Chris Pratt is Not the Only Hollywood Celebrity Restoring Faith in Tinseltown
Chris Pratt has been inspiring people of faith around the world lately. It all started with this speech at the MTV Music Awards.
He’s getting lots of positive attention, and it is well-deserved. It’s attention that is much-needed in Hollywood.
Have you ever noticed that — in stories set in medieval times — crowds are always depicted as gathering to view beheadings and other gruesome punishments?
I’ve always wondered why, and hoped I’d have the decency to look away in such a situation. In the recent past, we’ve watched powerful people in Hollywood getting caught for doing bad things, and we keep clicking on these stories for the same inexplicable reason as those onlookers so many centuries ago.
Hollywood suffers blows to its already-sullied reputation almost every day. And this puts me in the odd position of doing something I never thought I’d do in my life coming to Hollywood’s defense, and showing there are many more voices like Mr. Pratt.
In filming the second season of “Frankly Faraci,” the Dove Channel series I host, I spent time with a number of celebrities, and what I found is surprising. Rather than fitting the stereotype, I visited with seven people who love their families, go to church on Sunday, care about their communities and are dedicated to causes that better people’s lives.
At a charity golf tournament, I met Cedric the Entertainer, who was joined by dozens of friends, including Steve Harvey, Sugar Ray Leonard and Smokey Robinson. Cedric hosts the annual event to raise money to give underprivileged kids a shot at life. The comedy icon doesn’t talk about this — in fact, this was the first time he allowed a media crew to document the day in such detail — but it’s an area of deep passion for him. His focus was not good PR for Cedric, it’s spreading the word — and in turn helping more kids.
A few weeks later, I found myself walking around Busch Stadium with St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright and was amazed to discover that he sees his Hall-of-Fame-worthy baseball career as a means to do good. Mr. Wainwright supports so many charities it will make your head spin, all driven by his focus on meeting the basic, daily needs of as many people around the world as possible.
Each of these people are motivated by the same foundation. Faith.
In Silicon Valley, Enjoy’s CEO, Ron Johnson — who worked directly with Steve Jobs in creating the Apple Store and the Genius Bar — explained that the Apple Store is built on the idea of relationship, what he calls “the art of the human connection.” The whole Apple experience is so magical, he said, because it’s rooted in a simple principle he learned in Sunday school: Love your neighbor as yourself. Who is your neighbor? It’s your customer, it’s your colleagues, it’s the people you come into contact with.
On the set of his daytime talk show in New York City, renowned entertainer Harry Connick, Jr., revealed why he’s always so joyful, and why he continues to keep things family-friendly. Mr. Connick’s role as a husband and father, and his strong identity as a man of deep and abiding faith, is what matters to him most. “If I had three wishes,” he said, “I’d want to do God’s will, I’d want to do God’s will, and I’d want to do God’s will. That’s all I want that is the premise on which everything else is built.”
At a rifle range outside of Los Angeles, I watched Atticus Shaffer, who has played the hilariously quirky character Brick Heck on ABC’s “The Middle” for nine seasons, hit target after target like an expert marksman. You might not expect that from a young man who is just 4 feet 8 inches tall with a slight build, the result of a condition called osteogenesis imperfecta, leaving him with fragile bones. Mr. Shaffer has been through unimaginable physical horrors. Yet, you’d never know it from his demeanor. Intelligent, engaging, and hilarious, Mr. Shaffer’s secret is Jeremiah 29:11 —“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I saw the same incredible spirit in actress-producer Candace Cameron Bure, who often finds herself in the unenviable role of explaining Christians to Hollywood and Hollywood to Christians. Like the peacemaker at a contentious family Thanksgiving, Ms. Bure encourages folks to get along, and ends up with everyone yelling at her. Her response to the haters? “Kindness always wins.”
Then there’s veteran actor Corbin Bernsen, who’s made a name for himself 1,000 times over and can have any acting role he wants. Yet, Mr. Bernsen is focused on making engaging films to generate thought-provoking conversations about faith, eternity and relationships.
For every awful story you read, there are 10 stories of hope, faith and charity waiting to be told. I’ll keep digging for them, and if you’re willing to share these episodes, together we can all give our kids something wonderful on which to focus — real role models.
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