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Hipster Christianity


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#321 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 31 January 2011 - 01:00 AM

Andy Whitman wrote:
: When will this bullshit ever go away? Can we just make it stop?

Apparently not! Like I say, the only reason I'm reading the book right now is because the Canadian branch of the Kindlings Muse is discussing it this week, and I certainly didn't choose the topic, but I'm one of the regular panelists, so...

: I keep waiting for Sts. Augustine, Francis of Assisi, and Mother Teresa to be added to the laundry list of Christian hipsters.

As it happens, St. Francis and Mother Teresa are referenced multiple times in the book as figures who are popular with Christian hipsters. I don't recall any reference to Augustine in the section that I've read so far, though.

Actually, one of the things that makes the book kind of hard to read, for me, is the way Brett spends a lot of time defining "hipster" and the various subsets thereof by listing all the things that "hipsters" like. And as an outsider to this scene, I find that most of the names on these lists really don't tell me anything. They don't help me to get a sense as to what these various groups are all about. It's just a list of favorite brands.

And I had to laugh when I got to the section where he rattles off a list of "Hip Christian Figureheads" -- described as the people that Christian hipsters "tend to idolize" (page 98) -- and then, when he gets to Shane Claiborne, he begins by rattling off a list of people (including, yes, St. Francis and Mother Teresa) that Claiborne "cites as his heroes" (pages 99-100). Lists within lists! Idols within idols! Heroes within heroes!

Overstreet wrote:
: According to a guy in my church who read the book, both me and my website are named in it.

Yeah, I finally came across your actual name on page 172, which is an odd passage in its own right.

There, he says, "I have seen the development of the Christian hipster aesthetic sensibilities firsthand," and then, after three sentences of saying that Christian hipsters reject the approaches of Plugged In and Movieguide, he then spends an entire paragraph (which extends to page 173) on CT Movies, of all things (and he names you there as one of CT Movies' Protestant critics, while also naming SDG and Frederica Mathewes-Green as Catholic and Orthodox critics who also write for CT Movies). And then he begins the next paragraph by saying, "But we are just one of a number of intellectually nuanced Christian film outlets..."

This is a strange passage to me for so many reasons. I mean, sandwiching any discussion of CT Movies between phrases like "Christian hipster aesthetic sensibilities" and "intellectually nuanced" just seems kind of counter-intuitive. CT Movies clearly doesn't limit itself to family fare, so it's obviously a different sort of website than Plugged In or Movieguide; but at the same time, both you and I have written, both here and at our blogs, about some of the editorial changes that were made to our reviews against our will, to make them dwell a little more on a movie's gay themes or to make them say nicer things about films that had been marketed heavily towards Christians, etc. One of my reviews was spiked altogether partly because it didn't fall in line with the movie's pro-Intelligent Design agenda. And one of my first reviews for CT Movies was even tweaked to add some pro-McDonald's content (though I was able to tone down the tweaking, at least).

Anyway. None of these things strikes me as particularly "hipster-ish" in sensibility. Nor do a lot of other things that Brett tries to rope into that category.

: He then said, with some skepticism, "The author thinks you are one of the most influential hipsters."

Well, I haven't seen Brett say anything quite like THAT, yet. He says your website is one of "countless" websites that "cater to the Christian hipster class", yes, but, strictly speaking, he hasn't called YOU a "hipster" yet, let alone "one of the most influential", at least not in the first 178 pages.

I mean, to say that a writer is POPULAR with "Christian hipsters" is not necessarily to say that the writer IS a "Christian hipster". Otherwise Brett would basically be saying that N.T. Wright is a "hipster". And that would be so, so ... well, odd.

#322 Overstreet

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Posted 31 January 2011 - 01:07 AM

And as an outsider to this scene, I find that most of the names on these lists really don't tell me anything.


Ah, but the first clue that you are a Christian hipster is that you see yourself as an outsider to the scene. Thank you for coming out, Peter.

: He then said, with some skepticism, "The author thinks you are one of the most influential hipsters."

Well, I haven't seen Brett say anything quite like THAT, yet. He says your website is one of "countless" websites that "cater to the Christian hipster class", yes, but, strictly speaking, he hasn't called YOU a "hipster" yet, let alone "one of the most influential", at least not in the first 178 pages.


I am very relieved to hear it.

