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#181 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 03 September 2010 - 03:32 PM

Does this timeline bother anyone else? I am just not seeing how we go from Schaeffer to Paste to the Emergent Church. The comparison in the green box between "hipster Christianity" and Uneasy Conscience is particularly galling, as it is terrible inaccurate.

I don't know. But is anyone else wondering why Ben Affleck is the apparant poster boy for the Emergent Church?

#182 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 03 September 2010 - 03:46 PM

Without meaning to sound like some "back to the Bible" thumper, surely there are enough ethical causes where we can work together. I'm so thoroughly sick of the culture wars, and the shrieking, and the finger pointing. And I include myself in that area as well. Rather than seeking the ideal political solution, I would be happier if we sought to do good. It would at least be a decent start.

Yes, I also agree. However, I'd like to point out that large traditional evangelical churches have been doing crisis pregnancy centers for decades now. Doing good has many varieties and it is not safe to assume that those focusing on good different than my good are not putting their money where their mouthes are. This would be a really pleasant first step. At some point, different kinds of focus and values of importance will assert themselves. Still it would be wise to acknowledge the work that others value not totally contradicting what one values herself.

#183 Holy Moly!

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Posted 03 September 2010 - 10:30 PM

Okay, Ted Olsen officially has lost whatever respect I might ever have had for him and his publication.

"And that's largely why the Christian hipsters described in this month's cover story ("Hipster Faith," page 24) will never quite mesh with their secular counterparts. They may wear skinny jeans and unnecessary scarves, but they lack the utterly nihilistic detachment of their neighbors. Yes, they may be particularly prone to evangelicalism's original sin—a desire not to be seen as weird—but, as writer Brett McCracken points out, they are not mere consumers. They are as likely to volunteer at the Salvation Army as to shop there. They want to serve the poor even as they adopt "homeless chic" beards and caps. They want to identify with the downtrodden, not just steal their fashions."


This is deeply offensive to me. My friends with secular leanings and non-christian faiths who fall into the superficial category of "hipster" are every bit as likely to be engaged, active in their communities, serving the poor and make no mistake: the reason they shop at the thrift stores is because they are POOR themselves, most likely because they're working in sectors that aren't financially lucrative, like the arts, and service oriented nonprofits.

This is sanctimonious garbage--the literal definition of holier than thou. Just disgusting.

Edited by Holy Moly!, 03 September 2010 - 10:32 PM.


#184 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 03 September 2010 - 11:37 PM

You might be right. However, the description you quote is about christian hipsters who do things that the author assumes that his readers do not. That does not mean that non-christian hipsters don't do those things as well.

#185 Cunningham

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Posted 03 September 2010 - 11:55 PM

You might be right. However, the description you quote is about christian hipsters who do things that the author assumes that his readers do not. That does not mean that non-christian hipsters don't do those things as well.

I don't think that's correct Rich. The quote is explaining, "Why Christian hipsters don't mesh with their secular counterpart," not why they don't mesh with their "square" counterpart (which would be his audience.)

#186 Andy Whitman

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Posted 04 September 2010 - 08:41 AM


Without meaning to sound like some "back to the Bible" thumper, surely there are enough ethical causes where we can work together. I'm so thoroughly sick of the culture wars, and the shrieking, and the finger pointing. And I include myself in that area as well. Rather than seeking the ideal political solution, I would be happier if we sought to do good. It would at least be a decent start.

Yes, I also agree. However, I'd like to point out that large traditional evangelical churches have been doing crisis pregnancy centers for decades now. Doing good has many varieties and it is not safe to assume that those focusing on good different than my good are not putting their money where their mouthes are. This would be a really pleasant first step. At some point, different kinds of focus and values of importance will assert themselves. Still it would be wise to acknowledge the work that others value not totally contradicting what one values herself.

Yep. I'm in total agreement, Rich.

#187 Persona

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 12:24 PM

I just heard an excellent examination that throws a bit of a different light on the conversation of emergent/non-emergent or hipster/mainstream/whatever. I have got to read a book by this fellow. I can't say it as well as he can, I'll have to get the book and head to our book section with some quotes -- but Peter Rollins might ask, Are we defined by what we believe, or are we defined by our entire material existence -- the outward things we do every day instead of the inward ways we think? Do our beliefs actually cause genuine world transformation, or do transformations happen one at a time when our material existence begins to match the desires of Christ? Is there irony in the constant defining of our beliefs when that does next to nothing regarding the way Christ wants us to work out the reconciliation of all things on earth? Is it really about a person's inside thoughts and getting right all the miniscule ideas about the fundamentals of one's faith, digging inward like a weekly trip to your shrink, or is faith in Christ meant for something greater than your belief -- that perhaps if everything you do every day isn't lining up with your core belief system, than your belief system might actually be getting in the way?

