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Hipster Christianity


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#1 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 01:17 PM

Link to our thread on 'Are You a Christian Hipster?', which for some reason is now a read-only archive even though it is also based on Brett McCracken's musings.

Link to our dedicated 'Book Discussion' thread on Hipster Christianity.

Link to the website for McCracken's book, which comes out in August. (I will never, ever get used to this new vocabulary which says that a book "releases" in August. Uh, no, the book might be released by someone else, but the book itself isn't releasing anything.)

Rod Dreher:

Try this online quiz. Caveat: it's intended for Evangelicals, so there will be questions that Catholics and Orthodox Christians can't answer. What's more, if you don't know the world of CCM, or the names of major contemporary Protestant pastors/authors are unknown to you (as they were to me), you'll be lost. Indeed, an Anglican friend who considers himself an Evangelical, and who put me onto the quiz, said he felt too constrained by some of the answers. . . .

I am still trying to figure out what it means that the Hawaiian shirt pastors are the "establishment" that self-styled Christian hipsters are rebelling against! To a traditional Christian -- Orthodox, Catholic or Reformed -- the idea that Rick Warren et alia represent a stuffy establishment is simply bizarre. But that's American Christianity; we contain multitudes. . . .

What's interesting to me, as a non-Evangelical, is that there is nothing particularly countercultural to be discerned about a Catholic or Orthodox Christian who drinks, or who is interested in Merton or Berry, or who finds "Mad Men" entertaining. Still, this is an interesting bit of cultural anthropology, insofar as Christian hipsterism, from an Evangelical perspective, appears to involve some dabbling into sacramental themes and tropes, and booze. I'd love to hear what my Evangelical readers think of it.


Edited by Peter T Chattaway, 26 August 2010 - 01:27 PM.


#2 du Garbandier

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 02:46 PM

(I will never, ever get used to this new vocabulary which says that a book "releases" in August. Uh, no, the book might be released by someone else, but the book itself isn't releasing anything.)


But what about saying the movie "opens"? Isn't this new use of "releases" just a case of a heretofore transitive verb acquiring an intransitive sense? When we say that a movie "opens" in August no one wonders what exactly the film is opening because the distinction between the transitive and intransitive senses of "open" has become well-established and intuitive. Until now the verb "release" has had a strictly transitive sense. The intransitive usage may seem strange now, but perhaps in time it will be no stranger than films and art exhibits "opening" and "closing," books "launching," albums "dropping," etc. (Admittedly these latter two smack of barbarism and should be avoided by all civilized persons.)

#3 Christian

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 03:34 PM

Thanks for the survey link. I didn't really expect this answer, even as I was answering the questions.

Your Christian Hipster Quotient:
75 / 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.


#4 Persona

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 03:37 PM

Try this online quiz

73/120. "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 Persona, 14 May 2010 - 03:38 PM.


#5 M. Leary

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 04:06 PM

Thanks for the survey link. I didn't really expect this answer, even as I was answering the questions.


Yeah, I am not too sure that quiz makes much sense as an index of anything that actually exists. I can affirm, Christian, that you are not a Christian Hipster.

#6 Christian

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 04:14 PM

Thanks for the survey link. I didn't really expect this answer, even as I was answering the questions.


Yeah, I am not too sure that quiz makes much sense as an index of anything that actually exists. I can affirm, Christian, that you are not a Christian Hipster.

Is it because I'm Reformed?

At least I'm hipper than Stef. By two points.

#7 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 04:30 PM

du Garbandier wrote:
: But what about saying the movie "opens"?

I dunno, what about it? Films, like flowers, can easily "open" on their own, without being opened BY something or someone else. But the very concept of "releasing" something implies one entity that has power of some sort over another entity; it implies a relationship, half of which is missing and the other half of which is put on the wrong end of that relationship when people say the movie "releases", full stop.

: Isn't this new use of "releases" just a case of a heretofore transitive verb acquiring an intransitive sense?

Actually, no, I don't think so. If I had to guess, I would say this is a case of a noun being turned into a verb. The movie is a September release, therefore it "releases" in September. The noun itself, of course, might be traceable back to a verb, but it still sounds weird when it gets turned back into a verb like this.

