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Peter T Chattaway

Hipster Christianity

472 posts in this topic

Oh man. By sheer coincidence, this item from the L.A. Weekly popped up in my news feed this morning:

Each Monday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets around Los Angeles.

God is for Real, Man

Author:Carl F. Burke

Date: 1966

Publisher: Association Press, New York

Discovered at: St. Vincent's Thrift, Long Beach

The Cover Promises: The tales of the bible retold for "some of God's bad-tempered angels with busted halos" . . .

I actually remember reading a friend's copy of this book when I was, like, 10. We thought it was so cool that, when Job hears his children and servants have been killed, he says, "Well I'll be an S.O.B.!" It was like he sweared without really swearing -- cool!

And note: this book was published in 1966. Forty-five years ago. It even predates Larry Norman's solo career.

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Is there a secular equivelant to McCracken? It seems to me, only in religious culture are such "sub-culture" groups treated with such seriousness. Yes, people might put up blogs with lists about why they hate hipsters or goths or whatever...but I cannot think of a mainstream author who goes on the news or writes editorials about subcultures (unless there has been some actual tragic event-say a campus shooting)... this kind of serious introspection only seems to be a Christian experience.

Serious introspection about subculture is a staple of punk and hiphop communities. Sara Marcus' recent book about Riot Grrl is a good example, or Gabriel Kuhn's book on Straight Edge. But usually there is a deeper understanding of the meaning and history behind the symbols of the subculture. There's an understanding that subculture is primarily productive--not consumptive-- that it's more than a place for young people to work out their peer group insecurities. And the response is generally more discerning--people can tell the difference between a serious critical study like Marcus's and other vastly inferior books on Riot Grrl that came before, which are treated with less seriousness.

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So, they don't enter the discussion with a presumption that said subculture is a negative and an attitude of condescension?

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The Canadian version of The Kindlings Muse did a show on Hipster Christianity last night.

A blogger shared some notes this morning:

There was alot of discussion on what "Hipster" is, and according to my notes:

- If you call yourself a hipster, you probably aren't one.

- Commercial Drive in Vancouver; most hipster neighbourhood to live in.

- Hipsters are young, independent, rebellious, individualistic people who all listen to certain bands (or certain specific types of music), have favorite movies, wear a particular style and brand of clothes. In other words, hipsters are defined by and dependent on consumerism.

- Hipster = exclusivity. Which is the opposite of Christianity... = inclusivity.

- Being a hipster is all about image management. It's selfish. Self-centred.

Hmm. Why do I react so negatively to having that word slapped on the lives of Christians who love art? I wonder.

She goes on:

The panel discussion was good, but the chatting around our table was better...

:blink:

And then...

Just now, while typing out my notes, I googled Hipster Christianity to link to the book, and guess what I found?

Uh huh.

A quiz!

A "Are you a Christian Hipster" Quiz.

And guess what this traditional, middle-aged Mennonite mama who buys her clothes in the fat store got for a final score...

Yeah. That's right.

Your Christian Hipster Quotient:

74 / 120

High CHQ. You are a pretty progressive, stylish, hipster-leaning Christian, even while you could easily feel at home in a decidedly un-hip non-denominational church. You are conservative on some issues and liberal on others, and sometimes you grow weary of trendy "alt-Christianity." But make no mistake: You are a Christian hipster to at least some degree.

Edited by Overstreet

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The Canadian version of The Kindlings Muse did a show on Hipster Christianity last night.

A blogger shared some notes this morning:

There was alot of discussion on what "Hipster" is, and according to my notes:

- If you call yourself a hipster, you probably aren't one.

- Commercial Drive in Vancouver; most hipster neighbourhood to live in.

- Hipsters are young, independent, rebellious, individualistic people who all listen to certain bands (or certain specific types of music), have favorite movies, wear a particular style and brand of clothes. In other words, hipsters are defined by and dependent on consumerism.

- Hipster = exclusivity. Which is the opposite of Christianity... = inclusivity.

Heh...heh...hehehehehehehe... I would say one can call Christianity inclusive with grand caveats.

(true of pretty much any belief based group of people)

Edited by Nezpop

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man, this is a loooonnnng thread

Not sure what is un-hipster about drinking cappuccino mocha lattes, even at McDonalds, but I still agree with the sentiment. We all don't have to give in to this sort of thing.

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Overstreet wrote:

: The Canadian version of The Kindlings Muse did a show on Hipster Christianity last night.

Monday night, actually, though it might not have gone online until last night.

: The panel discussion was good, but the chatting around our table was better...

Heh. I'd even be inclined to say that the chatting among the panelists, during the breaks and after the recording, was better than what got recorded. But that's just because there was so, so much more that could have been said that wasn't.

More later, maybe.

