The Church of England’s conspiracy against traditional morality reached new depths during December, when their magazine Celebrate announced their official poster child for teenage chastity: Louisiana pop-tart Britney Spears.

For those who do not own a television or subscribe to People, Rolling Stone, or Christianity Today, Miss Spears sells more records than any other female solo artist (she sold seven-million copies of Oops . . . I Did It Again in just seven weeks). The trouble (it would seem to some) is, she can’t sing—very well. Why, then, is she so popular? Perhaps because none of her clothes fit.

Everyone but certain culturally savvy Christians seems to know that the only reason Britney rules the airwaves is that she constantly flaunts her “virginal” sexuality. Mad ‘A’ did a send up of her hit “Baby, One More Time” by changing all of her subtle lyrics (“Hit me, baby, one more time”) to overt sexual ones, only to be followed up by Miss Spears parodying herself on Saturday Night Live, sporting an inflatable chest. People ran a cover article on Britney and other pop-Lolitas under the tide, “Too Sexy Too Soon?”

The very month in which Celebrate ran its piece praising her as a “great ambassador for virginity,” the British pop culture rag Sky put her on its cover, praising her for her “Bad A–” image. The piece included pictures of her doing the L.A. club scene with the words ” F— You” emblazoned on the back of her skimpy tank top. Sky also reported that she forces her mother, Lynne, to wait outside lingerie shops on the streets of London while she buys sexy underwear, because “It’s embarrassing.”

Is the C of E oblivious to all of this? Did an unhip curmudgeon at Celebrate read her proclamations of inviolability and conclude, sight unseen, that if she be lifted up, she would draw all young girls and boys to her chaste lifestyle? On the contrary, the piece in Celebrate included a sexy photospread. “Britney is very sexy, but she has strong principles and religious views,” they said.

Any serious Christian should feel uneasy when greeted with such statements (found on the church’s official website, as “The Gospels provide little evidence that Jesus said much about sexuality in his teaching.” In other words, get ready for a challenge to traditional morality. “Nevertheless,” the C of E continues, “Christians have tended to be identified as people who have a great deal to say about sex—much of it very negative.” (Time for Britney to set those nattering nabobs of negativism straight!) “By the 1920s, certain sections of the Church were beginning to develop a richer understanding of sexuality,” which included the assertion that families should limit the number of children “in order to give children a better chance of success.” During the 1930 Lambeth Conference, they officially christened contraception, stating that “the Conference agrees that other methods [of birth control besides abstinence] may be used, provided that this is done in the light of Christian principles.”

This same “richer” understanding was applied to committed sodomites when a 1991 statement of the House of Bishops recognized that “Christians are divided in their view of homosexuality.” The only direct statement was that “Christians must reject all forms of hatred of homosexual people.” Of course, the “bishops emphasize again the need for further discussion.”

This careful discussion has given us Britney Spears, and the message is obvious; Bend Scripture as far as you can in light of “tolerance” and “compassion,” boldly defy two millennia of Christian teaching in light of a “richer understanding,” and never, never be negative. Britney can become rich by strutting on stage in her underwear, bumping and grinding and singing, “O pretty baby, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do,” but she is (or, at least, claims to be) what teens used to call a “technical virgin.” She truly is their paragon.