I do not spend a lot of time reading the buzz about celebrities. I made an exception this week as the social media tempest highlighted (in spite of itself) something important as it raged against Chris Pratt. The controversy is a good reminder about how we should treat others in two different ways we desperately need right now.
Pratt has made comments about his Christianity in the past that seem to suggest he is a genuine believer and not just someone who checks “Christianity” when asked his religious affiliation. In response, the social media mob labeled Pratt “the worst Hollywood Chris” for the crime of holding to a Christian worldview.
While he does not seem to be particularly political, his membership in Hillsong Church (a largely apolitical, but Evangelical organization), has caused the internet vigilantes to label him as a “bigot.” The crowd’s anger is problematic for plenty of reasons, not least of which is labeling a Christian worldview as “bigoted” just because it does not match their own worldview (and missing the irony that they are showing the very intolerance they allegedly hate).
I’m not here to write a screed of my own so I can feel superior to the mob, though. There is something more useful to be gleaned from this incident than adding logs to the Twitter fire.
First, a short lesson comes from Pratt’s fellow actors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ideologically and religiously, many – if not most – of them have more in common with the view of those who labeled Pratt the #WorstHollywoodChris than they do with Pratt himself. We should take note of that.
While evidence suggests Pratt is not even the political conservative the Twitterati assumed he was (aside from labeling him a bigot, they also — gasp — labeled him a Republican), there is reason to think he might be something of a religious conservative and his Marvel compatriots are not. Yet, they rushed to his defense.
In our present climate, someone holding to a different ideology – especially one that is not in vogue – is often considered a legitimate reason to look away when that person gets attacked, even if that person had been a friend.
They spoke up. We should for our different-than-us friends, too.
When people unfairly attack those around us – and we live in an age of gleeful character assassination where it can and does happen — we should not allow ideological “tribal” divides to cause us to be blinded. Christian or not, we should never tolerate or take part in slander on the basis that we think more like those who fling the mud.
The second thing that strikes me is how Pratt’s colleagues have responded, which is revealing about Pratt’s actual character. The repeated refrain from those who rose to his defense was one about his kindness and genuineness to those around him.
Robert Downey Jr.’s response particularly struck me as he expounded on how Pratt was a “real #Christian” with “principles.” This is not some sort of rote defense; it is one based on the two men working closely together for some years and Downey seeing something genuine about a faith he is not a part of being lived out in his friend’s life.
Instead of seeing Pratt’s Christianity as an uncomfortable thing to be sidestepped or avoided, his non-Christian friend brought it up as part of why the mob is wrong about Pratt.
I want the same to be true of me. I want those who do not yet share my hope in Jesus to still see the fact that I do follow Jesus as something that positively influences how I treat others.
Jesus tells us the world will hate His followers, and, at least a segment of the world, has been busy hating Chris Pratt this past week. Yet, as people tore into Pratt because of his faith, it provided an unlikely sermon on faithful Christian living.
Too often the world sees Christians using our faith in ugly ways, tarnishing the beauty of the Savior. Would that all who hold onto faith in Jesus will be seen, in the evaluation of friends who are not Christian, as compassionate and principled precisely because of how Christians reflect the love of Christ.
Christians should not play into what the mob thinks. We should not create our own holy mobs that operate like the world, but with allegedly more pious aims.
Instead, the Christian life, even when it is diametrically opposed to things the world believes, should be a confounding mystery when viewed from the outside. A mystery of people who, may seem odd in their views — “foolish,” as the Apostle Paul put it — to the non-Christian, but whose loving character makes dismissing Christ-following harder.
In the ancient world, many of those who thought the Christians were utterly crazy still took note of the compassion and dedication of those who followed the Crucified King. Many view myself and my fellow Christians as crazy today, too, but Pratt’s life, as observed by his non-Christian friends, shows what happens when people actually get to see Jesus at work in someone’s life.
I hope they see that in me.