A documentary about a play that recasts Jesus Christ as a gay man has unsurprisingly drawn the ire of Christian groups, but prominent LGBT politicians plan to stand behind the film when it’s shown this weekend at the Castro Theatre.
State Sen. Mark Leno, Supervisor Scott Wiener and gay-friendly theologians say they plan to show up to defend the rights of filmmakers to display their work.
“I am not a theologian or a religion historian, and I’m not Christian,” Wiener said. “But from what I understand, Jesus means a lot of things to a lot of different people … no one has a monopoly on what a particular religion means.”
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. Wiener said people protesting the movie also have a right to state their case.
The documentary, “Corpus Christi: Playing With Redemption,” follows actors and promoters as they hold productions of Terrence McNally’s 1998 play, “Corpus Christi,” which depicts Jesus living in 1950s Texas. A Castro Theatre manager said there are no plans to pull the movie over the protest, but declined to comment further.
A spokeswoman for the delegation of supporters said members of the film and play group have been subject to “threats” in the form of bomb scares, emails, comments on YouTube and harassment of the director’s mother. In a statement, promoters said they appreciate the support in light of the adversity.
“We have no doubt that ‘Corpus Christi’s’” message of God’s inclusive love for LGBT people will drown out the angry words of those who attack our play without having seen it,” said director Nic Arnzen.
Leno said the subject matter of the play isn’t “easy,” but that “to the degree it is difficult, it’s also important.” The senator said some of the activism against the play, and especially the bomb threats, are outside the scope of First Amendment rights.
“I think I have to put that in the same category as Muslim extremists,” Leno said. “This is an unfortunate aspect of religion, and I say that as a person of faith.”
The Sunday showing of the documentary will be complemented by performances of the play in Fort Mason on Saturday and in a Unitarian chapel on Sunday and Monday.
San Francisco has proven to be a common venue for reinterpretations of Christian values, including the annual “hunky Jesus” competition observed on Easter at Dolores Park.