#8 Persona

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 04:30 PM

At least I'm hipper than Stef. By two points.

We knew this before the poll.

True to my hipster roots, I'm now sad I took the poll. I don't care to be defined. :P

Edited by Persona, 14 May 2010 - 04:31 PM.


#9 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 05:29 PM

Tche, 69/120: low CHQ. No kidding. Yes, I was constrained by some of the answers. On #12 I picked Maryology despite thinking the notion of Maryology to be crap, as in it is a misunderstanding of what Catholics believe. On #19 I wish that there had been an answer along the lines of "I put the wood to Mom and Dad all the time on some or all of these issues." even though I agree with Dad on one or two of the topics (heh, we are similar politically, but our sharpest disagreements have been over nuance in politics and whether Islam is an unalloyed threat ala the Cold War).

The Low Quotient is defined thus: You probably belong to the Purpose Driven (lol, I despise PD), seeker sensitive, Hawaiian shirt wearing (ha, any minister in worship wearing a Hawaiian shirt doesn't understand the proper ettiquette in The Presence of God) Christian Evangelical, even though open to some rethinking of Christian stuff (theoretically open, yes). You seem to like edginess in some sense (eh, edginess seems to have value for its own sake, not important), but become uneasy when your idea of Christian orthodoxy is challenged (no, I'm Episcopalian) by some renegade young visionary who claims the Virgin Birth unnecessary (well yeah, some things are non-negotiable. You wait, seekers and emergents will someday discover what Barth discovered and called "the strange new world within the scriptures". It happens every generation).

EDIT: This is the first time I have ever used "lol".

Mike: I think you are right except for the fact that it says much about those composing the quiz, their myopic views of Christianity and the world around them, and the fact that they certainly do exist.

Edited by Rich Kennedy, 14 May 2010 - 05:36 PM.


#10 Persona

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 07:50 PM

but become uneasy when your idea of Christian orthodoxy is challenged (no, I'm Episcopalian) by some renegade young visionary who claims the Virgin Birth unnecessary (well yeah, some things are non-negotiable. You wait, seekers and emergents will someday discover what Barth discovered and called "the strange new world within the scriptures". It happens every generation).

Huh. That is Rob Bell taken out of context. Which is the second or third time he's been alluded to here. Since I am a regular attender, I wonder why I didn't score higher if the poll is calling GR Mars Hillians "hipsters".

#11 Overstreet

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 08:01 PM

As I think label-generating programs usually do more harm than good, I think the whole process is pretty aggravating and almost useless.

The options offered in the quiz were, more often than not, far from anything I'd actually answer, and in some cases represent a very narrow range of possibilities. If I didn't know better I'd think that this quiz was composed by an imagination that lives within a very narrow range of Christian cultural experience. Seems to me the possible outcomes are "Hipster," "Hipster-leaning," and "right-wing fundamentalist extremist."

Reminds me of a story one of my high school teachers told me: He'd been trying to reach out to a troubled, alienated kid who was so frustrated with the hypocrisy and superficiality of the Christian culture around him that he was rebelling in some dangerous ways. He felt like he was either rejected, misunderstood, or the subject of some kind of ministry project.

When the kid got in trouble and ended up in a conference with this teacher and the principal, the principal asked him some questions and then said, "Oh, I get it... you're one of those alterrrrrnative Christians..." As if she had finally found a label that would make him someone she could diagnose and treat properly.

And any interest the young man had in that conversation, the hopes he might have had for being heard and understood, dissolved.

The more we "type" one another, the more we give ourselves ways of separating ourselves into categories, dismissing one another, and judging one another without having to actually get to know and love one another. This provides yet another false map by which we can distance ourselves from one another and prevent the kind of person-to-person relationship we need.

Even if these quiz questions offered many more options, I would be horrified to think that anybody might look at my best-available-option answers and think they could draw any meaningful conclusions about me, my background, and what I believe.

Although if you read this and conclude that label-generating quizzes make me grouchy, you'd be right.


*P.S. This is not in any way a dismissal of Brett's book. It's just a reaction to my run-in with this marketing-oriented quiz.

Edited by Overstreet, 14 May 2010 - 11:16 PM.


