The difficulties between Chris Pratt and the queer community are not new, but they’ve been brought to the forefront yet again by a viral post and James Gunn stepping in to insert himself into the controversy.
It’s exhausting having all the Chris Pratt controversy brought up again and again every few months. It’s even more exhausting seeing tons of heterosexual celebrities jumping in to protect him while dismissing concerns from the queer community. This is becoming a pattern and it’s putting the burden on the queer community to defend our position. We do so each and every time, but it’s getting incredibly repetitive. Everything we’ve discussed before gets sucked into a memory hole somewhere and we have to go through it again and again.
To save some time and energy, I’m dropping all of the information about it in one place for a quick and easy reference when this inevitably comes back around again. I’ve attempted to address all the common arguments that come up each time with sources. I’m sure something new will pop up at some point that isn’t included here, but right now this is a general summary of how this controversy has unfolded the past few years and why we feel the way that we do.
Disclaimer: Not All Queer People Are The Same
Not all queer people think the same. When I reference the ‘queer community’ in this article, it doesn’t include every single member. We can and we do disagree on many things. That’s a perfectly normal part of any large community of people. There are very valid concerns coming from the a lot of us regarding Chris Pratt’s church, and when I discuss the ‘queer community,’ it’s those people I am specifically referring to.
If you’re a queer person and you’re totally fine with Chris Pratt, that’s great for you. Your ability to look past these issues is not universal, however. Many do have a problem with it. You’re totally valid feeling how you do, but so are we. Please don’t attempt to dismiss everyone’s concerns because you, personally, happen to be fine with it.
Now that we’ve got the accusations of generalizations about the community out of the way, let’s get down to the details of the controversy.
What Church Does Chris Pratt Go To?
One of James Gunn’s assertions is that fans don’t actually know what church Chris Pratt goes to. So let’s talk about it.
He’s also directly responded to criticisms of Zoe Church, claiming it’s not homophobic. If he didn’t attend this church, I would think his argument would be to say that instead of defending it. But no, he defends the church and doesn’t refute claims that he’s part of it, so it’s safe to assume he’s a member of the Zoe Church until he says otherwise.
He is incredibly open about this and I’m not clear why we’re being told we’re incorrect. It’s pretty straightforward. If he doesn’t actually attend this church, he could end all this controversy by simply saying that. But he doesn’t. Until he refutes this, we’ll continue discussing the issue about his relationship with the church because that’s the information we have.
Are Zoe and Hillsong The Same?
According to the pastor of Zoe Church, Chad Veach, the Zoe Church was modeled based on Hillsong. This is confirmed in the New York Times. There’s also footage of Chad Veach speaking at a branch of Hillsong, so the two are still tied together in some way even if they have different names. The current relationship isn’t explicitly spelled out, but based on the information we have available, it’s safe to assume they are closely aligned.
For some, the distance between these two churches is enough to not let the policies of Hillsong effect how they feel about Zoe. For others, this is still an incredibly close relationship that’s a huge cause for concern. Where you end up falling in regards to this question is a personal decision. For myself and many other people in the queer community, this is still too close for comfort.
The information I outline in this article tends to relate to both. When it’s made explicitly clear that it came from either Hillsong or Zoe, I will note that accordingly. A lot of people tend to lump the two together more often than not, however, so sometimes it’s not entirely clear.
Why Do You Say Chris Pratt’s Church Is Homophobic?
There are numerous documented claims about the churches’ homophobia. Let’s break it down by issue.
Hillsong Has Supported Conversion Therapy
Conversion Therapy is the practice of attempting to change the sexuality or gender identity of someone to fit cisgender heterosexual norms. This is bad. Many public health organizations have confirmed that it’s bad.
Despite how obviously bad it is, I’ve been in a lot of Twitter fights about how harmful it is, so here’s some sources that show it’s bad just to cover that upfront before we get to the Hillsong part of it.
