A play depicting Jesus as a transgendered woman has opened in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The work has caused controversy before, but the playwright insists it teaches the Lord’s message and reminds the audience what Jesus was ‘really like’.
‘The Gospel According to Jesus Queen of Heaven’ was created by Jo Clifford, who identifies as a practicing Christian woman. As a playwright, he specializes in recreating biblical stories with a “different slant”.
The play is featuring as part of the ‘Outburst Queer Arts Festival‘ in Belfast. It features the Lord Jesus Christ as a transgendered woman returning to modern day society.
Clifford told the BBC: “She [Jesus] pitches a sermon and tells a few very familiar gospel stories.”
“She has a communion, shares bread and wine with the audience, which is really a gesture of solidarity in the face of death and she gives a blessing. So it’s a very important, very intimate show.”
Explaining his reasons for writing and performing such a show, Mr. Clifford says:
“Obviously being a transgender woman myself it concerns me very greatly that religious people so often use Christianity as a weapon to attack us and justify the prejudices against us.
“I wanted to see if we could move away from that and make people think again.”
Predictably, not everyone was a fan of the production. Mr. Clifford said a group of 300 protesters held a candlelit vigil outside a theatre in Glasgow in 2009 when it was performed.
The demonstrators sang hymns and carried placards with messages reading: “Jesus, King of Kings, Not Queen of Heaven” and “God: My Son Is Not A Pervert.”
Pastor Jack Bell of Zion Baptist Church in Glasgow said at the 2009 protest:
“If this play had treated the prophet Muhammed in the same way there would have been a strong reaction from the Islamic community, but that just wouldn’t happen.”
Mr. Clifford defended the play: “As a practising Christian myself, I have no interest in attacking the church or mocking the church or make fun of the church or in anyway being blasphemous or offensive,” he said.
Adding: “I simply want to assert very strongly, as strongly as I can that Jesus of the gospels would not in anyway wish to attack or denigrate people like myself.”
Mr. Clifford said his play was in keeping with the message of Jesus:
“I think it’s very important to get across the message that Jesus of the gospels would not condone or want to promote prejudice and discrimination against anybody and to try to convey a message of compassion and love and understanding of everybody,” he said.
Adding: “No matter what their belief, no matter what their gender, orientation or sexuality”.
In an interview given at the Edinburgh Fringe festival in 2014, Clifford describes the play as a “work of devotion” meant to remind people of what Jesus was “really like”.