Christian Hipsters: A Tool For Self-Diagnosis

This has already been making the rounds, but the weekend is almost here, and I thought it would be an opportunity to focus more on the culture part of AC. Per Brett McCracken, here is a partial list of the common traits of Christian hipsters:

Things they don’t like:
Christian hipsters don’t like megachurches, altar calls, and door-to-door evangelism. They don’t really like John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart or youth pastors who talk too much about Braveheart. In general, they tend not to like Mel Gibson and have come to really dislike The Passion for being overly bloody and maybe a little sadistic. They don’t like people like Pat Robertson, who on The 700 Club famously said that America should “take Hugo Chavez out”; and they don’t particularly like The 700 Club either, except to make fun of it. They don’t like evangelical leaders who get too involved in politics, such as James Dobson or Jerry Falwell, who once said of terrorists that America should “blow them all away in the name of the Lord.” They don’t like TBN, PAX, or Joel Osteen. They do have a wry fondness for Benny Hinn, however.

Christian hipsters tend not to like contemporary Christian music (CCM), or Christian films (except ironically), or any non-book item sold at Family Christian Stores. They hate warehouse churches or churches with American flags on stage, or churches with any flag on stage, really. They prefer “Christ follower” to “Christian” and can’t stand the phrases “soul winning” or “non-denominational,” and they could do without weird and awkward evangelistic methods including (but not limited to): sock puppets, ventriloquism, mimes, sign language, “beach evangelism,” and modern dance. Surprisingly, they don’t really have that big of a problem with old school evangelists like Billy Graham and Billy Sunday and kind of love the really wild ones like Aimee Semple McPherson.

Things they like:
Christian hipsters like music, movies, and books that are well-respected by their respective artistic communities—Christian or not. They love books like Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ron Sider, God’s Politics by Jim Wallis, and The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. They tend to be fans of any number of the following authors: Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Wendell Berry, Thomas Merton, John Howard Yoder, Walter Brueggemann, N.T. Wright, Brennan Manning, Eugene Peterson, Anne Lamott, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Henri Nouwen, Soren Kierkegaard, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Annie Dillard, Marilynne Robison, Chuck Klosterman, David Sedaris, or anything ancient and/or philosophically important.

Christian hipsters love thinking and acting Catholic, even if they are thoroughly Protestant. They love the Pope, liturgy, incense, lectio divina, Lent, and timeless phrases like “Thanks be to God” or “Peace of Christ be with you.”

The rest of the post is here. I have a number of thoughts about the Christian hipster label and its content. For starters, if someone pushing 30, living in the suburbs with two kids meets 60%-70% of the criteria, I think the term ‘hipster’ is being abused. But I thought it would be interesting to hear other people’s perspectives.

4 Responses to Christian Hipsters: A Tool For Self-Diagnosis

  • Ryan Harkins says:

    Well, having looking through the criteria, I’m definitely not a hipster, though I share some of the likes a dislikes. For example, I don’t like megachurches, but I am increasingly in favor of door-to-door evangelism. I think Catholics might consider doing a little more visible activity like that. I think our laity (though it might just be me) are pretty lazy about spreading the Word. I do like Mel Gibson, and I think the bloodier I picture the Passion, the better. Christ suffered the weight of every single sin of mankind. That extent of suffering is absolutely mind-boggling. I love the Pope, the liturgy, and Lent. Incense is not so much a concern (because my wife reacts violently to it), and I feel incredibly awkward with the timeless phrases.

    The worrisome thing is that a hipster likes what is hip. That might be good for the moment, if the perspective if that there is something “hip” about Christianity, but on the other hand, if that perspective ever changes, will these hipsters dump Christianity as yesterday’s fad? Moreover, is their interest in Christianity a matter of status, of being in a particular crowd, rather than in Christianity itself? (Well, these questions aren’t limited to the hipsters. I ask these of myself continually.)

    Anyway, I don’t know much about it, myself. I’ll simply try to reserve any judgment, because the temptation is always to ask, “Are they genuine?” And that does them a great disservice.

  • John Henry says:

    I am increasingly in favor of door-to-door evangelism. I think Catholics might consider doing a little more visible activity like that. I think our laity (though it might just be me) are pretty lazy about spreading the Word….Moreover, is their interest in Christianity a matter of status, of being in a particular crowd, rather than in Christianity itself?

    I agree, and you’ve highlighted one of the reasons I found the list somewhat puzzling. On the one hand, the term ‘Christian hipster’ seems to denote an interest in aesthetics and artistic integrity. For example, old Cathedrals really are beautiful; Chesterton, Lewis, O’Connor, etc. are phenomenal writers and thinkers; CCM is generally bad because it is a contrived imitation of popular music.

    On the other hand, it seems to denote a sort of guarded and deliberate detachment from committing oneself entirely to Christ. For example, door-to-door evangelization is out (we wouldn’t want to feel uncomfortable!); as are altar calls (a public commitment to Christ). And, while there are plenty of reasons to dislike Jerry Falwell, the 700 club etc., the fact that hipsters like the equally political Jim Wallis suggests it is the zeitgeist rather than a dislike of the mixture of faith and politics that may be motivating their behavior. Either way, it’s an interesting list.

  • E.D. Kain says:

    I generally fit into much of this list’s criteria, but I hardly think “hipster” is the right term. Not being into Christian music and manufactured pop-Christian culture, and preferring some intellectual rigor does not a hipster make. But it’s still a generally good thing, I suppose….

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