#12 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 08:28 PM

Overstreet wrote:
: Although if you read this and conclude that label-generating quizzes make me grouchy, you'd be right.

Ah, so you ARE a hipster, then. ;)

Well, first of all: it’s just a funny label, and we all know that hipsters hate labels. So if you are still reading this post, eager to know what it all means, chances are you are not a Christian hipster. . . .

Although, in fact, come to think of it, several of the items listed under The Artistic Searcher do fit your profile: movies written by Dave Eggers, books written by Cormac McCarthy, music recorded by Over the Rhine... :)

But seriously. Labels do have their uses; without them, we wouldn't have words, for example, to say nothing of science and anthropology and all the other means by which we study the world and understand its various components and matrices. I agree, though, that the trick is to use labels in a way that facilitates greater understanding rather than blocking it. It's kind of like how religious art can be an "icon", facilitating contact with the divine, or it can be an "idol", drawing our attention away from the true God and onto itself. The labels we create must always correspond to some sort of external reality, and they must always be open to fine-tuning.

#13 du Garbandier

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 09:13 PM

du Garbandier wrote:
: But what about saying the movie "opens"?

I dunno, what about it? Films, like flowers, can easily "open" on their own, without being opened BY something or someone else. But the very concept of "releasing" something implies one entity that has power of some sort over another entity; it implies a relationship, half of which is missing and the other half of which is put on the wrong end of that relationship when people say the movie "releases", full stop.


I see what you mean about "release," although I think you may be conflating two sense of "opening." I think I can see how you might say a film is like a flower opening up, but only in a very restricted sense referring to the physical display of a film being projected on a screen. But when I say "The Last Days of Disco 2 opens in June," I use "open" in the most common sense, meaning that the film "will be made publicly accessible." And in that most common sense, a film does not open like a flower, but more like a building whose doors are thrown open at the appointed hour for public admission. After all, this language was first applied to moviegoing directly from the world of drama (and art galleries too, I suppose), and obviously plays are very unlike cinema, materially speaking.

: Isn't this new use of "releases" just a case of a heretofore transitive verb acquiring an intransitive sense?

Actually, no, I don't think so. If I had to guess, I would say this is a case of a noun being turned into a verb. The movie is a September release, therefore it "releases" in September. The noun itself, of course, might be traceable back to a verb, but it still sounds weird when it gets turned back into a verb like this.


I agree that it seems strange. I believe the real difficulty is with the noun "release" itself. Not that anyone cares, but I believe several linguistic phenomena are operating here. For one thing, we just don't have many handy, concise ways of describing what happens when, say, an album becomes publicly available. The term "releases" fills that void in a verbally economical way, strangeness aside. But in the case of cinema, the medium itself is in a curious situation: cinema has one foot in the world of performance, for which audiences gather and managers throw open the theater doors (so to speak) at specific times in a specific place, and the other foot in the world of mass mechanical reproduction. The film is "released" to the public when the reel becomes available just like a CD or book, but it also "opens" to the public like a play or exhibit. Hence our way of talking about cinema is caught between two very different sorts of metaphors.

Anyway, sorry to any bored hipsters for the digression.

#14 Holy Moly!

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Posted 14 May 2010 - 11:12 PM

I would love to get an advance review copy of this book if anyone out there is listening. Hahaha.

In another life where I didn't spend the last 5 years doing cultural organizing, I might have expanded my academic interest in this subject into a book about hipster christianity. I anticipate that I'd probably come to some very different conclusions. I think there's a need for more unpacking of the way that cultural production is used as an ideological tool to both engender and sublimate theological dissent. This quiz might just be a funny marketing gimmick, but does not bode well.

I had a lot of hope for Brett at one point when I was doing my study of Relevant. He's good at writing about film. He's sort of pitchfork-trends-of-six-months-ago-plus-I-also-like-over-the-rhine with music. He hasn't impressed much with his sociological or theological musings. A lot of phony triangulation and straw-man torching, and not a lot of perspective--it almost feels like he's too close to the subjects he writes about to retain any narrative objectivity. Case in point: Dreher and Rich Kennedy have noted McCracken's myopia; to McCracken, Christian means evangelical/post-evangelical.

Edited by Holy Moly!, 14 May 2010 - 11:26 PM.