Edited by Persona, 05 September 2010 - 12:58 PM.


#188 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 12:36 PM

It's both. It has always been both. I think that when we are truly following "the desires of Christ" the two are inextricably entwined. That certainly is the only way to make sense of James and Romans at the same time, for example. In addition, you think you are conforming to the desires of Christ, and like humility, you end up not conforming. There is no sure, fixed and right mark that one toes in the entwining. It is hard enough to humbly have right doctrine and be willing to adjust when one realizes things are not quite right. Same thing with right acts. Entwining is yet more humbling and complicated. One without the other is either humanism, or possibly an intellectual excercise.

Edited by Rich Kennedy, 05 September 2010 - 12:37 PM.


#189 Persona

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 12:53 PM

So when American Christian businessmen are driving large SUVs while discussing on their cell phones about environmental problems, has their material existence actually been transformed? When you're sitting at a Starbucks talking about the evils of giant corporations is that about belief or at this point irony? Who we are has barely been affected, and the beliefs of modern Christian Americans are not changing the way we operate in the world. Were it so, Christianity, or whatever you want to call it, would have changed systems of corruption by not being a part of it at all, and changed the world in the process.

It's both. It has always been both. I think that when we are truly following "the desires of Christ" the two are inextricably entwined.

Agreed, except that I think I can sum up the "belief" part in one sentence: Christ died to transform the world. This makes room for thousands of ways to believe this, be it Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Evangelical, Puritan, moralist, hipster, hard-core rocker, recovering addict, sin-prone missing dad.

That certainly is the only way to make sense of James and Romans at the same time, for example. In addition, you think you are conforming to the desires of Christ, and like humility, you end up not conforming. There is no sure, fixed and right mark that one toes in the entwining. It is hard enough to humbly have right doctrine and be willing to adjust when one realizes things are not quite right. Same thing with right acts. Entwining is yet more humbling and complicated. One without the other is either humanism, or possibly an intellectual excercise.

Who humbly has right doctrine? Which of the above denominations I mentioned humbly has right doctrine? And which of those is "willing to adjust"?

It's not humanism, btw. I never said there wasn't a belief in place. My point was that belief has helped Christians to hold out an image of themselves -- an image which doesn't materially line up.

Edited by Persona, 05 September 2010 - 12:56 PM.


#190 Ryan H.

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 01:10 PM

So when American Christian businessmen are driving large SUVs while discussing on their cell phones about environmental problems, has their material existence actually been transformed? When you're sitting at a Starbucks talking about the evils of giant corporations is that about belief or at this point irony? Who we are has barely been affected, and the beliefs of modern Christian Americans are not changing the way we operate in the world. Were it so, Christianity, or whatever you want to call it, would have changed systems of corruption by not being a part of it at all, and changed the world in the process.

I find your illustrations curious. You suggest that "who we are has been barely affected" by our beliefs, but your illustrations assume that environmentalism and a stance against big business are common to American Christianity. They're quite popular among the emergents, I suppose, but much of evangelical Christianity doesn't see either of those battles as a priority. No wonder there hasn't been transformation in that regard. This is, of course, where theology comes into things, and plays its important role. What, exactly, is the work of the Body of Christ?

Agreed, except that I think I can sum up the "belief" part in one sentence: Christ died to transform the world.

You think that's enough, Stef? That there aren't ways to understand that truth that could be harmful? That, really, all understandings are equal?

Edited by Ryan H., 05 September 2010 - 01:12 PM.


#191 Persona

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 01:27 PM


So when American Christian businessmen are driving large SUVs while discussing on their cell phones about environmental problems, has their material existence actually been transformed? When you're sitting at a Starbucks talking about the evils of giant corporations is that about belief or at this point irony? Who we are has barely been affected, and the beliefs of modern Christian Americans are not changing the way we operate in the world. Were it so, Christianity, or whatever you want to call it, would have changed systems of corruption by not being a part of it at all, and changed the world in the process.

