On March 4th, Ligionier Ministries’ Table Talk Magazine published an article by Rosaria Butterfield titled “Intersectionality and the Church.” Given that the subjects of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and resolution 9 of the Southern Baptist Convention are hot button issues, the article’s publication is well timed. Not only that, but given lingering questions about Butterfield’s own orthodoxy, the article serves to draw attention to Butterfield’s rejection of intersectionality as an analytical tool compatible with the Christian faith. This has the effect of vindicating Butterfield as “one of us,” a fellow social justice contra and ally in the war against the ethical postmodernization of the church.
The article prompted Jared Longshore, VP of Founders Ministries, to tweet “Rosaria Butterfield FTW [i.e. For The Win],” a sentiment shared by many other individual Christians and parachurch ministries who praised and promoted the article on social media. This is, no doubt, because of its explicit rejection of intersectionality and identity politics. But is it really a “win”? Or should we have some serious concerns about the article’s content in light of Butterfield’s own words not merely elsewhere but in the article itself?
Sadly, Butterfield’s article does not vindicate her against her detractors. Rather, when read closely “Intersectionality and the Church” quite clearly shows that Butterfield does not side with opponents of Critical Theory and Social Justice. Butterfield’s explicitly negative statements about intersectionality are, in fact, within this article found directly adjacent to subtle affirmations of the very ideas against which she alleges to be in opposition. What is more, several of her negative statements in this article stand in contradiction to what she affirms in her latest book The Gospel Comes With a House Key.
This article will look at the internal evidence that “Intersectionality and the Church” presents in favor of concepts and practices like gender pronoun hospitality and social justice. It will also look at external evidence that demonstrates Butterfield not only affirms some of the central ideas her recent article denounces (e.g. “white, male, heterosexual privilege”), but also affirms that the “privileged” who have a “voice” in society (e.g. white Christians like herself) can and must make space for the “marginalized” who do not have a “voice” by speaking less and listening more.
Personal Noun Hospitality
Butterfield’s article begins with an anecdotal story in which she is criticized by someone for saying that her friend “Jill” has “large hands.” The story is meant to illustrate how intersectionality leads to the identification of objective observations as “hurtful” and “hateful.” Butterfield explains that under intersectionality rejecting someone’s self-representation/identity is a form of oppression or violence. Butterfield:
Suffering in this worldview includes both material and perceived suffering…any perceived rejection of personal identity based in LGBTQ+ affirmation constitutes harm. Harm, then, is both material and psychological, both real and perceived.
Thus, she further notes that
…intersectionality demands that you “honor someone’s pronouns” even while knowing that those pronouns can change tomorrow. We are told that good neighbors lie to each other like this, pretending that women can be men and men can be women.
Butterfield is correct in her assessment. That is not the problem. The problem is that in The Gospel Comes With a House Key, Butterfield identifies categorizing and labeling others, contrary to their own self-identification, as an act of violence. Including “reducing” individuals to categories as an act of hospitality, Butterfield writes –
Our lack of genuine hospitality to our neighbors—all of them, including neighbors in the LGBTQ community—explains why counterfeit hospitality seems attractive. Our lack of Christian hospitality is a violent form of neglect for their souls.
What is more problematic, however, is that “Intersectionality and the Church” itself practices a form of “pronoun honoring” it opposes.
Butterfield identifies her male friend by his preferred name “Jill.” This is hardly an innocuous concession to “transgender” people, since “transgender” individuals typically choose names of the opposite sex (e.g. Robert chooses to legally change his name to Rebekah) because those names express their perceived gender identity. In other words, “trans” people typically view their chosen new names as expressing their ontology. Using a “trans” person’s chosen new name, then, is no different than using their preferred pronouns.
Preferred Pronoun Hospitality
Additionally, it is necessary here to report that Butterfield’s claim that she stopped practicing gender pronoun hospitality post-Obergefell is demonstrably false. Obergefell v. Hodges legalized so-called “gay marriage” on June 26, 2015, and Butterfield’s advocacy of preferred personal pronouns was published on July 28, 2015. This may be excused on the grounds that it was only one month after the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, but such an excuse falls flat when we consider that 2 years later Butterfield, in an interview with Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason, Buttefield is still referring to her transgender friend with his preferred personal pronouns.
Additionally, two years later, at an event titled “Girl Talk 2019,” Butterfield again uses her male friend’s preferred female personal pronouns. Butterfield tells the story of her coming to grapple with the possiblity that Christianity is true, and repeatedly identifies her friend “Jill” as “she.”
