Hey Christian, don’t be tempted to cancel your Netflix account because the streaming service is airing the blasphemous comedy The First Temptation of Christ. Yep it makes a mockery of the sacred, comes at Christmas time, and presents Jesus as gay. And yep, there’s a huge move afoot to get it cancelled, with petitions all over the place.
But still, don’t become part of the cancer that is cancel culture in our deeply riven society. We’re not the book burners. Let the secularists who hate the gospel do that. Let them burn and no-platform and cancel. We don’t need to do that because we’re confident that the truth can more than hold its own and shines all the brighter in the face of the darkness.
And if you are going to cancel your Netflix account then don’t do it on the basis of a blasphemous show you will never be, er, tempted, to watch. Do so on the basis of the sexually explicit or gratuitously violent show you are tempted to watch or are even planning to watch this very evening.
This is not to say that the series is not lamentable. It’s by Brazilian Youtube comedy group, Porta dos Fundos and contains a pot smoking Mary and an ostensibly gay Jesus who brings a gay friend back home with him for his thirtieth birthday.
It’s supposed to be comedy, though when Christianity is the easiest of easy targets these days from the woke crowd, it’s probably not all that funny. Understandably many religiously observant Brazilians have signed the petition to have the show removed.
And of course, the stars of the show, and those involved, have now said that the protests are actually because those against the show are homophobic. Oh, and not committed to freedom of speech. See? Christians are the problem all along.
Be that as it may, don’t cancel your Netflix subscription. And don’t sign the petition. We’re not going to be the outraged, cancel-it-or-else crew. That’s for others to do who are scared that the truth might out them.
But deeper than that, why not cancel? Because for every piece of Netflix dross such as The First Temptation of Jesus, there is a stunning, eviscerating episode of The Crown called Aberfan, which tears your heart, wells up your eyes, and shows what real religious protest looks like in the face of a horrific tragedy.
I dare you not to be emotionally riven by the sight of the coal mining community of Aberfan singing Jesu’ Lover Of My Soul standing on the edge of a mass grave lined with the coffins of their little ones. Little ones swept away when their school classrooms were engulfed by a mountainous wall of coal slurry that loomed outside the town.
I dare your heart not to break with the dialogue that ensues, when later that day the Queen, who did not attend the memorial, asks her husband Prince Phillip who went in her place: “Did you weep?”
I watched this episode sitting in the Sydney lounge of my friends David and Annabel. Our eyes glistened with tears as we sat spellbound and almost distraught. The prince replies tersely as he opens letters on his desk:
Did I weep? What kind of question is that?
Just a question. Did you weep?
The Queen by this stage is starting to tremble.
I might have wept, yes. Are you going to tell me it was inappropriate? The fact is anyone who heard that hymn today would not just have wept. They would have been broken into a thousand tiny pieces.
The look of anguish and remorse on the Queen’s face as her husband goes back to opening his letters is the look you would have had on your face. Such is the dynamic of amazingly well written, powerfully conceived drama. The episode ends with the queen…. well, if you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it for you.
But here’s the fact. A piece of sordid fluff like The First Temptation of Christ won’t stick in your memory like a burr. It won’t ignite a sense of the need for purpose and meaning and a hope beyond the grave. It won’t do that precisely because it is sordid. Precisely because it is mocking what is joyful and sober and true.
Scenes from The First Temptation of Christ, with all its innuendo, won’t flash before your eyes one day walking down the street holding the hand of your child, like scenes from Aberfan will. Prince Phillip’s words will ring in your ears as you wonder how you would respond if it were your child in Aberfan that fateful day. The cheap laughs of some Brazilian one-trick comedy sketch won’t make you pause and wonder, and perhaps even tremble.
To be honest, that’s happened to me several times with my own son in the aftermath of that episode. I have trembled as I walked along ruffling his curly dark mop of hair on the way to the swimming pool.
I have felt a hand clutch my heart as I watch him on the guitar stool in the music shop, him riffing on the guitar that is hopelessly out of his price range, while I simultaneously marvel at his presence, and fear any sudden tragic absence. That episode did for me for sure.
In due time the emotional weight of a Netflix show like The Crown will descend on its free-loading, weightless co-tenant The First Temptation of Christ and sweep it away like a tsunami of coal slurry, burying it deep under truthful and forceful immensity.
For the fact is we are all co-tenants with such free-loading weightlessness. It’s there all of the time as we walk down the street, open a browser, listen to a less than savoury conversation at work. Weightlessness is what you get when transcendence – true transcendence – is gone. We try to recreate weightiness, but fail time and time again. Truth itself is weighty. Just give truth an airing and its holy weight will sweep all else away.
Weightlessness is our everyday experience, and we’re going to have to get more and more used to the holy being profaned. More and more used to being seen as the problem and not the solution. But we will not cancel. We will not cancel. We are confident that the good will one day sweep over the bad, and that one day all who mock the Lord Jesus will bow their knees in homage before him.
Besdies there’s every chance, that an episode like Aberfan could unleash a cascade in someone’s heart who, tired as they are of all the sordid temptations, standing at the graveside of their own hopes and dreams, needs Jesus to be the true lover of their soul.
So don’t cancel Netflix. The Saviour of the world wends his way through many a Netflix series, despite attempts like this Brazilian comedy to cancel him.