Monday, January 17, 2011

Trendy Jesus and His Hipsters

Be forewarned:  I might come across as offensive, or too opinionated.  That’s the beauty of a free nation, baby!  I can think whatever I want.  So can you.  Feel free to disagree with me.  I won’t mean to offend anyone, but if it happens, skip to the bottom and read my last sentence.  Also, this is a long post.  So hunker down.  Preferably with a drink in hand.  Maybe even a writing utensil and paper?  Yea, I knew it was too much to ask.

Dig this.

Too many Christians these days seem to think that the only way to bring the lost to Christ is by being cool.  
Helloooooo hipster nation!  Why do we need to give Christianity a vintage makeover?  Why does it have to be cool to be accepted?  These are my questions, and my sassy observations.

1. Of congregations, labels and denominations.

You know the place.  The big church building on the corner.  The one your grandma has gone to her whole life and her parents before them and their parents before them and the only reason the parents before them weren't a part of the church was because the town wasn't established yet (but don't worry, that brings you to a fifth generation __________).  The church where bingo meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  The one where you're pretty positive you're the only person who has ever even considered voting democrat.  The one where all the old women from your grandma's quilting club call you by your older sibling's name.  The one where they sing all traditional hymns and use an organ and you are for sure the only person to be reminded of the Phantom of the Opera by organ usage.  
This church isn't cool by the new standards.  No true Christian hipster would step foot in one of these places.
Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian.  Labels.  The dreaded labels.  It's not cool to go to a denominational church.  The Emergent movement is sweeping America (which is really a whole other blog in and of itself).  I guess my biggest comment on this topic is, why is it SO uncool to be a part of a denomination?  I understand that some people are turned off by denominations and church in general.  But, my thought?  I can't harden or soften the heart of an unbeliever.  God can.

2. Calling oneself “progressive” rather than “liberal’.

The word liberal (like evolution and sex) carries a negative connotation in the Christian subculture.  It is often used in the context of play-by-play accounts from pastors or Sunday school teachers about the dangers of competitive slippery slope sliding.  Is progressive better?  The hipster Christians sure thinks so.  People like Jesus and Donald Miller are considered progressive.  Progressive communicates the fact that we’re not headed down, but forward…and a little (slash a lot) to the left.  Or you can just be like me, and be blatantly conservative.

3. Assuming our daily fair-trade latte from our trendy locally owned coffee shop, makes us committed to social justice.

I may drive a gas-guzzling clunker from the 80's to Wal-mart to buy a trunk full of fruit and veggies from the good ole U.S. of A. but I’m certain that the steam pouring off of my free trade Chai Tea Latte is a sweet aroma to God. Revocup, Bluestem Bistro, Radina's.  Don't deny it.  You know the places.  Starbucks?  Please.  We like the trendy, hole in the walls.

4. Thinking the only way to bring people to Jesus is by being cool. 

Why?  Why is this the case?  Why is it that we have convinced ourselves that only the cool, trendy and hip will draw the unbelievers into community with Christians?  Why is it that we are working so hard on our image so as to intrigue the unbeliever?  
We, as Christ followers, believe in the power of the Lord of the universe.  He seeks.  He saves.  If we speak this truth, we speak love.  We act love.  (The last two sentences might be the most hipster sounding sentences of my life.)  Through our lives, the Lord changes and calls, softens, and pulls the unbeliever's hearts to Him.  

We freak out way too much.  What was I thinking about earlier today?  What I would wear.  Who would see me.  What they would think of me.  I want desperately to be liked.  To be accepted.  To be "in".  Don't EVEN try to tell me you're not the same way.  

But Christian, it's time you heard this news! If you've been reading the Bible at all you'll know this: Jesus was not cool.  Isaiah 53, people!  He was "despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering."  Ya hear?  Hated.  Despised.  Rejected.  Does that sound fun?  Or cool?  Or trendy?  More proof?  The Old Testament is full of examples and times when God the Son was treated like poop.  I said poop. (Kudos if you get that reference.)  Do we need to talk about the douche bag Pharisee's?  Or better yet, have we forgotten about the Jews (His own people) who killed him?  He definitely didn't win the popularity contest.
I almost envy believers in countries with significantly less freedom than our own.  I fear the persecuted believer might know the personality and character better than the hipster nation Christian.  People were drawn to Jesus because he loved them passionately and fiercely, not because he was cool.  In the end, we need to realize that we are not the ones doing the saving.  Jesus is, and we are the ones who are supposed to show others what living life for him is to look like.  I hate to break it to you, but it's not always cool, but instead real and true and fulfilling.  Let's try some authenticity on for size.  

Don't misread me.  I like hipsters.  I like their style.  They aren't by any means bad people.  I might even consider myself mildly hit with the hipster stick.  What I don't like is where our nation and generation seems to be taking Christianity.  I strongly believe the Lord calls us to be strong men and women who will take up His cross.  But if we're too concerned about how used our keds look, or how many people notice our Hebrew tattoo that of course means something spiritually significant, or contemplating if your new dress is even vintage considering you got it from American Apparel then when will we find time to be concerned with the Lord?  When will we adore our Creator more than the life that is a gift to us?  We are so blessed.  The preeminent Father of all, loves us.  Let's start acting like it. 

Now an excerpt from a note my dear friend Candace wrote, "I would not be surprised if some churches have a 'cool team' consisting of people wearing chunky Rob Bell glasses who discuss how to make worship sound more indie-rock. I can almost see them sitting in a coffee shop drinking americanos, with at least one of the guys hoping the barista they think is cute will ask him what his tattoo means, which is of course spiritually significant, and he will be able to invite her to church, and hopefully later, a date!"

I want us to value our beliefs and love of our Maker more than our style.
That's what I want you to get out of this blog.  Just take this one thing.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.  Love Him fully with the life He gave to you.

To finish off, I want to tell you something else my dear friend Candace once told me.  "If you're offended by this, I sort of want to say sorry and sort of want to tell you to grow thicker skin."


  1. Um, it was worth the wait and the time you put in.
    Bravo, bravo, bravo.
    I especially liked these parts:
    "I can't harden or soften the heart of an unbeliever. God can."
    "In the end, we need to realize that we are not the ones doing the saving. Jesus is, and we are the ones who are supposed to show others what living life for him is to look like."
    actually… i just liked it all. i'm totally guilty of trendy wannabe stuff. ha.
    I'm a lucky girl to have such a wise friend.
    God is good.
    Skye date soon!


  2. Your title reminds me of Donald Miller's "trendy writer." But really, this is great stuff. I find it way too easy to get caught up in making sure my hairs are smoothed at the correct angle, picking out my clothing to match my mood, and generally being the coolest guy around. At all of those things, I fail, and you'd think I get the picture: I'm not supposed to try to be so cool! I have the coolest thing ever already! I'm God's SON! Ah! Ahem. Anyway. Yes. Good post.

  3. this is a wonderful-sweet-smack-on-the-face post. :) spot on --- thanks for the reminder, the exhortation and the encouragement!