Pawnee’s lovable goofball Andy Dwyer is now the biggest star in Hollywood.
A few years ago, Chris Pratt was best known for his character on Parks and Rec whose undying loyalty to his friends and childlike approach to everything made him the heart of the quirky sitcom.
Fast forward a few years, and Pratt is arguably the biggest movie star the world—or, at the very least among some elite A-list company. He starred in two of the biggest movies of 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy, The LEGO Movie, the second biggest of 2015, Jurassic World and recently Infinity War and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
But, it’s not just mainstream audiences that have made Pratt one of Hollywood’s biggest young names. He’s found a somewhat unique fanbase within the world of blockbuster-goers: Christians.
For years, Pratt has been vocal about his faith. In an interview with People magazine back in 2012, he credits prayers for his young son—who spent a month in the ICU after he was born—with “redefining” his faith: “We were scared for a long time. We prayed a lot … It restored my faith in God, not that it needed to be restored, but it really redefined it.”
Since then, he’s regularly referenced Christianity on social media. He visited a children’s hospital with Russell Wilson and Ciara and included Bible verses and prayers in the Instagram captions.
He posted prayers for one of his fan’s young sons who was suffering from an illness on Twitter, praying, “Lord I pray for Sam. May you put your healing hand on him father. May his family find grace in this difficult time.”
He erected a giant cross on Easter weekend, explaining to Stephen Colbert, “It’s Saturday before Easter, if you think about it, that’s what Jesus was doing 2000-something years before on a Saturday before Easter, was carrying a cross up a hill!’
Even in a recent run-in with some overly aggressive autograph-seekers caught on camera by TMZ, Pratt referenced faith while squaring off with a hound: “You should be nicer. You got a cross on your chest, and you’re cussing me out? … Come on man, don’t be a jerk.”
Pratt’s references to his faith have endeared him to pop-culture-loving Christians. But, there’s something different about the way he carries himself and talks about Christianity.
Pratt has no agenda. His faith seems sincere, because unlike some Hollywood stars turned religious poster-children, Pratt’s faith isn’t political. It’s also not part of his “brand.” It’s just seems to be a part of who he is.
The Anti-Culture Warrior
Last year, Pratt was the subject of a viral, clickbait-style series of stories with headlines like, “What Jurassic World actor admitted about Christianity will probably ruin his career.”
As writer Scott Bedgood said in a piece published in December, not only was he never “blacklisted,” but he never said anything remotely controversial. (It was based on the quote about praying for his hospitalized son, and him telling a magazine, “I have my eyes on the prize. The big picture is my wife and my son and I living somewhere other than L.A., just being able to be a Boy Scout leader, drink beer on Saturday, go to church on Sunday, having fun. I could coach him in football.”)
The reason why the original story had traction was because it fits a narrative that isn’t actually even true: Culture is against Christians. Once a Christian reveals themselves to Hollywood, their career is over, because, after all, we are in a culture war.
The thing is, this simply isn’t the case. Hollywood—or culture at large—doesn’t hate Christians. There is no secret, behind-the-scenes, conspiracy to defame Christians.
However, there are people who have different values and beliefs, some of whom will take a defensive position when they feel like their beliefs are being attacked. This is culture war. It’s just human nature.
That’s why Pratt is such an interesting outlier in such a polarized culture. His faith isn’t about a social or political agenda. It’s not combative. It seems personal. It appears authentic.
He’s not a high-profile soldier in a culture war. He carries himself like a guy with a successful career who’s trying to figure out his faith, just like all other Christians are.
In his interview with Stephen Colbert, Pratt talked about marching up a mountain with a giant cross, to experience what Jesus did on Easter weekend. Earlier in the same interview, he made some dirty jokes.
After his GQ photoshoot, he filmed some goofy “drunk acting lessons” while swigging from a bottle of Fireball whiskey. He jokes about sending raunchy text messages to his friends. He wants to drink beer on Saturday night and go to church on Sunday.
Pratt doesn’t fit the mold of a “celebrity Christian.” In a lot of ways, he seems like a lot of actual Christians, who may not always do and say the “right” things by Sunday morning standards.
He doesn’t seem overly concerned with making sure not ruffle the feathers of “Christian audiences.” Obviously, it’s impossible to speculate about the character of a person you’ve never met, but the public persona Pratt’s cultivated is different from that of high-profile public “Christians,” in that faith is part of who he is, not part of a family-friendly brand based on exhibiting a certain kind of behavior demanded by “safe-for-the-little-ears” Christianity.
This persona is the kind that culture needs more of. It’s the kind of public personality that shows Christians aren’t meant to be perfect—but they are meant to be sincere.
Christians aren’t better than everyone. Even Paul said he’s just as “bad” as everyone else. Sure, we’re called to exhibit certain lifestyles and avoid certain kinds of behaviors, but our faith isn’t a rule book or a score of right and wrongs. It’s much bigger than that.
Culture needs more people who aren’t afraid to be open about their faith, even if they don’t fit the mold of how Christians are “supposed” to talk or look.
Sometimes, it takes a celebrity to remind us of that.
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.