Sexual Identity: The Way We Were and Who We Are: Our Identity Crisis is Re-railed into Christ

In her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert,[1] Dr. Rosaria Butterfield compares her Christian conversion experience to "an alien abduction or a train wreck." 

As she shares about her very public Christian "coming out" while a tenured university English professor specializing in "Queer Theory" (which she explains is a postmodern form of gay and lesbian studies) who also lived an open lesbian lifestyle while a leader in LGBT advocacy, it seems not so unnatural that her own reaction and that of her peers and students to her new profession would initially be heard as a foreign language or approached like the scene of an accident.  For, as with all of us sinners, if our salvation proves genuine and lasting it will ultimately be an abrupt and violent altering of our personal and collective identities by being derailed from self and cults and coupled into Christ and His Church.

Let us recognize in witnessing the Gospel to people who identify themselves within the LGBT community that a major part of our conversation should deal with one’s deep commitment to an identity, not only of his or her person, but also being part of a people.  We see its manifestation also in identity (or group) politics with a bullied loyalty never to betray a belonging by reversion.  Entertaining such peer pressure is actually an exhausting identity crisis that only can be relieved in conformity to Christ’s image.

Dr. Butterfield writes, " ... being a lesbian was a case of mistaken identity ... Whatever God's providence for me, it was his to lay out and mine to obey. No longer did I have to invent myself."

Alan Shlemon and Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason ministries offer a fascinating article sharing empirical evidence that people who identify as homosexuals are not a product of their biology, but often rather their environment; in particular, their sexual identity is directed mostly by with whom they confusedly identified while growing up.[2]

It is the consideration of a change of identity while confronted with Biblical mandates that is most threatening and thus vehemently denied as biologically possible. To answer the “I can’t change who I am” argument by supposedly “Gay Christians”, Shlemon and Koukl point out that in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul says that some of the Corinthian Christians were homosexuals, thus presently they are no longer.  That is, they were not born that way; instead, being born again, they gave up a past lifestyle as no longer their individual nor group identification.

Dr. Butterfield writes, “Sexual sin must simply be killed ... healing, to the sexual sinner, is death: nothing more and nothing less ... Only Jesus himself can do that."  She adds that "... people whose lives are riddled with unrestrained sin act like rebellious children.  Sin, when unrestrained, infantilizes a person."  One’s mind is drawn to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:11: ... when I became a man, I put away childish things.  With this in view, perhaps we could apply Paul’s words in Colossians 3:5-8 in the following way: we must stop letting our old children within us keep us wrapped around their snotty fingers. We don't nurture the selfish toddlers within us. We kill them so that we can live healthy lives that grow out of adolescence and into Christian maturity—as Dr. Butterfield will witness, such is a more peaceful person amidst abundantly more joyful people.

Beloved, may Dr. Butterfield's "train wreck" conversion describe your and my daily sanctification experience as we keep re-railing and riding with Jesus Christ. 

Grant Van Leuven has been feeding the flock at the Puritan Evangelical Church of America in San Diego, CA, since 2010.  A widower, he is the adoring father of his four covenant children: Rachel, Olivia, Abraham, and Isaac.  He earned his M.Div. at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA.

[1] Rosaria Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: an english professor's journey into christian faith (Pittsburgh, Pa.: Crown & Covenant, 2012).  I would echo this review by Dr. and Rev. Carl Trueman in the forward of Dr. Butterfield's 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."

[2] Alan Shlemon and Greg Koukl, “Homosexuality: Nature or Nurture”, Enhanced Solid Ground, July/August 2013, 1-5, 7-9.


Grant Van Leuven