The Church of England Shocks with Depiction of Jesus as a Recovering Addict

By Valerie Tejeda 03/29/16

The church's goal for the short film that depicts Jesus as a recovering addict with a crown of syringes is to spread a message of hope.

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The Church of England Shocks with Images of Jesus as a Drug Addict
Still From "He is Risen" Photo via YouTube/Just Pray

If you're familiar with the traditional religious images surrounding Easter Sunday, seeing Jesus as a drug addict may seem a bit unorthodox. But “shock value” is what the Church of England is aiming for in a new holiday advertisement and short film titled He is Risen! 

Going a more controversial route, the advertisement depicts Jesus as a recovering drug addict who is wearing a crown of thorns made from syringes. The film is based on text from Psalm 22 which includes the lines, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” This is all part of the Church’s Just Pray campaign; it is a modern-day reenactment of the Passion play, with the goal of spreading the message that there is hope to triumph over struggle, and also appeal to the homeless, the criminals, and the drug addicted. 

"From bereavement to addiction, from homelessness to imprisonment, Easter is a reminder that suffering doesn't have the last word and that love is more powerful than the grave. Each of the stories is a testimony to the fact that love wins," said Rev. Arun Arora, director of communications for the Church of England. "As the Church across the globe celebrates Easter day we wanted to make a film that highlighted the stories of individuals who have come through suffering to the Easter joy of faith in Jesus."

Playing Jesus is 46-year-old Rob Jones, who served time in prison before changing his life by getting clean and attending church. “I haven’t died but I feel like I’ve been resurrected away from a life of crime and trouble to peace, love, understanding, calmness,” said Jones.

Besides Jones, the advertisement includes others who have recently turned their lives around—including Emma, a 24-year-old who struggled with self-harming, alcoholism and drug abuse; Howard, a 40-year-old man who has been in and out of prison on drug charges; and Brenda, a local white witch who recently converted to Christianity—all people who are glad to spread their message of a new found hope in their lives. 

“Our brief to the filmmaker was to reflect the doubt and forsakenness that life throws at you and to track the journey from grim reality and to bleed into the color of joy,” said Arora. “We are delighted with the result which reflects the journey into joy.”

Though the images in the film can be startling to some, the Church of England hoped their message reached people in attendance on Easter Sunday.

Check out the short film below:

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix, Salon.com, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.

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