Billboards emblazoned with images of a heavily tattooed Jesus Christ are causing quite a stir in a Texas city.
Part of an ad campaign by Christian outreach group JesusTattoo.org, the billboards show a pictorial depiction of Jesus with words like “Outcast,” “Addicted,” “Hated” and “Faithless” stamped on his body. According to the Christian Post, more than 50 such billboards have been erected in Lubbock, Texas, thus far.
“The message is a simple one, Jesus’ love is transformative,” Ashleigh Sawyer, media relations coordinator for Jesus Tattoo, told the Post of the campaign. “He loves us unconditionally and no matter what you’ve been marked with, faith in Him and love for others will transform us.”
Though JesusTattoo.org, which is said to be unaffiliated with any religious organization, insists that the images are there to spread a positive message, some local residents have been rubbed the wrong way by the posters.
“I don’t like the picture. I think it’s very derogatory,” one disgruntled resident told CBS-affiliate KEYE-TV.
Another man told the news outlet that the image of Jesus is “blasphemous.”
JesusTattoo.org says that the controversy is not entirely unwelcome.
“We’re finding that those who visit the website and watch the video come to understand the message of the campaign,” Sawyer told the Post. “Certainly, like with all deeply personal relationships, not everyone approves of the image of Jesus with tattoos, but we welcome the controversy because we understand that a dialogue on the issue is the best way to spread the message.”
According to ABC News, some local Christian leaders are in full support of the group’s shock tactic.
“I thought that it was cleverly done because, basically, it’s a visual of Jesus taking the sins of people and covering them and taking them from an outcast or something and giving them a new start, which is what the gospel is about,” David Wilson, a senior pastor at Southcrest Baptist Church in Lubbock, told ABC News. “I looked it up, and I said, this is perfect because it just draws people in here.”
Jesus Tattoo has also released a six-minute YouTube video as part of their outreach campaign. In the clip, which has gone viral, a shaggy-haired man, ostensibly Jesus Christ, takes on the role of a magical tattoo artist who has the power to transform the negative labels stamped on people’s bodies into positive ones; but who, in turn, takes on those markings himself. Watch it here: