As Rosaria Butterfield began her lecture about her journey and “train wreck conversion” from a lesbian professor to a Christian, a pastor’s wife and mother of four, nine students in the front row of the audience stood up silently, took off their jackets, turned their backs to Butterfield and linked arms in front of a packed Oval Theater guarded by two University Police officers and two security officers.
Their white T-shirts revealed hand-written messages:
“Rosario Butterfield does not speak for us.”
“USF is 4 hate speech.”
The nine remained standing silently throughout the two-hour lecture, in which Butterfield shared her story and love for the Bible.
Butterfield said she grew up in a liberal Catholic household and attended an all-girls school, which she said ill-prepared her for the “sexual meat market” that was college.
While she said she dated men from the age of 22 to 28, she said she strongly preferred female companionship and began longing for more from her female relationships.
She said she morphed into “lesbianism” and celebrated her identity as she said her life seemed to fall into place.
Being Christian, she said, seemed “highly resistible” as she found Christians mocking her on gay pride days and was “goaded” by Pat Robertson’s quips against feminism.
In her 30s, she said, she was in a committed lesbian relationship and was teaching English at Syracuse University, when she wrote an article in a local newspaper decrying the university’s decision to host a convention for the Promise Keepers, a Christian male organization, on campus — a decision that according to a 1997 article in the Harvard student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, was financially motivated by the university to host an organization that was “not run by a decent bunch of family-oriented white guys.”
Around the same time, she began reading the Bible to critique it from a “leftist, feminist” perspective.
Butterfield said she received plenty of hate mail and fan mail for the article she wrote.
Among them, however, she said stood a letter from a campus pastor named Ken Smith who invited her to his home to converse about the Bible’s teachings.
“Ken was different,” Butterfield said. “Ken listened as much as he talked. He and his wife entered my world and met my friends. They listened and didn’t treat me like a blank slate.”
As she read the Bible, Butterfield said the book “encouraged and enraged” her.
One day, she said she remembered approaching a transgender friend and asked, “What if it’s true? Are we all in trouble?” Butterfield said her friend said she’d prayed before but God didn’t heal her.
As she continued to read, she said, she began to find more supernatural meaning to the text.
“The Bible grew bigger inside me,” she said. “It overflowed and overflowed.”
Eventually, she said, she realized she believed she needed to accept it in its entirety.
“Every jot and tittle — even the places that held my life captive,” she said.
Homosexuality, she said, is a sin. In the same breath, she said homophobia is also a sin. Homosexuality, she said, is no worse of a sin than any other sin and pride is the bigger sin.
But she said she believed her sexuality was based on pride, something she believed was a worse sin.
“We were proud,” she said. “We wanted to be autonomous from the God who made us. We were proud in our hearts and minds first, and our bodies followed.”
She prayed one night that God would give her “intimacy and fellowship with Jesus.” The next morning, when she woke up and looked in the mirror, she saw her same “real identity” as a lesbian but a difference in her “true identity” in her soul.
“Everything requires sacrifice,” she said. “What was bigger? My sexual identity or God’s sovereignty?”
She took down the posters and flags she had that celebrated gay pride and began repenting for her pride and sexual identity, she said.
“Repentance is bittersweet business,” she said. “I had to lose everything to gain Christ.”
She encouraged members of the audience to read the Bible and to listen and respect members of the LGBT community.
“People don’t change people, but God does,” she said. “For people struggling with same-sex attraction, don’t make the cross harder to bear. Homosexuality is a sin, but so is homophobia.”
Butterfield said she does not support conversion therapy nor does she think heterosexuality is a solution to homosexuality, but said she thinks those “struggling with same-sex attraction” should not give into temptation. 12