Tempting trouble

LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph T. Gonzales (The Freeman) - January 12, 2020 - 12:00am

A gay Jesus?

Who would have dared imagine a scandalous scenario? Or propose actualizing and transforming that suggestion into a movie for non-believers and perhaps not-so-staunch Catholics? And who would flesh out the plot that gay Jesus brought home his boyfriend to dinner, where he could be introduced to Mama Mary and Papa Joseph?

Over in Brazil, though, they did just that. A YouTube comedy group called Porta dos Fundos conceived of the “The First Temptation of Christ,” where Jesus meets Orlando, falls in love, and after exchanging vows and other more earthly delights, skips home to his 30th birthday party. And the comedic production got a green light from Netflix, so Brazilians could enjoy this absurd reimagining of the 29th year of Christ.

Brazilians went nuts. Not in the way producers wanted, as two million petitioners sought to axe the production, and Porta dos Fundos even got fire-bombed. But Molotov cocktails were the least of their problems, as the Catholics went not to Mass, but to court.

In their prayers to a less-divine being, the Catholics petitioned judge Benedicto Abicair to ban the portrayal of a gay Jesus --which he did. The ban was appealed to the Brazilian Supreme Court which overturned it, relying on freedom of speech principles.


Netflix’s lawyers argued the ban was censorship, a means to silence speech. The Supreme Court agreed, ruling that “It is not to be assumed that a humorous satire has the magic power to undermine the values of the Christian faith, whose existence goes back more than two thousand years, and which is the belief of the majority of Brazilian citizens.”

I wonder how our own Supreme Court justices would have ruled on a similar issue, belonging as they (mostly) do to the Catholic faith. Would they have sided with freedom of speech (and perhaps, even of religion)? Or would they have come down on the side of blasphemy and morality?

Given their spate of decisions disbarring lawyers for having mistresses, I’m not too optimistic that a similar ban on a similar production would triumph on the basis of freedom of speech.

This interweaving of free speech and religious mores brings to mind the Carlos Celdran fiasco and the archaic laws we still have in our country. While those laws remain live, (including that anomaly called “offending religious feelings”), our law enforcers are forced to apply them, and our courts’ hands are likewise tied to interpreting them upon modern day-life.

And, of course, these laws remain as quiet ticking bombs waiting to be weaponized in the hands of the vindictive or malicious, and in the most unlikely scenarios, as Celdran discovered to his chagrin, colonial-era laws that made the modern hero both a fugitive and a refugee.

It’s funny, since Brazil allows gay marriage, but it’s got an anti-gay president. Apparently, the number of Brazilian same-sex couples getting married spiked prior to the inauguration of that president, because they were afraid he would outlaw it after assuming office. And in this episode, we see Brazilians incensed at the idea of a gay Jesus, even while their society recognizes gay love.

One could perhaps call Brazil “conflicted” with gay relationships. Whereas here, we have, not exactly full “acceptance,” but perhaps something above mere “tolerance”? Dead malice? An “it is what it is” attitude? Hard to pin down where we are on the acceptance scale. But it would be easier to predict what would happen if the scent of gay Jesus wafts up the moral majority’s noses. Full-scale drama, lots of angry speeches and red faces. Screaming headlines, perhaps even screaming matches.

Now that would be fun to watch. Almost like a Netflix series in itself.


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