Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hipster Christians, Part MCCLXXIII

The saga continues. Brett McCracken, about whom I've written before, has now published his book about hipster Christianity called, wait for it, Hipster Christianity. I'll give Brett a plug and suggest that you buy the book.

And I'm worried. Admittedly, I haven't read it. I need to read it, and I will. But based on the excerpts I've seen, and Brett's recent article in The Wall Street Journal, it seems to me that Brett is focused on the wrong things. There's much, much more going on here than a desire to be cool, and to fit in with the culture. There is a fundamental rejection of those things with which Evangelical Christianity has been identified. The kids are not just tuning out. They're running the other way. And Brett's book appears to be analogous to a purported critique of the Amish worldview that merely focuses on the funny hats. He nails the fashion trends, but he misses the point.

I don't know how many of you are involved in so-called Emergent churches. I suspect I am, although the members of my church probably wouldn't identify themselves as such. They would simply identify themselves as part of a Christian church. But all of the other earmarks are there. It's full of people about whom the label "hipster" would easily apply if one were looking for outward signs of hipsterism. But here's the deal. They congregate together for theological and philosophical reasons, many of which have to do with an uneasiness with, if not an outright rejection of, the Evangelical cultural trappings with which many of them were raised. Vote Republican? Probably not, or at the very least they believe that whatever Republican candidate is currently running for office has not received a direct endorsement from Jesus. Vote based on a candidate's stance on abortion and/or homosexuality? Nope. Convinced of the God-given merits of free enterprise capitalism? Nope. Take their cues from the evangelical cultural ghetto? What's that? It's not that they've even rejected it. They simply don't even think about it, although they seem to actively engage the culture as Christians. Engage in the culture wars? Emphatically No. They're sick of them, and disgusted by them. Care for the planet that we live on, and take care of orphans and widows, and engage in ending sex trafficking? Yep, big time. They seem to think these things align with the will of God.

Many of them like Sufjan Stevens, and have tattoos and piercings. And Amish people wear funny hats. So what? I know these folks. They're so hip that they gladly welcome a 55-year-old fat guy with a hearing aid into their midst. And I'm there for the same theological and philosophical reasons. Those are the reasons that seem to be missing from Brett's analysis. Seem to be. I'll read the book because now I'm genuinely curious. But those are my concerns.


cnb said...

Speaking of Sufjan, have you heard the new EP yet? I played the first half this morning, and I'm quite pleased with it so far.

Now when will that man finally get around to releasing his 'real' follow-up to Illinoise?

Andy Whitman said...

I have, and I like it, Craig. It's the same ol' Sufjan, but different, which means that there are enough reocgnizable signposts there (the introspective songwriting, the fussy string arrangements) to please the longtime fan that I am, as well as some encouraging new directions. I particularly like the guitar freakout on the last song, which is something new for Sufjan.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you Andy. As recognizable an aesthetic portrait as the book may paint, it seems to be missing the spiritual, moral, intellectual, and emotional wrestling that animates the choices being made by most of the so-called "hipster Christians" that I know.

Besides, I had that cool poster from the Over The Rhine / VoL tour not because it had hipster cred but because it was really cool. Give it a rest, McCracken! ;-)


Stu said...

Andy, hearing aids are Hip. Also, I agree with what you're saying here, and I'm glad you're saying it.

And finally: Sufjan Stevens is the Hipster Jesus.

ali said...

So basically they like to take the fun, comforting parts of Christianity and ignore the rest. Yes, I'm bitter.