If you had to choose five celebrities whom you thought were least likely to have a spiritual encounter with Jesus, who would be on your list? It’s an interesting thought experiment, isn’t it?
One who might have made my list is the British comedian/actor perhaps most famous for being Katy Perry’s ex-husband: Russell Brand. He built his bacchanalian brand of celebrity on Howard Stern-like shock comedy, the kind that boldly goes where others won’t, the kind that filled his two graphically raunchy movies, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and its sequel, Get Him to the Greek.
For years, the heavy-drinking, hard-partying Brand exploited infamously excessive escapades in his comedy shtick. But a funny thing happened along the way: He got sober. A 12-step program helped him realize that his indulgent strategies for filling the hole inside him weren’t getting the job done. Instead, he realized that he needed … Jesus?
In a recent, extensive interview with Relevant, Brand talked about his spiritual journey. And he also talked about how his own addictions are mirrored in a Western culture that’s similarly hungry to find meaning and personal fulfillment.
Brand told Relevant’s Jesse Carey,
There’s a famous quote: “Every man who knocks on a brothel door, he’s looking for God.” Crack houses and these dens of suffering and illicit activity, they’re all people trying to feel good, trying to feel connected. People are trying to escape. People are trying to get out of their own heads. To me, this is a spiritual impetus.
Regarding that driving need to fill the void inside, Brand observes, “Everything we do can be colored by this unconscious belief that we can make ourselves feel better with external stuff, be it behavior or chemicals.”
In the interview, Brand talks about his own connection to Jesus using language that might at first seem a bit off-putting, or even New Age-y. “If Christ consciousness is not accessible to us, then what is the point of the story of Jesus, you know?”
But when he explains further what he’s talking about, it seems as if he is indeed talking about a relationship with Jesus in which his thinking, values and beliefs are being radically reshaped:
Unless Christ is right here, right now, in your heart, in your consciousness, then what is Christ? … I do think a spiritual and transcendent change is required for people to be free from addiction. And by spiritual change, I mean the transition from one’s life being predicated on self-fulfillment to a life predicated on service, which for me is a moment-to-moment struggle.
Russell Brand never comes right and says, “I believe in Jesus” or, “I have accepted Him as my Lord and Savior”—in other words, using the kind of language North American evangelicals might be used to hearing from someone who has had a life-changing encounter with Christ. That said, it seems as if this formerly infamous “wild child” has had an encounter with Jesus that has fundamentally changed his perspective on, well, just about everything.
And that’s a powerful reminder that Jesus’ life and teachings can confront and redeem anyone who takes them seriously—even someone we might have expected to be the last person on earth to take Him seriously.