Some Catholics in Brazil, including the nation’s bishops, have called for a boycott of the streaming service Netflix after the company premiered a film that implies Jesus is a gay man.
Crux reported on the Episcopal Conference of Brazil’s condemnation of A Primeira Tentacao de Cristo (The First Temptation of Christ), a 40-minute Christmas special by the comedy group Porta dos Fundos in which Jesus brings an implied male partner home to Mary and Joseph:
“The Brazilian bishops’ conference criticized the short film and said there is a limit to freedom of expression.
“The conference ‘repudiates recent facts that, in the name of freedom of expression and artistic creativity, profoundly assault the Christian faith. Ridiculing the belief of a group, whatever it may be, in addition to constituting an offense under criminal law, means disrespecting all people, hurting the search for an effectively democratic society that values all its citizens,’ said the statement, released Dec. 12.”
Bishop Henrique Soares da Costa of Palmares called for Netflix to be boycotted for the “mocking and extremely disrespectful movie. He wrote in a Facebook post reported on by DCM:
“In time of preparation for the Lord’s Christmas, Netflix slapped the face of all Christians; spat in our faces, mocking our faith. Certainly, instigated by the demonic force that has inspired so many hearts and minds in these times of neo-paganism, this company offered in its programming as a ‘Christmas Special’ (!!!!!) a blasphemous, vulgar and disrespectful film towards our God and Lord Jesus Christ is sarcastic with the faith of all Christians…”
Soares da Costa said whether or not a person cancelled Netflix was “interesting proof of how Christ is or is not truly significant in your life!”
The bishops’ statements are part of a wider debate over whether the film should be removed from Netflix. Dueling petitions for and against such an action have generated hundreds of thousands of signatures, and top Brazilian politicians, including the president’s son, have condemned the film. Brazil is the world’s largest Catholic nation with some 123 million faithful.
The Washington Post reported on the film’s content, in which not only is Jesus gay, but in which there is also drug use and sex work depicted. It follows Porta dos Fundos’ 2019 Emmy-winning film The Last Hangover satirically depicting Jesus and the Last Supper. But, interestingly, it seems critics in Brazil are almost solely concerned with the depiction of Jesus as a gay man rather than the other controversial content. Fábio Porchat, the actor who plays Orlando (Jesus’ implied boyfriend), commented in a Variety interview:
“[Jesus being gay], said Porchat, isn’t even totally clear. ‘We play at insinuating that Jesus has a new friend, and probably this new friend is gay, but they have just been having fun and a very good time in the desert for 40 days.’
“‘If anybody should be angry with us, it should be the gay community because a gay character turns out to be the Devil. But the gay community loves us!’ Porchat said. . .
“Porchat added: ‘For some Catholics here in Brazil, it’s O.K. if Jesus is a bad guy, uses drugs: That’s no problem. The problem is he’s gay. No, he can’t be gay. And that’s interesting because Jesus is everything. God is black and white and gay and straight. God is everything. It’s more homophobic to be insulted by a gay Jesus than to make Jesus special.'”
There are two issues at play here. First, should artistic expression be censored? There are many instances in recent years where religious conservatives have objected to artworks, films, and exhibits found to be offensive. How to negotiate such disputes is beyond the scope of this blog post. But the second issue is much clearer: is simply depicting Jesus as a gay man actually offensive? On this question, the answer that Brazil’s bishops and the faithful endorsing boycott should have come to is no.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 18, 2019