London, UK — Citing both an attempt to draw more people into the faith and the “undeniable mutability of choosing a celebrity to portray one of the most consequential religious figures in history,” the Unitarian Universalist Association has selected the Willem DaFoe version of Jesus Christ for their liturgies that discuss Christianity.

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“Although we focus on the spiritual growth of our congregation, which might include different approaches to religious experience, we feel that Willem DaFoe’s example fits best with our Seven Principles,” said Reverend Sasha Grey, PTSD, spokesperson for the church. “When you think about it, it’s easier to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior when he looks like Mr. DaFoe, for those who wish to follow that path.”

In the controversial 1988 Martin Scorsese film The Last Temptation of Christ, Jesus, played by Willem Dafoe, is a modest Judean carpenter and is suddenly drawn into revolutionary action against the Roman occupiers by Judas, played by Harvey Keitel. Jesus protests that love, not violence, is the route to salvation. He doubts his role as savior throughout his life. And thoughts of a normal existence entice him with Mary Magdalene (Barbara Hershey) as he’s crucified.

Extending the Controversy

Religious groups at the time vigorously protested what they considered a heretical and blasphemous portrayal of Jesus Christ, particularly how he was depicted as an average man with typical and imperfect desires. A representation the Unitarians say broadens his appeal to a “diverse demographic searching for meaning in their lives.”

According to Rev. Grey, they have no plans to extend the revision to other Hollywood actors like Harvey Keitel and Barbara Hershey in The Last Temptation. Still, they’re not ruling that out either.

“We’re constantly looking to innovate within the association. That said, we’re open to several A/B marketing tests in the future to see what impacts our membership. For example, there’s a good chance you’ll see Spiderman references in some of our literature and during our services. It’s a way to stay anchored to what the young people are hip to.”

Other Christian denominations declined to comment except for the Episcopal Church, which noted that they’ve been using various versions of Willem DeFoe for over 20 years and haven’t noticed any uptick in service participation.

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