LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
This past Tuesday marked a very popular TV event. No, it was not the Democratic presidential debate. It was the other most-watched program, which aired at the same time. I'm, of course, talking about the season finale of the reality TV show "The Bachelorette." This season, Hannah Brown tried to find Mr. Right from a group of 22 men in front of millions of viewers. While she did not find him, she did captivate the hearts of many. In a pop culture moment, Hannah, who is a Christian, responds to a man questioning her morality.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BACHELORETTE")
HANNAH BROWN: I'm so mad. So, like, I have had sex.
LUKE PARKER: Say what?
BROWN: Yeah. And I - Jesus still loves me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That scene prompted a lot of debate around faith and sexuality. And so I asked Hannah how people responded to that.
BROWN: There has been a lot of support, but there's also been a lot of criticism. And it's tough because I am - my faith is really important to me. And I do know the Bible, and I do know what it says. And I still stand by what I said, but a lot of people will try to sway what it actually means. I just feel like it was a big topic to take on for this girl. But I'm in it, and I will continue to talk about it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: It sounds, though, that it was very painful to get criticism about something so personal as how you choose to live your life.
BROWN: When I said I've had sex and Jesus still loves me, I don't mean that I don't have a moral code, and I can do whatever I want with whoever I want at whatever time I want, and I can just lean back on, oh, he forgives me. Jesus still loves me. I know Jesus still loves me. Sometimes, I'm going to make mistakes, though, and I'm not perfect. And I think for a long time - anytime I made a mistake, I would put guilt and shame on myself because I didn't do it right. I do believe that the Lord intended for sex to be in the confines of marriage, but that's not so for a lot of people. And I used to carry a lot of shame because I had had sex before.
And in that moment, I felt like I was right back in church just feeling like I was not enough. And that's what I meant, by you know what? Like, I have had sex, but, like, I know my relationship with the Lord. I know that he forgives me. He loves me. And I'm not alone in that, and that doesn't make me any less worthy of his love or a love from somebody who wants to spend the rest of my life with me like a partner.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, a lot of people who don't watch reality television can dismiss it and say that it's not important, that it's frivolous. But this kick-started a real cultural conversation, and it seems like maybe it was one that needed to happen. Is that something that you kind of thought about?
BROWN: I can't decide if I'm glad it was me or not that started the conversation, but I'm in it now. And regardless of what anybody thinks watching the show, like, I've never been called a slut in my entire life. I don't know. It was - it's been hard. But then, I started thinking once I started being called that, why do we even use that word anyway? Like, why are women talking to women this way? And why are men talking about women in this way? Because I think sex and faith are all very individual relationships. And what I might feel comfortable doing sexually is not the same as the next girl. But that doesn't make her any less worthy. I have an audience of one, and that's the Lord. And we've had plenty of talks, let me tell you. And I know my heart's in the right place. And so I just have to stand firm on that.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Hannah, what's next for you?
BROWN: Great question. I think with being so honest and real with not just the guys I was having relationships with but with America, I have a lot to give, so I'm excited to be able to use my platform to continue talking to people about these topics that I had to deal with on national television. I just moved to Los Angeles, so I'm excited to be able to just move on my own to a new city and just see where life's going to take me. And I feel like it's going to be really good. I don't know just yet, but I know you haven't seen the last of me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Hannah Brown, the latest Bachelorette. Thank you very much.
BROWN: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF DAVID PRITCHARD'S "THE WORLD IN THE EVENING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.