Lead Stories

A Wheaton discussion of homosexuality

"A Wheaton discussion of homosexuality" Continued...

Rosaria Butterfield holds a copy of her book.
Photo by Marc J. Kawanishi/Genesis
Rosaria Butterfield holds a copy of her book.
Butterfield’s visit to Wheaton’s Edman Chapel stirred mixed emotions from the student body, with many emphasizing that her story is one out of many in the realm of dealing with Christianity and personal identity. The Record had the opportunity to talk to Butterfield and get her thoughts on meeting with students and answering questions on identity. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You go to both secular and Christian college campuses to give your speech on conversion. Are you typically met with some kind of opposition, and what is your response? Well, there’s nothing typical. … I’m sometimes met with opposition; sometimes it’s much more … vitriolic than what I met with at Wheaton, which really wasn’t a protest; it was a demonstration; and sometimes I am given a standing ovation. Each soul is different, each campus climate is different, and the cultural/biblical knowledge level is different. If I have demonstrators or protesters, I always ask to meet with people, and even if I don’t have people demonstrating, after a chapel message or an open lecture, I make sure that students know what coffee shop I’ll be at, and for how many hours, and I’ve never been alone.

You requested to meet with Wheaton’s administration and its students. How did that go?I think we met for almost two hours. Sometimes, when I go to college campuses, I’m thinking, “Lord, why, really, am I here?” And when I finally met with the demonstrators, I really believe that that meeting was why I was there, for a couple of reasons. The first is, this is a hard topic—it’s a topic filled with shame and vitriol and fear and a lived experience of pain and violence, so it is not an easy topic. And even among believers, it is very important to take the hand of the suffering and put it in the hands of the Savior. You cannot do that unless you get close to the people that get hurt. So often, we like to turn the gospel into this sneaky little worldview raid, and it’s not that, it never was that. Part of why I love to meet with people who think differently than I do is because iron sharpens iron. … As an intellectual, it’s delightful to be in the company of people who think differently than I do, but also because, even though, in that room, I think very theologically different than, I’d say, probably most of the people—at least the people speaking there. We all struggle in the same way—we’re all human. So, it was good to do that. Some of the things we talked about were hard things. I come from an orthodox Christian conservative perspective and I believe in the integrity and the authority of the Bible, and the syllogism that we use to describe what is true determines what is valuable and what is ethical. People who come from a revisionist perspective would say what is valuable and ethical determines what is true.

I shared my beliefs that … taking my stance from the inerrancy and the inspiration of the Bible maintains that homosexuality is a sin, but so is homophobia. The sin of homosexuality is really misunderstood. I shared my beliefs that it simply is part of the general package of original sin, that we are all born that way, nobody’s different, and that is a very big cross to bear. In response, students shared with me that they did not feel that way. … They believe that passages are mistranslated and misunderstood, and they believed firmly that there’s a legitimate Christian position to be held in a gay-affirming way. And so, that’s where we left that. 

Students also had questions about my positions today about feminism, and so we talked about how I do believe that women should have equal pay for equal work … same access to education and the rights and the goods, and then I also believe that feminism was a historical materialist worldview and Christianity a supernatural one, and I do not believe that [male] headship is a post-fall reality; I believe that it was a pre-fall reality and therefore not a sin. Now, is patriarchal abuse a sin? Of course, no question! 

They had a number of suggestions for me on how I could, in many ways, improve my presentation. I was very thankful for them. We talked about whether sexual orientation is fixed or fluid and we disagreed on that. It was intense. We also talked about some issues on campus that desperately and immediately need to be rectified, and while I can’t go into what those issues were, I really hope that the students felt my advocacy for them. So, we probably covered more in an hour and 45 minutes than I would normally cover in a year.


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