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One of the things that a few of us discussed outside of the podcast was the fact that we had covered Joel's book Sects, Love and Rock & Roll in another podcast just a few months ago, and it was interesting how both books reflected a similar generational outlook, yet Joel's book was narrowly focused on the music and was thus able to go deeper into the music and what growing up with it has meant over the years, whereas Brett's book tried to cover EVERYthing (the history of fashion, the transition from "emergent" to "missional" theology, etc., etc.), and in a post-grad term-paper kind of way, and thus felt more shallow.

I do think a fairly major flaw of the book is that Brett couldn't decide whether he was talking about his g-g-generation or whether he wanted to discuss the evolving nature of the church's efforts to be "relevant". There are times when the book practically screams "Don't trust-- er, show this book to-- anyone over 30," e.g. when Brett includes a sidebar of popular CCM albums that "hipsters" "grew up" with -- in the 1990s. But then there are those other sections where Brett tries to trace "the history of hip" all the way back to the Renaissance (which feels a bit backwards and anachronistic to me, like calling the invention of the wheel the beginning of "the history of the SUV").

Certainly, the fact that Brett tries to trace "the history of hip" all the way back to the Late Middle Ages kind of makes it stand out all the more when he writes as though modern "hipster" techniques are something new and daring. Relevant magazine covers secular music more than it does Christian music? Wow, you'd think this hadn't been done by magazines like Campus Life back in the '70s. Christians are trying to co-opt the "hip" elements of this present age and end up looking a little square in doing so? Well, I already linked a few posts back to that article on God Is for Real, Man, a book that came out in 1966.

And while I don't want to nit-pick too much, I do find it kind of telling that, in his section on "the 1960s" and all the rebellion that was taking place then, Brett makes a reference to James Dean movies. This would presumably be the same James Dean who died in 1955. It does make you wonder just how well Brett understands the history and evolution of these things, or whether he is passing along something only semi-digested. (I also had to arch an eyebrow when he mentioned the significance of Lonnie Frisbee to the Jesus People movement of the late '60s and early '70s. Certainly David Di Sabatino's film on Frisbee makes a powerful argument in that direction, but prior to that film, which only came out a few years ago, I had never heard of Frisbee and I don't think many other people had either. But, unless I'm forgetting something, Brett just kind of mentions Frisbee's significance as though it were accepted or received wisdom.)

Anyway. Maybe some more thoughts later.

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Oh, that is awesome. Did you take that yourself?

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Um... Claritin?

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Um... Claritin?

I know. I'm getting sneezy just looking at it.

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That's a photo Anne took of me on Whidbey Island.

Maybe it's the jet lag, but I don't get the joke.

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Leaves of Grass. Who was Walt Whitman if not the greatest American hipster of the 19th century?

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Re: the Top 10.

No. No, not at all. I thought that hipsterism was a self conscious thing that was cultivated as image for one's own self and one's elite little clique. Cassavetes, artisanal anything, "pants that fit" (if only, tangential to this idea is pants too big/ below yer ass, besides, pants that fit has been a staple of late middle age/senior lifestyle since whenever), and plenty more that has vacated my mind due to the rant. I might agree with the cultural omnivorous if the examples weren't so narrowly skewed.

I'm not sure about Walt Whitman. However, how popular and ubiquitous was Leaves of Grass at the time? It is considred a great work of American letters now. If it was despised, or suppressed then, I might agree. Though I'm not sure Whitman cultivated anything about himself other than one-off-eccentricity.

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That's a photo Anne took of me on Whidbey Island.

Maybe it's the jet lag, but I don't get the joke.

Poking fun at your inclusion in the book that is the title of this thread.

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Oh, I thought it was the Claritin joke. You know, all the chest high "grasses".

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Ah. Okay.

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Rich Kennedy wrote:

: Oh, I thought it was the Claritin joke. You know, all the chest high "grasses".

I don't get the Claritin reference, but the grasses did get me thinking of Malick (who, according to McCracken, is popular with hipsters -- or at least hipsters like McCracken).

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Claritin is what enables some of us to stand in a field like that without becoming ... uncomfortable.

I thought it was Jeffrey in the photo, but wasn't quite sure.

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I saw Brett at IAM Encounter 11. We had a very brief chat and meant to meet later for coffee. I'm hoping to have a dialogue with him about the whole HC debate, if he's up for it... something I can publish at LookingCloser.org. (I'm feeling pretty rotten that I spent time on this debate, since Brett and I have been online pals for a long time.) But alas, our paths didn't cross again, unfortunately... (probably in part due to my desperate hours trying to get my lecture into shape).

It was a beautiful weekend in NYC. I didn't have time to take pictures while I was there, but he posted a bunch on Facebook.

Edited by Overstreet

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apologies if this is redundant, but here is a CT article about hipstermania

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Yeah, that package of articles entered the conversation way back in Post 177. I think it's likely there has been more discussion of those articles in this thread than there has been discussion of the content of the book itself (although I suspect that they're similar in their sentiments).

Edited by Overstreet

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