“The First Temptation of Jesus”, Netflix And The Protest

Sometimes, the more we try to sound woke and well informed, the more we sound dizzy and ignorant. This is the case of lots of people as they dish out opinions on the ongoing heat against Netflix and the content they are streaming titled “The First Temptation of Jesus” where Jesus was depicted as gay or meddling with a gay, where God was portrayed as someone who was in an illicit relationship with a weed-smoking Mary where Joseph is an unsuccessful carpenter. The movie is a satire in the sense that it aims to use humour to paint Christianity as foolish.

The movie extremely ridiculed what Christianity holds dear and made a mockery of important characters in Christianity. In the registration of their disagreement, some public figures in Brazil and all over the world are pushing suggestions for the total boycott of Netflix in the Christian community while some are signing petitions to stop the movie from continuing on Netflix. Since that call was made, some people have risen up to heavily criticize it citing that Netflix is not the Bible that explains who God is to us. Their opinion is based on the fact that Netflix isn’t a religious media outfit.

First, I totally agree to some extent. I have watched several faith-based documentaries on Netflix that broadened my perspective as much as I have watched some annoying contents. Netflix is simply into business, their aim is to keep their audience entertained, Netflix is more of an entertainment platform than it is an educative platform. They simply want to sell and as long as they sell, they are happy! Netflix is a secular media outfit and so anything should be expected. Netflix streams contents we hold dear, they also stream contents we despise. Many channels are like that, they would show contents with diverging opinions. Such channels are secular channels and may air diverse contents just to keep their diverse audience entertained. Their contents are not their opinion just as many opinions that YouTube allowed on their channels aren’t the opinions of YouTube.

It is also worthy to note that Netflix indicated that the movie is “irrelevant” which means that it is extremely disrespectful, disdainful and may be offensive. Netflix is simply into business even as caution should not be thrown into the wind.

I don’t know what the producers of that satire want to achieve with it but I disagree with the criticism against those who called for a boycott of Netflix. Have we not always voiced our disapproval of removing of CRK from school curriculum? Have we not always voiced our disapproval of suspending school morning devotions? Have we not raised concerns about the introduction of various things that questions what we stand for as believers, especially for the sake of our kids which usually makes up the majority? I believe the call for a boycott doesn’t mean that Netflix ought to be a reliable place for doctrine, it is simply a call to register our disagreement which is not totally out of place.

I remember some time ago when a certain digital network wanted to introduce a pornography channel in Nigeria, this channel was meant to entertain only those who subscribed to it but there was a massive protest against it. There are people who find nothing wrong with pornography, there are many people in Nigeria waiting for such channel and will be willing to subscribe to it but many others who protested it was considering the emotional damage that may be associated with it, they are considering that Nigeria is full of people who are very sensitive to some things. It wasn’t totally out of place to protest it.

I know again that many would protest in Nigeria if a mere debate to lift the ban on homosexual and gay activities is brought into the senate but there are people who find nothing wrong with it. So, people will always register their disapproval for what they find problematic.

History is very kind to us that we have lots of historical facts about Jesus and many other notable Biblical figures, we have the Bible written by humans who we believe were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write them. Some of the things written in the Bible has been proven by archaeological evidence, by supporting documents from other sources and by common sense. A satirical work is not enough to disprove these facts, it cannot replace the truth we know.

One of the “sick” things to do is criticize people who want to boycott Netflix. Yes, Netflix doesn’t define God, we don’t know God via Netflix neither are the producers of the movie Bible teachers. Their opinion will not change Christianity, it will only give more grounds for people who don’t like Christianity to find means of mocking the faith. But it is very insensitive to criticise those who called for a boycott of Netflix because they don’t agree with Netflix giving voice to the satire. If people want to register their disagreement by taking mass actions, it is not out of place. We protested the introduction of homosexual and transgender materials in schools, we know the mess young people are facing in some schools in the UK and the US because they have been exposed to various kinds of materials. What makes the boycott of Netflix any different?

Netflix is a very powerful media platform, they are serving the people and if those they are serving decides that they aren’t cool with a certain content they are putting up, it is not a problem, they simply registered their dissatisfaction and whether their demands are met or not, they have relieved their burden by protesting what they feel isn’t right.

The boycott and signing of petitions against the movie may not be a fight for God, we aren’t fighting to protect God’s image, he doesn’t need protection. We are rather reacting to our own feelings. We are human being with emotions, we have the right to stay away from anything that hurts our emotion. On social media, sometimes, we block those who seem to be posting sensitive contents that disturb us emotionally, why then do we criticize those who feel boycotting Netflix is to the best of their interest?

