I’ve Found a New Book to Flog

Y’all know how last year I was rather insistent on the marvelousness of Tullian Tchividijian‘s Jesus + Nothing = Everything. I believe I said something to the effect of, “If you read one book this year, let it be this book.” Right? You totally remember that. 

Well, I’m pretty sure Lauren’s 2013 Book of the Year Award will be going to Rosaria Champagne Butterfield‘s The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

Carl Trueman said this about the book:

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I do not agree with everything she says; but I did learn from everything she wrote. It deserves the widest possible readership.

It’s a pretty rare thing for someone to be able to say, about any book, “I did learn from everything she wrote.” I can only hope to one day write that sort of book. Or, heck, that sort of blog post.

Butterfield’s style is unlike that of any other writer I’ve read. She’s writing a memoir, but in a very strongly retrospective voice. We hear her thoughts from a certain time, but also her thoughts about her thoughts, and her thoughts about her thoughts later, and sometimes also her thoughts about her thoughts now. I’m not saying she’s myopic. In fact, the beauty of her story comes in part from the communities that she’s been a part of throughout. We learn a lot about people – many people – who were and are important to her. This little book covers her life from peak of her professional career as an English and Women’s Studies professor at Syracuse through last year sometime, including along the way her incredibly life-disrupting conversion to Christianity, a number of moves, a few dogs, and an incredibly fabulous use of a quote from Jane Eyre.

Incidentally, I hear this was the book that was flogged like crazy at RUF Summer Conference this year. (BEST WEEK OF YOUR LIFE! That was for all you RUFers out there.) It’s a bit heady, but not in the theological language sense; and brilliantly, it’s less than 150 pages. The way Butterfield writes practically begs you to pace yourself and be thoughtful.

There are all kinds of delicious bits, but here is my favorite (at the moment). It comes near the end:

One time, Kent [Butterfield’s husband] was filling a pulpit at a small church in a small town. These places scare me, and for good reason. Knox was asleep on my shoulder and Mary was asleep in the car seat. A man walked up to me, not knowing that I was the preacher’s wife, and said: ‘So, is it chic for white women to adopt black kids these days?’ I took a deep breath and stood up to meet his gaze.

‘Are you a Christian?’ I asked him.

‘Yes, ma’am,’ he replied.

‘Did God save you because it was chic?’ We locked eyes until he dropped his head. He stammered something unintelligible and backed away slowly, seeming to understand that even when the bear does not look like the cubs, the trauma of having one’s head ripped off by a protective mama can be bloody business.” (111-112, emphasis mine, because clearly that is the best part)

[I feel I should clarify that, in the context of the text, Butterfield clearly does not think that she is “saving” kids by adopting them. Adopting children after the same manner in which God adopts us means choosing them, not because they are going to make us “look” a certain way to others, or make us feel better about ourselves, but because of love. This is the same God who “sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6) – and He has principally done that in adopting His people as coheirs with Christ to join the family of the Trinity. Which – think about that for a second – is awesome and crazy and weird.]

It’s really, really good. So read it.


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