A controversial play depicting a transgender Jesus Christ coming back to the Earth and retelling famous biblical stories is set to show in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
"The Gospel According to Jesus Queen of Heaven," as the production is titled, is slated to be performed on Nov. 15 at the Outburst Queer Arts Festival in Belfast. Its creator, who identifies as a practicing Christian transgender woman, says the play recreates biblical stories with a "different slant."
"The play imagines a transgender Jesus coming back to the world today," Jo Clifford explained, according to BBC News. "She 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," Clifford added.
"So it's a very important, very intimate show."
A preview of the play on the Outburst festival website calls it a "revolutionary queer ritual in which bread is shared, wine is drunk and familiar stories are re-imagined by a transgender Jesus."
The production caused sizeable controversy when it was staged in 2009, with close to 300 protesters rallying in opposition by candlelight outside a theater in Glasgow, Scotland.
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, during the 2009 protest, that a theatrical play would not dare use Islamic figures in the same way.
"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."
"You can't blaspheme God and use freedom of speech as an excuse for that," Bell said in 2009. "True biblical Christianity is becoming marginalized through political correctness."
Clifford argued that criticism is coming from people who have never actually seen the play and only assume 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 anyway being blasphemous or offensive," the writer said.
"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."