Scottish teachers union sparks outrage over plans for transgender Jesus play

Trans-identified actor Joe Clifford performs in his play, 'The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven.'
Trans-identified actor Joe Clifford performs in his play, "The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven." | Screengrab: Vimeo/arts-news

A Scottish teachers union's decision to promote a controversial play depicting Jesus Christ as transgender in celebration of June, what LGBT activists call "Pride Month," has outraged Christians who've long opposed the play, noting that “true biblical Christianity is becoming marginalized through political correctness.”

The union, called Education Institute of Scotland, which claims to represent around 80% of the country’s lecturers and teachers, plans to hold an LGBT event where they will feature excerpts of “The Gospel According to Jesus Queen of Heaven,” as the production is titled, according to The Christian Institute.

The play, which will be featured as part of a "Pride" event, “School’s Almost Out! Celebrate Pride,” on June 17, “invites us to imagine Jesus coming back to Earth in the present day as a trans woman,” the EIS says.

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The play’s creator, Jo Clifford, a man who identifies as female and says he also identifies his religion as Christian, says the play recreates biblical stories with a “different slant.”

“The play imagines a transgender Jesus coming back to the world today,” Clifford told BBC News in a previous interview. “She pitches a sermon and tells a few very familiar Gospel stories.”

Clifford added, “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.”

In 2016, a Church of England church in Manchester hosted the controversial play a year after it featured in a publicly-funded LGBT event in Northern Ireland.

Former Church of England Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali responded to the play at the time, saying, “It is quite clear from the Gospels that the identity of Jesus is male, His ‘mum’ is Mary and he always refers to God as ‘Father,’ so to suggest otherwise is contrary to Christian teaching.”

The production caused sizeable controversy when it was performed in Scotland in 2009, with close to 300 protesters rallying in opposition by candlelight outside a theater in Glasgow.

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.”

During the 2009 protest, Pastor Jack Bell of Zion Baptist Church in Glasgow said a theatrical play would not dare use Islamic figures in the same way. “If this play had treated the [Islamic] prophet Muhammed in the same way there would have been a strong reaction from the Islamic community, but that just wouldn't happen.”

Bell added, “You can’t blaspheme God and use freedom of speech as an excuse for that. True biblical Christianity is becoming marginalized through political correctness.”

Clifford said at the time that criticism was coming from people who had never actually seen the play and only assumed that it would be offensive to the Church.

“As a practicing Christian myself, I have no interest in attacking the church or mocking the church or make fun of the church or in any way being blasphemous or offensive,” the actor and playwright said at the time. “I simply want to assert very strongly, as strongly as I can, that Jesus of the Gospels would not in any way wish to attack or denigrate people like myself.”

In 2018, when the play ran in Brazil, conservative Christians asserted in petitions that “the performance of this horrific spectacle is equal to the persecution suffered by Christians in the first centuries when they were thrown to wild animals in the arenas of Rome as a form of entertainment.”

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