Hipster Christianity or Why Brett McCracken is Allowed to be Cool and You Aren’t

Posted: October 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

Brett McCracken is the author of the new book Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide.  Yet, Brett McCracken is cool.  He listens to alt. indi rock, hangs out with Christians in California that throw parties prominently featuring beer and cigars and occasionally writes for Relevant magazine, the Rolling Stone of hip Christianity.  Yet, Brett doesn’t think his fellow believers should sit at the cool kid’s table.  He is the Emilo Estevez/Judd Nelson of the proverbial Christian Breakfast Club.  He thinks other followers of Jesus are posers trying to be cool when they are really Anthony Michael Halls (if you don’t get the Breakfast Club references then you are decidedly unhip!).

Brett thinks the faith is truly uncool and, therefore, Christians (except, apparently Brett McCracken) should be uncool as well. Now, to be fair, Brett has a point. If a person claims to place their faith in Jesus then they, as a response to grace and as evidence that God’s Spirit is working within them, will shun sex outside of marriage, drunkenness, etc.–certainly not cool.  But Mr. McCracken fears that too many Christians are identifying themselves with “hot ticket items” rather than the cross of Christ. 

Here, I will concede that the author has a point.  I too have met too many believers who are more concerned with fashion and pop culture than with worship, sanctification and social justice.  McCracken, however, goes farther wondering if identifying with anything “cool” like the music of Mumford & Sons, the films of Christopher Nolan or Tosh.0.  He argues that being “cool” is really about being independent as well as demanding to be the center of attention.  Maybe.

McCracken draws lines too sharply.  He seems to see nothing wrong with being conversant with film and alternative music because that’s who he truly is but he thinks others are just rebelling, which evokes attitudes detrimental to following Jesus.  McCracken is right that such a stance can distance a person from God (and everyone else) by elevating the individual to an idolatrous position but he fails to note that there are plenty of believers that are like…well…Brett McCracken.  They aren’t trying to be “hip” they just like things that are hip for reasons beyond just being “different,” “autonomous,” or whatever.

For example, I have a friend named Caleb Hickerson who may be the coolest person I know.   Caleb digs underground music (he introduced me to Dillinger Escape Plan and Copeland), watches documentaries on Netflix and is the only dude I know who can pull off skinny jeans without looking “manorexic.”  Caleb is also a schwank (that’s a term he coined) worship artist (check his stuff out here http://www.myspace.com/calebhickersonmusic ).  Yet, Caleb is also a humble guy who simply loves Jesus.  He doesn’t try to be independent and the center of attention, he just is who he is and who he is largely defined by the cross.

Now, to be fair, Brett McCracken may not disagree with any of this.  He may think that as long as being who you are doesn’t truly interfere with your relationship with God or your mission to evangelize and serve then so be it.  He may be the first to say that he doesn’t think every Christian should only listen to K-Love, watch Kirk Cameron movies and, if you’re a dude, wear short sleeve button-up shirts from J.C. Penny but his book leaves that impression.    

Hipster Christianity is a challenging, well-written book but one that overstates its thesis.  Yet, it is worth reading.  McCracken’s history of hip is worth the price alone.   I also think that every follower of Christ would benefit from reflecting on why he or she likes whatever they like–is it to be different and the center of attention or is it for other reasons.  Thus, I recommend it but with precautions (maybe my recommendation will help Brett forgive my snarkiness!). 

Francis Chan wrote in Crazy Love that “our lives should not make sense to unbelievers” and he is right but I don’t think that this necessarily means the way we dress or what we listen to as much as it is how we love, sacrifice and what we love and sacrifice for.

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