I find the Netflix ‘Gay Jesus’ film more enlightening than the outrage caused by it. Should art be produced only for art sake or ideology-laden such that artists, under the guise of liberalism unbridled, be allowed to make works of arts, indifferent to the seditious, offensive and ‘blasphemous’ elements contained therein?
I begin with a story of my early student days abroad and the stint I had as Amazon co-worker. I had a Muslim friend who had this quirk of shredding books and disposing of them secretly in trash bin. He confessed to me that other than our works of stowing away books for prospective buyers, he is on a lookout for books that profaned his religion and shreds them. It made absolutely no meaning to me that one could go such extreme and fight for his religion. I tried to talk him out of his hobby of literature crusade, but to no avail.
Only a week ago, I was chatting in a Facebook group and contested a proposition made by a philosopher and lo, one guy came under my comment and posted a meme of a humongous ape. I wouldn’t divulge how it all ended.
Why do I have to tell the stories?
I have come to the sad realization that all about what we term ‘knowledge’ is all about nuances. We cherry-pick arguments convenient to our already pre-conceived ideologies, and in the next second, we trash those principles and uphold another. I realized that I could only make pretenses of talking people out of religious fanaticism simply because religion was immaterial to me (after all there is slew of books that treated Christ’s sexuality from being in heterosexual union with Mary Magdalene to this present gay skit) But does that mean I have nothing to turn me to fanatic, be it race or gender in split-second?
You feel good when the discourse is on religion and you advocate that art should be made absolute and there’s nothing wrong with the Jesus portrayal as gay. I accept. But should that principle not be valid for every form of art such that you work into your office tomorrow and see your picture hanging next to a baboon and watch your white colleagues do animal sounds to you? Should that also not be valid for the Nigerian Club owner who worked around with young women on leash and there was media outrage? Or is our intellectualization only reserved for religion and not race or gender?
Here’s my take: To be liberal is virtuous for the postmodern world, but that should not translate to absolute anarchy. You cannot ask for tolerance and be intolerant too. It doesn’t work. You cannot preach liberalism to religious people, and yet themes as gender or race flares you up and it doesn’t matter if the Chinese museums hang pictures of black kids close to apes or H$M outrage of a young boy (picture below) donned in a hood as ‘coolest monkey in the jungle.’ If we want to be absolutist of free speech or art expression, we should become one and it doesn’t matter if it’s a Gay Jesus, pedophile Mohammed, ape you, or women on leash, without further arguments. But if you are selective of your activism and outrage, then do me this favor: go into your room and shut your hypocritical mouth up. You’re not the sole authority to decide what will constitute people’s identity (race, gender, religion, etc), and hold them in contempt. If religion matters to you and you could do all to protect your faith, fine same way if your race and gender matter to you and you cannot make any joke of it, fine too. Don’t go ahead pontificating people how to react to situations for the world does not orbit about you.
By Obi Chinwe