This week I’m thankful for holidays. They allow me to do things I wouldn’t normally do, at least not so readily: such as sewing and reading.
The cross-stitch, sewing machine and rotor cutter (for cutting fabric…) have all been on the go this week. I’ve also knocked a couple of books off the list.
One was The Happiest Man on Earth by Eric Jaku.
Jaku now lives in Australia but during WW2 was a prisoner in Auschwitz. He is one of the few who survived that place of terror. Even just reading about his experiences was horrifying – but a great antidote to feeling down in lockdown.
I reminded myself whilst reading Jaku’s book that we have nothing to complain about in lockdown.
Another book I’ve finished – which has been sitting on my pile for some time now – is The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: an English professor’s journey into christian faith by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield.
I guess both books are memoirs of sorts. Both, in their own ways, explore horrific upheaval also.
Jaku, as a Jew, unsurprisingly does make some spiritual comments along the way, yet it is Rosaria’s recollections that focus on the spiritual life, describing her conversion – this is the horrific part – as a “train wreck”.
She also describes it as similar to an alien abduction if you prefer that analogy.
Here are some of her own words, in describing her life prior to her conversion:
“My time in the LGBT* community was defined by my affiliation with feminist and queer theory worldviews that endorsed the power of choice in sexual practice, and the process of fluidity in sexual identity. The spiritual battle for me rested in pride, not sexual lust. I wanted to define myself apart from male authority, and at the same time I wanted to enjoy the company, community, and symmetry of lesbian sexuality.” (p.171 in my edition)
I loved this book. As much as I like to write from others’ perspectives on this blog, I am all too aware that such perspectives are clearly flawed hypotheticals, merely derived from my own personal context, and not from another’s.
That’s why I like reading books like Rosaria’s, in which the writer has been on both sides of the fence. Yet, I frequently find that such a metaphor (which is sometimes literal) is rarely utilised by those who have actually been on “both sides”. The “them” and “us” mentality, refreshingly, just doesn’t compute.
I found that Rosaria’s experience of both the LGBT community and the Christian community, allowed for insightful commentary on both.
As she discusses the belonging and unity within her LGBT community, she identifies the hospitality and comradery of this group, something that is rarely (if ever) acknowledged in Christian circles. She does this at the same time as identifying her change in beliefs.
Again, I think it is best summarised in her own words:
“Yes, homosexuality is sin, but so is homophobia. Homophobia is the irrational fear of a whole people group, failing to see in that group God’s image diminished but not extinguished by sin, and that God’s elect people linger there, snared by there own sin and awaiting gospel grace.” (p.169)
Rosaria also mentions how homosexuality is often held up as akin to the chief of sins, but she rather identifies pride as the sin that leads to other sins. She also reminds readers that “homosexuality simply has a political lobbying agency” and thus implies that we shouldn’t let that warp our view of it within Christian theology.
There is so much more I could say about this book: it was fascinating reading her journey from the lesbian feminist at the start of the book, to the Christian pastor’s wife, home-schooling her adopted children by the final page.
There is a whole other post I could write about her experience of the Church’s ideas about adoption and fostering and what constitutes as “real mothering”.
However, I won’t. I’ll just recommend you read either of these books for yourself.
Both are worthy of your time.
Yours in another good book shortly,
*This is the acronym that is used in the book, presumably current at her time of writing
PS – I think the featured image is a “I felt he’d found my letters and read each one out loud” one, personally
PPS – There’s also a free downloadable PDF of Rosaria’s book floating around on the net. Not sure how legal that one is…