Organizations Against Conversion Therapy
- American Psychological Association
- National Association on Mental Illness
- American Academy of Child and Adolescence Psychiatry
- American Counseling Association
- Canadian Psychiatric Association
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- and many more…
Hillsong has been accused of supporting this practice. They’ve supposedly distanced themselves from it in recent years. Whether the statement about distancing themselves from it is good enough for you to be comfortable with them is up to you. Either way, here’s some sources on their history with the practice:
- “Alex quit the church in 2008, after a traumatic coming out where he says he was referred by his youth pastor to counseling that proposed to make him straight—the kind of conversion therapy we now know is based on pseudoscience, as ineffectual as it is damaging.” – The Daily Beast
- “I was also brought up in the church in Tennessee at a time in the ’90s, so it was a less accepting time with all that,” [Miley Cyrus] told Bieber. “I had some gay friends in school. That is the reason why I left my church is that they weren’t being accepted. They were being sent to conversion therapies. And I had a really hard time with that and I had a hard time with me finding my sexuality too.” – Metro Weekly
The Church Excludes LGBTQ+ People From Leadership and Volunteer Roles
This is one of the most thoroughly documented practices from the church, and it’s not often pushed back on by its defenders. It doesn’t hide its exclusion of the LGBTQ+ community at all. Some of these sources are from the church’s blog itself.
- “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.” – Pink News
- After [Bri Austen’s] 15-year-old daughter said on social media in 2016 that she identifies as bisexual, Austen and her family, including her two younger sons, found themselves excluded from events. Church officials de-rostered her daughter from her weekly volunteer commitments. – Vanity Fair
- “[A gay member] wasn’t even allowed to serve cups of coffee or help direct traffic in the parking lot.” – The Daily Beast
- “Can you take an active leadership role? No.” – Hillsong’s Blog
- A same-sex couple at a New York City church were no longer allowed to hold leadership roles after coming out. – Hillsong’s Blog
The Church Advocates Against Same-Sex Marriage
- While [Hillsong Senior Pastor] Houston claimed to “love and care about people”, he added: “I also live by my own convictions, and hold to traditional Christian thought on gay lifestyles and gay marriage.” – Pink News
- Hillsong was notably active in Australia in regards to a same-sex marriage ballot initiative.
General Anti-LGBTQ+ Sentiment
- [Omar] Abreu summed up their experience as a queer Hillsong attendee: “How do we get people to come to the church and make them feel safe and still remind them that they suck and are headed to hell?” – Vanity Fair
- “I can’t worship at a church knowing that I am not fully accepted and considered equal to all those around me. Surrounded by people that might love me as a person but do not accept me as being gay; instead tolerate me. People who might tell me that being gay is okay, but on the inside are praying for me to let Jesus move in my life and change me. People who don’t recognise that any relationship that I have with a man is part of God’s plan and that it would be full of love, equal to any other.” – The Daily Beast
- Zoe Church Pastor Chad Veach produced a documentary with homophobic language and equivocations.
Lots of Churches Do This/That’s Just What It Means To Be Christian
There are a lot of Christian denominations, but not all of them are actively hostile to the LGBTQ+ community. Here’s a great list of churches that are affirming towards the LGBTQ+ community.
Given that there are literally hundreds of denominations within Christianity, many of which aren’t hostile towards us, the argument that we shouldn’t be mad at him for just ‘being Christian’ is a fairly weak one. Most of us aren’t mad at him for being Christian. We are mad at him for being part of a church that’s hostile towards the queer community. It’s his choice to affiliate with this particular church. He can simply choose a different one.
If you voluntarily choose to be part of a church with these beliefs, don’t be surprised when people take issue with it. This is a fairly straightforward reaction. Yet somehow this is the most common go-to argument with Pratt defenders.
What Does Elliot Page Have to Do With This?
Elliot Page first brought Pratt’s affiliation with this church to the forefront in 2019. Many people, myself included, were not aware of that association until he brought it up. Since then we’ve had to deal with the issue coming up every few months over and over again. This is why Elliot gets brought up every time Chris Pratt’s affiliation with the church ends up trending, even if he hasn’t talked about it recently.
