About a month ago I received the September issue of Christianity Today, and the cover story about “hipster” Christianity quickly caught my attention. I had seen a few comments about it on the web so I waited a few days to try and disconnect from it. I wanted to read it fresh.
I think it worked.
It’s been a few weeks now since I read it (maybe a month), but here’s my review of the article. Yes, it’s a little past the “what’s hot this hour” time frame for blog post, but here goes.
The writer, Brett McCracken, talks about a new wave of Christianity called “hipster Christianity” and compares the “trend” to the Christian cool trends of the past. He claims that, “hipster Christianity is in large part a rebellion against the very subculture that birthed it.”
And that’s about when my distaste for the article began to spiral downward.
Maybe it was because I could relate to many descriptions he used for “hipster Christianity” including the following:
They “grew up on Contemporary Christian music, Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey, flannel graphs, vacation Bible school, and hysteria about the end times.”
He goes on to say. “They prefer to call themselves ‘Christ-followers’ rather than ‘Christians’. They cringe at the thought of an alter call, and the prospect of passing out tracts gives them nightmares.”
Here’s the way I see it. This is not a “rebellion” or just the latest “fad” but simply a culture shift. Cultures have been changing since the beginning of time- as each generation gets older and begins to influence those around them. Some are more gradual than others, but in some way or another things will change. Whenever more obvious change happens some people take longer to recognize its potential and embrace it.
Those doing the changing are the innovators for what the future will look like. We can see this in technology. Who would have thought in 1998 that a little thing called Google would (or could) change the world.
In the first description I quoted above, I can think back to my childhood and remember how I experienced every single one of those things the author described- and when I hear it I cringe. None of those things helped me, and many likely harmed me, in my spiritual journey. So there’s no way I would advocate for them- why would I knowing they weren’t attractive or effective for me?
In the next part of the article, McCracken writes about “the history of cool faith”. Now, when I got to this section, I thought, “oh cool, he’s going to show the cultural progression of Christianity throughout the centuries”, and I was hopeful that the article was taking a positive turn.
Well, he showed the progression of Christianity ALL the way back to 1960- oh and American Christianity in 1960. In my opinion if you’re going to talk about cultural changes in Christianity then start with the early church in Jerusalem not the twentieth century American church. I’m sure things look a whole lot different since Peter stood up on the day of Pentecost- even the American church of 1960.
For me, it was the overall tone of the article that bothered me most. Some of the churches and leaders he mentioned (Mosaic, Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll to name a few) are all places that are advancing the Gospel, and I think to look down on what they are doing because it’s different than what the church did in 1985 is absurd. Didn’t Jesus go to the places the “church people” wouldn’t go? He loved the people the “church people” wouldn’t love? And aren’t we supposed to follow His example?
While culture and methodology continue to change with each passing generation, the one thing that never changes is God and His Word. Whenever there’s a new “trend” or changes taking place we, as Christians, can always view them through the light of Scripture to ask ourselves if it’s biblical or not. There are so many aspects of the American Christian culture that have evolved and become accepted as common place among the Church but are no where to be found in Scripture. Maybe it’s about time some of these are challenged.
Maybe it’s just me and these things are a rebellion of some sort. I don’t know- I do happen to wear skinny jeans, have an iphone, twitter regularly, read Donald Miller and Anne Lamott, learn a thing or two from Mark Driscoll, prefer organic food, and think social justice issues are worth our time, but it’s your call.
While I didn’t particularly care for this article, I have no personal issue with the author, Brett McCracken. In fact, I didn’t want to skew the way I read the article so all I know is what the article offered as his bio. I just read it for what was written.
To find out more, here’s a link to the article- http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/september/9.24.html