This book is an invitation to practise hospitality in a post-Christian world. But it is far from a how-to-do-it manual. Its core takes the surprising form of a personal account of an individual's journey from a radical lesbian position to an equally thoroughgoing Christian lifestyle. Born into a talented but dysfunctional family, Butterfield shone at Catholic school and university, becoming a professor of English and women's studies in her 30s. Setting out to write a book demolishing the Religious Right, she accepted the invitation of a visit to a Presbyterian pastor in order to get Christian background and material. What she got was Christian hospitality and acceptance, with no holds barred. Under that exposure her prejudices crumbled and she became an exponent of the faith she had sought to destroy.
So the book is an ode to Christian hospitality, not a prescription or an autobiography. A good part of it consists of a series of vividly painted episodes involving (among others) the author, her mother, a stray dog and a hopeless drug addict. These are frustratingly scattered throughout the book, so that the only way to get a coherent picture of any of the characters is to consult the index. The vignettes are interspersed between passages of Biblical exposition and illustrations of the do's and don'ts of good Biblical hospitality, American-style. The essence of that is total acceptance and self-giving, to a degree that is deeply humbling to the reader.
The book is a feast of good things. It is the work of an excellent stylist, incisive or expansive as the need arises. It articulates Reformed theology attractively in an applied setting. It searches and uplifts in equal measure, and hopefully inspires as well.
Donald Mackay, Knox Church, Perth