“…one Wednesday night when I went into the kitchen to get another bowl of pasta, my transgender friend “Jill”, and Jill put her large hand over mine, and she said ‘Rosaria, I know that this Bible reading is actually changing you…’ and I said, ‘Okay, Jill, what if it’s true?…’ And Jill exhaled deeply and she looked me in the eyes and she said, ‘Rosaria I know it’s true. I was a Presbyterian minister for 15 years…I prayed that the Lord would heal me but he didn’t.’….And Jill’s words did two things for me…I came home the next day and found two milk-crates of books, Jill’s books from seminary, she was giving them to me.”
Likewise, when questioned by audience member about whether or not she was able to direct “Jill” back to the Lord, Butterfield explained that “Jill reallly believed that she needed healing, not repentance, and that’s not what the Bible says.” And as recently as August 1 of 2019, Butterfield again referred to her friend “Jill,” using his preferred personal pronouns, in a Center for Parent/Youth Understanding podcast titled “Navigating LGBTQ Issues” With Rosaria Butterfield.
Butterfield has not abandoned personal pronoun hospitality post-Obergefell but has, instead, continued to utilize the preferred personal pronouns of her friend “Jill” while simultaneously explicitly stating that doing so is sin.
In addition to identifying her male friend as “Jill,” which is no different than identifying him as a woman, and elsewhere explicitly identifying him as “she” and “her,” Butterfield in this article legitimates the category of “transgender” woman. This category, to which “Jill” belongs, implies that sexual identity is fluid, capable of moving from male to female, or female to male, by means of a chemically, physically, and socially aided transition by degrees. According to God’s Word, there are no “liminal stages” between the sexes. One is either male or female. “Jill” is not a transgender woman. He is a man. However, Butterfield’s legitimation of “trans”–identities (i.e. trans-man, trans-woman) implies that “Jill” is something other than a man and something other than a woman. This is not orthodox. Moreover, it is not opposed to intersectionality, critical theory, and social justice, but is derived from their shared foundation – postmodern philosophy.
Racial, Economic, and Heterosexual Privilege
Regarding the interlinked ideas of privilege, voice, and violence, Butterfield writes –
Under intersectionality, liberation depends on the power of voice—or re-voice—of material and perceived harm. It works like this: when we allow those with a hefty load of intersections (perhaps a transgender woman of color who is deaf and poor and incarcerated) to have a larger voice in a culture and simultaneously require those who have white male heterosexual “privilege” to remain silent, we supposedly tear down the walls of material violence.
Yet in her most recent book The Gospel Comes With a House Key, Butterfield affirms the concepts of racial privilege, class privilege, and heterosexual privilege. Regarding “class and racial privilege,” Butterfield views herself as one who benefits from both, writing –
…I think about the seven thousand teenagers who “age out” of foster care and who often end up in prison or homeless or dead…I ponder the 105,000 children in foster care nationwide, waiting for nightmares to end. I sit here in this house, in my class and racial privilege, and I know what it means to pray for the whole lost world of mankind, myself being the chief of sinners, pleading with God to undo me so that I can do good to everyone…
Butterfield is in a position of privilege that she can use to benefit those who are “underprivileged,” and she believes this is a universal Christian calling.
Likewise, Butterfield claims that some Christians who have gone progressive with respect to their LGBTQ convictions have not “sold out.” Rather, she argues
They wish to be an ally. They desire to stand in the gap for their friends. They want their friends to have the same rights and privileges as they do.
Rather than standing in opposition to the critical theory/intersectional notion of privilege, Butterfield explicitly identifies herself as a recipient of white privilege and economic privilege, and one who uses that privilege to “further the kingdom” by seeking out the “underprivileged.” Who are those underprivileged? Not only the poor and racial minority, but the sexual minorities as well. While not using the language of “sexual minorities,” Butterfield nevertheless identifies her heterosexual progressive Christian friends as those who recognize their own heterosexual privilege and seek to extend them to their LGBTQ friends. Unless she has renounced the very substance of The Gospel Comes With a House Key’s call to “radically ordinary hospitality,” Butterfield’s stance is the exact opposite of what she presents it to be in “Intersectionality and the Church.”
Touching the matter of justice, Butterfield states that
Intersectionality confuses justice, a command of God to defend the poor and the needy (Mic. 6:8), with a conception of justice not defined by Scripture.
The unintentional irony here would be amusing had it not been missed by many who read her article and praised it. Biblical justice is not a command to defend the poor and needy, but a command to do what is righteous, to judge without impartiality. This may include defending the poor and needy, but it may also include defending the rich and powerful who are being unjustly treated by the poor and needy. Scripture is clear that true justice is impartial –
You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.
– Exodus 23:2-3. (emphasis added)
You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.
– Leviticus 19:15. (emphasis added)
You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike.
