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#81 M. Leary

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 09:45 AM

Reading various comments about this book from a few blog posts and editorials that have popped up (the B&C comments after Wilson's post seem fairly representative), it seems that it does raise the age-old faithfulness vs. relevance question for an evangelical generation that may be equipped to answer it in a different way.

Yes, there is a sense in which the last few generations of evangelical church-goers are both more savvy to the marketing roots of seeker-friendly ecclesiology and adept at the same culture as their secular counterparts. The result of this is that they are bent towards an ideal of "real" Christianity that is both authentically primitive and aware of its contemporary context.

But given the shift in evangelical undergraduate and graduate level theological education towards catching up with secular theoretical developments in language theory and sociology, these generations are also more equipped to understand concepts like "tradition" and "community" than our predecessors. I think what we are seeing in the Emerging church is a replacement of the classic evangelical concept of "truth" and "absolutes" as the key Christian response to the great demon of relativism in culture with tradition and community. The Emerging church doesn't quite know how to handle these concepts appropriately, but perhaps we are going to see a more effective evangelical response to the faithfulness vs. relevance question that is truly historically literate in terms of who we are and where we came from. We are no longer foot soldiers in the culture wars of a past generation, but members of Christ-formed communities that exist in larger local contexts. We are more in tune with the idea that the heated print editorial and talk radio counterpoint approach is far less faithful to the formal demands of the gospel than participating in the local church. Church-going is increasingly seen as a legitimate form of relevant cultural commentary. Two birds (faithfulness and relevance), one stone.

The book I would rather see on the hipster question would end with something more constructive along these lines. I think we need to push people wrestling with the faithfulness vs. relevance question to become aware of the evangelical tradition that has struggled with it for so long, become schooled of its successes and failures, and apply this historical literacy in their effort to embody the gospel in communal, public, and local church-based activities. As far as case studies are concerned, I think one could go to the numerous church-funded art galleries, film festivals, public adult education programs, etc... (in Acts 29 and similar church planting orgs), that demonstrate this kind of thinking in action.

Just trying to tease something constructive out of this thread.

#82 Cunningham

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 10:00 AM

The book I would rather see on the hipster question would end with something more constructive along these lines. I think we need to push people wrestling with the faithfulness vs. relevance question to become aware of the evangelical tradition that has struggled with it for so long, become schooled of its successes and failures, and apply this historical literacy in their effort to embody the gospel in communal, public, and local church-based activities. As far as case studies are concerned, I think one could go to the numerous church-funded art galleries, film festivals, public adult education programs, etc... (in Acts 29 and similar church planting orgs), that demonstrate this kind of thinking in action.

Then you need to read James Davison Hunter's To Change the World

#83 Holy Moly!

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 10:12 AM

Yes, there is a sense in which the last few generations of evangelical church-goers are both more savvy to the marketing roots of seeker-friendly ecclesiology and adept at the same culture as their secular counterparts.


They're relatively culturally literate, but I don't know about adept.

I think we need to push people wrestling with the faithfulness vs. relevance question to become aware of the evangelical tradition that has struggled with it for so long, become schooled of its successes and failures, and apply this historical literacy in their effort to embody the gospel in communal, public, and local church-based activities.


I'd agree, but I'd add that we need to encourage a greater historical literacy about the existence of formulations of Christianity that land outside evangelicalism, and the additional theological resources they provide for this question-- i avoided the apparently ubiquitous adolescent guilt about enjoying rock music that my evangelical friends describe, because my congregation was closer to the mainline protestant tradition which had already come to a place of engaged discernment re: pop culture (remember Richard Neibuhr's christ & culture was published in 1956!). Perhaps my biggest frustration with much of the emerging church phenomenon is that they're coming to many of the same conclusions as mainliners 30-40 years after the fact and wrapping it language that suggests they think they invented it!

Edited by Holy Moly!, 23 August 2010 - 10:26 AM.


#84 Holy Moly!

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 10:50 AM

Tony Jones responds and sides with Wilson.

#85 M. Leary

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 11:06 AM

Then you need to read James Davison Hunter's To Change the World


I have. It is excellent. And also relevant may be Andy Crouch's book, written in the evangelical context, that talks about the way social units produce culture. Have you read any other books in Hunter's ilk that you recommend?


They're relatively culturally literate, but I don't know about adept.


Fair enough. Though I meant that in the sense that it was not odd by any stretch of the imagination to receive an email from a Christian friend this morning with a nice discourse on why the Lou Barlow show he saw last night was boring because "we are all old now." I was thinking "adept" in the sense that there really are a lot of self-identifying Christians out there of a certain age that have as much biographical stock in independent culture as anyone else.

