On December 3, Netflix premiered a Christmas special from the Brazilian comedy troupe Porta dos Fundos (translation: "backdoor") titled The First Temptation of Christ. The 46-minute-long special features a gay Jesus Christ (Gregório Duvivier) introducing his boyfriend, Orlando, (Fábio Porchat) to his family and God (Antônio Tabet) after spending 40 days in the desert.
In the special, Mary and Joseph organized a surprise party for Jesus’ 30th birthday, with the presence of God, who tries to convince Mary to run away with him and abandon Joseph, a carpenter incapable of building even a table. The three wise men arrive at the party with a prostitute as a guest, and offer snacks made of ham—which they try to sell as if it were made of soy.
Orlando, who tries in every way possible to make it clear to Jesus’s family that they are in a relationship, is interrupted each time by Jesus, who is ashamed and seems in doubt about his sexuality—and also has to decide whether or not to take on the role of savior of humanity.
The satirical special has now become a target for religious conservatives, who have organized an online petition with more than 2 million signatures demanding the censorship of the episode, that the comedians be "held responsible for the crime of vilification of the faith," and that Netflix issue a "public retraction, for they have seriously offended Christians.”
Federal Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro—son of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro—tweeted that "we are in favor of freedom of expression, but is it worth attacking the faith of 86% of the population?”
Fundamentalist religious political leaders and opponents of pro-LGBT agendas in the São Paulo Legislative Assembly (Alesp) started gathering signatures to call for the opening of a CPI (Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry) to investigate the comedy group's alleged crime against religious sentiment; they argue in a video that the comedians "take away the spiritual value of the sacred conception and disdain the trajectory of Jesus" and "attack and vilify religions.”
On Tuesday, at the Federal Chamber of Representatives in Brasília, the Science and Technology Commission approved a request to invite a representative of Netflix to provide clarification about the episode. Meanwhile, evangelical leaders are calling for a boycott of Netflix.
In Rio de Janeiro, an obscure Catholic fundamentalist organization filed a lawsuit with the Public Prosecutor's Office demanding censorship of the special episode—a position adopted by the prosecutor, who demanded not only censorship, but also payment of a fine of 2 million reais—corresponding to two cents from each Brazilian who professes Catholicism in the country. (The lawsuit was dismissed today.)
The Bolsonaros and many parliamentarians who have shown dissatisfaction with the special have been criticized for defending lax laws around weapons and preaching hatred against minorities, in particular homosexuals. President Bolsonaro, for instance, recently criticized the Supreme Court for ruling on the criminalization of homophobia, and has declared himself a “proud homophobe” and said he would prefer a “dead son to a gay son.”
Since he took office, Bolsonaro has distributed political positions to evangelical and fundamentalist politicians, such as the Minister of Human Rights, Damares Alves, who has been accused of child abduction by indigenous tribes and once said she saw Jesus in a guava tree. Religious agendas contrary to human rights have been gaining ground all over the country. Several government members have declared themselves to be in a Christian Crusade and fighting "cultural Marxism" in order to defend family values.
On Twitter, actor and Porta dos Fundos member Fábio Porchat responded to criticism by saying, “Guys, you can let me work it out with God, that's fine, you don't have to worry about it. Now you can get angry again with the inequality that destroys our country. But you have to be outraged with equal passion, okay?”
Ironically, the controversy only seems to have helped publicize the special episode,which has now become the most viewed Brazilian production in the history of Netflix—and a new special has already been ordered for 2020.
This is the second year Netflix has offered a Christmas special with the comedy group Porta dos Fundos, which became famous for their videos on YouTube, and their 2018 special, which won the Emmy for best comedy, showed the apostles with a major hangover after a night of drinking wine, trying to find a missing Jesus. That episode, called "The Last Hangover” was a clear reference to the 2009 film The Hangover—and was not the subject of protests of equal magnitude.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.