Hipster Pundit, Brett McCracken Responds to 5 cool questions


Here is the much-anticipated interview with Brett McCracken, author of Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide. Thank you, Brett! This was fun.

Brett's face in the City

5 Questions for
Brett McCracken


1. Does the hipster Christian phenomenon pivot on the “Be in the world, but not of the World” Scriptural directive?
I think the hipster Christianity phenomenon is absolutely about this notion of how to be in the world but not of the world (with emphasis, perhaps, on the “being IN the world” part). Christian hipsters want, above all, to engage with the culture at large. They want to have a meaningful dialogue and cooperation with the wider world, rather than being cut-off or segregated from it. Rather than having a Christian music industry, a Christian movie industry, Christian this-that-and-the-other, these Christian hipsters long for a faith that is relevant in and among the culture. They don’t want to be set in opposition to the culture, but rather they want to be productively engaged with it. Their instincts tell them that if Christianity is true, it is not something meant to be separatist, overly legalistic, and anti-everything. Rather, it should be something that speaks into every aspect of life and illuminates the beauty and wonder of existence. They resonate with the famous C.S. Lewis quote that says, I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

2. If you could communicate one thing to your readers that they would remember forever (and in so doing, change them forever), what would it be?

Wow, that’s a big question! I guess I would want to communicate the notion that the “coolest” thing about Christianity has little to do with how trendy, cutting-edge, and “of the moment” it appears to the culture, but has everything to do with the transcendent truth of a Gospel that changes lives.

3. Every writer has “haters”, what do yours complain about? (Mine complain about nipples, but that’s a rather long story, and this interview is about YOU.)
A lot of the critics of the book suggest that I’m not giving enough due to the cultural context and “mode-of-delivery” through which the Gospel is communicated. They maintain, rightly, that the Gospel always has to be presented in ways that are embodied, formed, packaged, and specific to the context/audience in which it is being presented. I totally agree. I’m not suggesting that the Gospel is just some nebulous cloud of ideas or concepts that we can communicate apart from form. Of course we have to consider the medium, the context, etc. All I am saying is that form influences content, and we have to be careful that the various new strategies we are undertaking (placing tons of emphasis on looking cool, cutting-edge technology, etc) are not negatively impacting the content of the message or distracting us from making sure we are communicating a deep, rich, transformative message. At it’s core, my caution in the book is that we not get so preoccupied with hip/cool/attractive packaging that we forget what is actually rich and powerful about the message itself.

4. To you, is “cool” more of a state of mind than anything? Why or why not?

Hmm, that’s an interesting question, because I think it is and it isn’t a state of mind. In the sense that the pursuit of “cool” is very self-conscious and a sort of existential endeavor to be “in the know,” I definitely think it is a state of mind. But then again I think that there are plenty of “naturally cool” people who never really think about or try to be cool. It’s not something they consciously strive for as much as it is just a side-effect of them truly liking certain bits of culture that happen to be fashionable or appear cool in a given cultural context.

These days, it’s hard to tell where “cool as a self-conscious state-of-mind” ends and “cool as a natural outgrowth of who one is” begins. The problem is complicated by the fact that cool today (as in, “hipster” cool) is largely defined on the superficial “how one dresses” level, so you have “true” hipsters who dress in a certain way but then you have the “I want to be cool” hipsters who can simply purchase the exact same look at American Apparel or Urban Outfitters. On a phenomenological level, there is no difference between the two. Both types signify “cool,” which we take to mean “elitist/snobby/annoying.” So whether one actually IS elitist/snobby/annoying doesn’t matter, because “the look” communicates this regardless.

5. Have you ever considered offering McDonalds a signature menu item? (For instance, like the McCracken Sandwich: 8 crispy strips of bacon, melted sharp cheddar cheese, and sweet horseradish sauce on crispy, lightly toasted Sourdough bread pocket.) [Seriously, that whole thing came to me in one package like that. It must be a God thing.] If you have not, this could plague your mind, and I’m sorry about that. I too am feeling hungry.

If I were to have a McDonalds signature item, it would probably include arugula, grass-fed beef and raw goat cheese, just to cover my hipster bases.

For a signed copy (For beginners, that means eXtra cool) of Brett McCracken’s book, Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide. You can link over, and leave YOUR comment. YOU might be the lucky winner.

Post here and share any questions, thoughts, comments, etc.

Thanks for reading.

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