Rod Dreher

Brett McCracken, whose book “Hipster Christianity” and the online “Are you a Christian hipster?” quiz inspired this popular post yesterday , turned up in the combox thread to that post to explain what he was up to in that book. I’ve moved his comment here to make sure you see it:

I’m the author of this book and creator of the website/quiz/anatomy of a Christian hipster. I’ve enjoyed the discussion here and want to comment on a few points:
1) Rod- you’re absolutely right to point out the “strictly-evangelical” nature of this project. I definitely don’t define “Christian” with the assumption that Christianity stops at Protestantism’s edges… but for the sake of the book, my focus was on evangelicalism, for the very reasons that you pick up on: that for Catholics and Orthodox and even some mainline Protestant denominations, there is not as much of a clearly defined subculture heritage beckoning to be rebelled against. “Hipster Christianity” as I describe in the book is notable and interesting because it is so reactionary and such a pendulum swing from where evangelicalism was 100 or even 50 years ago.
2)I think what Mike touches on in his comment (i.e. the modernist/fundamentalist split) has a lot to do with why “hipster Christianity” is such a curious anomaly and an arguably problematic one. For the last 4 decades or so (think back to the Jesus movement and the birth of Christian rock in the 70s), evangelicalism has been wrestling with how best to re-enter culture and establish for itself a more culturally ‘relevant’ identity. Unfortunately this often manifests itself in terms of an unhealthy trendiness, an ahistorical appropriation of church history/tradition, or a haphazard embrace of secular models of marketing/consumer-driven identity. All of this deserves to be thoughtfully considered and critiqued, which is why I wrote the book.
3) The “Sunday’s Coming” video presents an interesting case-in-point for what I am arguing as a definition of hipster Christianity. Clearly the video hit home with many evangelicals, because it so aptly captured the decidedly un-cool/formulaic/lame nature of the average evangelical “wannabe cool” church today. Evangelicals laughed and passed it around because they could collectively identity and purge their shame of having been associated with such ridiculousness. It allowed people to point a critical finger at something both familiar and “other,” while simultaneously allowing them to derive a satisfied sense of “we have moved on from that now” elitist amusement. “Hipster Christianity” is similarly self-aware and “we are beyond that” elitist, reacting against the evangelical tendencies to try so hard to be cool. They are NATURALLY cool, they will argue, denying “hipster Christian” labels at all cost because to be implicated as such is to be called out as just the most recent manifestation of evangelical Christianity’s long and sordid search for cultural relevance or “cool.”
So in the case of “Sunday’s Coming,” it’s not the subject matter of the video that represents hipster Christianity (quite the opposite actually), but rather the way in which the video was consumed, passed along, and processed by young Christians (mostly evangelicals) desperate to distance themselves from stodgy megachurch/mainstream Christianity. Christian hipster evangelicals are leaving the “Sunday’s Coming” type churches and going to Presbyterian, Anglican, Orthodox, or even Catholic churches… looking for something older and stable and less susceptible to fickle trendiness — a place where “hipster” identity doesn’t conflict or have any bearing on “Christian” identity, to go back to some of Rod’s points about Catholic and Orthodox hipsters having a strict separation between their religious and sartorial identities.
But I’m not so sure a strict separation of this sort actually works, because I think identity in Christ often and sometimes glaringly conflicts with one’s “hip/cool/fashionable” identity. I’m not sure we can or should compartmentalize them (though this is the solution the current crop of Christian hipsters are seeking). And that’s one of the overarching questions of my book. Going beyond questions of evangelical cultural history, I want to know whether or not “cool” and “Christian” can ever live together in harmony.

Thanks, Brett. What do the rest of you think?

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