fervent for the worldviews of Freud, Hegel, Marx, and Darwin, I strove to stand with the disempowered. I valued morality. And I probably could have stomached Jesus and his band of warriors if it weren’t for how other cultural forces buttressed the Christian Right. Pat Robertson’s quip from the 1992 Republican National Convention pushed me over the edge: “Feminism,” he sneered, “encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.” Indeed. The surround sound of Christian dogma comingling with Republican politics demanded my attention.

After my tenure book was published, I used my post to advance the understandable allegiances of a leftist lesbian professor. My life was happy, meaningful, and full. My partner and I shared many vital interests: aids activism, children’s health and literacy, Golden Retriever rescue, our Unitarian Universalist church, to name a few. Even if you believed the ghost stories promulgated by Robertson and his ilk, it was hard to argue that my partner and I were anything but good citizens and caregivers. The GLBT community values hospitality and applies it with skill, sacrifice, and integrity.

I began researching the Religious Right and their politics of hatred against queers like me. To do this, I would need to read the one book that had, in my estimation, gotten so many people off track: the Bible. While on the lookout for some Bible scholar to aid me in my research, I launched my first attack on the unholy trinity of Jesus, Republican politics, and patriarchy, in the form of an article in the local newspaper about Promise Keepers. It was 1997.

The article generated many rejoinders, so many that I kept a Xerox box on each side of my desk: one for hate mail, one for fan mail. But one letter I received defied my filing system. It was from the pastor of the Syracuse Reformed Presbyterian Church. It was a kind and inquiring letter. Ken Smith encouraged me to explore the kind of questions I admire: How did you arrive at your interpretations? How do you know you are right? Do you believe in God? Ken didn’t argue with my article; rather, he asked me to defend the presuppositions that undergirded it. I didn’t know how to respond to it, so I threw it away.

Later that night, I fished it out of the recycling bin and put it back on my desk, where it stared at me for a week, confronting me with the worldview divide that demanded a response. As a postmodern intellectual, I operated from a historical materialist worldview, but Christianity is a supernatural worldview. Ken’s letter punctured the integrity of my research project without him knowing it.

Go here to read the rest at Christianity Today.  Always and forever the essential question for humanity is what Christ asked His apostles:  Who do you say that I am?

 

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2 Comments

  1. “Who do you say that I am?”
    .
    Jesus Christ called Himself the Son of Man. Jesus Christ is the perfect man, born of the perfect woman, the Immaculate Conception. Jesus Christ is the Son of God because God, Christ’s Father, said so :”This is my Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” “Listen to Him.”

  2. I was very much struck by the passage, “One Lord’s Day, Ken preached on John 7:17: “If anyone wills to do [God’s] will, he shall know concerning the doctrine” (NKJV). This verse exposed the quicksand in which my feet were stuck. I was a thinker. I was paid to read books and write about them. I expected that in all areas of life, understanding came before obedience.”

    I recalled that the Children of Israel accepted the Torah with the words, “We will do and we will hear” (Ex 24:7). Surely, this is back to front? Or, perhaps, not.

    There is Pascal’s advice, “You want to go toward faith and you do not know the path; you want to be healed of unbelief, and you request a remedy. Learn about those who have been bound as you have, and who wager all their worldly goods. These are people who know the road which you will wish to follow and are healed of the harm of which you wish to be cured. Follow the way by which they have begun: in doing all things as if they believe, taking the holy water, having masses said, etc. This same method will naturally make you believe. . .” [tout comme s’ils croyaient, en prenant de l’eau bénite, faisant dire des messes, etc. Naturellement meme cela vous fera croire]

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