Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Speaking of Hipsters

For a while now I've wanted to do something that comments on the 'oh so cool' zeitgeist amongst the Christian circles I move in. You know what I mean: watching any TV show written by Aaron Sorkin, listening to the music you'll find on Triple J (i.e. Arcade Fire, Sufjan, Cloud Control, The National), reading books by Tim Keller, Marilynne Robinson and Tom Wright, iPhone loving, caffeine, beer, wine and cheese appreciating (sometimes pipe smoking) hipsters.Or what you might describe as my life.

Well, although I had dreamt of capturing this in a very classy sketch, I never got round to it. And then Christianity Today beat me to it. Back in September 2010 they published a list of stuff Hipster Christians like to accompany their article Hipster Faith. Seeking to be counter-cultural in a culture that would describe itself as Christian (i.e. the US), Hipster Christians:
"seek to break out of the Christian subculture. The clothes and customs they shed are nothing less than the evangelical establishment itself, formed through decades of attempts at cool Christianity. Today's Christian hipsters retain their faith, but they want it to be compatible with, not contrary to, secular hipster counterculture. Their mission is to rebrand Christianity to be, if not completely void of its own brand altogether, at least cobranded and allied with the things that it had previously set itself in opposition to: art, academics, liberal politics, fashion, and so on. As a result of its intentional melding of Christian and secular, hipster Christianity often feels a bit like a stealth operation. One cannot easily decipher the Christian elements of a Christian hipster, not because they aren't there, but because they aren't in the foreground as much as, say, the "can't miss it" sartorial expressions (lumberjack beards, vintage dresses, flask as accessory) that traditionally signify hip. You're telling me that indie folk singer is a Calvinist?...That guy with the Poseidon tattoo I saw at the hookah bar last night is a Presbyterian pastor? Who knew?"
Having read through the list of things hipster Christians like and noticing that quite a lot of things a like make the list, I guess that makes me a hipster Christian. Maybe. Because I'm not sure how much is lost in translation from America to Australia. So maybe while I listen to The Suburbs and watch Jed Barlett, I won't have too much to worry about after all. But I think that the warning from CT is one that I and the circles I move in need to hear and don't get to caught up in being hip and cool:
"Isn't Christianity supposed to be distinguishable and set apart from the world? Christian hipsters are rebelling against a mainstream Christianity that they see as too indistinguishable from secular mainstream culture (i.e., consumerist, numbers-driven, Fox News—watching, immigrant-hating, SUV-driving), but their corrective may not turn out much better. Some hipster Christianity is as indistinguishable from its secular hipster counterpart as yesterday's megachurch Christianity was indistinguishable from secular soccer-mom suburbia."
Is there much point in being hip when the one I serve humbled himself and became a slave?


Anonymous said...

Good point Matt. I've been thinking about similar issues from a different angle. Here in Chile, evangelicals are known for being daggy, in-your-face, super-strict and way out of touch.

At my small Baptist church in a poor, outer suburb, most people still rock up in their Sunday best and consider alcohol and cigarettes to be sin (and they're pretty mild compared to some). It really makes you stop and think about why you make the choices you do.

Clare Woodley said...

A blog for my people...well I guess they are your people too.

That definition is awesome by the far even if it is slightly flawed.