The Curious Case of the Christian Hipster

Is “Christian Hipster” an oxymoron? Not according to Brett McCracken, author of Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide, writing at CNN:

I grew up within conservative evangelical Christianity, and I’m thankful I did. But throughout my youth – and indeed, even now, at 27 – there are things about it that made me bristle. Things like televangelism, angry political picketing, boycotts, horrible Christian movies, copycat Christian music, anti-intellectualism, hyper-politicized discourse, “Left Behind” hysteria about the “end times,” and “hell houses” (don’t ask).

For many of my peers who grew up within this peculiar milieu, it was enough to sour them on Christianity entirely (lamentable, but understandable). But for many others, it simply urged them to rediscover the heart of the faith and explore Christian identity in terms that felt more pertinent to the world around them.

This impulse among younger generations of Christians has led to, among other things, a subculture which we might call “Christian hipsters.” They are Christians who seek to cultivate a strong aesthetic sensibility and intellectual rigor, things that were largely put on the back burner in the church of their youth. They are sooner found at Radiohead or Arcade Fire concerts than at Christian music shows, prefer contemporary art galleries to Thomas Kinkade showrooms, and exercise Christian “fellowship” through conversations about Sartre over fair-trade coffee or a round of craft beers.

Christian hipsters tend to serve scotch at their small-group Bible studies, and are largely supportive of such things (mostly good things, I might add) as locally grown produce, thrift stores, fixed-gear bikes, Jon Stewart, traveling abroad, Wes Anderson films, Wendell Berry books, and tobacco (in all forms except chewing). Many of them are also very image-conscious (in the way that most hipsters are), carefully selecting the right pair of Toms shoes, styling the “tangled/tussled/you’d-never think this cost $50” hairdo, and perfecting the paradoxical “fashionable-but-not-store-bought” wardrobe.

Not all of these Christian hipsters are necessarily trying to be hip, which is an important point. Your average Christian hipster is simply attempting to authentically explore their identity as a Christ-follower who is also an embodied, expressive, creative human being…

[continues at CNN]

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  • deaconkhet

    seems plausible to think that there would be such a movement within the confines of such a lamentable structure…

  • deaconkhet

    seems plausible to think that there would be such a movement within the confines of such a lamentable structure…

  • emperorreagan

    There is nothing about the hipster scene that would require significant reconciliation between “scene” and Christian belief (unless you’re going to dive in to the cocaine popular among all the hipsters I know and try to claim Jesus would be into snorting blow).

    Besides, there is Christian punk, black metal, and goth. People are able to reconcile their beliefs to participate in scenes that are generally hostile to authority & religion. Christian hipsters? Not even worth mentioning.

    • Liam_McGonagle

      Well, from one point of view it does bear mentioning that Christianity’s central iconography is the image of a dude nailed to a tree.

      Though the significance may be lost on some particularly dense fundamentalists, it’s hard to come up with an image that screams “Rebel!” any more loudly than that.

  • emperorreagan

    There is nothing about the hipster scene that would require significant reconciliation between “scene” and Christian belief (unless you’re going to dive in to the cocaine popular among all the hipsters I know and try to claim Jesus would be into snorting blow).

    Besides, there is Christian punk, black metal, and goth. People are able to reconcile their beliefs to participate in scenes that are generally hostile to authority & religion. Christian hipsters? Not even worth mentioning.

  • Anonymous

    Well, from one point of view it does bear mentioning that Christianity’s central iconography is the image of a dude nailed to a tree.

    Though the significance may be lost on some particularly dense fundamentalists, it’s hard to come up with an image that screams “Rebel!” any more loudly than that.

  • http://www.smashedbottle.com/ sebastian

    Crap, all the things I hate are joining together like an annoying Voltron.

  • http://www.smashedbottle.com/ sebastian

    Crap, all the things I hate are joining together like an annoying Voltron.

  • iphlogiston

    “But for many others, it simply urged them to rediscover the heart of the faith and explore Christian identity in terms that felt more pertinent to the world around them.”

    Christianity stopped being pertinent a long time ago. It’s no longer relevant to the Information Age.

    Although if they served scotch at my local bible study fellowship, I’d probably go. I’ll sit and listen to anything so long as there’s plenty of booze to be had.

    Also, hipsters need to get the hell out of my thrift store. I don’t shop here because it’s “hip.” If you can spend $50 on a haircut, then you need to GTFO, rich bitch.

    • Haystack

      “Christianity stopped being pertinent a long time ago. It’s no longer relevant to the Information Age.”

      Christianity wouldn’t have made it 2,000 years unless there were something timeless at its core. The problem is that it has a highly visible conservative wing that goes out of its way to make itself as irrelevant as possible. When I think “Christian” I think “gay-bashing creationist.”

