"Cool" Christianity?


Brett McCracken opens the introduction of his new book Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide with a quote from CS Lewis:

“I have some definitive views about the de-Christianizing of the church. I believe that there are many accommodating preachers, and too many practitioners in the church who are not believers. Jesus Christ did not say ‘Go into all the world and tell the world that it is quite right.’ The Gospel is something completely different. In fact, it is directly opposed to the world.”

With that, McCracken launches into an insightful, engaging, oftentimes convicting exploration of the origins of “hip,” the creation of the “hipster,” the co-opting of “hipness” by Christians, and the difficult question of whether Christianity can or should be “hip.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and have been wresting with much of what Brett presents here over the past several days. I keep coming back to the disturbing question of whether or not I have fallen victim to the allure of “coolness.” Just the fact that I am spending time wondering about my own coolness, however, leaves no doubt about the answer.

I cannot claim to be a Christian hipster based upon the criteria that Brett lays out in the book though. I am too old for starters, and I refuse to wear skinny jeans or a scarf. I do have the thick-rimmed black glasses, and I do wear a certain amount of product in my hair. I do enjoy listening to Radiohead, Coldplay and Bob Dylan; and I have read every book on Brett’s Emerging Church and Missional bookshelf. So, I think I might qualify as a quasi-hipster, or as my teenage son (which immediately disqualifies me from true hipster status) might call me, an “old dude who’s pretty cool.”

The best section of the book for me is Part Three. Here Brett gets to the heart of the problem: Christianity and cool are not good bedfellows. I confess that I agree with him. And that’s a hard confession to make because I have – intentionally or not, I’m still not quite sure – spent a lot of time and energy building a really cool church service and a really cool image.

Fortunately, all is not lost. Brett does not leave us quasi-hipster pastors hanging out to dry wallowing in our guilt and shame; he reminds us that cool can be authentic: not by co-opting the latest fads or kowtowing to the culture, but by simply embracing some timeless, relevant practices like sincerely celebrating art, culture and the “good things;” keeping Christ at the center of all we do; resisting the pressures of materialism and image; refusing to mirror the world; and saying no to sin. I think that I am doing some of these things, and that makes me feel a little better.

Maybe it’s alright if I keep my black glasses and my goatee, continue to enjoy Starbucks and occasionally show a clip from a movie like Crash during my sermon for emphasis.

As long as I continue to remember that the Gospel is something different than the world, I think I’ll be ok.

I’m hoping to remain an “old guy who’s pretty cool;” but not because I’m trying to.

Thanks Brett for this exceptional book; one of the most important books that I have read this year.

Comments

  1. I imagine, Sean, that you could certainly qualify as a hipster still!

    I would hope that the "hipster Christian" would be sure to be set apart from the general hipster stereotype. Imagine the prototypical hipster, sitting in an alley coffee shop (Starbucks is SO mainstream) sipping a chai tea and whining about what bands have sold out by signing with a record label or writing about something other than postmodern political theory.

    Ok, I realize that was oddly specific.

    I hope you see where I am going, though. It isn't enough to be set apart. The definition of holiness is to be set apart ~with a purpose~. The hipster Christian can be a force of good in the world - one who frees herself from societal norms in order to actualize the fully real call of God to BE Christ to the marginalized, poor, and unwanted. It is, simply, VERY important to be humble in the process.

    For that matter, that humility might be exactly what sets the hipster Christian apart from the world.

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