Chris Pratt Responded to Elliot Page and Said His Church Isn’t Homophobic.
“It has recently been suggested that I belong to a church which ‘hates a certain group of people’ and is ‘infamously anti-LGBTQ.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. I go to a church that opens its doors to absolutely everyone.”
Reconciling this denial with all the evidence above is a bit difficult. But he did deny it and the denial deserves to have a spot in the article. It’s only fair.
It’s of particular note that he uses the phrase “opens its doors to absolutely everyone,” when that isn’t actually the issue. Being able to walk through the door and worship is one thing. Supporting conversion therapy, refusing meaningful participation, being against same-sex marriage, and making LGBTQ+ people feel uncomfortable are the actual issues at hand. So far he hasn’t really addressed any of that. He’s only denied things and used weasel words to avoid addressing things upfront.
Why Did James Gunn Get Involved?
It seems James Gunn saw a viral tweet about wishing Chris Pratt would be recast and decided to jump in. These types of tweets are fairly common, so I don’t know why this particular one got his attention. It was going oddly viral for no apparent reason and caused Pratt to trend on Twitter yet again. However, he decided the queer people were wrong and Pratt needed some defending this particular time around.
It’s important to note that James Gunn has been in hot water with the queer community before. He’s made homophobic jokes, which he’s since apologized for. I don’t view his sense for how to help the LGBTQ+ community to be very well calibrated. He says he supports us, but doing things that actively harm us has become a notable pattern. What’s in his heart is something only he knows, but I’m uncomfortable with his actions.
What Other Celebrities Have Defended Chris Pratt?
Back in 2020, Chris Pratt trended in response to a viral tweet about which Hollywood Chris is “the worst.” A ton of celebrities came out to defend him at the time. More about that incident can be found here: LGBTQ+ Fans Thrown Under Bus As Actors Defend Chris Pratt. James Gunn spoke out then, too, along with Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr.
There’s definitely a pattern forming where Chris Pratt goes viral on Twitter and celebrities suddenly come out of the woodwork to defend him. This will probably happen again in a few months. This is our life now, I guess.
If His Friends Don’t Think Chris Pratt is Homophobic, You Shouldn’t Either
I’ve always been very clear with my language. I have never called Chris Pratt homophobic himself. He is, however, part of a homophobic church, which I’ve outlined with sources above.
How he personally feels about us may or may not align with his church, and his friends may feel he truly supports us. The fact of the matter is that he’s part of the Zoe Church, which is related to the Hillsong Church, which has a history of homophobic policies. Instead of denouncing these documented positions of his church, he denies that they even exist. To many of us, that’s a huge problem.
I don’t think his defenders realize he can be perfectly kind to his friends without that really impacting how the queer community feels about him. As long as he’s still affiliated with this church, we’re going to keep discussing it.
Testimony from his mostly heterosexual friends doesn’t change that. It’s his affiliation with the Zoe Church that we have an issue with, and that’s still true regardless of what his friends say about him.
What Can Chris Pratt Do To Make Y’all Happy?
I’d like to restate that not all queer people are the same. What might work for me might not work for the next queer person. Some people in the community might not have an issue with him at all. Some may never be able to forgive him no matter what he does. For me, however, he can do one of two things to fix this problem.
First, he can choose a denomination that doesn’t have this sort of heavy homophobic baggage. There are a ton of LGBTQ+ affirming churches to choose from. He doesn’t have to be with this one. The fact he sticks with this one is a major problem for me.
If he can’t leave that church for whatever reason, he could at the very least denounce the homophobic practices. He hasn’t done that. Instead, he denies that they exist and uses vague phrases about the “doors being open for everyone,” without addressing the actual problems we have with the church.
Until either of the above things happens, I’ll continue to speak out against his association with the church. Where other people draw the line is completely up to them.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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