– Deuteronomy 1:17. (emphasis added)
Butterfield rightly identifies intersectionality’s misconception of justice as unbiblical, only to wrongly define justice as “a command of God to defend the poor and needy.”
That this is the social justice notion of justice, moreover, is clear from her own declaration that
Intersectionality banks on the power of human words, but justice for the oppressed comes by the power of the gospel.
This view is echoed by one “evangelical” social justice advocate who writes –
For the follower of Jesus, social justice is simply applying the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) and the Great Requirement (Micah 6:8) to people as well as institutions.
Social justice is the legacy of the Church–and more specifically–the gospel itself.
Butterfield’s belief that justice comes for the oppressed by the power of the Gospel is precisely that which social justicians teach, and that which clearly contradicts what the Scriptures teach about the Gospel.
While “Intersectionality and the Church” rightly identifies intersectionality as incompatible with the Christian faith, it nevertheless affirms concepts that are indispensable to intersectionality. Not only this, but Butterfield’s last major publication affirms these concepts, as well as others which her latest article prima facie rejects (e.g. racial, heterosexual privilege). “Intersectionality and the Church” is a helpful article not because it reveals truths about intersectionality, but because it reveals Butterfield’s true colors.
- https://tabletalkmagazine.com/posts/intersectionality-and-the-church-2020-02/. ↑
- “Rosaria Butterfield Promotes Sam Alberry’s Theology, Catholic Priest Who Says God is Gay, and Occultic Scholar,” Pulpit and Pen, Dec. 02, 2019, https://pulpitandpen.org/2019/12/02/rosaria-butterfield-promotes-sam-allberrys-theology-catholic-priest-who-says-god-is-gay-and-occultic-scholar. Also see, Diaz III, Hiram R. “A Critical Review of ‘The Gospel Comes With a House Key,’” Thorn Crown Ministries, ↑
- https://twitter.com/JaredLongshore/status/1235330872783638535. ↑
- E.g. Capstone Report. ↑
- ibid. (emphasis added) ↑
- Intersectionality and the Church. ↑
- The Gospel Comes With a House Key. (emphasis added) ↑
- See Diaz III, Hiram R. “Are Names Up for Grabs?” InvoSpec.org, https://involutedgenealogies.wordpress.com/2020/01/06/are-names-up-for-grabs. ↑
- This is what she reported to James White, who wanted clarification on the matter given P&P’s article “Rosaria Butterfield On Audio Promoting Preferred (Transgender) PRonouns” in the Name of Hospitality.” See also: James White, Rosaria Buttefield, and the Secret Changing of Minds, and Butterfield Quietly Edits Audio Referencing Stance on Preferred Pronouns. ↑
- “Rosaria Butterfield Interview With Greg Koukl,” Stand to Reason, Jan. 16, 2017, https://www.str.org/article/rosaria-butterfield-interview-greg-koukl. From the interview –“… A friend of mine who identified as transgendered, and this person is biologically male, but dressed as a female and took female hormones to be chemically castrated. I call her, “Jill” in the book. Actually, I call her “J” in the book. She even came to church with me on more than one occasion.”(emphasis added) ↑
- “Girl Talk 2019,” YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zX8X7G-byhk&feature=youtu.be, Accessed March 05, 2020. (emphasis added) ↑
- ibid. (emphasis added) ↑
- https://cpyu.org/resource/episode-87-navigating-lgbtq-issues-with-rosaria-butterfield/. ↑
- She writes –It works like this: when we allow those with a hey load of intersections (perhaps a transgender woman of color who is deaf and poor and incarcerated) to have a larger voice in a culture and simultaneously require those who have white male heterosexual “privilege” to remain silent, we supposedly tear down the walls of material violence.(emphasis added.) ↑
- A middle stage between one status or state and another. ↑
- Intersectionality and the Church. (emphasis added) ↑
- The Gospel Comes With A House Key, 24. (emphasis added) ↑
- In the preface to The Gospel Comes With a House Key, Butterfield is explicit –Those who live out radically ordinary hospitality see their homes not as theirs at all but as God’s gift to use for the furtherance of his kingdom. They open doors; they seek out the underprivileged. They know that the gospel comes with a house key. They take biblical theology seriously, as well as Christian creeds and confessions and traditions.(emphasis added) ↑
- ibid., 55. ↑
- Intersectionality and the Church. (emphasis added) ↑
- ibid. (emphasis added) ↑
- Berry, Rasool. “An Open Letter to John MacArthur About Social Justice,” The Witness, September 10, 2018, Accessed March 06, 2020, https://thewitnessbcc.com/an-open-letter-to-john-macarthur-about-social-justice/. (emphasis added) ↑