#15 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 15 May 2010 - 01:03 AM

FWIW, the quiz appears to be Brett's creation, too. I haven't taken it because the first few questions didn't have a "none of the above" or "never heard of them" option, so any answer I might have given to those questions would have been kind of bogus, for lack of a better word, and thus any evaluation based on those answered would have been kind of bogus, too.

du Garbandier wrote:
: I think I can see how you might say a film is like a flower opening up, but only in a very restricted sense referring to the physical display of a film being projected on a screen.

Well, I'm also thinking of how the film "opens to the public", with theatres opening their doors and box offices selling tickets, etc. The entire apparatus opens itself, there.

#16 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 15 May 2010 - 02:27 AM

The more we "type" one another, the more we give ourselves ways of separating ourselves into categories, dismissing one another, and judging one another without having to actually get to know and love one another. This provides yet another false map by which we can distance ourselves from one another and prevent the kind of person-to-person relationship we need.

Heh, yes exactly. One would think that these things were dealt with in I Cor. 1. But I suppose the casual and tossed off nature of the questions and answers just might fall within St. Paul's perimeter, as opposed to drawn battle lines. You are right though. This sort of labeling afflicts any area of social organisation to the advantage of those succeeding most strongly in the labeling enterprise. As an outsider, I don't think that bodes well for the emergent presence before the watching world.


but become uneasy when your idea of Christian orthodoxy is challenged (no, I'm Episcopalian) by some renegade young visionary who claims the Virgin Birth unnecessary (well yeah, some things are non-negotiable. You wait, seekers and emergents will someday discover what Barth discovered and called "the strange new world within the scriptures". It happens every generation).

Huh. That is Rob Bell taken out of context. Which is the second or third time he's been alluded to here. Since I am a regular attender, I wonder why I didn't score higher if the poll is calling GR Mars Hillians "hipsters".

Ha! He's the guy I picked at random on the future of Christianity question. Well, not at random. I was avoiding Driscoll at all costs. As a Michigan chauvanist, I feel not so much vindicated as not having done much damage.

Is Bell alluded to here as the offending young visionary or as being brittle on the subject of the necessity of the Virgin Birth?

#17 M. Leary

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Posted 15 May 2010 - 07:51 AM

Mike: I think you are right except for the fact that it says much about those composing the quiz, their myopic views of Christianity and the world around them, and the fact that they certainly do exist.


That is well put. With a few of the answers, I was specifically curious to see that there was no real selection for something along the lines of: "I seek peace in this situation." Especially with regard to things like talking about eschatology with parents, Kinkade, what fundamentalist do you make fun of the most, the Catholic question, etc... There is a lot of real mercenary stuff in that quiz, which I guess, as Jeffrey points out, is because it is a marketing product.

#18 Persona

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Posted 15 May 2010 - 11:37 AM

Is Bell alluded to here as the offending young visionary or as being brittle on the subject of the necessity of the Virgin Birth?

I can't remember the context of the "offending young visionary" statement well enough to remember. That may have been one. But the "virgin birth" is definitely an allusion to a point he made in his first book, "Velvet Elvis." It was a theological pondering, rather than a direct statement, about whether your faith would hold up if certain elements of your understanding of it are scientifically proven false. It was kind of a tossing of the struggle between your faith in the history of Jesus and your belief in a 100% inerrant Bible, and also about whether that faith in the inerrancy is in the ideal of the narrative rather than every miniscule detail withstanding scientific probing. It was a drastic example, which, IIRC Rob has even admitted he wished he'd used a better example there. Still, it has been taken out of context many times by many people.

#19 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 15 May 2010 - 03:47 PM

Persona wrote:
: It was kind of a tossing of the struggle between your faith in the history of Jesus and your belief in a 100% inerrant Bible, and also about whether that faith in the inerrancy is in the ideal of the narrative rather than every miniscule detail withstanding scientific probing.

Arrrgh. The virgin birth (which I do believe in) is about a heck of a lot more than so-called inerrancy (which I don't believe in). Miniscule, it ain't.

#20 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 15 May 2010 - 03:49 PM

OK! Peter and I are just about one and the same on this one. Bell is wise to regret his choice of illustrative issue. Wonder what Plan B might have been.