Review: “Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide”


Um. Brett, Justin Bieber called, and he wants his hair back.

photo: Brett McCracken

I’ve finished with McCracken’s book and now it’s time for my “review” (which is an official sounding way of saying, I’ll be sharing my take on the thing.)

PLEASE NOTE:

You may (or may not) have read my previous post in which I set up a giveaway for a signed copy of Brett McCracken’s book, Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide. You can link over, and give it  a try: Maybe you’ll be the lucky winner.

BOOK REVIEW:

My Rating: 4.45 of 5 stars

(For Liger fans, this apparently translates to 94.5% approval score. [High])

[Within text HC= “Hipster Christianity”]

One sentence assessment (“Tweet Review” version):

Author, McCracken may end our present era of “cool Christianity” single-handedly.

Summary:

McCracken does much to observe and detail the Christian (cultural, or rather sub-cultural) landscape. This book serves as a mirror for Christians so they may assess whether their “image” (whether they may be primping it consciously, or accidentally) helps or hurts the greater cause of Christ. For a certain percentage of readers, (perhaps from rural, or smaller congregations), this book will seems other-worldly and depicting that which appears to be on the fringes of Christian culture. But for many semi-rural, suburban, and urban church folk, between the ages of 21-50, McCracken’s depictions will seem, at first, like standing in front of an embarrassing Fun House mirror. Then, it will give you the reasons and how-tos to do better.

HC exposes the self-referential, pop-culture influenced realm of many Christian leaders, and laity. His 12 descriptions of hipsters varieties can make you both laugh and cry.

[Think: über irony to the point of deprecation. Sometimes funny “haha”, and sometimes funny in horrible, cringe way.]

Mental vignette: (While reading it I pictured Tony Jones reading it also and saying the F-bomb 18 times, followed by, “I’m RUINED!” near a group of pre-school children, or a Social Media Bootcamp (consisting 4 over-protective parents, 3 folks over age 81, and 17 recently ex-Amish); and then–with added and great displeasure–spilling his Ristretto Venti with soy, and a hint of nutmeg on his stylish skinny jeans.)

General Style of the book:

Adjectives: Informative, funny/clever, intellectual, helpful, jargon-heavy (not always in a helpful way), thorough (both in historic overview and cultural contextual), hyper saturated with cultural references and information, well-intentioned (constructive) and non-cynical (a nice surprise!).

Will Most Likely be enjoyed by:

18-50 year olds (anywhere on a spectrum of Mildly Stylish thru and including Tragically Hip & Techno Savvy) who will no doubt find themselves pictured in the descriptions, much to their [combined] amusement and chagrin.

Could be improved by:

Realizing many of the 12 varieties of hipsters, who are the likely target audience, won’t have the attention span to read the whole thing.

Recommendation 1: Tweet a version of the book, in a series.

Recommendation 2: Write a “translation” for non-hipsters. Possibly include an emerald green decoder ring.

One surprising find:

Mark Driscoll is practically pigeon-holed as a semi-pervert, “frat-boy testosterone” laden, misogynist who’s hanging on to his election by some sort of  tiny, irresistible thread, but doing well at really just not getting it.

(Which makes it all so HiLarIOuS!)

It may be that I’m too cynical, but my unsolicited guess for his strange hyper-masculinity syndrome involves the preventative tactic that goes something like: “I’m so very manly, so please, don’t think I’m gay..because, of course, that would be extremely ridiculous, and, duh, of course, I’m total %110 NOT even a smidgen gay, or even homosexual, nor do I like to gaze at really burly men who workout in tight clothing, who drive even guys crazy…so we hope our scantily clad wife at home can ease that sort of burden after for me, I mean, other hot looking guys, who are NOT like me, when we, er…they work out.” Not that any of us have witnessed this, from pro-wrestlers, or firefighters, or policemen, or interior decorators, or hairdressers, or rodeo cowboys, or anything. [For that brand of insecure men, maybe it only takes 1 weird or ambiguous camping trip experience, or communal shower situation, to instigate this sort of overcompensation…Right, guys?]

But,  hey, what do I know?

Did I find out I that was a hipster?

Yes, a bit more than I liked, but not as much as I feared.

Publishers Weekly said:

Being hip is about valuing independence, freedom, and reinvention. But when evangelical Christian culture adopts hip’s rebellious nature, what happens to the message of the institutional church? In his book debut, magazine editor McCracken steps outside of his own hip subculture to question whether the quest to be hip is “turning Christianity into a shape-shifting chameleon with ever-diminishing ecclesiological confidence and cultural legitimacy.” This critical analysis reads like a sociological study aimed at evaluating a demographic segment of churchgoers. From the Jesus People of the 1960s to the Missional Church movement of today, McCracken demonstrates how hip came to collide with the values of the church. By bowing to trends in order to reach youth, Christianity may be sacrificing content and authenticity. McCracken’s analysis isn’t wholly scientific and unbiased; with lists like the “12 common types of hipsters” and an appreciation of pop culture, he may unintentionally fuel the very subculture he’s attempting to question. Yet his “gut check” offers a much needed perspective that will make Christian leaders question the direction of their postmodern undertakings. McCracken successfully sets the stage for an important debate.
Copyright
© Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

(link to amazon)

Faux-hipster summary:

It’s not lame. It’s cool. You may feel like you’re a dork after he exposes you for your hipster ways–SNAP. But yet, HC transcends cool, and that’s really what we all should want, dude.

Potential ramifications:

By reading it you may realize it’s the Unforgivable sin if one is labeled a hipster. That will be the “end of cool” as you’ve known it. Also it’s possible the multiverse could implode; or a black hole could suddenly suck in every Whole Foods before one can blow a clove-scented smoke ring. (BUT-If you’re gutsy you’ll take your chances anyway.)

If you’ve read the book, share your thoughts.

If you haven’t, ask your questions.

COMING SOON:

You’ll hear from Brett McCracken himself. He’ll be answering my (oh, so exclusive) questions, and you can leave questions for him to respond to.

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