I’d like to just take a moment to reflect on the title of this post, because only two years ago I would have fallen over laughing if Lordisa herself had come down to Earth to tell me I would be seriously writing about a) being a Christian and b) becoming a born again virgin.
***TRIGGER WARNING***: The following post will contain discussion surrounding sexual assault/trauma, abuse, and some Christian themes that have been damaging to many. Please do not read on unless you feel this is a safe activity for you.
When I poll the audience in my head about “born again virginity”, they typically start booing, giving me a big thumbs down. Wasn’t this concept borne out of a tradition that tells its women that their worth is bound up in their virginity, that purity and chastity are the feminine ideal, that any sex outside of marriage (or heterosexuality!) is wrong? I don’t really know where it came from, but my perception is that this particular take might have come from the same people who think Jesus rode a dinosaur. Just sayin’.
Jesus talks about being born again (or, depending on the translation, born “from above”) a few times in John 3, and it also occurs in Peter’s first letter:
John 3, 1-7: Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above‘ (NRSV).
1 Peter 1, 22-25: Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. For “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” That word is the good news that was announced to you (NRSV).
Now there’s a whole lot of theology in John and Peter I will (likely) spend my lifetime grappling with, but this idea of being renewed, reborn, born from above, etc., through new faith in God and in the way of Jesus really resonates with me. My new sense of faith is dramatically changing the way I see the world and the way I see myself, and for the better. This is not to say that my faith “journey” (does anyone have a new phrase for this concept?) has not had some excruciating moments, it has. But generally, my self-esteem has greatly improved through devotion to a God who is wholly accepting and loving of me. Pursuing a relationship with the divine has started filling some very deep voids and has also challenged me to start shedding light on those places that need a lot of love and attention. It feels like a “starting over” in many ways.
My freshman year of college, when I was still a virgin, I was raped by someone I considered a friend. I was also involved that year with a man who emotionally and verbally abused me, and, when he was drunk, attempted to physically abuse me. He was the first person I chose to have sex with, and I think it was because I was so lonely, confused, and terrified that I needed to cling on to any semblance of intimacy with another human being. My sophomore year, I was raped again, this time by a friend of mine from high school who was a West Point cadet.
I think purity is an illusion. I think this human life is messy and complicated and, if you aren’t getting dirty, you’re not doing it right, and you’re certainly not living in Jesus’ way; the way of eating with the poor and the tax collectors and the whores. I am not deluded into thinking that I can somehow undo through faith what has been already done, that I can become the inexperienced, doe-eyed child I was before my body was so violently accosted. But, in those first few years of my adulthood, I totally lost my sense of agency over my own body. And, to be honest, I haven’t yet regained it. I’ve given my agency to a dozen men or more over the last decade, some of whom I loved, some of whom terrified me, some of whom just made me feel safe.
It’s not about purity; it’s about agency.
The loss of Jesus’ own physical agency on the cross and bodily resurrection is a story I look to for hope. I cannot separate this image from my own experiences of being physically pinned down. I cannot separate it from my own desire to rise like a phoenix from the ashes. God’s unconditional love for me is how I aspire to someday love myself. Experimenting with the idea of becoming a born again virgin through God’s love means that I get to reclaim my own agency about my body through self-love. It affirms that I get to decide who shares in my nurturing, miraculous being. I get to start anew, to start a new romantic journey where God plays a major role. It does not mean that I will wait until marriage to have sex, but it does mean that I will deeply consider the decision to have sex with someone, deeply consider my own emotional, physical and spiritual safety and comfort, and deeply consider the mutuality with which the decision is made.
I invite your thoughts on this very complex issue. Blessings to all of you.