HomeCommentaryMaking sense of the ‘nonsense’

Making sense of the ‘nonsense’

Pura Luka Vega’s drag presentation of Jesus the Nazarene may be just a joke to one “sidelined” Catholic, but I doubt many well-meaning Catholics would find it funny. 

I remember once Britain’s Prince Harry donned a Nazi uniform during a costume party. Not everyone was amused by his choice of clothes. 

The problem with humor is that there is always a limit or boundary. In my college moral philosophy class, we were constantly reminded that “freedom of one ends where the freedom of another begins.”

Whether it is a joke or not, there should be a limit. Not everything or everyone is subject to jokes. Humor is essential to living, but it does not make everything humorous. 

Boundaries define our individuality but, indeed, underline also our uniqueness. Each individual, then, is a variant and worth the respect of everyone.

A Rappler commentator (Esmaquell II, 2023) seemed to downplay the impact of Veda’s drag presentation by recalling the incarnation theology. He argued from the point of view of the Jesuits to “find God in all things”. 

Everything is sacred, even people’s feelings. It is not that Jesus’ incarnation is reduced to humor, nor is humor reduced to Jesus’ incarnation. 

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While perhaps Jesus laughed at his time’s religious and political institutions, he never just mocked them. He was more of a reformer from within, a “loyal dissent” to borrow Sartre’s phrase. 

I doubt Luka Vega can perform the same concept with our Muslim brothers and sisters without being mobbed.

In another Rappler article, the author asked, “Christ could be queer?” (Cornelio, 2023). One of the arguments is that Vega’s act was almost considered revolutionary – giving voice to the oppressed. 

For the Church, that is water under the bridge already. At no other time in its 2000-year history has she upheld inclusivity ever since, as demonstrated now by Pope Francis’ preaching? 

We fought for equal rights for women, just wages, the dignity of labor, human rights, justice and peace – even before governments developed. 

Lately, the Church tolerated dissent to hear the marginal voices of her members. The spirit of universal brotherhood and ‘synodality’ roots the Church back to its early beginnings.

As an institution, the Church promotes what Vega supposedly tried to champion. If Vega dared to perform that drag, it was due to the freedom platform backed by the Catholic Church.

Even now, she is protected by the right to self-expression advocated by the Church. If Pura Luka Vega’s intent is purely mental or psychological, namely, for his “healing”, then the drag woman is a fraud – “the end doesn’t justify the means”.

One does not have to destroy another’s faith or offend the individual just to heal oneself. In Vega’s performance, more faithful are being dragged than edified. 

“Why did I get personally offended?,” asked a dear friend of mine as she viewed the performance.

Another ethical principle said, “Bonum ex in integra causa.” It means for a deed to be good, it should be good in its entirety. 

Obviously, there is an abuse done by the presenter, capitalizing on the welcoming gesture of the Church to heed all the voices of the marginalized. 

The “gender card” that Vega presented does not hold water. We have been fighting for all the oppressed. In our diocese, we created an apostolate specifically for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Why blame the religious institution when the problem of reception of the gay community is beyond religion? Perhaps, Vega should reconsider her choice of art. 

The Church is not perfect at all. We are way far from the realization of the Kingdom of God. As an extension of the mission of Christ, the Church cares for all especially those living in the margins. 

While we continue to accept the challenge of being the “salt of the earth”, it will still take longer for us to purify ourselves and convince the world. 

Ecclesia semper reformanda: the Church always reforms herself. Vega’s performance is an ardent call to do the overdue and long-term mission work of integral evangelization. 

The good thing is that, with faith and reason, we are headed in the right direction. If there is anything right with Vega’s performance, it confirms the Church’s resolve to fight for the oppressed and build a world of justice and peace – the reign of God.

Fr. Raymond Montero-Ambray is the Ecology Ministry director and head of the LGBTQIA+ apostolate in the Diocese of Tandag in the southern Philippines. The priest is a staunch environmental and Indigenous Peoples’ rights activist. 

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