By Evan Dawson
When church and cool collide. That’s the nifty tag line placed on the (dare I say hip?) cover of Brett McCracken‘s first book, Hipster Christianity.
I know what you’re thinking: “Here we go again. Please don’t tell me you want me to learn the meaning of yet another niche, Christianese word!” Yes. Yes I do, young padawan.
But I promise, once you finish with McCracken’s expose, you’ll know the word “hipster” more intimately than a pair of skinny jeans. Here’s a taste of what Hipster Christianity is all about (and, for that matter, what a ‘hipster” is): “…Hipsters distinguish themselves from the pack, because they are not satisfied to just feel ‘secure’ or ‘a part of things.’ They want to find things for themselves, discover the new frontier, and uncover unknown wonders on no one else’s terms but their own.” (p. 25)
Curtailing through the ‘secular’ history of hipsters was simply the only way to introduce the idea of Hipster Christianity, which is exactly what Brett does from the get-go of the book.
Kudos to McCracken for such an undertaking. That daunting task was not for the faint of heart.
Try to keep your redeemed wits about you during this first part of the book, though, as certain references like Lollapalooza or Pabst Blue Ribbon may set off a relapse. Just kidding. (Kind of.)
When it comes to using cultural icons as secular hipster examples to back his play, Brett pulls from the dead and infamous (e.g. Kurt Cobain and Edgar Allen Poe), to the obscure and fictitious (e.g. Rousseau and Captain EO).
Ne’er is a hipster left behind as McCracken brings us up to speed through their illustrious history by exposing twelve common types in detail — from The Yuppie and Flower Child to the Shaman Mystic.
Flipping through these pages, one begins to wonder, “How in the name of Weezer is Christianity going to mesh with all of this?” Just wait, grasshopper…
To be sure, the emerging church philosophy has riddled this book with its piercing arsenal of terms and approaches to life and faith. Whether or not that’s a bad thing depends largely on your personal preference of denomination, as well as certain doctrinal positions you cling to.
McCracken surprised me midway through the book by listing several churches that fit his description of a modern-day hip church. It’s a tad textbooky, but to my delight, Mark Driscoll, one of my favorite outspoken pastors, and his Mars Hill flock made the cut.
After finally closing the cover (while relaxing in a trendy coffee shop, mind you), I tossed one question around before losing interest: Is being ultra-relevant the new irrelevance?
God forbid we wrap ourselves so tightly around the ever-changing culture that we fail to address the practical needs of those not on the cutting edge. In his book, McCracken eventually hits on the main difference between being cool and being the Church; I just hope the restless hipsters reading it don’t bail before those points are made.
To be fair, McCracken does flesh out some “solutions” to this new issue (fad?) in the church. And as a comfort to those thinking that Hipster Christianity may be the demise of the church, he offers this great quote from David Wells:
“Relevance is not about incorporating something else as definitive in the life of the church, be it the hottest marketing trend, the latest demographic, the newest study on depression, what a younger generation thinks, Starbucks, or contemporary music. None of these is definitive. None should be allowed a defining role in how the church is strengthened and nourished.”
In closing, I think most Christians have already come to their own conclusions when it comes to relevance and the church. However, this book may help tip the straddlers.
Check out the Hipster Christianity website for more on the book and Brett McCracken.
Evan is a missionary, author for Third Option Men, and all around silly guy. Seriously.