has been applied to subsequent retellingsrnof the case.rnAnyone wishing to understand thernthoroughly religious nature of contemporaryrnliberal ideologies could do no betterrnthan to watch Anatomy of a Hate Crime,rnMT^’s recent dramatized reconstructionrnof the story, and the first of a wave ofrnShepard-related passion tales. Of course,rnShepard is depicted as morally perfect,rnSana peiir et sans reproche, and any suggestionrnof impurih’ or een sexual activit’rnhas been ruthlessly purged. Yes, hernbought a drink for one of his assailants,rnbut this was out of compassion for thernpoor rather than (as seems more likely) arnmisguided pickup attempt. But literallv,rnin this tale, he goes beyond perfection tornacquire all the characteristics of Christ.rnThe tale begins and ends with Shepardrnnarrating the events from beyond therngrave, as he leads viewers to the fencernthat was his Calvary. He is no longerrnMattheu Shepard, but MATrHEW resurrectedrnand glorified. By the wa’, allrndiscussions about the case now refer tornhim simply as “Matthew”: Messiahs needrnno surnames.rnBut if Matthew died for the sin and hatredrnof the world, who killed him? Anatomyrnof a Hate Crime is, if anything, e’enrnmore interesting for its portrayal of thernother characters in the story, whosernmoral roles are precisely determined byrntheir sexual identities. Every femalerncharacter in the story, bar none, is morallyrngood, defined as pro-Matthew and progarn— even the consorts of the two killers.rnAnd if not actually his girlfriend, a femalernstudent is Matthew’s best friend and hisrnMary Magdalene. All gay men in thernfilm are also good and decent. Charactersrnidentify themselves as immediate!}-rnand simplistically as in a 1930’s B Western,rnwhere the bad guys always worernblack and smoked.rnSo whom does that leave as the perpetratorsrnof sin and hatred? A process ofrnelimination leads us to heterosexualrnmen, all of whom are depicted either asrnanti-gay bigots or thuggish police. It’s notrntoo much of a stretch to show Hendersonrnand McKinney as villains, but the film literallyrndepicts all straight men as sharingrnto some degree in their e il. 1 he mo.st ludicrousrnscene in the film has Shepardrnboldly challenging homophobic remarksrnby a professor in a French literature class.rn(As we all know, university humanifiesrndepartments are notorious havens ofrnwhite-male reaction.) /Vfter the murder,rnwe see a bunch of good-ol’-boy lawyersrnboasting how easy it will be to get the accusedrnacquitted on charges of killing justrnanother queer.rnBoth scenes —with the professor andrnthe layyyers — seem unnecessary, evenrntacked on, until we realize how exactl}’rnthey fit into the messianic mythology.rnChrist/Matthew was crucified by specificrnindividuals, but behind them stoodrnall the evil forces of the world, whornepitomize non-liberated heterosexualrnmasculinity — conenientl’ and simplyrntermed “hatred.” Though Hendersonrnand McKinney actually drove the nails,rnthey could not have done so without thernoppressive power structure of teachers,rnlawyers, and Pharisees. We are all guilt)’.rnWe are all Pharisees. We have crucifiedrnthe Lord of Glop,-.rn— Philip JenkinsrnT H E CHURCH O F ENGLAND’Srnconspiracy against traditional moralityrnreached new depths during December,rnwhen tlieir magazine Celebrate announcedrntheir official poster child for teenagernchastity: Louisiana pop-tart BritneyrnSpears.rnFor those who do not own a televisionrnor subscribe to People, Rolling Stone, orrnChristianity Today, Miss Spears sellsrnmore records than any other female solornartist (she sold seven-million copies ofrnOops . . . I Did It Again in just sevenrnweeks). The trouble (it would seem tornsome) is, she can’t sing—verv well. Why,rnthen, is she so popular? Perhaps becausernnone of her clothes fit.rnEveryone but certain culturally savvyrnChristians seems to know that the onlyrnreason Britney rules the airwaves is thatrnshe constanth’ flaunts her “-irginal” sexuality’.rnMad ‘A’ did a send up of her hitrn”Baby, One More Time” by changing allrnof her subtle lyrics (“Hit me, baby, onernmore time”) to overt sexual ones, only tornbe followed up b Miss Spears parodyingrnherself on Saturday Night Live, sportingrnan inflatable chest. People ran a cover arficlernon Britnc- and other pop-Lolitas underrnthe tide, “Too Sexy Too Soon?”rnThe very month in which Celebraternran its piece praising her as a “great ambassadorrnfor virginib.-,” the British popculturernrag Sk}’ put her on its co’er, praisingrnher for her “Bad A–” image. Thernpiece included pictures of her doing thernL.A. club scene with the words ” F – – -rnYou” emblazoned on the back of herrnskimpy tank top. Sk’ also reported thatrnshe forces her mother, Lynne, to wait outsidernlingerie shops on the streets of Londonrnwhile she buys sex}’ underwear, becausern”It’s embarrassing.”rnIs the C of E oblivious to all of this?rnDid an unhip curmudgeon at Celebraternread her proclamations of inviolabilityrnand conclude, sight unseen, that if she bernlifted up, she would draw all young girlsrnand boys to her chaste lifestyle? On therncontrar}’, the piece in Celebrate includedrna sexy photospread. “Britne’ is ver)’ sexy,rnbut she has strong principles and religiousrnviews,” they said.rnAny serious Christian should feel uneasyrnwhen greeted with such statementsrn(found on the church’s official website,rnwww.cofe.anglican.org) as “The Gospelsrnprovide little evidence that Jesus saidrnmuch about sexualib,’ in his teaching.”rnIn oflier words, get ready for a challengernto traditional morality. “Nevertheless,”rnthe C of E continues, “Christians haverntended to be identified as people whornhave a great deal to say about sex—muchrnof it very negative.” (Time for Britney tornset those nattering nabobs of negativismrnstraight!) “By the 1920s, certain secfionsrnof the Church were beginning to developrna richer understanding of sexuality,”rnwhich included the assertion that familiesrnshould limit the number of childrenrn”in order to give children a better chancernof success.” During the 1930 LambethrnConference, they officially christenedrncontraception, stating that “the Conferencernagrees that other methods [of birthrncontrol besides abstinence] may be used,rnproyided that this is done in the light ofrnChristian principles.”rnThis same “richer” understanding wasrnapplied to committed sodomites when arn1991 statement of the House of Bishopsrnrecognized that “Christians are divided inrntheir view of homosexualit)’.” The only directrnstatement was that “Christians mustrnreject all forms of hatred of homosexualrnpeople.” Of course, the “bishops emphasizernagain the need for further discussion.”rnTliis careful discussion has given us BritneyrnSpears, and the message is obvious;rnBend Scripture as far as ‘ou can in light ofrn”tolerance” and “compassion,” boldly defyrntwo millennia of Christian teaching in lightrnof a “richer understanding,” and never,rnnever be negative. Britney can becomernrich b’ strutting on stage in her underwear,rnbumping and grinding and singing, “Ornprett}’ baby, tliere’s nothing that I wovildn’trndo,” but she is (or, at least, claims to be)rnwhat teens used to call a “technical virgin.”rnShe tiulv is flieir paragon.rn-Aaron D. Wolfrn6/CHRONICLESrnrnrn