Christian Hipster– You very well may be one…

Much to my surprise, my 80-something year old parents, and I are Christian hipsters, as are many people I know. So there is a guy writing a book about Christian Hipsters, and he described “christian hipster” characteristics. Its at: http://stillsearching.wordpress.com/2009/02/27/are-you-a-
christian-hipster/

Surprisingly, hipsters are a lot like my 80-something year-old parents.
My 80-something parents fit most of these characteristics as a hipster:
“Christian hipsters don’t like megachurches… door-to-door evangelism… John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart or youth pastors who talk too much about Braveheart…The Passion for being overly bloody and maybe a little sadistic …They don’t like evangelical leaders who get too involved in politics, such as James Dobson or Jerry Falwell,… TBN, PAX, or Joel Osteen…tend not to like contemporary Christian music (CCM), or Christian films (except ironically), or any non-book item sold at Family Christian Stores…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”

So, there are a few things in his list I left out.  My parents do like flags, and call themselves Christians, and just don’t worry about phrases like “evangelism or soul winning” and they generally don’t “hate” anything. I’m with them on most of that stuff.  Many of us Christians grew up without the christian consumer culture to rebel against. It just wasn’t an important part of our christianity.   Different people have different Christian experiences and respond to those experiences in different ways (profound, I know) but, while some may describe my upbringing as fundamentalist (no one knowingly smoked or drank, we had sunday night services which focused on end-times eschatology, and we were very much oriented around the fundamentals of scripture) I never felt any disdain or frustration or need to pointedly disagree with that background.  I’m not a teetotaller (not drinking) and I’m probably less concerned about some issues than other ‘fundamentalists’ but usually my reason for maintaining an open position on something is that I don’t see Scripture giving clear direction on that particular issue– in short, I have a high view of Scripture which guides my life and practice and in that sense I resonate with the ‘fundamental’ focus of fundamentalism.  My fundamentalism leads me to not talk where Scripture doesn’t.  If its silent, I want to be silent as well.

Our country church I grew up in was not very affected by much of Christian consumer culture– it was a farmers church.  And for that I am thankful.  And that is also why I don’t have a lot of the Christian consumer culture in my concepts of Christianity– those aspects always seem pretty distant to me and foreign to my faith walk.  I think the same goes for my parents.  Its fortunate to be so out of touch with popular Christian culture that it doesn’t become an important part of your faith walk, and then become baggage for you to work through later…

On the other hand, my parents probably don’t qualify as hipsters due to the lengthy list of things that hipsters DO 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.”

I expect that most traditional Christians who are contrasted with ‘hipster christians’ probably don’t pay attention to most of the above authors, my parents included.  I, on the other hand, appreciate quite a few of them.  So I guess I’m hipster there again. 

He continues: “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.” They enjoy Eastern Orthodox churches and mysterious iconography, and they love the elaborate cathedrals of Europe (even if they are too museum-like for hipster tastes). Christian hipsters also love taking communion with real Port, and they don’t mind common cups. They love poetry readings, worshipping with candles, and smoking pipes while talking about God. Some of them like smoking a lot of different things.”

Again, little of this would resonate with traditional evangelicals, my parents included, and much of it does with me (although I don’t love the pope or  poetry or smoke pipes– I do like pictures of the saints, and candles and communion, and we drink from the same glass at simple free)

He goes on: “Christian hipsters love breaking the taboos that used to be taboo for Christians. They love piercings, dressing a little goth, getting lots of tattoos (the Christian Tattoo Association now lists more than 100 member shops), carrying flasks and smoking cloves. A lot of them love skateboarding and surfing, and many of them play in bands. They tend to get jobs working for churches, parachurch organizations, non-profits, or the government.”

I like the concept of skating and surfing, but can’t and haven’t; carrying a flask is not something I do, and tattoos continue to bewilder me (I do not understand the attraction).  But maybe I like to break taboos of hipsterism by not being interested in tatoos (or poetry, or flasks, or pipes, or Chesterton, or loving the pope). 

But despite the fact that I seem to have so much in common with hipsters, I still feel I am not one.  Here are my main three reasons:

1. I like to sing hymns.

2. I don’t think I have enough angst about traditional evangelical culture to be hip.

3. I really like flannelgraph, which is not hip.  I may not be into a lot of Christian culture stuff, but one thing I do have a strong propensity towards is flannelgraph, and I want to revive its use perhaps during our liturgy at simple free!  Long live Flannelgraph!   🙂  http://www.thefeltsource.com/Bible-Easter-Felt-Set.html

May God have mercy on us all!

PS Many thanks to Tony ‘action’ Jackson for the article on christian hipsters!

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4 responses to “Christian Hipster– You very well may be one…

  1. Sarah Dedmon

    Flannelgraph is incredibly hip, and you are just the hipster to bring it back!

  2. Celestedawn

    One more point in favor of your being a (really hip) hipster: you close all your blog-posts with the “timeless phrase”: “May God have mercy on us all!”
    🙂

  3. simplefreechurch

    I’m absolutely willing to be a flannelgraph spokesperson! We should bring it up for national debate like healthcare…
    If saying “God have mercy on us all” is hip (I think you are right Celeste that this guy would think that it is) then I, and all the orthodox and catholic and Lutheran priests and other pastors who regularly say it are also hip…so I guess I’m in good company 🙂

  4. Marta hardacre

    I love flannelgraph, too, although I don’t know that it’s a good thing that many stories from the Bible seem to be solely on flannelgraph in my memory. Somehow it irritated me to read through much of what was written and find myself in the “Christian hipster” category. I take comfort, though, in seeing that a love for hymns negates the hipster label. I’m going to go with that. It must not be hip to like hymns because trying to find a church that sings hymns (from the actual hymnal) and also has a population under the age of 70 seems to be nearly impossible these days!

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