Why are evangelical Christians so upset at a musical that shows Jesus calling himself "a bit gay"? According to the Bible, he was arrested for kissing a man in a public park. By Mark Thomas
Before starting this column, readers should be warned that it contains explicit language throughout. In fact, this 820-word column features the word "fuck" 46,000 times - according to calculations done by evangelical Christians.
The editor would like to issue a second warning to really stupid Christians. Evangelical Christians especially, please be aware that the following column features the word "God" a mere seven words away from the word "evolution".
Their upset at the portrayal of Jesus (a man they believe to be alive 2,000 years after his death) as "a bit gay" is more homophobic than the musical is sacrilegious. And this is in spite of the evidence of their own book, which gives no record of Jesus having a relationship with a woman (other than his virgin mum) and portrays him hanging around with 12 men and being arrested for kissing a bloke in a public park. Smell the coffee, Christians. You are worshipping a man who, if he were alive, would prefer show tunes to hymns and call his disciples "girlfriends".
It seems supremely reasonable to me that Jesus should appear on TV; unlike the BBC, I think it should be on daytime TV. The Bible is littered with dysfunctional families portrayed as role models that at best should feature on Trisha and at worst be sectioned.
One generation into the Creation and Eve is expelled from Eden for the crime of discovering knowledge; then her son kills his brother in a fit of spiritual sibling rivalry. Abraham, the father of not one but three religions, is prepared to kill his own son because God's voice told him to do it - still a popular excuse for serial killers of all religious persuasions today. And Lot, the man whom God saves from the destruction of Sodom, ends up being raped by his twin daughters. This isn't a religious text, this is Brookside!
However, despite all of this, I would like to thank the evangelical Christian Voice, which orchestrated the protests. Thank you as well to those Christians who issued threats to BBC personnel and their families in the name of Jesus - even though their understanding of irony is as advanced as their understanding of the faith they purport to have.
Thank you all for providing a timely reminder of what will happen should Charles Clarke choose to finish off the work proposed by his predecessor at the Home Office and introduce a law criminalising religious hatred. Far from fighting racism, Clarke would be handing bigotry a legal cosh.
Christianity is woven into the fabric of our culture. The very first line of the national anthem asks a deity that doesn't exist to save an institution that shouldn't. By and large our births, marriages, deaths and holidays are Christian.
Yet Christian Voice claims that Christians are being picked on. "They wouldn't do it to the Hindus or the Muslims," cry the evangelical Little Englanders, missing the point that a satire on the morality of US or UK television would hardly work by using Hinduism. If the Church of England was once "the Tory party at prayer", Christian Voice is the UK Independence Party with a tambourine.
Meanwhile, in Whitechapel, another act of censorship was trying to play itself out. The squatted art centre rampART is running an Indian film festival, which it planned at open meetings with Indian film-makers and anyone else who could be bothered to turn up and help out.
The festival opened on 10 January with the documentary Ayodhya to Varanasi: prayers for peace. More than 100 people crammed into the small studio to see it.
The film looked at the far-right Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) and its attempts to mobilise anti-Muslim feeling in Uttar Pradesh, using religion as a cover. It has particular resonance for those who care to recall the genocide in Gujarat just a few years ago.
However, the festival has attracted the displeasure of some far-right Indians, who phoned the organisers and threatened to "firebomb your place, rape your mother and kill you". The rampART website discussion forum has been inundated with threats of retribution from people who claim that the festival is anti-Hindu.
Campaigning associations such as the South Asia Solidarity Group are quite clear that this is an act of political censorship, masked as religious and anti-racist protest. It is, they say, the far-right supporters of the BJP (India's former ruling party) and supporters of the VHP that are using the mask of religious protest for a political purpose - which is to establish a Hindu India, expel Muslims and preserve the caste system.
So no racist agenda there, then.
This article first appeared in the New Statesman. For the latest in current and cultural affairs subscribe to the New Statesman print edition.