When Christian celebrities falter
By any measure, Chris Pratt is one of the most successful and likeable actors in Hollywood. Over a few short years, he has blasted to the top of the A-list in such blockbuster movies as Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World. He seems a genuinely nice guy, humbled by his good fortune and engaged in various charitable endeavours. He and his wife, actress Anna Faris, have been an endearing celebrity couple – funny, unassuming and devoted to their little boy, Jack.
Pratt has also been outspoken about his Christian faith, and not in a vague, generic manner typical of some celebrities. During an acceptance speech at the 2017 Teen Choice Awards, Pratt stated, “I would not be here with the ease and grace I have in my heart without my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” And the audience applauded him for it.
It was sad, then, that just a few days prior to that speech, Pratt and Faris had announced their legal separation. Equally sad, but not entirely unexpected, was the online response Pratt received from a fair number of Christians in the wake of that announcement.
To be sure, there were words of sympathy and regret, along with assurances of prayer for the couple. But there were also far too many harsh, judgmental barbs hurled Pratt’s way, questioning the actor’s faith and even his right to take the name of Jesus on his lips. As one observer quipped at the time, “[Y]ou can hear their tut-tuts in every keystroke.”
Let’s be clear from the outset: marriage breakdown is a serious matter that should never be taken lightly. Christians are right to be concerned when they see it, whether within their own circle or among more famous couples. But that’s never an excuse to engage in graceless haranguing, either online or in person. In fact, to do so represents a failure of judgment on a number of levels.
To begin with, the online critics obviously don’t know Pratt or Faris, or indeed anything about the couple’s personal relationship. They don’t know whether there may be some Biblical grounds for a separation. Although Pratt is a believer, Faris has been described in the press as non-religious. Might that have been a contributing factor to their split? Outsiders can’t know, nor should they. It’s a private matter between the couple and their family, their friends and their faith community. Those who only know them as images on a screen are in no position to offer wise counsel, much less critical rebuke.
The response to Pratt and Faris was not only out of line. It was also premature. After all, they had only announced that they were separating, with no mention about plans for divorce. The tone of their statement was nothing like the typical PR release citing irreconcilable differences. Instead, it had an honest ring of sadness at the breakdown of their relationship, as well as genuine affection and gratitude toward each other, and an ongoing mutual commitment to their young son, Jack. What’s more, in the days that followed, reports began to appear that the couple was seeking marriage counselling, perhaps in hopes of mending their relationship.
No doubt some Christians would argue that high-profile believers such as Pratt have a greater responsibility to maintain a consistent public testimony. And there’s some truth to that. The world is watching. But what Pratt’s accusers failed to recognize is that the world is also watching them. It’s watching how Christians treat their own, not just in real life but also on social media. When a well-known believer falters, do we respond with kindness and edifying grace, or do we pounce with withering judgment? Do we post comments online that we’d never say to that person’s face?
In any event, one thing is certain: only God knows Chris Pratt’s heart. Only He knows what He’s working out in the popular actor’s life, perhaps even through the tragedy of a failed marriage. Pratt has been explicit about his faith in Jesus Christ, and up to this point, his character and public actions have been consistent with that testimony. His acceptance speech at the Teen Choice Awards suggests that even after his separation, he’s leaning into the Lord rather than running away from Him.
All of this should be cause for encouragement rather than consternation. What Pratt needs from Christians who follow his career, if anything, is prayer. Beyond that, he and his wife need wise and gracious counsel, as well as the loving support of a Christian community that knows them and can help them rebuild their family, if possible.
As for the watching world, the last thing it needs is to witness Christians devour each other, online or anywhere. How much better if it were to see a Christian celebrity like Chris Pratt, bent but not broken, his marriage mended, his testimony strengthened by the grace of God, through the kindness and prayers of God’s people? It may all seem unlikely from a human standpoint. But we can afford to dream big and pray bigger, because we serve a great God.
Sources and further reading
Billy Hallowell, “To all the Christians slamming Chris Pratt for invoking Jesus after his separation,” Faithwire, August 15, 2017.
Terry Mattingly, “Chris Pratt and Anna Faris announce a ‘separation’: Might faith play a role in this story?” GetReligion, August 17, 2017.
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