In the past month, there have been some interesting stories involving celebrities, churches, and what happens when celebrities who support specific churches are challenged about the doctrines of their faith.
First, on a broad level, we can start with this article published by Vox on February 6th that covers the rise of evangelical Christianity among some celebrities. The article focuses a lot on Chris Pratt (more on him in just a bit), but it also mentions Justin Bieber, Kendall Jenner, Selena Gomez, Hailey Baldwin, and Kevin Durant.
The evidence shows that the number of non-religious people is growing, especially among young people. In response to these trends, some churches have tried to adopt a "cool" image to appeal to a broader audience in an attempt to remain relevant.
The megachurch movement, which has its roots dating back to at least the 19th century, really exploded in the 1980's and 90's. From those earlier megachurches, we now have the hip churches like Hillsong and Zoe. It is these newer churches that are attracting the likes of Hollywood celebrities in an effort to appeal to more young people. They work in modern music, a more lax approach to prayer, and congregate in state-of-the-art auditoriums instead of churches with stained glass windows.
That brings us back to Chris Pratt (I told you we would get back to him). Pratt has been pretty vocal about his faith, especially in the last few years. He gave a speech at the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards where he won the Generation Award in which he gave "9 Rules from Chris Pratt."
Pratt's rule #6 was: "God is real. God loves you, God wants the best for you. Believe that, I do." His rule #8 was: "Learn to pray. It's easy, and it is so good for your soul."
Yes, Chris, praying sure is easy, and it accomplishes nothing... Thanks a bunch.
The same week that Vox's article was published, Pratt appeared on Late Night with Stephen Colbert. He talked a lot about his church and pastor, because the subject of the Daniel Fast came up. You can see the interview here. The discussion about the Daniel Fast begins around 3:40.
In the interview, Pratt talks a lot about things he heard his pastor say, and a quote that one of his pastors shared (although he is ultimately unable to remember the originator of the quote).
This is all poignant because just a few days before Pratt appeared on Late Night, Ellen Page appeared and made a statement that ended up going viral. Her interview is here, and the important moments begin around 7:10. Page called out Vice President Mike Pence for his hateful policies and rhetoric when he was governor of Indiana concerning the LGBTQ community.
"[About her marriage to Emma Porter] he [Pence] wanted to ban that in Indiana. He believes in Conversion Therapy. He has hurt the LGBTQ community so badly as the government in Indiana."
"Connect the dots," she continued. "This is what happens if you are in a position of power and you hate people. And you want to cause suffering to them... you go through the trouble... you spend your career trying to cause suffering. What do you think is going to happen? Kids are going to be abused. And they're going to kill themselves."
"This needs to fucking stop," she concluded.
What does all this have to do with Pratt's appearance on the show? Well, when Pratt kept mentioning his pastor, and the things his pastor said, he was talking about what happened at Zoe Church. Zoe Church is part of the Hillsong Church family, and is modeled on Hillsong.
After Pratt's appearance on Late Night, Page posted on Twitter that Pratt's church is "infamously anti lgbtq [sic]." She asked Pratt to "maybe address that too?"
Two days later, Page also tweeted, "If you are a famous actor and you belong to an organization that hates a certain group of people, don’t be surprised if someone simply wonders why it’s not addressed. Being anti LGBTQ is wrong, there aren’t two sides. The damage it causes is severe. Full stop. Sending love to all"
Pratt has since responded, saying, "Despite what the Bible says about divorce my church community was there for me every step of the way, never judging, just gracefully accompanying me on my walk. They helped me tremendously offering love and support. It is what I have seen them do for others on countless occasions regardless of sexual orientation, race or gender."
Pratt finalized his divorce with Anna Faris a few months ago after separating in August 2017.
Pratt has now come under some criticism, since his statement does not really address Page's criticism, and instead focuses on his own experience.
Page is not wrong, by the way. Pratt's church really is anti-LGBTQ. The evidence is on their own website. Hillsong Senior Pastor Brian Houston states in that linked article that "God’s word is clear that marriage is between a man and a woman."
He also adds that, "Hillsong Church welcomes ALL people but does not affirm all lifestyles. Put clearly, we do not affirm a gay lifestyle and because of this we do not knowingly have actively gay people in positions of leadership, either paid or unpaid."
Right... so you "welcome" everyone, even if they are living sinful lifestyles that you refuse to "affirm," and thus, refuse to employ or otherwise let participate fully in the church.
Right... totally cool...
The Hillsong Church empire, and thus, Pratt's own Zoe Church, spring from the Hillsong Church network started in Australia. In what should come as no surprise, they are part of a vast religiously-oriented money-making scheme, which has come under criticism many times for their anti-LGBTQ slant.
Pratt can try in vain all he wants to wax poetic about God's love or the effectiveness of prayer, but he is ultimately wrong. And he supports a church that, despite their attempts at obfuscation, preach against the very existence of people in the LGBTQ community. We need more criticism like that coming from Ellen Page.