A new Netflix special is drawing backlash from a number of Christian organizations due to its depiction of Jesus Christ.
The program, called "The First Temptation of Christ," is a holiday special produced by the Brazillian comedy group Porta dos Fundos (Portuguese for "Back Door"). The outrage surrounding the special — which includes a Change.org page calling for it to be banned from Netflix — has centered largely around the show's portrayal of Jesus as a gay man.
That petition, which has earned nearly 2 million signatures since launching two weeks ago, calls for Porta dos Fundos to be "held responsible for the crime of villainous faith."
"This is sickening, and yet another attack on Christianity," one signee commented on the Change.org page. "We get called bigots by the LGBT, yet, clearly we see who the true bigots are."
Another petition, which was launched by the conservative group CitizenGo and currently has more than 500,000 signatures, called the special a "clear attack to Christianity" and an "unacceptable provocation." Additionally, some religious groups have also weighed in on the special, with the National Conference of Bishops in Brazil releasing a statement that condemns the program.
"Nothing allows anyone the right to vilify people's deeply held beliefs," the statement reads. "The right to freedom of expression does not nullify respect for people and their values."
Porta dos Fundos, meanwhile, has strongly defended the special, calling the criticism "homophobic" and noting that the group is not discouraging people from believing in God. Fábio Porchat, one of the comedy group's co-founders, told Variety that Netflix has supported them through the controversy.
"They [Netflix] haven’t said anything to us like, 'Maybe we should stop making the special available.' They support freedom of speech," Porchat said.
Porchat also noted that the show, which, according to Netflix, centers around an almost-30-year-old Jesus as he brings a "surprise guest" home for the holidays, doesn't explicitly state that its protagonist is gay.
"We play at insinuating that Jesus has a new friend, and probably this new friend is gay, but they have just been having fun and a very good time in the desert for 40 days," Porchat told Variety. "If anybody should be angry with us, it should be the gay community because a gay character turns out to be the Devil."
The comedian added that the special is "almost a Christian fairy tale" as it shows Jesus triumphing over the Devil and choosing to accept his role as the son of God. But Porchat said he thinks the problems with his special don't lie in its themes or morals, but rather the simple fact that some viewers are unwilling to accept a gay Jesus.
"For some Catholics here in Brazil, it’s O.K. if Jesus is a bad guy, uses drugs: That’s no problem," he told Variety. "The problem is he’s gay. And that’s interesting because Jesus is everything. God is black and white and gay and straight... It’s more homophobic to be insulted by a gay Jesus than to make Jesus special."