Interview With Rachel Held Evans

5-13-2010

I did an interview with author Rachel Held Evans (author of the forthcoming book Evolving in Monkey Town) about Hipster Christianity, and she posted it on her blog this week (most graciously!) to help publicize the launch of this website. Check out the full interview if you want a good, concise summary of what I am trying to do with the book... but here's a sample excerpt:

What are some of the redemptive elements of hipster Christianity?

I actually have a chapter of my book called "Authentic Christian Cool," where I talk about the redemptive parts of hipster culture and under what circumstances hipster is a good thing for the church. I talk about the positive traits of hipster culture, such as the celebration of culture and "good things" (loving food, nature, art, etc), and the way that hipsters seem to genuinely appreciate God's creation and are curious and awestruck by it. I also think that to some extent, the "hipster" mentality of being different and not following the pack can lend itself well to Christianity, if the "difference" we are committed to is biblical and not just some nebulous "rebellious/subversive/countercultural" commitment.

Which elements do you perceive as being problematic?

I think there are certain essential elements to the nature of "cool" that are fundamentally at odds with Christianity, thus making "hipster Christianity" a problematic fusion. For example, "cool" is all about self-obsession and narcissism, while Christianity calls us to be selfless and giving. "Cool" is about elitism, exclusivity, and arrogance, while Christianity is about humility, inclusivity and loving others. "Cool" is about style, irony, and transience, while Christianity is about substance, sincerity, and transcendence. There are just so many points at which cool and Christianity seem irreconcilable.

I think one of the big ones that a lot of us have experienced first-hand is the way that "hipster Christianity" can seem alienating. Some of the churches I've visited were so hip and so full of well-dressed hipsters that I felt like such an uncool outsider. It makes you feel self-conscious. Makes you feel alienated. And what kind of feeling is that to have in a church? I'd hate to ever make "uncool" visitors feel like they weren't cool enough to be in a church! It seems to me that in the New Testament, Paul is especially adamant on the point (in I Corinthians 10-11, for example), that Christianity is no place for the flaunting of privilege or distinction (whether class or ethnic or whatever), and I think that is exactly what happens anytime you have a church were some members are cool and know it (and flaunt it), while others are not so much.