Tag Archives: C.S. Lewis

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.

Featured Guest Writer- Professor Doug Jackson (not a futurist)

Professor Doug Jackson

Today’s Featured Writer has something to say about the future of the church. But, he has an altogether different perspective, than our previous guest writer, John O’Keefe, and actually, most people. And this, in a nutshell, is Doug Jackson. But you could ever squeeze him into a nutshell, so never mind. He is a thoughtful and gifted thinker, a searching pilgrim, a devoted Christian, and a baking whiz. And, he’s topped with more than a modest dollop of wisecrackiness.

Please enjoy and interact with Doug’s contribution.

Mini-Bio: Doug Jackson

Director of Logsdon Programs, Instructor of Spiritual Formation at South Texas School of Christian Studies, in Corpus Christi, TX.

  • D.Min. – Truett Seminary ( 2006)
  • M.Div. – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1985)
  • B.A. – English Literature, Grand Canyon College (1982)

The Church with a Future

-Doug Jackson

John O’Keefe is a futurist.  I find that intimidating as heck.  Personally, I’m a traditionalist.  I can quantify the difference.  Tramping through the jungle, a futurist and a traditionalist happen on some tiger tracks.  “You track him,” suggests the traditionalist, “and find out where he’s going.  I’ll backtrack and find out where he’s been.”

There isn’t even a cool name for the preferred direction for my arrow of time.  “Futurist” conjures up images of, well, guys with shaven heads and soul patches.  “Traditoinalist” calls up images of guys with bald heads (which is SO not the same thing) and no soul at all.  This part I can at least work on.  I think from now on instead of “traditionalist,” I’ll call myself a “past-er.”

So what can a past-er say to the church’s future?  If there is, in the words of T. S. Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock, “time for a hundred visions and revisions” of the people of God in community, how much time do we have (and should we allow) for a rear-vision?  Not too much, I don’t guess.  Accordingly, I want to state a thesis and offer three theories.  My thesis is that, whatever the church OF the future looks like, the church WITH a future will be the one with a past.

To speak of the church OF the future is simply to make a chronological observation.  It means “the church that isn’t here yet.”  It doesn’t tell us much about what this church will do or how long it will last.  By the church WITH a future I mean the local community with staying power.  And this church, I believe, has a future precisely because it has a past.  Which leaves my three notions of what such a church looks like.

First, I believe that the church with a future cares less about the draft of its craft than the depth of its ocean.  In his eightieth sonnet, Shakespeare admits to his chick that other poets can praise her better.  So why should he keep scribbling?  Then the bard continues:

But since your worth, wide as the ocean is,

The humble as the proudest sail doth bear,

My saucy bark inferior far to his

On your broad main doth willfully appear.

Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat,

Whilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride.

In other words, what matters is that her merit can bear the burden of grand praises and meager ones. I come from a generation of ministers who learned that good meant big so bigger meant better.  I think the church with a future looks back on the mighty acts of God in history and realizes that the Queen Mary of the megachurch and the rowboat dinghy of the corner congregation all float on the vast sea of God’s greatness, and that plumbing this depth, not scaling our own impressive rigging, is what counts.

Second, I believe that the church with a future cares more about reading its story than writing its narrative.  “Narrative” seems to be a big word in church these days.  As far as I can tell, it has a lot to do with composing our own future in a compelling way that attaches single acts of worship or service to a greater purpose.  I’m all for that, but I think it is important to remember that, at best, we’re writing one chapter in a very long book whose plot is already clearly laid out.  This even works at the local church level.  Eugene Peterson warns us in The Contemplative Pastor that, “the cure of souls takes time to read the minutes of the previous meeting, a meeting more likely than not at which I was not present.”

We find those minutes recorded in church history and church hymnals, two documents which have fallen from favor in my own denomination, where we seem to believe that the church poll-vaulted from Pentecost over several regrettable centuries until she landed safely in our own generation.  That’s why we jettisoned a songbook that came to us polished by millennia of theological mulling on the part of the worldwide body of Christ and opted instead for toe-tappers and hand-clappers that can give us no idea of who we are.