#323 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 31 January 2011 - 01:20 AM

Overstreet wrote:
: Ah, but the first clue that you are a Christian hipster is that you see yourself as an outsider to the scene. Thank you for coming out, Peter.

:)

Actually, I started reading the book on a bus ride to church the other day, and, as it happens, my church is only a few blocks from Commercial Drive, which is one of the "hipper" areas in Vancouver. And then it dawned on me that, while reading Brett's "history of hip" and all the rest of it -- and in this location, no less -- I was listening to a Star Trek movie soundtrack on my earphones. And, like, seriously, there's nothing particularly "cool" about THAT, right?

And THEN I started thinking about Patton Oswalt's recent editorial on the death of geek culture, and how Oswalt was making many of the same complaints that "hipsters", as defined by Brett, make, re: the mainstreaming of what was once a narrow and somewhat exclusive subculture. Except geeks have always kind of prided themselves on NOT being "cool", right?

As they say on Facebook, "it's complicated". But I'm sure there are some comparisons and contrasts that could be teased out, there.

And now, jumping to a completely different tangent:

The book begins with a quote from C.S. Lewis. Which strikes me as odd, because Lewis really didn't give a fig for cultural relevance or whatever. He wrote children's stories, for example, BECAUSE HE LIKED THEM, and despite the fact that they were not very popular with the academic set. Cf. that famous quote in which Lewis says that, when he was a child, he tried to be very grown-up and so he read children's books in secret, but when he became a man, he put away childish things, including the fear of appearing childish, and so he now read children's books openly.

Yes, yes, it is certainly possible to argue that there is a certain contrarianism to Lewis's position that the "hipsters" would have an affinity for. And there may be all sorts of other things that Lewis has in common with the "hipsters", too. But if "hipsterism" is, as Brett defines it, about seeking the cultural edge -- constantly trying to be ahead of the pack, as it were -- then Lewis was definitely the antithesis of that.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway, 31 January 2011 - 01:29 AM.


#324 Holy Moly!

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Posted 31 January 2011 - 06:53 AM

. I mean, sandwiching any discussion of CT Movies between phrases like "Christian hipster aesthetic sensibilities" and "intellectually nuanced" just seems kind of counter-intuitive. CT Movies clearly doesn't limit itself to family fare, so it's obviously a different sort of website than Plugged In or Movieguide; but at the same time, both you and I have written, both here and at our blogs, about some of the editorial changes that were made to our reviews against our will, to make them dwell a little more on a movie's gay themes or to make them say nicer things about films that had been marketed heavily towards Christians, etc.



And here's the ONLY context where to me it seems to make sense to even structure a conversation around this concept of "hipster christianity"-- as a way of understanding the way tensions within Christian traditions about different ways of understanding art are negotiated less by theology and more by capital.


#325 Thom Wade

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Posted 31 January 2011 - 08:42 AM

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.

#326 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 31 January 2011 - 01:16 PM

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.

#327 Holy Moly!

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Posted 31 January 2011 - 05:23 PM

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.


#328 Thom Wade

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Posted 01 February 2011 - 08:11 AM

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

#329 Overstreet

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Posted 03 February 2011 - 02:59 PM

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, 03 February 2011 - 02:59 PM.


#330 Thom Wade

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Posted 03 February 2011 - 03:02 PM

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, 03 February 2011 - 03:03 PM.


#331 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 03 February 2011 - 03:36 PM

man, this is a loooonnnng thread
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cg87E1tjTOE
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.

#332 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 03 February 2011 - 05:09 PM

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.

#333 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 04 February 2011 - 02:19 PM

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.

#334 M. Leary

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Posted 04 February 2011 - 02:33 PM

Good stuff, PTC.

#335 Tyler

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 02:32 PM

That Kindlings podcast with PTC is online.

#336 M. Leary

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 03:30 PM

10 Cultural Contributions of Hipsters.

However, they forgot one of the greatest contributions of hipsterdom to our culture, which is at least number 11:
















Posted Image

Edited by M. Leary, 04 March 2011 - 03:31 PM.


#337 Persona

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 07:50 PM

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

#338 mrmando

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 08:39 PM

Um... Claritin?

#339 Anna J

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 08:53 PM

Um... Claritin?


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

#340 Overstreet

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 08:59 PM

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

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