Rosaria Butterfield rocked the Evangelical world when she shared her self-proclaimed “train wreck conversion.” “As a leftist lesbian professor, I despised Christians,” she said. “Then I somehow became one.”
Butterfield recently spoke at Southeastern Seminary about her latest book, Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. In her talk, she discusses where the term ‘sexual orientation’ came from — and whether we should use that language. Here are the highlights:
Should we use the term ‘sexual orientation’?
“I think [sexual orientation] is a dehumanizing term. Whether you identify as heterosexual or homosexual or the plethora of alphabet soup that lies in between, it is a dehumanizing term.”
Who first defined humans by their sexuality, and what were its effects?
“By defining humanity according to its sexual desires and segregating it according to its gendered object, Freud was, intentionally or not, suppressing the biblical idea and biblical category of being made male or female and in God’s image, and replacing it with the psychoanalytic category of sexual identity.
“In both in tense and language use, Freud took aim at the Bible’s authority to diagnose gender and sexuality dysfunctions and prescribe solutions for them. I do not believe this was an innocent move. Throughout his career, Freud maintained that belief in the God of the Bible was ‘universal, obsessional neurosis.’ The category of sexual orientation carries with it a cosmology of personhood that undervalues image bearers of a holy God.”
How did Romanticism play a role in the development of ‘sexual orientation’?
“Our problems didn’t start with the sexual revolution in the 1960s. We’re talking 18th century here…. Romanticism [declared] personal feelings and personal experiences the most reliable measure and means of discerning truth. Doesn’t that sound a little bit like today?”
What impact did the 19th century have?
“Indeed, while the Christian maintains that image-bearing is what sets apart humans and animals, the 19th century ushered in a new measure of man, one for whom sexuality and sexual pleasure became a defining marker. Thus, the category of sexual orientation is what we in theology call a ‘neologism,’ and it creates fictional identities that rob them of the true one — male and female image bearers.”
On distinguishing between non-sexual affection and sexual action.
“Biblically speaking, sexuality is always teleological. That is, sexual desire implies a desired object, and sexual practice implies a necessary outcome. Because the APA’s definition of sexual orientation includes non-sexual affection, this re-maps personhood in a way that God does not…”
“Put another way, biblically speaking, there is nothing sinful — and nothing ‘gay’ — about nonsexual same-sex deep and abiding friendship. Desiring to bring someone a glass of punch or sacrificially helping a friend who needs you is an expression of our image-bearing of a holy God, not a persistent pattern of sexual desire or temptation.”
Who is impacted by ‘sexual orientation’?
“Everyone loses when we define ourselves using categories that God does not. People who identify as heterosexual and homosexual have much to lose by defining themselves according to the category of sexual orientation.”
When ‘sexuality’ moved from a verb to a noun, what was the result?
“With secular society rendering classical religious beliefs publicly illegitimate, pseudoscience stepped in and replaced religion as the moral foundation for venereal norms. Sexuality moved from a verb (practice) to a noun (people), and with this grammatical move a new concept of humanity was born.”
How quickly was ‘sexual orientation’ adopted?
“Indeed, sexual orientation went from a categorical invention to heralded, immortal truth in 100 years. Let’s think about that. Freud wasn’t exactly ancient; he was pretty modern…. It is now a term embraced uncritically be believers and unbelievers alike.”
Does reparative therapy cure homosexuality?
“Homosexuality is a sin to be mortified, not a behavior to be modified.”
What are two ways we can fail in addressing homosexuality?
“Heterosexual blindness makes a Christian ignorant to the very sins that may destroy him. Homosexual approval makes a person unable to enter into a gay neighbor’s life in a way that God may use to spare him from God’s wrath. Both take Christian witness out of the game.”
Why must we emphasize the gospel?
“Natural revelation exposed my sin, but God understood that there is a difference between the diagnosis and the cure. Natural revelation portrays God’s diagnosis, but only in the gospel did I find the cure.”