On the other hand, I also think that those calling for the boycott shouldn’t make other Christians who don’t want to follow suit feel guilty. Personally, I have always read books that heavily criticized Christianity, I have accessed and even ordered materials that seem to be at odds with what I believe. I have read Islamic books, some occultic books, some opinions of atheists and I once ordered for certain materials on Eckankar which was sent to me from their headquarters with a letter signed by Harold Klemp himself.

Sometimes, after going through these books, I see the huge loopholes in their arguments, I see the terrible wrong perceptions they have and it helps me address it from a well-informed stand. Not everyone is emotionally and intellectually strong for this though and I don’t expect everyone to do what I do. I don’t even encourage the weak minds and the simple to digest certain contents. For some, boycotting Netflix is satisfactory, for some, not watching the movie is enough justice and for yet another person, watching the movie and speaking against it from a well-informed standpoint is better.

We must learn to live and let live. The call for a boycott is not out of place, mounting pressure on people and making them feel guilty for not boycotting is out of place though. On the other hand, criticizing and making a mockery of those who registered their disagreement and dislike by boycotting Netflix and signing the petition is sick to me. We are humans, we have the right to protest against what is hurting our emotions. Maybe, Netflix will respond if the call for a boycott is affecting their business negatively. If it another mode of publicity, then, they are enjoying the whole drama. Controversy is good for business sometimes.

On another note…

I read an opinion that argued that Christians who are signing petitions against the movie on Netflix are plain stupid. He wrote that it was the same Christians who painted witchcraft and paganism bad. I want to say a few things about that.

The world is evolving and in the past, there were lots of barbaric and cannibalistic behaviours that surrounded many pagan traditions. It wasn’t peculiar to Africa, every part of the world including Britain and Rome once practised paganism. Some of the practices of paganism are at odds with what we know today as human rights. We shouldn’t pretend like we don’t know how Christianity brought education, awareness and some sort of security to Africa in particular. We shouldn’t pretend like we don’t know how Christian missionaries risked their own lives, left their comfort to bring what they believe is light to parts of the world, many of them died in the process. We ought to appreciate the selfless sacrifices these people made.

You don’t even need to be a Christian to know that some ancient traditional practices shouldn’t have a place anymore in this modern age, you don’t have to be a Christian to object the killing of twins, the oppression women faced, the mutilation of the girl-child’s genitals and the rest of other practices.

Logically, if anyone still thinks that Christians or anyone else didn’t or aren’t doing the right thing by sharing their faith, they have the right to ignore it but to the best of my knowledge, Christianity wasn’t forced on Africans, there was no Christian Holy-War in Africa. Were we brainwashed? If we were, should be blaming those who brainwashed us or should we blame ourselves for not being intelligent enough? To say Africans were brainwashed is the same as saying that Africans aren’t intelligent enough.

Nobody was pressured into accepting Christianity. Christianity didn’t come from the colonial Masters. While the colonial masters saw an opportunity to colonise people, missionaries saw opportunities to reach people with the gospel. It wasn’t the colonial masters that brought Christianity. At some point, Christian missionaries were even persecuted by colonial masters and prevented to reach even more people. India was colonized but the majority are still practising Hindu because there was some sort of ban on missionary activities, Nigeria was colonized but the north still has the majority as Muslims.

Missionaries and Colonizers came in different ships for different purposes. While colonizers were feasting off the proceeds of the slave trade, Christian missionaries were buying off some of these slaves, paying for their freedom, campaigning against the slave trade and bringing education to interior parts of Africa.

So,  the comparison of “The First Temptation of Jesus” on Netflix as a revenge for what missionaries did in Africa is so unfair. Many Africans who write against Christianity were beneficiaries of the education that came with Christianity. In fact, some of them were schooled and given quality academic education in schools established by missionaries.

We should learn to live and let live.

My consolation is this; boycott or no boycott, darkness will always be proven wrong. I am seeing a generation rising, God is raising men and women, boy and girls and even babies who are making full proof of ministry. The transformation that comes from the gospel, the peace and joy of salvation is enough proof that we have a loving God who is in the business of transforming lives and that is our hope. It is this same Jesus that many who had promoted falsehood encountered and started preaching Jesus. Can’t you see it? Darkness is being plundered every day, more and more people are coming to the knowledge of Christ. We don’t expect darkness to keep calm, they are reacting to the hurt and humiliations. Yeah, the Church without walls is on the rise, stampeding on darkness, taking no notice of gates and with mountains melting like wax as they move!