I'd agree, but I'd add that we need to encourage a greater historical literacy about the existence of formulations of Christianity that land outside evangelicalism, and the additional theological resources they provide for this question--


Yes, I certainly agree. My above response was specifically geared towards the book on its own terms, which are distinctly evangelical. If Evangelicalism can specifically move ahead, it will be on terms different than what the book describes.

Because, as you point out:

Perhaps my biggest frustration with much of the emerging church phenomenon is that they're coming to many of the same conclusions as mainliners 30-40 years after the fact and wrapping it language that suggests they think they invented it!


Yes. And not just mainliners. The Emerging church publishing industry in the States has also reinvented the Anabaptist and the non-conformist wheel several times.

Edited by M. Leary, 23 August 2010 - 11:23 AM.


#86 Holy Moly!

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 12:03 PM

Fair enough. Though I meant that in the sense that it was not odd by any stretch of the imagination to receive an email from a Christian friend this morning with a nice discourse on why the Lou Barlow show he saw last night was boring because "we are all old now." I was thinking "adept" in the sense that there really are a lot of self-identifying Christians out there of a certain age that have as much biographical stock in independent culture as anyone else.


Oh certainly! I guess I need to be a little more explicit--I'm thinking of Heather Hendershot's observation that the Christian media industry has always sought to emulate (or surpass!) mainstream production values & aesthetics (often on smaller budgets), making media that imitates mainstream trends, and so is supposed to be appealing or relatable to broad audiences but ends up looking transparently corny, didactic, photoshoppy to genuine "outsiders." And this is no less true for people who bear the influence of The Decemberists and Arcade Fire as it was when DC Talk was influenced by Public Enemy, and later, Nirvana. We still have bands showing up at the venue adjacent to my office who I can tell are evangelical before they play a note of music--what they produce often remains insufferable. They're literate, but not adept.

True though, that there are more folks that actually do "get it"--this board is full of them.

Yes, I certainly agree. My above response was specifically geared towards the book on its own terms, which are distinctly evangelical. If Evangelicalism can specifically move ahead, it will be on terms different than what the book describes.


Exactly; part of what Evangelicalism will have to do to move ahead is abandon the illusion that it IS Christianity. I suspect Evangelicals will certainly continue to believe their particular articulation of Christianity is correct above others, but the insularity cannot stand. That this book is titled "Hipster Christianity" and not "Hipster Evangelicalism" is part of the problem. (Christianity Today has the same problem, as I've noted before).

#87 M. Leary

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 12:20 PM

That this book is titled "Hipster Christianity" and not "Hipster Evangelicalism" is part of the problem. (Christianity Today has the same problem, as I've noted before).


That is really interesting, especially given the very clear awareness on the part of the initial CT draftees that what they were doing constituted a movement of "evangelicalism" as opposed to mainline protestantism as expressed in outlets like Christian Century. There is a lot of important history in the point you make.

Edited by M. Leary, 23 August 2010 - 01:10 PM.


#88 Overstreet

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 01:25 PM

Just found a page in the book that lists a few albums and declares, "If you have these albums, you are a hipster." I'm allergic to things like this. Since I still don't know what the term means, and since it sounds quite condescending, it makes me ask, "What false assumptions are you now making about me? And what is this need you have to define me?"

There's a paragraph at the end about how interesting it has been to see people object to this diagnosis and become defensive and even "vicious" in response. I think there's a simple response to that. People don't like to be sized up and judged based on what's on their iPod. Their negative reaction may have nothing to do with any denial of wrongdoing or feelings of guilt.

Edited by Overstreet, 23 August 2010 - 01:45 PM.


#89 Ryan H.

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 01:32 PM

People don't like to be sized up and judged based on what's on their iPod.

I do. But I'm very proud of what's on my iPod. :)

#90 M. Leary

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 03:07 PM

I have always been very confused about what "hipster doofus" actually means. In its Seinfeld form, it is meant to be an insult, correct? In some contexts, I get the impression that the term refers to someone too intentionally hip. In others, it seems to refer to someone that is so not hip that they actually generate a form of coolness.

(An aside: When I first read at Brett's blog that he was publishing a book of this title, I hoped they would take the famous Kramer painting, graft Jesus' head onto it, slap a halo on him, and use that as the cover.)

#91 Joel

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 12:09 PM

David Sessions reviews the book - we are talking about the book, right?
http://www.patrolmag...stianity-review

#92 Overstreet

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 12:30 PM

What a great paragraph from David Sessions' Patrol review:

Young Christians have not jumped ship in record numbers solely because evangelicalism offers nothing that appeals to them socially and aesthetically, but because its intellectual crisis is so dire that it responds to moral dilemmas with little more than fear, nostalgia, and, most disturbingly, hints of bigotry. Deeply uncomfortable with the life of the mind and the modern world, it has asked young believers to take positions that cause them deep distress when these stances conflict with realities they understand from observing the real people all around them. Meanwhile, the church has yet to explain satisfactorily how maintaining its ideological positions benefit them as Christians or their countrymen who are not. The Christian outsiders worth talking about are pained to see the church so blind to the human costs of its activism. They attend uncomfortably or not at all. In significant numbers, they desert to Canterbury, Rome and sometimes finally to that other part of England that gave us Christopher Hitchens.


