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A Modern-Day Stoning?!? Cold Case Smears Christian Kids

When's the last time your local Christian youth group stoned somebody to death?


Hollywood likes to claim their programming simply reflects reality, but the latest episode of Cold Case was an exercise in bigoted, Christophobic fantasy.


In the September 30 episode of the CBS forensics show, the devoutly religious teens in an abstinence club turn out to be sexually active hypocrites who murder one of their own members – by stoning her, as the Bible teaches – to keep their sins secret.  Their youth pastor encourages one girl to describe her impure dreams to him, and masturbates while listening.   


In a ham-handed attempt to influence this fall's Congressional debate on abstinence education programs, the show also depicts abstinence-only education as useless, if not actively harmful.   


The episode centers on the unsolved 1998 murder of Carrie Swett, a promiscuous 15-year-old girl.   New clues lead the detectives in the Philadelphia homicide unit to reopen the case.


Shortly before her death Carrie joins Hearts Wait, an abstinence club whose members are not actually abstinent.  The biggest hypocrite of all is Tina, the president and most outspoken Christian in the club.  By portraying the group's leader so unsympathetically, CBS uses the same device employed in the anti-Christian Mandy Moore movie Saved.


One couple in the group, Laurie and Manny, are said to “pretend they were Mary and Joseph” but are actually having sex.  Another young man, Phil, is terrified he might be a homosexual. 


Worst of all is the portrayal of Nathan, the youth pastor overseeing the club.  When Tina tells him about impure dreams she's having about him, he encourages her to “confess” them – to him.  Nathan encourages her to turn her back to make it easier for her to talk, but viewers learn (as does Carrie) that he does this so he can pleasure himself.  


Tina describes a purity ring ceremony in which she went to Nathan's office alone, after hours, and took the vow to remain pure in front of only him and God.  This description injects a furtive, sinister aspect to a movement that is anything but.     


Carrie's mother ominously tells detectives that “someone or something was making her change,” implying that Carrie was hanging out with a bad crowd before she was murdered.  The next scene shows Carrie telling her mother, just before she leaves to meet with Tina, that she wants new, modest clothes because she doesn't want to appear sexy any more.


When Carrie finds out about Tina and the youth pastor and encourages her to stop meeting alone with him, Tina replied with “you're just some slut with a whore for a mother,” portraying Christians as judgmental and downright rude. Carrie also promotes a little Hollywood morality, telling Phil, Laurie and Manny there isn't anything wrong with their feelings or actions.   


The “good Christian” kids respond by calling her “dirty,” “whore,” “slut” and “b****” before literally stoning her to death.  Tina justifies the murder by paraphrasing the King James Version of Deuteronomy 22:21: “the whore should be stoned so thou shalt put evil away among you.”  


Apparently Hollywood is taking note that Congress is currently debating abstinence funding.  Weighing in on public policy, CBS takes some gratuitous slaps at abstinence-only education.  The opening scene features a high school “health” teacher telling her class “Now if school policy allowed me to do so, I would tell you how these methods of birth control can be used and what they do.  But I cannot.  I would be fired.”   


In another scene, Laurie (a product of abstinence-only education) asks Carrie how to tell whether she's pregnant.  The dialogue implies that abstinence programs leave teenagers ignorant of all things sexual. 


Just another night of prime time "entertainment" programming, courtesy of CBS.  Welcome to the fall TV season.


Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.