Relevant Magazine Article

8-27-2010

I wrote a piece called "The Gospel According to Hipsters" for the Sept/Oct Relevant Magazine, which is out this week. Read an excerpt here, The piece includes a discussion of the good things hipster culture brings to Christianity, as well as some of the not-so-good things.

Here's an example of the latter type: 

It makes the problem of individualism worse

At its core, hip is an individual pursuit. It’s about how I can set myself apart, how I can advance my standing in the world, turn heads toward me, be noticed, be envied, etc. It’s a way to announce oneself to the world, to assert one’s agency against the behemoth of abstracted culture. It’s a way to advertise one’s privileged knowledge about how to look and act in a fashionable way. And all of this is a thoroughly individualistic affair—meant to distance oneself (or at least distinguish oneself) from the pack. 

In terms of Christianity, this is a problem. Contemporary evangelicalism has drifted away from the corporate tradition of Christianity and adopted a more malleable “spirituality” that traffics in phrases like “do-it-yourself,” “self-help” and “your best life now!” That is, we’ve moved from a Christianity that was primarily about living out the Gospel collectively to one that is now almost entirely about “that’s how I like it,” ice cream parlor personal preference. As a result, something so wholeheartedly individualistic and self-serving as “hip” has become commonplace and even virtuous. But I’m convinced it is actually a hindrance.

“Hip” says we can and should rely on our own devices in terms of how we define ourselves. It calls us to be different and unique and not bound by the norms and standardizations of group culture.

Read more of the article.