Vela Andapita, Jakarta – A new Portuguese-language Netflix comedy "The First Temptation of Christ" has made world headlines after sparking controversy and anger for depicting Jesus Christ as a gay man.
Created by Brazilian YouTube comedy group Porta dos Fundos, the movie – which portrays Jesus bringing his presumed boyfriend Orlando home to meet Mary and Joseph – is released on Netflix on Dec. 3 and is now also available for Netflix subscribers, including in Indonesia.
While many Christian religious leaders in Brazil have lambasted the movie, Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) chairman Rev. Gomar Gultom has instead called on Christians in Indonesia not to worry.
"I haven't watched the film, I have just read the synopsis," Gomar told The Jakarta Post.
"Even though I highly respect freedom of speech and [the creators'] creativity, I still wish that people would not disrespect other people or communities, much less making jokes about certain [religious] beliefs," he added.
Gomar said he was aware that the film was a comedy and therefore in order to interpret Jesus' character as shown in the movie, people were supposed to see it through a comedian's point of view.
"I call on all Christians not to be upset or worry about the film. Not everything should be treated in a serious manner. I hope that the film will not undermine our faith," he added.
Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI) chairman Archbishop Suharyo, meanwhile, declined to make a comment to the Post.
The Netflix film follows Jesus, who returns home from the desert as he turns 30 and brings the flamboyant Orlando as a surprise guest. As he arrives in Nazareth, Jesus learns that Mary and Joseph have prepared a surprise party to celebrate his birthday.
At other points in the 46-minute holiday special, Jesus even hallucinates after drinking a "special tea", during which he meets with Buddha, Khrisna and even an alien deity.
A number of online petitions calling for the platform service to take down the movie have appeared on change.org, with one petition in Portuguese initiated by user Alex Brindejoncy receiving more than 2 million supporters as of Thursday evening.
Nic Williams, another user, described the movie as "blasphemous" and "highly offensive" to those of the Christian faith on an online petition he initiated on the platform.
"This is far from funny but downright disrespectful and a highly offensive degradation of Jesus Christ," the user said in the petition, which had garnered more than 140,000 signatures at the time of writing.
Porta dos Fundos, which won an International Emmy for its holiday special last year, said in a statement that it "values artistic freedom and humor through satire on the most diverse cultural themes of our society and believes that freedom of expression is an essential construction for a democratic country."
The film sparked a fierce backlash among Christians in Brazil, where the people are deeply religious and both the Catholic Church and the evangelical Christian movement frequently criticize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.
Even Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro describes himself as a "proud" homophobe. The president's son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, took to his Twitter account to call the Netflix film "garbage" and said that the filmmakers "do not represent Brazilian society."