Hipster Christianity

Today Kelli and I had fun figuring out which of the portraits of Hipster Christianity we are and we couldn’t decide between the two posted below. Brett McCracken has been working for what seems like a couple of years on his book Hipster Christianity and this month it has gotten a giant ramp-up with the release of the book. The characterizations are funny, but I often wonder what purpose they serve. I know he thinks he is breaking down what is “cool” versus “real” (according to his Wall Street Journal article)  but I have a hard time seeing this kind of project as productive towards that because it bleeds cool. Read his blog, the webpage for the book, and even the marketing format they have chosen and you can see this book is meant to be another tack-on for the person who can now say “yeah that church is cool, but it isn’t real.” I haven’t read the book and to be honest, I am not sure I will (I’ll stick with the original hipster Karl Barth) but I would be more interested in hearing him talk about how  someone might hear the Word of God proclaimed and respond in our churches today than see caricatures, nice webpage’s, and the call for something “real”. It’s all fun and games to come with these portraits, but I think if he really wants to tackle where the church is today he will find, like many of us have, that it won’t involve a book contract, a highly trafficked webpage, and manufactured images, but will rather involve the long silent unnoticed laboring of seeking to proclaim and live the gospel in the world. When he gets around to that I’ll buy that book.

“The Monied Yuppies” – Typically in their late 20s or early 30s, the Monied Yuppies are the types of Christian hipsters that gladly open their well-appointed homes for house churches or small groups (serving expensive wine or whiskey cocktails for each such occasion). More established in their tastes and less susceptible to fickle trends, these arts-patrons will not hesitate to pony up $100 to see Sufjan Stevens play Carnegie Hall. They eat well, drink well, love concerts, and attend churches with Vegan options at potlucks. More than likely they’ve thrown a Mad Men 60s-themed party or been involved in a discussion group for a book by Donald Miller, G.K. Chesterton or N.T. Wright. Gleefully at home in Anthopologie or Crate and Barrel, these stylish hipsters are highly recruited by the pastors of wannabe hip churches seeking young, culturally-savvy congregations that also have money to tithe.

“The Bookish Intellectual” – Usually a grad student and/or hardcore lifetime learner, this erudite iteration of the Christian hipster priortizes the life of the mind over the life of the wardrobe (though make no mistake: every inch of their appearance is carefully calculated in that patented “I’m a philosopher so don’t have time to look in a mirror” sort of way). Thoroughly conversant in all manner of mid-century Christian existentialism (Tillich, Bultmann, etc), the Bookish Intellectual is a frequent user of such words as “Other,” “problematize,” “ecclesiology,” and “historicity.” Typically well-traveled (semesters in Oxford or Berlin most likely) and impressively well-read (or at least impressively well aware of all the right books), this is the type of hipster who thrives anytime serious thought is given to just about anything. Is there a theology of corned beef and cabbage? Probably not, but the idea excites the Bookish Intellectual. They live and breathe implications… whether it be the cadence of words in their Anglican church’s liturgy, a feminist reading of McGee and Me, or the eschatological significance of the rise of Twitter. It’s all worthy of inquiry.


4 thoughts on “Hipster Christianity

  1. Hi, My Name is Kelly and I am working with Nancy Pearcey on her new book Saving Leonardo. She would like to send you a free copy of the book. Please contact me with the appropriate address.



  2. I’d like to read Hipster Christianity. It is a bit ironic that the author is picking on hipster Christian culture but at the same time has “a book contract, a highly trafficked webpage, and manufactured images” as you said.

    I once dated a Christian hipster. He and his friends were as snobby and select as the popular kids in junior high school. What made the exclusivity so bad was that he masked his crap-attitude with concern for popular social issues/organizations like TWLOHA or stopping genocide in Darfur. All that to say I don’t like hipsters, especially Christian hipsters, and I want to make sure I don’t ever act like that.

  3. Since writing this post two other book reviews have been posted on McCracken’s book that handle what he has written critically.

    Patrol Magazine’s review is here. Books and Culture. The best line of this review is: "We want real": The combination of pretension and naïveté in this declaration is stunning, but it is par for the course, so to speak, in the McCrackenverse.

  4. Interesting article…
    I am interested to read the book in its entirety. These interviews and the first free chapter online are at the very least intriguing.

    shameless plug.
    check out our “hipster Christianity” view of the establishment.

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