I want to begin by saying that I don’t like to put people in boxes and stamp labels on them. However, we use language to describe certain things and society has decided that the word is hipster. In this post I will be looking at the h-word through a Christian lens, but hopefully it can be applicable and helpful to others.
So, are you a Christian Hipster? Well if you hate to be called a hipster then you might be one. Brett McCracken wrote that “hipster” shows up in The New York Times, The New Yorker and Entertainment Weekly but “in everyday conversations, hipsters use this insider term to express a weird blend of self-loathing, jealousy, and irony… I’m probably a hipster, though if you call yourself a hipster you immediately become a sort of Hester Prynne exile.”
McCracken, author of Hipster Christianity, is very descriptive when he explains what a hipster is and what they like. He mentions television shows like Mad Men, Dexter, The Office, Project Runway, and Jersey Shore. He writes extensively about the twelve common types of hipster: the natural, newbie, artist, academic, dilettante, mountain man, shaman mystic, detached ironic, yuppie, flower child, expat, and the activist. No one person will fully match the fashion and music taste he describes with each type, but he gets pretty darn close.
So, what motivates hipsters? Well, they aren’t much different than non-hipsters. As discussed in previous posts, they just want to be better than everyone else. I have been guilty of this countless times. For example, I sometimes dress outrageously to mock the idea that clothes are a status symbol and mocking the system. So by trying to not care, I inherently end up caring very much. Some key virtues to hipsters (and non-hipsters) is rebellion, attitude, performance, exclusion. To society these traits could be seen as harmless, but to the church and God these qualities are not pleasing and are very dangerous.
So, when did this hipster phenomenon begin to spread to churches? McCracken argues that it happened in the 1960s when youth ministry began. Many organizations like Campus Crusade, Young Life and Fellowship of Christian Athletes began in the forties or fifties, but it wasn’t until the sixties that they flourished. This is when churches began to hire youth pastors to work with the newest desirable audience, teens and young adults.
The sixties was an important time for America and the church. It’s not surprising that many hippies in the sixties began to follow Jesus, they saw themselves in this man that cared for everything and everyone. People joke that Jesus was a hippie. Bumper stickers, T-shirts and buttons are made to mock him, but it important to realize that he did make a huge impact on legitimate hippies.
In McCracken’s book there is a whole page full of key dates in the formation of Hipster Christianity. The very first date is June 5, 1955, which is the day that Francis Schaeffer opened L’Abri in Switzerland. Veritas started through conversations at a L’Abri conference in Minnesota and we brought in many L’Abri people to the January Conference. In the sixties, hippies would all flock to Switzerland and learn about Jesus from Schaeffer and the other teachers, and this added to the hippie-Christian movement. There is so much history about this generation that I don’t have time to type about, but I recommend that you do some research about this fascinating time in history that directly led to our generation and to the reign of hipsterdom.
Understanding who hipsters are and what our culture thinks about them is important. But understanding how the Bible responds to hipster elitists is increasingly more beneficial.
An important verse to reflect on is Philippians 2:1-11
Christ’s Example of Humility (ESV)
1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Lord, please humble each of our hearts and quiet the desire to make comparisons to others. Help us realize that life doesn’t have to be a constant competition and help us be gracious to those who are different than us.