Dr. Butterfield Goes to Wheaton

Young Evangelicals and Same-sex Marriage

You’ve heard the narrative: Young evangelicals are abandoning traditional morality. A lot of people want it to be true, but is it? Stay tuned to BreakPoint.


John Stonestreet

Dr. Rosaria Butterfield has an amazing story to tell—and it’s her story. A former lesbian feminist professor, she started studying Christianity in order to debunk it—but ended up embracing it.

Today, she’s a dedicated Christian apologist, wife, and mother, with two books about the faith to her credit. Although some Christians will struggle with same-sex attraction their whole lives, she, in God’s grace, was able to leave it behind.

So it’s not surprising that Wheaton College, one of the nation’s premier Christian colleges, invited Dr. Butterfield to tell her story at a chapel service.

But some 100 students protested the chapel and what they called Dr. Butterfield’s “dangerous” message—a message that would only tell one side of the same-sex story.

They held signs saying things like “Rosaria’s story is valid, mine is too,” and “I’m gay and a beloved child of God. That’s my story.”

Dr. Butterfield graciously met and talked with these demonstrators later. “I know too well the world these students inhabit,” she wrote, recalling how she herself had once participated in similar activism.

So is this another one of those “young Christian millennials are abandoning traditional morality” stories that it’s been made out to be? Not by a long shot. As Manhattan Declaration Director Eric Teetsel pointed out at the Federalist, while 100 protesters got the attention, “2,000 millennial evangelicals” inside the chapel “didn’t protest her message . . . they gave her a standing ovation.”

One of the most common cultural narratives being foisted upon us is that young people, especially evangelical young people, are giving up on traditional understandings of sexuality and marriage; and yes evidence shows that many have. But this narrative tries to portray a certain inevitability about the end of traditional sexual morality.

Folks, I have to tell you, as I travel and speak at colleges and universities all over the country, I see hundreds and thousands of young Christians who still hold to traditional views of sexuality and marriage. And many others who haven’t yet made up their minds.

I’m not alone. Eric Teetsel described his experience speaking at the Jubilee conference in Pittsburgh: “I was speaking on the meaning and purpose of marriage,” he wrote, “and there were many other sessions with speakers far more famous than I, yet they came flowing in. When they ran out of chairs some went out and found more. When there were no more, they sat on the floor and stood in the back.”

Eric wrote ironically, “Don’t these young people know they aren’t supposed to exist?” But they do, and “they wanted to know how to make a case for marriage.”

We have to help them make that case. As sociologist Christian Smith points out, if a student can’t articulate what he believes to be true, then it’s very tedious and fragile.

I’ve seen this first-hand working with Summit Ministries. When students can articulate their beliefs, their confidence grows. This is especially true of the pro-life movement. When young people learn how to articulate a defense for the unborn, like thousands do at Summit and Students for Life conferences, they’re unbelievable. They’ll defend life on the plane on the way home; they’ll start campus groups; they’ll do sidewalk counseling; and they’ll start incredibly innovative organizations like the Live Action network or Save the Storks.

Not only must the Church help people understand why they believe what they believe, we have to equip them to be able to articulate what they believe in the public square.

That narrative, that we’re losing young people on issues of human sexuality, will only continue if we allow it to. It will continue if we fail to tell stories like that of Rosaria Butterfield, the 2,000 young Christians who applauded her, and the students who flocked to Pittsburgh to learn how to defend marriage.

So please, come to BreakPoint.org for resources that will help the young people in your life understand and articulate a Christian perspective on sexual morality and marriage.

Further Reading and Information

Dr. Butterfield Goes to Wheaton: Young Evangelicals and Same-sex Marriage

Young evangelicals want to know the truth about marriage and sexuality, and we need to arm them with that truth. To get them (and you) engaged in the conversation, check out the resources and websites listed below.


You Are What—and How—You Read
Rosario Butterfield | The Gospel Coalition | February 14, 2014

Students Hold Demonstration Before Chapel Speaker
Anna Morris | The Wheaton Record | February 7, 2014

Wither Wheaton? You Wish
R.J. Moeller and Eric Teetsel | The Federalist | February 18, 2014


The National Organization for Marriage

Summit Ministries website

Manhattan Declaration website

Other Resources

Rewired: A Teen Worldview Curriculum
Prison Fellowship and Teen Mania

How to Stay Christian in College
J. Budziszewski | NavPress | April 2004

Ask Me Anything: Provocative Answers for College Students
J. Budziszewski | Think Books | September 2004

Right from Wrong
Josh McDowell, Bob Hostetler | Thomas Nelson Publishers | January 1994

Attractions vs. Actions: Homosexuality & God’s Story
John Stonestreet | BreakPoint.org | November 13, 2013

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