I Am Not A Rose.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Trigger Warning: Rape, Sexual Assault, Purity Culture 

Somewhere during that awkward transition period of my life in which I had ceased being a raving fundamentalist but had not yet become a raving feminist universalist, I really liked this one Matt Chandler video.

I told you…it was an awkward period of my life.

You can watch that video here, if you are so inclined. For those of you who’d rather not (I don’t blame you), I’ll sum it up real quick like.

In the video, Chandler talks about going to a Christian event where the pastor brought a beautiful rose and gave it to the audience, instructing audience members to touch it and smell it and enjoy its beauty. Chandler continues, saying that the pastor at this event gave a sermon about the dangers of sex, and then asked for the rose back.

Of course, after having been handled by so many people, the rose is, as Chandler describes it, “completely jacked up.” The pastor in Chandler’s story then holds up the rose and asks audience members, “Now who would want this?”

Chandler’s response to this sermon illustration is to shout in frustration that “Jesus wants the rose!”

God, I used to love that.

I’d had a pastor give the same sermon illustration when I was younger. I’d been told growing up that if I “let” any man touch me or kiss me or have sex with me before marriage (distinctions were never made between consensual sex and sexual assault/rape) I’d be like that rose, or like a used toothbrush, or a banged up car.

I’d been sexually assaulted and I’d chosen willingly to have sex with another person by the time I got half way through college and discovered this video. I’d lived in shame and fear and self-hatred for fears because of that.

When I found the video, at the time, it was freeing. If no one else would want me, at least Jesus would, right?

Now, however, that’s not enough for me.

I am not a “jacked up” rose that only Jesus would want.

I am not a rose. 

And I am not “jacked up” or ugly or broken or unwanted.

I had people in my life treat me like a rose that someone just decided to hand around. I had people treat me like an object and touch me without even caring whether or not I wanted to be touched. And yeah, that kind of thing will mess you up.

But I did not deserve it. I do not deserve to be treated as a “jacked up” rose because of it. I do not deserve to be told that Jesus will love me, and Christians will begrudgingly love me because Jesus told them to. I do not deserve to be told that everyone else will turn away in disgust or that my being raped and sexually assaulted is a sin that is covered by Jesus’ blood.

I am not a rose.

I had people in my life that I chose to have sex with and who chose to have sex with me. You can’t compare those events in my life to someone handling a rose, because those times I had agency and so did my partners. I made decisions, and roses can’t do that.

And guess what? I do not deserve to be treated as a “jacked up” rose because of it. I do not deserve to be talked about as if my positive life experiences somehow make me less of a desirable human being. I do not deserve to be talked about as if my experiences make me ugly and less lovable.

I am not a rose.

I’m not here for the benevolent purity culture that tells me, “You may be damaged goods, but Jesus is a junk collector!” I’m not interested in a community that says “come as you are,” but keeps reminding me that the only reason they accept me is because they have to…because Jesus. I don’t want a Christianity that does not affirm my personhood in times where others have treated me as less than human. I don’t want a Christianity that dehumanizes me when I try to celebrate my positive life experiences.

Needless to say, I don’t watch that Matt Chandler video anymore when I am feeling like a screwed up failure. Now, all I hear from it is “Well, you are a screwed up failure, but Jesus loves you just like he loves other screwed up failures like murders and rapists and Hitler.”

Nah.

If I’m screwed up, it’s not my fault, and it’s not because of consensual, healthy sex.

I am not a failure.

I am not “jacked up” or ugly.

My experiences don’t change my worth or my beauty.

I am not a rose.

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  • Lora Williams

    When I first became a believer at 13, I really bought into the message, “Jesus loves you, even though you are a dirty rotten sinner and don’t deserve it.” However, at some point, I became aware that I wanted to be worthy of love. That it wasn’t enough to be “junk” that Jesus redeemed. Thanks for your insightful piece on the role our sexuality plays in our value as Christians, as humans, as women. Essentially, it’s not where our value lies!

  • Andrea_Videographer

    Preach!!

  • RelapsedCatholic

    I see this as a good lesson for churches filled with GCB’s and ‘perfect’ people that have excellent sight beginning at the end of their nose. I have a close friend that attends a Baptist church filled with such people and it truly wears on her. To many plastic people use the hard circumstances of people’s lives as an excuse to look down or ostracize them. Perhaps it’s an extension of the prosperity gospel.

    Loved the post though.

  • http://www.dirtydiaperchic.com/ laura g

    you’ve captured my evolution perfectly. I just look back that time in my life where I was okay with thinking of myself as an object who exists to be judged and used, where my consent is moot, and I’m like HOLY CRAP. so glad I’m not that person (or rather, “thing”??) anymore. yikes :(

  • LaShella

    Thank you so much. I too have experienced rape. I was made to feel that it “was my fault and who is gonna want you now!” It took a long time for me to heal from that but I did. I am worth it. Why? God does not make junk! I did in time learn to forgive the “male” who raped me. But this event did change my “religious life” for a time. Before, premarital sex was an abomination to me. Then when it happened, my life and my belief system spiraled out of control. But once I regained my sense of “self worth” again, I was able to counsel and help other women who have also experienced this. So, in a bizzare way, something good came out of this. This happened when I was 21. I am now 47. Stronger and bolder than ever!


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