The eternal muckraker/prophet (and my former youth leader), Anthony Bradley, has been sharing his excitement on Facebook about a new book that’s coming out called, “Hipster Christianity.” Anthony wrote a response over at World, and this is the opening paragraph:
Young evangelicals have made their initial descent into urban areas all over America, bringing their hipster culture and paternalism toward minorities along with them. Brett McCraken’s upcoming book Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide (to be released in August) presents an overview of these baby-boomer hipster children and their vision for Christianity (see Susan Olasky’s short review here). Writers like McCracken and Soong-Chan Rah remind us that the hipster Christian movement may not be as cutting-edge and progressive as it sounds. Instead of avoiding minorities—as suburbanites are often charged with doing—hipster Christians are simply colonizing them.
So where does my church, New City Fellowship and the community of NCF churches that began in the late 60s relate to this new “Hipster” brand of Christian culture? The article by Soon-Chan Rah that he refers to actually hits the nail on the head for me. The “emergent” and “hipster” culture seems to be a product of the white mainstream and is more or less off-the-radar of other cultures. At NCF, we certainly have hipsters and we attract them because of many of our core values (justice, reconciliation, sonship) and the counter-cultural attitude that is the product of those values. I myself am guilty of many hipster stereotypes (I dig the arts, I like to read, I’m fascinated by Swedish design and I’m love ironic humor.) I’m even guilty of relocation into a black neighborhood, which Bradley’s article condemns as paternalistic.
For NCF, I feel like we are a little outside the normal discussions of mainstream church trends. Maybe we are just a quintessential ex-hippy, social-justice church, but I feel that NCF is not as much a part of this trend toward hipster Christianity. I have friends who have joined our church who are total hipsters who have been in emergent churches in the past. They come to NCF and find that a lot of the battles that they were fighting in there emergent camps are non-issues here. As a “Reformed” church, we have always had grace over and against legalsim as our foundation. We’ve also been pursuing the call to justice and the present reality of the kingdom long before Shane Claiborne ever met Mother Teresa. Paternalism is a real problem, but it’s something that at NCF we stare in the face and talk openly about. We reject the white-middle class attitude of being the saviors of the world in favor of incarnational ministry that reflects the attitude of Christ described in Philippians 2. I know that it sounds like I’m blowing our horn pretty loud, but I just want to say Bradley’s concerns are something that NCF churches are not oblivious to.
Hipsters, like Boomers, and every other culture are prone to sin patterns that need to be reformed by the gospel. Hipsters also need to be in relationship with people who are not Hipsters in order to have the benefit of seeing the gospel realized in cultures and attitudes that are different from their own. The Spirit of God is alive in the Word and it’s bringing conviction to the hearts of many young whites who might have sinful intentions, but the Spirit is not restrained by those weaknesses. Maybe all these “colonizing” hipsters who are returning to the city will move in next door to a Christian African American family who will teach them brand new things about Jesus that will renew their mind in brand new ways. Maybe as hipsters pursue justice, they will meet Christian refugees whose sincerity of faith and belief in the supernatural will show them that irony and intellectualism can be pretty depressing and lame. Every culture has flaws which is why we need reconciliation so badly.
Are you a hipster? Does anyone really like to be so explicitly labeled?
What do you think about New City Fellowship? Is it a hipster church? A hippy church? Or an anomaly?