(I wrote this review for Goodreads last year, but since I closed my account I am reposting it here.)
I read this book out of spiritual curiousity. What could a woman who had spent years as a leftist feminist lesbian college professor and then become a reformed calvinist wife and home school mother....say to speak to my spiritual journey? Could she add anything to my current journey for deeper authenticity and wholehearted living? It certainly seemed at least that she knew a lot about drastic changes.
There are two things I really loved about the book. Rosaria is brave and courageous in owning her story despite the fact that it is very likely to be a cause of rejection by both friends past and present. I also appreciate that she is far more critical of Christians than others. (She isn't quite as willing to criticize her particular brand of Christianity.)
But to be honest, this book left me with lots of questions and wonderings. Now I think questions are good, but in this case they are not the kinds of questions that lead you deeper, but the kind that act like barriers to all of the truth. I don't think these were necessarily intentional barriers, but rather indications that this is a story not yet fully told.
My questions are all connected to one big wondering. Rosaria states that she felt like an imposter in her life as a professor. It made me wonder how her self-described identity was developed...how it evolved. Was she just following along with others or really following her heart? For example:
1. What was a Rosaria's experience at coming to understand herself as gay? She doesn't really talk about this in any kind of authentic way. In fact, the things she does say give a strong impression that she chose being in a lesbian relationship as part of the package of being what she called a leftist, feminist, college professor. It was more of a political and professional decision than a personal one. She even mentions that coming back to her office and work after a summer away made her feel like more of a lesbian again. She describes herself as being what is the common stereotype used on the right for academicians....far left, atheist, feminist, hostile to Christianity...and the oft mentioned butch haircut.
2. What are the influences that led her from being a lapsed Catholic to becoming a self described atheist.? Again, it felt that her identity as atheist was more connected to her profession than the result of any kind of deeply held beliefs of her own.
3. What was the status of her relationship to her partner at the time she started exploring Christianity...or even before? She does not make it seem as if ending or leaving that relationship was very difficult. Her struggle is only with her profession. Her relationship is looked at fairly casually, or as a source of embarrassment. This would not be the case for most people in a committed relationship.
4. I also wonder about her relationship with the man that is only called R. There is a hint that he might have been gay, and that this is why the two of them were introduced.
This is important, because she definitely portrays him as unable to repent from his sin. It seems an important omission not to tell more of his story. I realize she is telling her story and not his...but to have included him at all with so little information gives the impression of someone trying to hide something.
5. Another big wondering is why Rosaria chose to spend as much time me as she did in her book defending her choice of Calvinism over other forms or Christianity, including her defense of the regulative principle of worship. It just seemed a strange addition to the story. Her book is not long and so much is left out...yet she takes several pages to defend her belief in this principle.
Because of all the wondering, I am left only with some strong hunches about Rosaria's story. In the end, I think her transformation is not as dramatic as the storyline and details would make it seem. Rosaria seems to have moved from one very tight box to another.
She comes across as a follower who needs certainty. When she was identified as the liberal college professor, she had to take it all the way...no questions or nuance. Nothing to decide...absolute morals determined by a set ideology. Not surprisingly this did not feel authentic...because very few people fit into that kind of box. When a preacher with questions makes it clear to her that she is tired of her box...she climbs out of it and into another one. This transition comes with a lot of assumptions, including that a Christian can't be a liberal, feminist, or lesbian. Not by accident, both the liberal colleagues of her past and the Calvinists of her present accept these assumptions. It is an either/or black and white proposition. In many ways her worldview doesn't change at all. She just switches sides. My experience is that in the most powerful conversions, a whole worldview is turned upside down. I just don't see that in her story.
My biggest concern with this book is not with Rosaria herself, but with the way this story is being used in the narrative about gays and Christianity, This story, while hers, does little to inform people on how to understand and embrace the many Christians who find themselves in conflict over their faith and sexuality. While she calls her story a train wreck, her packaging is very neat and orderly. I was an atheist, feminist, liberal, lesbian and now I am a Christian and tossed all of that away. But life is not really that clear cut. Those divisions are not so clear. I know hundreds of gay people, and not one of the fit the clear cut stereotypical way she described herself in the book. Her story should not be used as any kind of evidence that a person who knows on a deep level that they are gay can change. She does not make that claim for herself, and no one should make it for her.
Probably my biggest wonder of all is what story she might want to tell 10 years from now. Will the box she has climbed into still give her comfort? If it does, than I am happy for her. Our faith should be our source of strength and comfort. If it doesn't, the I hope she will still have the kind of courage she has demonstrated in this book and will bring out her pen and write the rest of her story. I will be waiting and wondering.