The Scarecrow Christ: The Murder of Matthew Shepard and the Making of an American Culture Wars Martyr
AffiliationUniversity of Chester
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AbstractIn this essay, I examine the popular martyr-making process in respect of Matthew Shepard, arguing that both the making of the martyr and the reaction it provoked reflects American ‘culture wars’. Martyrology is conflict literature. However, as I have argued before, the most significant conflict in a martyrdom story is not necessarily between the martyr and the agents of execution, but the story-tellers and their opponents.9 Yet, martyrological narratives are difficult to control, as I will demonstrate from the contested nature of Shepard’s secular canonisation process. For at least some in the LGBT community, the dominant hagiography of Matthew Shepard, the gay martyr, is seen as unhelpful. Ironically, both LGBT activists and right-wing religious groups have in some ways sought to undermine Shepard’s martyr status, by focusing on his life rather than his death. Nonetheless, I argue, such efforts continue to have limited effect because in martyrologies any interest in the lives of their heroes is incidental, merely setting the scene for a significant death.
CitationMiddleotn, P. (2019-in press). The Scarecrow Christ: The Murder of Matthew Shepard and the Making of an American Culture Wars Martyr. can Henten, J. W. & Saloul, I. (eds), Canonization and Cross-Cultural Martyrdoms. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
PublisherAmsterdam University Press
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