On ‘gay Jesus’ and offended Christians
turned against them.
In Brazil, evangelical Christians are on the rampage and are viciously persecuting the practitioners of Afro-brazilian religion. The Afro-brazilians are a minority, but their mere existence draws the ire of religious racists. these evangelicals labelled the Afro-brazilians “Satanists,” a performative act that is always the first instalment towards enacting and justifying violence on people. these Christians invade their places of worship and do not hide their agenda to wipe them out entirely so that Brazil can be fully “Christian.” these evangelicals have the support of their president, Jair Bolsanaro, who also does not hide his disdain for these minorities. So, no, the Christians that want to claim a global antichristian agenda owe it to humanity to equally acknowledge the bones that keep spilling out of their cupboard. they are just as guilty of symbolic and physical violence against other people’s faiths.
Also, it is not quite true to suggest that Christians hardly react violently to perceived abuse of their religious iconography. In 1988, Christians also took offence over the depiction of Jesus in the Martin Scorsese film, The Last Temptation of Jesus. While the controversy of Jesus’ representation raged, Christians picketed theatres and mobilised other faithful to boycott cinemas. Some fundamentalist Christians went to the extent of throwing Molotov cocktails inside the Parisian Saint Michel movie theatre while it was showing the film. Thirteen people were injured in the attack, four of whom were severely burned. This history is important, not to compare notes with any religion and see which one can do worse. No, instead it shows us how far better off human societies get when these ideological differences are not resolved with the coin of violence.
While some Christians want to argue they are victims of misrepresentation who are singled out because of their placidity, what I see is the monopolistic power to define others which they have wielded for far too long now redistributed in the hands of an irreverent generation. From literature to films, western culture has always held the power to caricature people of other faiths and cultures, and they did so against the background of Christian ideology. The narratives of good-white-male-christians vs. the rest-of-the-world-in-need-of-our-salvation have been useful to legitimise colonialism, war, and plunder by world superpowers. When people take on Christianity using the same weapons with which Christianity has used to define them, they are not persecuting the faith. No, they are trying to correct a historical asymmetry. Artists like Porta dos Fundos are treading in the moral topography shaped by Christian ideology.
When people make art that represents religious icons in unconventional ways—jesus, for instance, has been depicted as black, female, and gay—what sometimes gets lost in the din that attends their artistic production is how societies’ ethics are reshaped by their audacity. the profanation of religious iconography can be illuminating. When potent symbols are freed from the power of regulating institutions who control the terms of its circulation, the people themselves are delivered from other kinds of social constraints. For instance, in 1977, a British called James Kirkup wrote a poem about a Roman centurion’s lusting for Jesus. He was taken to court and tried under their 17th century blasphemy laws. Kirkup lost the case, but his trial also called attention to the archaism of such laws. Britain struck it out of their books, a victory for social progress.
Finally, the Christians that keep comparing themselves to Muslims should stop acting like Lot’s wife and start looking ahead. there is nothing to be regretted if your religion and culture have evolved beyond a barbarous descent to violence. There is nothing worth glorifying about violence or threats of violence. It is neither a superior argument nor does it illuminate any ideas. Even the Muslims that characteristically take offence when they perceive disrespect to their faith will, at some point, find out not all things answer to violence. For example, Dutch filmmaker, Theo van Gogh, was murdered by an Islamic extremist after he and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, made a film—titled Submission (2004)—on the abuses Muslim women suffer, but that did not stop the spread of the film.
Another example is The Innocence of Muslims (2012). While the riots raged in the Muslim world because of the film’s contents, Youtube announced that they would not be pulling the film because that would infringe on the right to free speech. So, despite all of that fury and deaths, those films remain in circulation. despite the killing of 12 people over the Charlie Hebdo cartoon, those satirists still went ahead and made another depiction of the prophet. By now, it should be getting clearer to everyone that nobody respects people who bring a dagger to a debate. Violence is spectacular, but it does not have the shelf life of intellection. So, why should any respectable people of faith keep bringing it up?