Actor Chris Pratt announced his engagement to motivational author and Kennedy scion Katherine Schwarzenegger late on Sunday night, posting a photo to Instagram of the couple embracing on a staircase, her ring finger perched on his buff shoulder and angled toward the camera. “Sweet Katherine, so happy you said yes!” the caption read. “Proud to live boldly in faith with you.” Wait, what?
If you know Pratt only for his breakout role as schlumpy goofball Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation and then as the chiseled star of the Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World franchises, this reference to “living boldly in faith” may have seemed startling. But observant Pratt-trackers will have seen it coming. Over the same period in which he was glowing up into an A-list movie star, he has appeared to undergo an equally radical spiritual transformation. Let’s take a look at some highlights from the timeline of Pratt’s increasingly public faith.
March 2016: Pratt spends Easter weekend erecting an enormous cross on a friend’s ranch in Texas. “It was just, like, so rewarding and awesome,” he later tells Stephen Colbert.
January 2017: Hosting a reporter from Vanity Fair who is writing a cover story about him, Pratt gets on his knees to pray before dinner, “thank[ing] God for the food and the life.” (After dinner, they drink tequila and noodle around on the guitar.)
April 2017: Pratt cites Psalm 126 in a Facebook post about his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: “The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”
August 2017: Pratt and first wife, Anna Faris, announce their separation.
April 2018: Pratt spends Easter weekend mounting a hand-carved wooden cross to a tree on his farm on an island off the coast of Washington. He captions the Instagram post “He is risen!”
June 2018: Accepting something called the “Generation Award” at the MTV Movie & TV Awards, Pratt delivers a list of nine “rules for living,” including “You have a soul. Be careful with it,” “God is real,” and “Learn to pray.”
July 2018: A month after their first known date, Schwarzenegger and Pratt are photographed kissing for the first time after church.
As sudden as all of this seems, Pratt is not a recent convert. As he tells the story, his personal road to Damascus was a Safeway parking lot 20 years ago in Maui. As an underage Pratt waited for some friends who were going to buy him alcohol, an unfamiliar man approached him and abruptly asked him about his plans for the night. “Will you fornicate tonight? … And drugs and drinking?” In Pratt’s recollection, which he has repeated to several reporters, he cheerfully agreed. The man said, “I stopped because Jesus told me to stop and talk to you. He said to tell you you’re destined for great things.” Pratt told his friends he was going to go with the man, who turned out to be affiliated with Jews for Jesus, an evangelical movement with a particular mission to convert Jews to Christianity. (Pratt was raised Lutheran.) Within two days, he has said, he “gave [his] soul to Jesus.” The account has the improbable bones of a Biblical conversion story: a wastrel attracted to a prophet’s inexplicable charisma, and instantly reformed and empowered to spread the good news himself.
His divorce from Faris seems to represent a turning point toward a more public faith. An anonymous source told Page Six at the time that religion played a role in their separation: He was devout, and she wasn’t. His first solo appearance after announcing their split was outside Zoe Church in L.A., which has become his home church. Zoe is headed by Chad Veach, an Instagram-savvy pastor who runs in the same circles at Justin Bieber, the Kardashians, and Selena Gomez, and serves as a kind of faith-tinged life coach to many celebrities. Pratt may have met Schwarzenegger through the church, too. Katherine is the oldest daughter of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, the niece of President John F. Kennedy. Shriver revealed in an interview with Veach in late 2017 that the pastor traditionally visits her family in December to “go through where we’re at, how our year was, what we’re looking forward to.”
A folksy, popular evangelical Christian getting ready to marry into this particular family makes it tempting to speculate about Pratt’s political future. For what it’s worth, he seems to have little interest in electoral politics. Sure, he once lamented Hollywood’s supposed failure to represent the voices of “the average, blue-collar American,” and has spoken vaguely of helping to bridge the divide between left and right. But for a high-profile evangelical in 2019, Pratt’s cultural presence is refreshingly apolitical. Mock Pratt’s earnestness and his hype-beast church if you will, but Los Angeles is not exactly overflowing with stars who use MTV awards ceremony appearances to urge young people to protect their souls. What can I say, I’m along for the ride—God help me.