On the heels of a denouncement by Pope Francis that journalists are peddling fake news, I was recently reading a feature article by a popular Christian magazine, intimating that Russell Brand had become a Christian. The language was subtle but the message seemed clear. Brand believes that Christ’s teaching is “more relevant now than they’ve ever been”.
Wow, that sounds really great!
Well, the vast majority of readers who responded thought so. Comments on that article were mostly other Christians offering an “Atta boy, Russell!” or “Welcome to the family, brother in Christ!” Hundreds of people left messages just like this, likely feeling warm fuzzies at the thought that Russell Brand is now eternally safe in the arms of Jesus.
But maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s take a closer look.
If you know anything about him, you know that Russell Brand was a hard-drinking, drug-doing, prostitute-purchasing party guy who was in the spotlight and the tabloids for years. Shock comedy and foul language were his own personal brand. The dirtier, the better.
Giving credit where it’s due, Brand has made significant changes in his life over the past decade or so. Crashing hard from his wild lifestyle, Brand accepted help through an intervention after he was found shooting heroin at a Christmas party. He credits a version of the 12-step program with assisting him on the road to recovery.
The fact that Brand has cleaned up his act and become a family man is a huge step forward. Really, he deserves kudos. There’s no question that his earthly life is now better and less destructive than it was before.
But being a person recovered from addiction doesn’t exactly equate him with being a Christian.
Now, I’m not saying that God isn’t powerful enough to save guys like Russell Brand. Of course, He is! And lest you start thinking I believe myself to be something I am not, I am fully aware that I’m not the eternal judge and only God knows a person’s heart. But I do believe (and the Bible teaches) that people show outward signs of their inward relationship with Jesus.
It’s true that in various interviews and speaking engagements, Russell Brand is a grand proponent of meditation, spirituality, and even the teachings of Jesus.
For instance, early in 2018 Brand published a YouTube video where he speaks (very graphically with much profane language) against addiction and the pleasures of this world. He promotes the idea that humans shouldn’t feel bad in life and happiness is resourced from within.
In the previous article I mentioned by the Christian magazine, Brand talks about the world being broken. He speaks of humanity desperately in need of the “message of Jesus”.
I deeply want to believe that Russell Brand has been saved by Jesus! Don’t you?
Sadly, after reading and listening to Brand speak about his “spirituality”, I think that he is probably a person who desperately needs, but has not yet found, a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
But wait a minute—didn’t Brand just say he was a Christian?
Actually no, he didn’t.
What Brand did say is that the 12-step program encouraged him and his fellow recovering addicts to turn their will and their lives over to the care of God “as we understood Him.”
Although he really doesn’t like all of the religious talks, Brand now confesses to using some Christian language and practices. He attributes this to his upbringing in the Christian culture of the UK so that the “language of prayer” he uses is Christian. Specifically, he mentions the Lord’s Prayer.
Going a bit further, Brand notes that the Christian service and “values” make him feel at peace. The teachings of Jesus have helped him understand modern cultural addictions. He even seeks to find a level of “Christ-consciousness.”
So, to summarize, Brand considers spirituality to be important, sometimes uses Christian language and practices, embraces Christian values, agrees with some of the teachings of Jesus, and aims to find “Christ-consciousness.”
That should be good, right? Yes, except that he also dabbles in many other spiritual and religious realms.
Over the past couple of decades, in what seems to be an earnest search for relevance, Brand has been an avid seeker and supporter of various religious and spiritual things. He used to be a Buddhist and has previously talked of the Dalai Lama as the “living incarnation of Buddha”. His wedding ceremony to Katy Perry was of the Hindu persuasion and many of the spiritual tenants about which he still speaks follow along those lines. For years he regularly attended Hare Krishna services.
Brand now seems to consider the 12-steps as the answer to his religious needs. He recently wrote a book, Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions, explaining the steps in his own unique way.
Even so, the spiritual buzz words Brand flings about might lead us to believe that he identifies with Christ. And I think maybe he does in the sense that he sees Jesus as a good teacher and a prophet. But we need to listen more carefully.
When I put all of his spiritual verbiage together, it paints a picture of a person who is certainly a seeker of spiritual and religious things but hasn’t directly identified Jesus as the Only Way to the Father. Brand talks of the teachings and the message of Jesus, without ever identifying with Jesus as the Son of God or Savior. Brand goes on about the “kingdom of heaven on earth” but sadly he does not currently claim a faith in the only King Jesus who can usher him into the kingdom.
We don’t get to pick and choose our beliefs from a smorgasbord of options. With Jesus, it’s all or nothing. And Brand’s words do not indicate that Jesus is all, through his words or through his actions.
Sure, he seems to be committed to his wife now and they have a lovely child. He wants to be a good father. He is trying to do good things and help people. And those are all great things! But he continues to be critical, loud-mouthed, and somewhat narcissistic, speaking with profanity that could make the angels of hell blush. His current standup comedy routine does not even show a hint of a person who loves Jesus. From his actions and his words, it seems he’s still missing the mark.
But maybe he’s closer than he used to be. Russell Brand is on a journey where he seems to be aware of some sort of spiritual need. Hopefully, that journey will lead him into a right relationship with Christ as his Savior. I desperately want that to be true and I believe God does too!
However, from what I can surmise from his media presence (and, shockingly, I do not know him personally) Brand is not quite there yet.
But from what I can see, Brand is on a journey and I can respect that. I deeply appreciate how far he’s come and I wouldn’t judge him for not having “arrived”. His story still inspires me. Overcoming addiction is no small thing.
What really gets me in this scenario is the fact that a corner of the Christian publishing world is touting Brand on the cover of their magazine and making it seem like he is a converted Christian. This is confusing in a couple of ways.
It could be misleading personally for Brand as the magazine’s blatant approval of him might make him think his theology is correct and he has found the right answers. I mean, they titled the article “The Second Coming of Russell Brand” for goodness sake…. If a Christian magazine approves of you, it must mean you’re eternally secure, right?
Even more disappointing and destructive, this type of sensationalism is misleading to the Christian readership and general public. Was it intentional? I don’t know. But we journalists (especially Christian journalists!) have the responsibility to make sure that we are reporting the truth and not twisting it into something even marginally deceptive — no matter how popular it is and how many clicks it gets.
And that’s what Pope Francis was talking about recently when he asked journalists to stop engaging in disinformation and other “sins of the media”. I don’t always agree with the pope but, in this case, I think he has a point.