Over the past few years, Chris Pratt has been more public about his faith in interviews, award speeches, and social media. A few days ago, Ellen Page raised questions about Pratt’s church advancing anti-LGBT views. Pratt has ties to both Zoe Church and Hillsong, evangelical churches that are well-known and influential in contemporary Christianity.
My work doesn’t usually dovetail with celebrity gossip, but this case caught my interest because it raises questions about whether we can or should ask people to justify the political work of their religious groups. Thanks to research in the sociology of religion, we know how political attitudes spread through faith groups, and this can help us make better sense of the conversation.
There is good reason to expect people to have their own beliefs that might differ from their church leadership. Research across the social sciences shows that people generally aren’t consistent in the way they express their religious beliefs in everyday life. Also, churches are not often clear about where they stand on these issues. According to reporting in The Huffington Post,
Zoe’s official stance on LGBTQ issues is unclear, according to Church Clarity, a crowd-sourced database that scores churches based on how clearly they communicate their policies on LGBTQ people and on women in leadership. George Mekhail, one of Church Clarity’s founders, told HuffPost he suspects that the ambiguity some conservative Christian churches have around their LGBTQ policies could be intentional.
That last part of the quote gets at the most important sociological point. In these church contexts, people don’t usually get their politics straight from the pulpit. Research on evangelical congregations shows how most of the political socialization in church life comes from lay leaders and fellow members who model their political views for new members. If church leaders want to advocate for a pro-life, anti-LGBT, or other policy agenda, they often don’t have to do it explicitly. The laity has already taught newcomers that this is how “people like us” vote.
We also have to consider Pratt’s status as a celebrity congregant. Regardless of his personal views, religious organizations have long taken an interest in cultural influence and worked to foster connections with important social networks in politics, business, and the entertainment industry to legitimize and advance their social agendas.
It might seem unfair to call out a single person for the agenda of an entire church organization. On the other hand, as a sociologist, I come to this debate less interested in what’s in any single person’s head or heart. I’m more interested in where they are in relation to everyone else and what those relationships do. The conversation from Page reminds us that It’s not necessarily about what a person believes, but about what they legitimate with their platform and presence.Evan Stewart is an assistant professor of sociology at University of Massachusetts Boston. You can follow him on Twitter.
Howard — February 21, 2019
Oh good grief. This is what Classical Christians ARE. This is the we have always held. In my opinion, we can take whatever position we like on civil “marriage” but those who support same sex Holy Matrimony (or for that matter serial monogamy Holy Matrimony, hetero) are heretics. And when we Classical Christians use that word, it is not a compliment.
Lisa Fry — June 5, 2019
I'm keeping it short. Oh please! A majority of far right pew sitters follow the leader, whether the pastor or laity. It is not easy to sit in a church while listening to the pastor tell us how we stand in politics, party (Republican) and how we are to vote. Few think for themselves. Its hokey-dokey hour and everyone have name tags. I fell for it and being somewhat smart, I told myself to snap out of it. And I did. BTW, I find the "Tea Party" really scary. They must be taken serious.
Rebecca J. Pilkington — April 22, 2020
This is what classic Christians really mean. This is what they always insist. I think they can take any position we want about civil "marriage", but those who support the same home marriage (or monogamy, heterosexuality in this context) are heresy and also they can check this if they need further details. When classical Christians use this word, this is not a compliment.
TV ZION — July 27, 2020
I'm keeping it short. https://tvzionapk.com/ Goodness please! A dominant part of far right seat sitters follow the pioneer, regardless of whether the minister or common people. It is difficult to sit in a congregation while tuning in to the minister reveal to us how we remain in legislative issues, party (Republican) and how we are to cast a ballot. Barely any have an independent perspective. Its hokey-dokey hour and everybody have unofficial IDs. I got bulldozed and being fairly shrewd, I advised myself to wake up. What's more, I did. BTW, I discover the "Casual get-together" extremely alarming. They should be taken genuine.
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