I watched an amazing video yesterday entitled Conversations that Matter: Homosexuality & The Christian Faith. It is a very eloquent message by Dr. Rosaria Butterfield on her journey from Catholic school graduate to lesbian to her conversion to Christianity. I hope you will take the 35 minutes or so to listen to it. It is quite moving and definitely worth your time to hear her story.
Dr. Butterfield relates how she was a professor of English in Syracuse, New York and she was involved in and cared about many good causes. However, she was vehemently opposed to Christians and Christianity. In fact, after the Promise Keepers came to her town, Dr. Butterfield wrote a scathing article for the newspaper denouncing Christians and Christianity outright.
The newspaper article garnered such reaction that she found two copy paper boxes to file the mail she received in response. One box she labeled, “Fan Mail,” and the other she labeled, “Hate Mail.” Then one day she received a letter from the pastor of a local church that she could not file into either category. Instead, Dr. Butterfield describes the letter as “kind and inquiring,” “engaging,” and “inviting”.
In the letter the pastor invited her to have open, intelligent, real conversations. He challenged her to explore and defend her presuppositions concerning Christians and Christianity. And he offered her friendship, not judgement; acceptance, not platitudes; conversations, not sound bites.
Consider Mary and the alabaster jar. When she poured out her perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped the tears with her hair, do you know what the people around the table said? “If he only knew what kind of woman she was, he wouldn’t let her touch him.” Words of condemnation and judgement. Yet Jesus did not rebuke her…he corrected THEM for their short sightedness and lack of faith!
This is the fact of the matter. Sin begins in the heart of a person. The body follows the heart. The church will NEVER solve the problem of sin and its consequences by regulations and rules and self-imposed commands. They will NEVER convince the hurting people in this fallen world that they have anything to offer while they continue to act as the people around the table condemning Mary for “being that kind of woman.”
What kind of woman (or man) are you? Dr. Butterfield was a lesbian. I’m a divorcee. Dr. Butterfield said, “We have no idea the journey people walk to get to church. No idea.”
What we ALL need from church is conversation, acceptance, and friendship. Isn’t the message we ALL need to hear one of love and compassion, invitation and relationship?
The irony is that Jesus has written us a letter, too. It is much like the one Dr. Butterfield received. The letter doesn’t fit into any prearranged category. It is not hate mail nor fan mail… but it is a love letter. It is a letter inviting you to engage in conversation with your Creator. He wants to extend his hand in friendship and whisper in your ear his deep, abiding, captivating love. Jesus beckons you to join in on the journey, the process, the pilgrimage to find your true identity in Him.
And yet so many people will never hear that invitation, will never embark upon that journey of discovery and adventure, because church people are too afraid to extend the hospitality, and mercy, and compassion, and grace that we have received ourselves. It is just so much simpler and faster to send out sound bites, to spew cliches, and to cling to our assumptions than to invite and engage and to extend. No wonder Christianity is considered so irrelevant in this culture. We offer sound bites when what we need is conversation.
And now without further adieu, let me introduce you to Dr. Rosaria Butterfield, and may you be blessed as you listen to her amazing presentation: