The news that a judge in Brazil has ruled that a film depicting Jesus as gay must be removed from the TV streaming service Netflix is worrying but perhaps not surprising.
I watched the film over Christmas – and found it to be really quite entertaining. It was funny, astute, theologically challenging, moving and in some places truly insightful. There are many aspects of the film that I could imagine people having problems with. God trying to get off with Mary is perhaps a scene that many might find a step too far.
It is the fact that so many have been protesting about the possibility that Jesus is gay that worries me most. Why would that be so terrible? Does Jesus have to be straight? Of course not. The gospel writers, Christian tradition and teaching of course present us with a whole set of assumptions that we buy into. God is (of course) male, everything about the divine is a construct presented to us by a paternalistic, homophobic and misogynistic church. To raise the possibility of God being ‘she’ rather than ‘he’ causes upset amongst even the most liberal and ‘inclusive’ of churches. So to consider that Jesus might be anything other than a red-bloodied heterosexual would be a step too far.
But what if Jesus were gay? Or bi? Or trans? Or fluid? Or pansexual? Or asexual? Or queer? Is that really such a problem? We have no evidence that he married, or partnered. We do have evidence that Jesus had close and loving friendships with men and with women.
There is an important tradition that we see Jesus as representing ourselves in our own personhood and culture. Look at art from different cultures and traditions and we welcome images of Christ portrayed as a person of colour, or from a particular ethnic tradition. Yes we know that Jesus was male, living in first century Palestine. But he represents all of us. Take a look at what I wrote in The Crucifixion of Tolerance. A friend of mine was castigated in the press for suggesting that Jesus might have had mental health problems.
It seems we want to create a so-called ‘perfect’ Jesus. But there is a danger in that. We are creating a Jesus who conforms to what society sees as normal and acceptable. To have a queer Jesus is not acceptable in the church. But you know what? I don’t think Jesus would care too much about such a label. Whether or not its is true – well that’s his business.
So – if you have Netflix take a look at the film.