Except in very rare circumstances the Catholic Church takes decades even centuries to determine if someone is a saint. Even martyrs are not raised to the altars right away. There is an exacting, indeed exhaustive process that tests and challenges all aspects of the person’s life. A miracle is required.
Would that seculars took such care. They elevate their own with an embarrassing speed and sometimes sloppiness. Another of their plaster saints has just come crashing down.
If you are of a certain age you will never forget the story of Matthew Shepard. A winsome boy who happened to be gay was tortured – beaten with a gun butt, burned with cigarettes – left alive, yet dying, tied to a fence in freezing weather.
Within a few hours of the discovery of his tortured body and several days before he finally succumbed to his wounds, we were told he died because of hate. His killers targeted him because he was gay, tortured and killed him not just because of their own homophobia, but the rampant homophobia of America.
The New York Times fed us this story. NYT columnists, principally Frank Rich, fingered the religious right. It was their fault for creating a climate of hate against gays. Thousands of stories appeared worldwide telling the Shepard story. He was compared to Christ. One pastor in Washington State gave a sermon called “Matthew Shepard Died for Our Sins.”
Vanity Fair ran a long story called “The Crucifixion of Matthew Shepard.” Before he died, President Clinton opined on his attack and called for national hate-crimes legislation.
Over the years, the hagiography continued. Three made-for-TV movies aired about his life and death. One of them, The Laramie Project, is now a play being performed in schools all over the country. It is playing now at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C where the comparison to Abraham Lincoln is unmistakable. The Washington National Cathedral is currently sponsoring a sold-out “Tribute to Matthew Shepard.”
The importance of his story for the cause of gay rights cannot be overstated. As in this from the New York Times: “For homosexuals, the key to winning acceptance and respect has been to make themselves familiar, visible and known. Yet in almost thirty years of struggle to repeal state sodomy laws and win equal protection under law, the modern gay movement has never achieved a recognizable public face. Now, in a victim, a young man who wanted to be a diplomat, it has been given one.”
It all seemed settled and its significance clear.
But investigative journalist Stephen Jiminez just published The Book of Matt, which punctures the Shepard balloon. After ten years of research and more than 100 interviews, Jiminez, a gay man once sympathetic, reports that most of what you have heard about Shepard’s life and death is false.
Jiminez reports that Shepard and his killers not only knew each other, but did drugs together, methamphetamine mostly, and likely were rival drug dealers. Much of this was reported on an ABC 20/20 episode in 2004. But something new knocks the props from under the homophobia charge. Shepard and his killers were sometimes-sex partners. (A fair bit of violence against homosexuals is perpetrated by other homosexuals.)
Conservatives did not start the culture wars, liberals did, and more than a few times, their aggression has been based on lies.
Conservatives did not initiate a national war over abortion. Conservatives did not initiate a war over marriage. It was the sexual radicals who initiated both of these wars that have caused so much damage to our political and religious institutions, and our society in general. Conservatives have certainly reacted but almost exclusively have acted in self-defense against aggression fueled by intentional, deliberate lies.
Norma McCorvey, the Roe of Roe v. Wade herself, has admitted that she was never gang raped, one of her lawyers’ central claims. It was a lie.
Lawrence v. Texas was based on a lie. In Lawrence, the Supreme Court struck down the anti-sodomy laws in Texas and around the country and has become the legal wedge that gave us the Prop 8/DOMA decisions and could lead the Court to impose gay marriage in America.
At the time, we were told that Texas constables entered a home responding to a call of domestic disturbance, a guy waving a gun. They happened to see two men having sex and promptly arrested them. Activist lawyers encouraged these gentlemen were to plead no contest to violating sodomy laws, which led to their case going eventually to the Supreme Court. But according to a new book by a gay law professor, the gents were not having sex at all. Lawrence was a lie.
Why lie? In Roe, Lawrence, and the Shepard case? The reason may be that perfect victims are hard to find.
Advocates for abortion needed not just a rape victim who needed an abortion; they needed something even more extreme, a victim of gang rape.
Sodomy laws were not being enforced anywhere. So how do you find a victim of unjust sodomy laws? You make one up.
And what about hate crimes? You want to show that homophobia is a killer but victims of such things are not exactly a dime a dozen. Even now, only 1400 such cases are reported each year in a nation of 310 million. And how many of those are really hate crimes? As we see from the Shepard case, things are often not what they seem – or are made to seem.
But Shepard came along at precisely the right time, with the right pretty face, victim of the perfect crime of homohatred.
These cases have done much damage to all levels of our society, government, the law, politics, and the family. Are the perpetrators of these lies embarrassed or repentant?
Of course not. They are likely busy finding the next phony – but politically useful – victims.