There. I said it. This is mostly because hipster is actually a thing. It looks like this:
I saw a couple of real life hipsters last night when my wife and I were taking a walk in Greenwich Village, near NYU. I didn’t ask them if they were Christians, but if they were, then I suppose they would be hipster Christians.
But the way McCracken uses “hipster,” as a catch all for an amorphous group of young people is all kinds of wrong. Here’s the thing though, it does exactly what he wants it to. It gives the old folks a group to finger. “Christian hipster? Oh, you mean those kids with their clothes and their hair and their rock and roll music.”
Yup. That’s the Christian hipster McCracken is talking about. And that is precisely what is wrong with his point of view. At the bottom of all things it is an acquiescence to the older generation of evangelicals that he seems so eager to impress. It’s as if he’s screaming “Hey Olasky, Carter, Neff! Check me out! I’m an insider, but I’m really on your team!”
And it’s working. The old guys are eating this stuff up. The inimitable John Wilson took some exception with McCracken’s WSJ piece (keep it real, JW), but for the most part people seem to really think that they get it now. Ugh.
This is what McCracken says about Sessions’ critique of his book: “I think it’s natural for younger, idealistic Christian thinkers/writers to want to give our generation more credit than it is perhaps due. Every generation thinks it will correct the ills of the former generation and reform things, etc.” He went on to ask if we expected his book to be wholly affirming.
No. Honestly, we didn’t. We can’t even see ourselves fully represented in the picture he paints of a Christian hipster, so we don’t need any affirmation. But we also didn’t expect him to give full credence to the “the kids just want to be cool” mentality, either. As for the first bit about thinking we can correct the ills of the former generation, isn’t this just generally called progress? Of course we hope to do this. And of course its okay to critique this process, that’s precisely what we’re trying to do here after all. The problem is McCracken’s critique could have been so much more. It could have been so much deeper. Instead, it reads like the same critique that is leveled on us (and him, by age association) by the older generation, that all of our attempts at reform are really the outgrowing of a desperate need to be considered “cool” by the world.
Such a sad bit of self-hatred. And McCracken plays right into it. The idea that drives Hipster Christianity is nothing if not “cool.” But, see, McCracken is playing the part he’s expected to play as a young evangelical. He’s saying nothing of substance and wrapping it in a hip cover (literally).
Patrol is not a place for hipster Christianity. As Sessions pointed out, there’s nothing cool or fun about being equally serious about one’s faith and sincere about intellectual pursuits. It’s a hard road that many of us never anticipated, and it would be easier to give up on one or the other. But there is also a sense of vocation here, a sense that this is precisely what it’s supposed to feel like to be “aliens and strangers in the world.” We could play it safe and sacrifice serious thought for the comfort and support of the Christian leaders we’ve spent our whole lives trying to please, or we could take some risks, wrestle with God, and have faith that, ultimately, there’s nothing we can consider or learn that will unseat him.
It’s hard. And it’s definitely not hip.
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