LOS ANGELES (AP) — Social media has been buzzing for weeks with jokes about how, this year, Easter Sunday shares the calendar with the pot-lover's highest holiday: April 20, or 420 in stoner lingo. Pot-smokers have long celebrated on the date by lighting up for reasons not quite clear.
Yet amid the online cracks about worshipping a "higher" power, tutorials on how to make a joint shaped like a cross and photos of Easter baskets piled with pot-filled eggs, a handful of churches nationwide are using the unfortunate coincidence to make much bigger points.
In the Highland Park (no kidding) neighborhood of Los Angeles, a church is using medical marijuana imagery and catchy word play to attract new worshippers to an Easter sermon series called "Medicated," about seeking fulfillment through God, not drugs. And across the country, in Mississippi, a church is hosting a massive concert to denounce marijuana legalization with the title "Reverse 420: God Keeps Me High."
"I was sitting on a plane and I was looking at my calendar, and I realized that Easter fell on 4/20 and I thought, 'Man, half of my friends, they're going to be doing something else on 4/20. They're not going to want to come to church,'" said Pastor Justice Coleman, founder of Freedom Church in Highland Park.
"So, how could we put together a talk or a program that wouldn't celebrate smoking weed, but would celebrate the idea that there's so much more to life," said Coleman, 30. "That's what we're going to be talking about."
Coleman's mailers and promotional video for the Easter service include the green cross associated with medical marijuana clinics and a teaser that recalls Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection: "Celebrate 4/20 with us because you can't get any higher than risen."
"I think the idea that we supplement our lives with a lot of things, I think that resonates with a lot of people," he said. "Imagine a life where you didn't need to do that."
The church events come against the much more irreverent backdrop of the Internet, where social media has exploded with pictures of bunnies chomping on marijuana leaves, plastic Easter eggs stuffed with dope and posts such as "Blaze it and praise it!" One Twitter account included Photoshopped images of Jesus holding a bong and presiding over the Last Supper at a table heaped with ridiculous amounts of weed.
In California, many medical marijuana dispensaries have long offered special promotions to their clients on 4/20 and, this year, they have added Easter-themed goods, such as plastic eggs stuffed with pot-infused chocolate truffles.