I find your illustrations curious. You suggest that "who we are has been barely affected" by our beliefs, but your illustrations assume that environmentalism and anti-big business are common Christian beliefs. They're quite popular among the emergents, I suppose, but much of evangelical Christianity doesn't see those battles as a priority. No wonder there hasn't been transformation in that regard. This is, of course, where theology comes into things, and plays its important role. What, exactly, is the work of the Body of Christ?

The work of Christ would be to identify the good, to identify the beauty and when we encounter what it not good or not what would be identified as the beauty of original creation, to attempt to bring transformation to it in a way that we know how. What I'm saying -- regurgitating, and probably not very well, but close enough for a conversation that singles out the group known as hipsters -- is that belief in itself does not do this.

Seven-member families that live in $320,000 three-story homes with a fully finished basement with Wiis and golf clubs and DVDs who talk about hope for poverty in the world. People that mix in politics and big-guns and military hopes to keep the world carved out in a nationalistic image but talk about God and the hope for all nations. The idea that giving 10% to keep the building fund going is transformative and what is required. The belief that showing up once a week on Sunday morning and once Thursday night for the small group is actual community, and is exactly and all that is needed to transform anything except to create others in our culture in the exact same cloned image as us.

It happens individually and it happens in systems. I was mostly talking about systems, and I'm not saying I have it all individually figured out. Because I don't. But I have encountered people in the church for forty years now who have erected the false self to prove to themselves that they are OK. And I've at least made the break with myself in my own life to where I can acknowledge the false image and say, no, this is not OK. I am not OK. And I won't continue with a faith that is half-hearted and self-congratulatory.

Agreed, except that I think I can sum up the "belief" part in one sentence: Christ died to transform the world.

You think that's enough, Stef? That there aren't ways to understand that truth that could be harmful? That, really, all understandings are equal?

I think we could go very far with that understanding followed by Christ's two greatest commandments, yes. If it doesn't line up with a love of God and if it doesn't line up with a love of neighbor, then it isn't transformative and wasn't what Christ died for.

Edited by Persona, 05 September 2010 - 01:28 PM.


#192 Ryan H.

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 01:42 PM

What I'm saying -- regurgitating, and probably not very well, but close enough for a conversation that singles out the group known as hipsters -- is that belief in itself does not do this.

I would say that opposite. That belief--true, genuine belief--does precisely that. But most often, we Christians do not truly believe what we profess.

I read an interesting quote the other day. It was taken from David Wells' GOD IN THE WASTELAND. I have not read the book in question, and I am not acquainted with Wells, so I endorse neither here. But I do believe that this singular, out-of-context quote has some genuine truth:

The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is not inadequate technique, insufficient organization, or antiquated music and those who want to squander the church’s resources bandaging these scratches will do nothing to staunch the flow of blood that is spilling from its wounds. The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rests too inconsequentially upon the church. His truth is too distant, his grace too ordinary, his judgment too benign, his gospel too easy, and his Christ is too common.

I think we could go very far with that understanding followed by Christ's two greatest commandments, yes. If it doesn't line up with a love of God and if it doesn't line up with a love of neighbor, then it isn't transformative and wasn't what Christ died for.

Naturally. But, unlike you, I think that doesn't take us very far. What does it mean to love God? What does it mean to love my neighbor? These are crucial questions. Nuanced answers are necessary. Without definition, these ideas are vague and nebulous.

Edited by Ryan H., 05 September 2010 - 01:56 PM.


#193 Andy Whitman

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 03:33 PM

What I'm saying -- regurgitating, and probably not very well, but close enough for a conversation that singles out the group known as hipsters -- is that belief in itself does not do this.

I would say that opposite. That belief--true, genuine belief--does precisely that. But most often, we Christians do not truly believe what we profess.

I read an interesting quote the other day. It was taken from David Wells' GOD IN THE WASTELAND. I have not read the book in question, and I am not acquainted with Wells, so I endorse neither here. But I do believe that this singular, out-of-context quote has some genuine truth:

The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is not inadequate technique, insufficient organization, or antiquated music and those who want to squander the church’s resources bandaging these scratches will do nothing to staunch the flow of blood that is spilling from its wounds. The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rests too inconsequentially upon the church. His truth is too distant, his grace too ordinary, his judgment too benign, his gospel too easy, and his Christ is too common.

I think we could go very far with that understanding followed by Christ's two greatest commandments, yes. If it doesn't line up with a love of God and if it doesn't line up with a love of neighbor, then it isn't transformative and wasn't what Christ died for.

Naturally. But, unlike you, I think that doesn't take us very far. What does it mean to love God? What does it mean to love my neighbor? These are crucial questions. Nuanced answers are necessary. Without definition, these ideas are vague and nebulous.

