A Christian group has branded a new documentary film about a play that depicts Jesus as a gay man as “blasphemous” and wants producers to apologize to God, while the film makers say they’ve also been the target of hate mail and even bomb threats.
America Needs Fatima, a Pennsylvania-based group focused on activism and observing apparitions of the Virgin Mary, thinks differently. According to its website, the group has gathered more than 13,500 signatures on a form petition that decries the filmmakers for promoting a “blasphemous homosexual play” and demands a “public apology to Our Lord Jesus Christ and to all God-fearing Americans.”
The group, which did not return requests for comment, appears to take particular issue with the Jesus character in the play “reportedly” having “sexual relations” with his apostles.
As noted above, the documentary in question, “Corpus Christi: Playing With Redemption,” offers an insight into the back-stage action as actors and promoters put on Terrence McNally’s 1998 play “Corpus Christi” that depicts Jesus and the Apostles as gay men living in Texas.
The play itself met with a warm critical reception upon release, however it faced a fierce campaign from religious groups and to this day any staging of the play remains controversial. McNally himself was also the subject of death threats.
What is especially interesting about this case however is that the Pennsylvania group is objecting not only to the play but also a film about the play when there is a very clear and objective argument to be made for the artistic merits of examining how the actors and producers feel about putting on this admittedly controversial but critically acclaimed piece of theatre.
Quite apart from the Pennsylvania group’s protest, the film production team has also said it has faced death threats, threats on YouTube, hate mail and the director’s mother has reportedly been harassed.
California lawmaker Mark Leno, comparing such acts to Muslim extremism, said that he agreed that there was a First Amendment right to protest the film but he said that threatening behavior went beyond the scope of freedom of speech, adding: “This is an unfortunate aspect of religion, and I say that as a person of faith.”
You could perhaps be forgiven for feeling that NBC was rather sticking the boot in on this when it ended its report with:
If this riles them, they’d best stay away from Dolores Park on Easter Sunday. Every year a “Hunky Jesus” contest is held.
Regardless of the protests and threats, producers and venue owners have said the film screening will go ahead.