Monday, August 23, 2010

Pathetic Emergent Hipsterism and Christianity

A friend and church member recently passed along to me Brett McCracken’s Wall Street Journal article titled “The Perils of ‘Wannabe Cool’ Christianity,” and if you’ve not read it yet, it is definitely worth the time. McCracken begins the piece by citing a stat from a 2007 Lifeway Research study that concluded that a full 70% of Protestants between the ages of 18-22 stop attending church on a regular basis. The reason for this jettisoning of church, McCracken argues, stems from what he dubs “Hipster Christianity.”

And just what is Hipster Christianity?

McCracken identifies it as the various attempts on the part of church leaders to make the Christian faith appear hip, edgy, and relevant, and which are (ironically) the very factors that will bring about its undoing. He writes:

Increasingly, the "plan" has taken the form of a total image overhaul, where efforts are made to rebrand Christianity as hip, countercultural, relevant. As a result, in the early 2000s, we got something called "the emerging church"—a sort of postmodern stab at an evangelical reform movement. Perhaps because it was too "let's rethink everything" radical, it fizzled quickly. But the impulse behind it—to rehabilitate Christianity's image and make it "cool"—remains.

There are various ways that churches attempt to be cool. For some, it means trying to seem more culturally savvy. The pastor quotes Stephen Colbert or references Lady Gaga during his sermon, or a church sponsors a screening of the R-rated "No Country For Old Men." For others, the emphasis is on looking cool, perhaps by giving the pastor a metrosexual makeover, with skinny jeans and an $80 haircut, or by insisting on trendy eco-friendly paper and helvetica-only fonts on all printed materials. Then there is the option of holding a worship service in a bar or nightclub (as is the case for L.A.'s Mosaic church, whose downtown location meets at a nightspot called Club Mayan).
In addition, there is the sexing-up of Christianity as a means of retaining the younger crowd:
 
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