I wish I could say I saw a greater correlation between a better understanding of doctrinal nuance and a more Christlike life. I can't, though. Often, what I see is that a better understanding of doctrinal nuance leads to a more arrogant and contentious life, and since neither arrogance nor contention are particularly Christlike virtues, I'm not sure what is gained. Perhaps not surprisingly, I'm closer to Stef's perspective here. I just don't think it's that hard to understand. It's just hard to do. And I see far too many whiney, angry Christians who can dot their doctrinal i's and cross their doctrinal t's, and who are frankly a royal drag to be around. They are walking billboards for what is unappealing about Christianity.

People are selfish by default. They tend to look out for #1 very well, and just because somebody claims to put God as priority #1 doesn't mean that they actually do. You can say that this is faulty belief, but there are many, many people who would insist that their beliefs are entirely in order, all the while remaining apathetic to the plight of their neighbors and judgmental toward those with whom their beliefs differ. It's fairly ugly. I am less and less concerned with what people purport to believe and I am more and more concerned with how they actually live their lives. If people whose doctrinal beliefs are robust give of their time and money and energy in serving others, then more power to them. If people whose doctrinal beliefs consist of little more than "Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so," and yet still give of their time and money and energy in serving others, then more power to them. Everything else is a misguided focus. It's just not that difficult to grasp.

Edited by Andy Whitman, 05 September 2010 - 03:34 PM.


#194 Ryan H.

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 04:16 PM

I wish I could say I saw a greater correlation between a better understanding of doctrinal nuance and a more Christlike life. I can't, though.

Every single Christian man or woman who I have found worthy of deep admiration and imitation has, in one way or another, had a strong grasp of theological concepts. That's not to say all of them could have lectured me on Karl Barth, or even would know what Karl Barth's theology entailed. But they were intelligent, thoughtful people, and their graciousness of spirit and deep humility wasn't in any way disconnected from their beliefs. In fact, they would say that what they did extended directly from what they believed. For these individuals, the intellectual components of their faith did assist them in their growth.

People are selfish by default. They tend to look out for #1 very well, and just because somebody claims to put God as priority #1 doesn't mean that they actually do. You can say that this is faulty belief, but there are many, many people who would insist that their beliefs are entirely in order, all the while remaining apathetic to the plight of their neighbors and judgmental toward those with whom their beliefs differ.

And I would say that they are liars, and that they lie to themselves as well as to others.

I am less and less concerned with what people purport to believe and I am more and more concerned with how they actually live their lives.

But even you have admitted that there's a sliding scope here. If "good action" is all that matters, then a good and gracious Christian is more or less equivalent with a good and gracious Muslim. Or a Bhuddist. Or what have you. It's clear in the Gospels and elsewhere that God has little time for those who profess one thing and do another, and values obedience ("If you love me, you will keep my commandments"). But Jesus and the Scriptures say things along other lines, too, which demonstrates that just because obedience is greatly valued it does not mean that what we confess or understand has little value. Otherwise, why would Scripture devote so much time to theology? Rich is right, we must be students of both Romans and James. Hebrews 5:11 through 6:3 would indicate that theological knowledge is an important, even crucial, component of spiritual development:

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.


Edited by Ryan H., 05 September 2010 - 04:26 PM.


#195 Persona

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 05:54 PM

I don't think the point of me bringing the Peter Rollins teaching into the conversation was about knowing who has a "strong grasp of theological concepts" and is admired -- and, btw, if you want, I'd be happy to go on cable tonight and simply flip through the channels to find you a lot of folks who have a "strong grasp of theological concepts" that you probably won't admire -- but it was really in my watching this thread for the past few weeks(?) and seeing the similarities between "emergent Christianity," a phrase which I have always hated but one that is nonetheless used to describe my church, and "Christian hipster," a phrase which I am now being lumped into against my own desire, a phrase that I strongly feel is a generalization and about which I mentioned Here, saying it leads to a "reductionist, minimalist, misguided, and unhelpful" definition of a segment of the Christian church.

The reason I relate to what Rollins said last week is that I have for some time not wanted to be defined by a system of beliefs, outside of a belief that the narrative as found in the Bible and the messianic story of Jesus makes the most sense to me of anything I've seen in life. Other than that, if I were to die tomorrow I'd like for my kids to remember me as the guy that risked everything to suck the sap out of life, the guy that lost much of it in encountering the problems and addictions of the world, and the guy that met those problems and addictions head-on and with the help of God and those in community around him, came back and fought to find transformation. And I'm still fighting, for myself and hopefully for more than me, too.