    • Tuna Ghost

      oh boo hoo, those poseurs are really ruining the thrift-store scene, aren’t they.

  • Anonymous

    “But for many others, it simply urged them to rediscover the heart of the faith and explore Christian identity in terms that felt more pertinent to the world around them.”

    Christianity stopped being pertinent a long time ago. It’s no longer relevant to the Information Age.

    Although if they served scotch at my local bible study fellowship, I’d probably go. I’ll sit and listen to anything so long as there’s plenty of booze to be had.

    Also, hipsters need to get the hell out of my thrift store. I don’t shop here because it’s “hip.” If you can spend $50 on a haircut, then you need to GTFO, rich bitch.

  • Butter Knife

    Yeah, I’ve never been a conservative Christian, nor have I ever spent a great deal of time in close physical proximation to any, but I’ve known about the existence of Christian hipsters for about a decade… when I started frequenting certain predominantly Christian (though by no means exclusively, at the time I identified as an atheist, and formed a loose coalition with other atheists, pagans, Jews and liberal Christians) message boards and engaging them in discussions on politics, faith, ethics, philosophy and other “deep” issues. Many of these fundy types were precisely what the article’s author implies is ‘the norm”, but many were not.

    Maybe if the author and I were substantially different in age I could buy that this was somehow a valid “new” discovery, like when a 14 year old is first exposed to Sublime, but we’re 2 years apart by his stated age, with him being the slightly older.

    And just who does he think bought all of those Five Iron Frenzy albums, anyway?

  • Butter Knife

    Yeah, I’ve never been a conservative Christian, nor have I ever spent a great deal of time in close physical proximation to any, but I’ve known about the existence of Christian hipsters for about a decade… when I started frequenting certain predominantly Christian (though by no means exclusively, at the time I identified as an atheist, and formed a loose coalition with other atheists, pagans, Jews and liberal Christians) message boards and engaging them in discussions on politics, faith, ethics, philosophy and other “deep” issues. Many of these fundy types were precisely what the article’s author implies is ‘the norm”, but many were not.

    Maybe if the author and I were substantially different in age I could buy that this was somehow a valid “new” discovery, like when a 14 year old is first exposed to Sublime, but we’re 2 years apart by his stated age, with him being the slightly older.

    And just who does he think bought all of those Five Iron Frenzy albums, anyway?

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Hey…herdlike twattery is a behavior that can find a home and express itself in as many environments as a cockroach could prosper…which is to say all of them.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Hey…herdlike twattery is a behavior that can find a home and express itself in as many environments as a cockroach could prosper…which is to say all of them.

  • Haystack

    “Christianity stopped being pertinent a long time ago. It’s no longer relevant to the Information Age.”

    Christianity wouldn’t have made it 2,000 years unless there were something timeless at its core. The problem is that it has a highly visible conservative wing that goes out of its way to make itself as irrelevant as possible. When I think “Christian” I think “gay-bashing creationist.”

  • Tuna Ghost

    oh boo hoo, those poseurs are really ruining the thrift-store scene, aren’t they.

  • Tuna Ghost

    “Hipster” is largely just an othering device. Why, all of a sudden, is it a crime to indulge in fashion and style?

  • Tuna Ghost

    “Hipster” is largely just an othering device. Why, all of a sudden, is it a crime to indulge in fashion and style?

  • http://www.sinema7.net Maureen

    Don’t we all tend to embrace the styles and tastes of whatever part of culture we feel most like ourselves. I’m glad there are hipster Christians, cowboy Christians, hip hop Christians, etc. etc. so long as none of them think they are the only ones whose culture is relevant.

    After many years in a church that circled the wagons, condemned culture, and defined who I was allowed to be and what I was allowed to like, I am glad to be able to be my 50-something-sorta-artsy-football-and-poetry-loving-too-old-to-really-be-hipster-self. The heart of the gospel is transforming change and I’m willing to keep being transformed by Christ. I have a story to tell that may be more relevant to some than others. That’s why every Christian has a personal testimony. We may not relate to everyone but there is somebody who can relate to each person who needs to hear.

  • http://www.sinema7.net Maureen

    Don’t we all tend to embrace the styles and tastes of whatever part of culture we feel most like ourselves. I’m glad there are hipster Christians, cowboy Christians, hip hop Christians, etc. etc. so long as none of them think they are the only ones whose culture is relevant.

    After many years in a church that circled the wagons, condemned culture, and defined who I was allowed to be and what I was allowed to like, I am glad to be able to be my 50-something-sorta-artsy-football-and-poetry-loving-too-old-to-really-be-hipster-self. The heart of the gospel is transforming change and I’m willing to keep being transformed by Christ. I have a story to tell that may be more relevant to some than others. That’s why every Christian has a personal testimony. We may not relate to everyone but there is somebody who can relate to each person who needs to hear.

  • David
  • David
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