Christian Hipsters' 10 Favorite American Cities

4-27-2010

1. Chicago: In addition to the aforementioned prevalence of Christian colleges in the city and suburbs, Chicago is just a super hip place to live. Hipsters of all kinds—Christians included—flock there. It’s the home of Pitchfork magazine, for goodness’ sake. Chicago also boasts a hip heritage: the Jesus People USA are located in Uptown; the iconic 1968 DNC riots took place in Grant Park; and Wilco is from there. It is also in the Midwest—a convenient urban enclave in the middle of the Bible Belt. For many Christian hipsters, Chicago is the best option for thousands of miles.

2. New York: As it is for any other hipster, New York is the dream destination for many Christian hipsters. Whether they go there to be actors, artists, designers, or factory workers, hipsters love living in New York. Many Christian hipster icons (such as Sufjan Stevens, Welcome Wagon, and Jay Bakker) currently reside there. New York is also the site of dozens of very hip, urbane, trend-setting churches like Redeemer Presbyterian, All Angels Episcopal, and Journey, as well as ministries such as the International Arts Movement.

3. Washington, DC: This city has a remarkably large number of young, just-out-of-college inhabitants who go there to make a difference in the world, interning in government and nonprofit jobs for little or no money. Christian hipsters—highly idealistic, activist-leaning people that they are—migrate to DC in large numbers. Hip churches are not hard to come by in DC either, including such congregations as Grace Presbyterian, Falls Church, Covenant Life Church (pastored by Joshua “I kissed dating goodbye” Harris), and National Community Church, which features a totally hip coffeehouse, Ebenezers.

4. Kansas City: I might be biased because I’m from Kansas City, but having traveled all over I can honestly say that, against all odds, Kansas City is one of the most influential cities for Christian hip in America. It’s the place where the 24/7 prayer movement originated, where bands like Waterdeep got their start playing at hip Christian coffeehouses like the New Earth. It’s the home of hipster churches like Jacob’s Well, Beggars Table, Vox Dei, Redeemer Fellowship, and The Gathering. And some of the most high-end and fashionable clothing stores in the city (The Standard Style Boutique, Habitat) are owned and operated by Christian hipsters.

5. Atlanta: This Southern mecca for evangelicals seems to be a city of choice for youth-oriented, hip Christian conferences, most prominently Catalyst—which is to Christian hipsters what Comic Con is to Star Wars nerds. Atlanta is also home to Louis Giglio, who started the Passion movement, founded sixsteprecords (the label of people such as David Crowder, Chris Tomlin, and Matt Redman), and recently started Passion City Church. But the biggest concentration of Christian hipsters in Atlanta is probably Andy Stanley’s North Point Community Church, the multi-campus megachurch which has as one of its pastors Carlos Whittaker—a self-described “experience architect” and “Web 2.0 junkie” who is something of a figurehead in the hip Christian Twitterverse.

6. Los Angeles: Southern California as a region is, and always has been, a hotbed of Christian hip. From Santa Barbara all the way down the coast to San Diego, the greater L.A. area (particularly beach cities, L.A. metro, and Orange County) is full of Christian hipsters. Countless Christian colleges, and industries such as film, music, and media, naturally attract Christian hipsters. L.A. is also home to oodles of hipster churches, including Mosaic, Rock Harbor, Bel Air Presbyterian, Sandals, Reality, and countless others.

7. Seattle: This über-hip birthplace of Starbucks and grunge is also a bastion of Christian hip. The presence of Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill church is a huge factor, but Seattle also has Seattle Pacific and Northwest Universities, Image journal, the headquarters of World Vision, Tooth and Nail Records, and a whole lot of design and tech companies. Hip churches there include Church of the Apostles and Mosaic Community Church, which at one point met at a bar in Capitol Hill, Seattle’s hipster gay neighborhood.

8. Minneapolis–St. Paul: The Twin Cities, like Chicago, are sufficiently Midwestern and yet urbane enough to attract Christian hipsters. The area is home to John Piper’s church, Bethlehem Baptist, Doug Pagitt’s Solomon’s Porch, Greg Boyd’s Woodland Hills Church, and several other hipster churches with names like Spirit Garage and Bluer. It’s also a Christian college–heavy town, with Bethel University, North Central University, and Northwestern College all within the Twin Cities metro area.

9. Denver–Boulder–Colorado Springs: Let’s just call this the greater Denver–Rocky Mountain region, which is teeming with Christian hipsters. Colorado Springs is sort of the epicenter for evangelical ridiculousness, which means a number of postfundamentalist, post–Focus on the Family hipsters run around there. Denver is home to Denver Seminary and Colorado Christian University, as well as hipster churches like Scum of the Earth Church and Pathways. Boulder—“Berkeley East”—is a whole other story.

10. Orlando: This seems like an unlikely spot for a high hipster population, and indeed it is. But Orlando is the home of Relevant magazine, which immediately puts it on the Christian hipster map. It is also home of the ridiculously unhip Holy Land Experience, and hip churches with names like H20, Status, and Summit.

Honorable mention: Portland, Nashville, Philadelphia, Boston, Grand Rapids, San Diego, Dallas, Las Vegas, St. Louis, and Tulsa.