Following his appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, during which he talked about his spirituality, Ellen Page called Chris Pratt out for attending an “infamously anti-LGBTQ church“, referring to none other than Australia’s very own Hillsong.
Pratt spent more than half of his ten-minute appearance on the show talking about religion, including his recent experience fasting for 21 days, as part of something called the ‘Daniel Fast’. Who is Daniel? I have no idea. According to Pratt, “Daniel was a guy who only ate fruits, vegetables and grains”, which inspired his pastor to do the same. It sounds like the Daniel Fast could also be described as ‘vegetarianism’, but whatever floats your boat, Chris.
But Ellen Page wasn’t into the lighthearted interview. Given she appeared on the same show just last week to defend LGBTQ rights, she clearly felt that Colbert should have asked Pratt about some of his church’s more conservative views.
If you grew up in Sydney’s Hills District, you probably already know all about Hillsong, but for those that don’t, it’s an evangelical Christian megachurch that was founded by Brian Houston and his wife Bobbie in 1983. They’re really big on singing.
They’ve also regularly been criticised for their ‘ultraconservative’ stance on gay people – a writer for The Daily Beast describes the church as having a “long history of rejecting and even self-admittedly damaging its gay and lesbian members”, namely as a result of their use of ex-gay programs that encourage gay people who are struggling with their sexuality to ‘pray the gay away’.
In 2015, the leader of the New York branch was criticised for saying that homosexuality is a sin and that a gay congregation member could never hold a leadership position. That same year, when two male choir members got married, Brian Houston released a statement assuring everyone that the church’s stance on gay people hadn’t changed, and that the couple had “not been involved in an active leadership or ministry role since”.
Despite these old-fashioned views, Hillsong has had no problem marketing itself to millennials, and in addition to Chris Pratt and fiancée Katherine Schwarzenegger, Justin Bieber and wife Hailey Baldwin, and Kendall and Kylie Jenner have all attended Hillsong services in the past. Does Hillsong have a policy on face tattoos?
In addition to the homophobia, Hillsong leaders do not have to take a vow of poverty. Writing for The Outline about why she left the church, Lea Ceasrine explained that what ultimately prompted her to leave was the ‘evangelical elitism’ – “the aspirational wealth and classism that ran rampant in the church’s community”. Considering its newfound appeal amongst cashed-up celebrities, its fixation on wealth isn’t surprising.
So, back to Ellen Page and Chris Pratt. While people, including celebrities, are of course entitled to their views and their private lives, it is more than a little concerning that in 2019, anyone would feel comfortable effectively endorsing the views of a church that has been accused of treating gay people so terribly. Although it’s not like it being 2019 means homophobia doesn’t exist anymore: gay people are being detained and tortured in Chechnya as we speak. Considering the homophobia that exists in the world, how could any compassionate person feel comfortable contributing to that?
While Chris Pratt’s support of Hillsong is disappointing, I think a more interesting and pertinent question is why and how Hillsong has become one of the go-to churches for so many young members of Hollywood, which is a famously liberal industry.
And I really, really, really want to know their thoughts on Justin Bieber’s face tattoo. No gay person would be caught dead with one of those.