But I honestly think I had to lay down a lot of my beliefs in order to encounter the spirit behind this transformation, the one I'll refer to as God and believe in as Jesus. (But if he goes by another name, I've asked his forgiveness for getting it all wrong, and I pray he forgives anyone else in the world who has gotten his name wrong, too.)

Having a lot of the core beliefs that have been given the label "hipster" is not cool or a style. It is an honest search -- at least for me -- from a person in a new generation, one removed from a stagnant church with a false image of itself that couldn't help me when I was down, due to its own moralistic and self-righteous stance. It is a church I haven't necessarily given up on, but I've searched for transforming truth instead of continuing to simply plod on in stagnancy with the group.

Edited by Persona, 05 September 2010 - 05:58 PM.


#196 Ryan H.

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 06:09 PM

I don't think the point of me bringing the Peter Rollins teaching into the conversation was about knowing who has a "strong grasp of theological concepts" and is admired

Of course not. But conversations often change course.

if you want, I'd be happy to go on cable tonight and simply flip through the channels to find you a lot of folks who have a "strong grasp of theological concepts" that you probably won't admire

That's a cheap dig. My point is and was that theology can be helpful, and has been, at least in my own experience, and in the experiences of others who I think embody much of what the Scriptures mark as praiseworthy, intended as a counterpoint to Andy's emphasis that theological discourse/certitude leads to strife, arrogance, and deceit. I have seen some bitter, entirely unhelpful theological conflict, too (some of which I have sadly been the cause), but I have also known doctrine/theology to be a source of joy, freedom, and growth.

Having a lot of the core beliefs that have been given the label "hipster" is not cool or a style. It is an honest search -- at least for me -- from a person in a new generation, one removed from a stagnant church with a false image of itself that couldn't help me when I was down, due to its own moralistic and self-righteous stance.

This seems to be the main voice coming from your side of the fence. It would seem most of us here find McCracken's analysis of the situation at best insufficient, and at worst, detrimental to the conversation.

Edited by Ryan H., 05 September 2010 - 06:11 PM.


#197 Overstreet

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 06:42 PM

Sheesh. We should all write books that provide convenient social-group-profiling checklists. Whatever you think of this book, it's getting more discussion and press everything I've ever written combined. I'd say a sequel is a done deal.

Edited by Overstreet, 05 September 2010 - 06:42 PM.


#198 Holy Moly!

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 07:34 PM

I have seen some bitter, entirely unhelpful theological conflict, too (some of which I have sadly been the cause), but I have also known doctrine/theology to be a source of joy, freedom, and growth.


I can get behind that, and I'd add that the general lack of theological literacy at the lay level of congregants--especially the emphasis on apologetics over theology--has helped to enable abuse of christianity over the years. Note though that I'd draw a distinction between "broad-based theological education" and "doctrinal correctness". I'd tend to emphasize the former.

#199 Persona

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 07:47 PM

if you want, I'd be happy to go on cable tonight and simply flip through the channels to find you a lot of folks who have a "strong grasp of theological concepts" that you probably won't admire

That's a cheap dig. My point is and was that theology can be helpful, and has been, at least in my own experience, and in the experiences of others who I think embody much of what the Scriptures mark as praiseworthy, intended as a counterpoint to Andy's emphasis that theological discourse/certitude leads to strife, arrogance, and deceit. I have seen some bitter, entirely unhelpful theological conflict, too (some of which I have sadly been the cause), but I have also known doctrine/theology to be a source of joy, freedom, and growth.

Sorry about that -- I didn't mean it as a cheap dig, not at all. I meant it honestly. We can look at cable and see all kinds of reasons that beliefs are not the answer. It was also a reminder of my point of the two sides of the coin regarding theology and belief -- that, as you say, theology can be helpful, and my point that it hasn't always been, and that I believe the power of a church is found in a body that can get past it. The narrow road that Jesus describes still has more than one person who can walk on it at once.

Edited by Persona, 05 September 2010 - 07:48 PM.


#200 M. Leary

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Posted 05 September 2010 - 08:39 PM

Sheesh. We should all write books that provide convenient social-group-profiling checklists. Whatever you think of this book, it's getting more discussion and press everything I've ever written combined. I'd say a sequel is a done deal.


We need to start a new thread: "Stuff Arts & Faith Posters Like."