Being Named: Hipster Christianity

Our friends Eric and Keri were just visiting from their home in Swaziland, and they left me with a stack of "Christianity Today" magazines. I picked one up today to read about "Hipster Christianity" (read it here). Here is a quote from Brett McCracken, who apparently wrote a book on the topic:

"Welcome to the world of hipster Christianity. It's a world where things like the Left Behind book an film series, Jesus fish bumper stickers, and door-to-door evangelism are relevant only as a source of irony or nostalgia. it's a world where Braveheart youth-pastor analogies are anathema, where everyone agrees that they wish Pat Robertson "weren't one of us" and shares a collective distaste for the art of Thomas Kinkade...

The new subculture of young evangelicals - I call them "Christian hipsters" - grew up on CCM, Focus on the Family's Adventures in Odyssey, flannel graphs, vacation Bible school, and hysteria about the end times. Now all of that is laughable to them, as they attempt to burn away the kitschy dross of the megachurch Christianity of their youth - with its emphasis on "soul-winning" at the expense of everything else - and trade it for something with real-world gravitas."

He then goes on to name about five more things that fit me like a glove, from N.T. Wright and Sufjan Stevens to ancient liturgies and Henri Nouwen. It must be said that every last point in the article doesn't describe me, but most of you know me well enough to know that if I deny that these are, to some extent, my people, that I'm kidding no one.

It's a good article, with some interesting historical perspective, as well as a decent pros and cons analysis of this demographic. But here's the kicker: I don't want to be a demographic. At least not in these things. My desire is to find what is good and true, and to cling to those things only because they are good and true. And yet, apparently I am part of a demographic, or else the author wouldn't have been able to name me so dramatically.

I want to think that I like N.T. Wright because his scholarship is tremendous and not because I'm part of a demographic. The same goes for Tim Keller, Over the Rhine, and a theology that social justice matters because Revelation is really talking about a new heavens and a new earth. And that may be true. But apparently it may also be part of a cultural wave, and thus may come with all sorts of extra baggage.

So, what to do? Well, I guess I have to own it, and in doing so, the author's pros and cons are worth my attention. His thoughts:

PROS: Concern for justice. A healthy appreciation for the finer things in God's creation and culture.

CONS: Temptation to mimic the world, and a struggle to understand how to "put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." Some need to be a rebel. Taking one's self to seriously since, for all their talk of oppressed minorities and justice, hipsters are almost always white and pretty financially stable.

So, I can't vouch for the book, but I'm sure a number of people who read this could resonate like I did, and thus I recommend the article.


Anonymous said...

Gosh, I had the same reaction as I was reading your post, thinking "hey, that sounds like me! I don't like that". And then Jonathan said, "well, nobody likes to be named. You want to think you can't be categorized". I think it has it's value, though, in helping me to admit and keep mindful of the pitfalls that come with the label.