Everybody loves Chris Pratt. I mean, how can you not like the guy? He made us laugh for almost ten years as Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation, or as Peter Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s a nice guy, a goofball, and an action hero all rolled into one. And it made total sense for him to win MTV’s Generation Award this year.
His acceptance speech is completely worth watching. He gives young people a nine-point speech that ranges from the hilarious, to the kind of gross, to the profound. He tells young to care for their souls, teaches them how to give a dog medicine, and also how to poop inconspicuously at a party. More than that, Pratt makes several statements (especially toward the end) that are very overtly Christian:
“Nobody is perfect. People will tell you that you are perfect just the way that you are, you are not! You are imperfect. You always will be, but there is a powerful force that designed you that way, and if you are willing to accept that, you will have grace. And grace is a gift. Like the freedom that we enjoy in this country, that grace was paid for with somebody else’s blood. Do not forget that. Don’t take that for granted.”
I was initially shocked at the response from the audience after Pratt’s statements, especially the last one. I would expect any explicitly Christian statements to be culturally taboo, and to be met with derision. In his 9th rule (quoted above), Pratt implies that our imperfections (sins) required Jesus’ death – and the audience seems to affirm him the whole way through.
After thinking about it in the weeks following, I think this speech, and the response from the audience, can tell us a few very important things about the nature of evangelism.
1. People are more open to talk and hear about spiritual things than we might believe. “You have a soul,” “God is real and he loves you,” “Learn how to pray.” Each of these statements Pratt gives are warmly received by the audience. My favorite reaction is the look on the face of Noah Shnapp (Will from Stranger Things), following Pratt’s statement about grace being given because of the shedding of someone’s blood; Schnapp’s face was lit up with sincere adoration and inspiration. Could it be that people won’t meet us with the kind of hostility about our faith that we might fear?
In a clip from the Teen Choice Awards in 2017, Pratt says, “I would not be here with the ease and grace I have in my heart without my Lord and savior Jesus Christ.” This statement is also met with applause. I think this shows us that we are in an environment and culture where there is room for us to express our faith and invite others in. We should take advantage of that.
2. People are more open to talk about spiritual things with people they love and trust. I don’t think I’m reaching here when I say that Chris Pratt has made his way into the hearts of Americans through his acting over the years. “Don’t be a turd” is rule number three, and I think Pratt seems to have embodied that. People have a sense that he is a nice, lovable person who doesn’t take himself too seriously, and values people over himself. People have watched him and grown to love him. That “relationship” has given him a platform to speak into people’s lives and be heard. Someone considered a bigot couldn’t pull off saying the things he has said. Christians can learn from this by making sure that as we share our faith, we place a high priority on valuing people and living consistently.
3. Humor and love diffuse tension and give space for serious conversation. Pratt tells the audience in Rule number four that if you want to give medicine to a dog, roll it up in hamburger so the dog won’t know it’s medicine. Terry Mattingly, religion writer from the UK, notes that the humor in Pratt’s speech is the hamburger, and the messages of faith are the medicine. Pratt shifts from humor to serious, back to humor, back to serious, over and over again throughout this acceptance speech. Not taking ourselves too seriously, using humor when appropriate, is a powerful tool for us to remember as Christians, and as youth pastors. It makes us relatable, loveable, interesting, and keeps our audience; it opens people’s hearts and minds to the message that matters the most.
Pratt’s not a perfect guy (as he so easily admits). Neither are we. He wasn’t giving a sermon. But he’s taken what he’s been given, and is using that platform to point people towards Jesus. I think we can all learn from that.