Edited by Overstreet, 25 August 2010 - 06:36 PM.


#93 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 12:57 PM

Yeah, that sentence pretty much sums up the bulk of my adult life.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway, 24 August 2010 - 12:58 PM.


#94 Persona

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 03:57 PM

Yeah, that sentence pretty much sums up the bulk of my adult life.

Me, too. Wow, both those recent quotes are awesome. So does that mean we should read the book?

#95 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 04:05 PM

Question, who is the secular establishment and who is the (there is one?) evangelical establishment? Of course, I'm not looking for a job as a professor at either U. of Michigan, or Cornerstone College, or Wheaton for that matter. So why do these THEMS concern me at all?

I gotta say that my entire adult life identity has been spent puzzled by both establishmentarian provincialism and evangerlical insularity. Until now. I'm impressed with the extent to which the former is being questioned these days and the latter has been almost done away with.

Edited by Rich Kennedy, 24 August 2010 - 04:09 PM.


#96 Overstreet

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 04:17 PM

Stef, those quotes aren't from the book. They're from the review of it at Patrol (linked above).

#97 Crow

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 04:57 PM

In all this discussion about what's hip or not hip, I find that to fit all this into my puny little brain, I simply have to defer to Huey Lewis, who once said, "It's hip to be square".

And I can remember when Huey Lewis was hip, so I guess that makes me old.

#98 Persona

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 04:58 PM

Stef, those quotes aren't from the book. They're from the review of it at Patrol (linked above).

Cool. Gotcha, I will check that out.

Edited by Persona, 24 August 2010 - 04:59 PM.


#99 Joel C

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 05:35 PM

What a great paragraph:

Young Christians have not jumped ship in record numbers solely because evangelicalism offers nothing that appeals to them socially and aesthetically, but because its intellectual crisis is so dire that it responds to moral dilemmas with little more than fear, nostalgia, and, most disturbingly, hints of bigotry. Deeply uncomfortable with the life of the mind and the modern world, it has asked young believers to take positions that cause them deep distress when these stances conflict with realities they understand from observing the real people all around them. Meanwhile, the church has yet to explain satisfactorily how maintaining its ideological positions benefit them as Christians or their countrymen who are not. The Christian outsiders worth talking about are pained to see the church so blind to the human costs of its activism. They attend uncomfortably or not at all. In significant numbers, they desert to Canterbury, Rome and sometimes finally to that other part of England that gave us Christopher Hitchens.

While appreciating and agreeing with the bulk of the above-quoted statement, and the review as a whole, I do find a little bit of frustration in the final bit about young Christians "deserting" evangelicalism for Canterbury or Rome. As a "young Christian" (in my early 20's), someone who both has attended Episcopal/Anglican churches consistently for the past couple years, and still consider myself evangelical in a broad sense, I find the above statement ironically caught up in the same sentiment he's criticizing. I see my movement to the Anglican church as a progression out of my Evangelical roots, not a deserting of them. One of my great frustrations with Evangelicalism as seeing a mutual exclusivity between itself, and certain institutional traditions (while still strangely accepting some institutional traditions such as Presbyterianism). Admittedly, I am not a confirmed Anglican, and feel I am still early in the educational process of understanding the institutional church, in all of it's different iterations. However, I cringe when I see people using the false polar dichotomy of us vs. them (already mentioned many times in this thread), which much of evangelicalism is so often ready to put forward.

On a related note, there is an element to this whole issue which I feel isn't being differentiated enough within the broader discussion about "hipster Christianity" (or other synonymous movements), the difference between young Christians leaving the Evangelical church for other non-institutionalized churches or movements, and those who move on from non-denom (or Bible/generally evangelical/etc) churches into historical, institutional churches. I see both of those sub-groups being bandied around under the same umbrella (such as in McCracken's Christian Hipster paradigm), when in fact I think they can often be driven by different motivations and convictions.

Edited by Joel C, 24 August 2010 - 05:41 PM.


#100 Overstreet

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 05:56 PM

I find the above statement ironically caught up in the same sentiment he's criticizing. I see my movement to the Anglican church as a progression out of my Evangelical roots, not a deserting of them.


Good catch, Joel. I hadn't noticed that, but you're right.

Edited by Overstreet, 25 August 2010 - 06:36 PM.