Book Review: The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, by Rosaria Butterfield

I’ll just say it up front: The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert is one of the most imagecompelling books I have ever read. The title leads one to think that it will give the reader a peek into the thought processes of a lost person, and it does indeed fulfill that promise. The primary subject matter of the first and largest segment of the book is Rosaria Butterfield’s personal conversion story, from lesbian activist/English professor researching the “religious right”, to questioning Bible reader, to reluctant church attender, and finally, committed Christian convert — and pastor’s wife! Its insights into the mindset of one with strong ties to the LGBT community could be invaluable to one struggling with gender identity, or to one who has friends and loved ones who do. (In case you are concerned, although the author jokes occasionally about having an “R-rated testimony”, and she is open about her previous lifestyle, there is nothing “explicit” in this book.)

But perhaps surprisingly, the volume is very beneficial on a number of other fronts besides merely sexuality: it gives one an inside look into the thought processes of a person of any type who is considering the gospel: how they think; what some of the potential “stumbling blocks” to coming to faith in Christ are; how people feel when they walk into a church for the first time; how some of the Christian “hypocrisies” come across to others who are lost or newly initiated into the church; how God can use a person to reach a lost friend or associate for Christ, and much more. Secret Thoughts is also a gold mine of insights into a wide spectrum of other issues in the Christian life. The final section of the book moves from Butterfield’s conversion and initial Christian growth to her own subsequent marriage, and the building of her family through adoption. She gives quite an apologetic for adoption, homeschooling, Christian foster care, as well as hospitality ministry and discipleship in general.

Here’s a sampling of some insightful quotes from the book:

“When Christ gave me the strength to follow Him, I didn’t stop feeling like a lesbian. I’ve discovered that the Lord doesn’t change my feelings until I obey Him.”

“I think that too many young Christian fornicators plan that marriage will redeem their sin … Marriage does not redeem sin. Only Jesus Himself can do that.”

“Betrayal and risk are at the heart of the gospel life.”

“When your calendar is too full, it squeezes out mercy ministry. It is hard to fit in the stranger and the outcast.”

Some may find Butterfield’s Reformed Presbyterian Calvinism a bit much for their taste: especially on some singular issues like “Psalms only” for worship singing in the church, which many would consider anachronistic. But if you are not opposed to reading (and possibly learning) from other viewpoints, you can find much to consider, and possibly benefit from in this book. Mrs. Butterfield also comes close to being judgmental herself in her attitude towards judgmental Christians — and perhaps this is understandable in some ways. But she and other more “radical” Christians may need to guard against becoming, in their own way, something like those they despise. Establishment Christians shouldn’t judge a former lesbian or her “down & out” friends — and neither should she judge too harshly those who have not grown up among such, and haven’t yet learned how to exercise grace towards some who need it. As I believe Rosaria Butterfield would be the first to admit: we are ALL in great need of God’s grace, in many ways!

But suffice it to say, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert will challenge the reader on many levels: one’s attitude towards the lost, treatment of guests in church, evangelism, discipleship, personal sanctification, hospitality and ministry, legalistic attitudes, and more. It is anything but dull. Anyone who reads it thoughtfully should find that they have been both challenged and edified by it.

About Shawn Thomas

My blog,, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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