I’m not knocking contemporary music, nor do I believe the Spirit quit inspiring songwriters somewhere around the time Fanny Crosby died.  But because more recent music has not had the advantage of the filtering years, I would like to apply C. S. Lewis’ dictum about books to the business of congregational singing:  “After (singing) a new (song), never allow yourself another new one till you have (sung) an old one in between.  If that is too much, you should at least (sing) one old one to every three new ones.”  (I should admit here that Lewis disliked ALL hymns because he thought the poetry was bad.  He’s probably right, but to me it seems that their theology is rather good.)

Finally, I believe that the church with a future cares more about present faithfulness than future viability.  Because the church of the future will be a mess.  Do what we will (and I hope we will), she will remain a morass of carnality and littleness and arguments over service times and carpet samples for the new fellowship hall.  And she will be the Body of Christ, the one institution Jesus ever promised to care about, and one which he said would sit on an unshakable foundation.

So the church with a future doesn’t spend too much time reading the chicken guts of the changing culture and dealing a Tarot deck of trends.  She doesn’t cross with sliver the grasping palms of earringed “consultants” ensconced in dark tents of occult insider info.

Lewis’ Screwtape rightly warns his protégé Wormwood that the proper focus of human endeavor is the junction of Right Now and Forever which leads us to ask what we need to do in the former in order to serve the latter.  But “the future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity.”

The beauty of futurists like John is that they won’t let us rest in Merlin’s tower forever gazing at some ecclesiastical zodiac; they keep demanding that we do something about this stuff.  They refuse to let us fall into Screwtape’s trap of forgetting that the future is not (Screwtape again) “a promised land which favoured heroes attain,” but rather “something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”

In short, I should simply say that the Church is the church with a future.  For two thousand years we have hijacked her with our high-handedness, betrayed, bureaucratized, bushwhacked and bamboozled her, tarted her up, sold her out, locked her in and dragged her down.  We have made her impertinent, irrelevant, irreverent and irritating.  We have used her to camouflage our carnality and let the slimming stripes of the martyrs’ scars hide the midriff bulge of our overfed carnality.  “And for all this,” the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins reminds us (if I may take a large liberty), Christ’s church

. . . is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; 10
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over Christ’s bent
(Bride) broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

What feedback do you have for Doug?

7 Reasons We (all) Aren’t Ready for Heaven

 

God is love, pure, and holy.

 

Great balls of Fire –where could I be going with this?

This will take 2 min and 15 seconds. Hang in there.

1. Grace. Our life in heaven isn’t up to us. We’re not good enough or ready to be with a Holy God. God overlooks this. He, himself paid the debt, to cover over our deficit. Many of us remain awfully content with our goodness, or special knowledge to gain eternal life. But, this life beyond life remains fit as God’s territory singularly. Our residence there is a gift we could never afford. This is what is meant by Saving Grace.

2. Community. Interestingly, atheist Jean-Paul Sartre wrote that, “Hell is other people.” Many of us find being with others (who are not of our own choosing) gets difficult, tiresome, frustrating, annoying, or worse. Even extroverts don’t enjoy communing with every type of person. Some of us get to a point where we consider being with others something to consciously limit, or avoid. Sartre would be very uncomfortable in heaven, would you? God is Trinity, so God in its (pick your pronoun) own Divine essence is community. This is the basis for love-which must have a beloved, or personal recipient of love. And hence, community is the very stuff of heaven.

3. Humility Andrew Murray wrote a wonderful book called Humility: The Path to Holiness. In it, Murray aptly shows how humility was Jesus’ chief characteristic. Jesus was the human face of The Holy God. Jesus was not concerned with being humiliated, and didn’t consider himself above others, but a servant of all. Many of us have quite little of this characteristic that is plentiful in God, and in heaven.

4. Self-absorption Many of us tend to think life, and life after life is about us, and our needs. With this viewpoint, we would be quite out-of-place in heaven. The Kingdom of God is about loving God and others. In doing so, we are found, healed, known, and freed.

5. Idolatry The things that capture our attention, time, and desires are the gods we worship. They can even be good in themselves, like, staying healthy, or being devoted to our children, doing ministry service, or working hard. Whatever we love or enjoy become idols when they possess our main focus. It is our natural bent to allow things other than God, to become first priorities, but it is not good for us. When we have our life ordered properly, everything else falls into place well. In heaven, that will be the case. We will have a chance to learn, and enjoy many things far more amazing than we do in this life. The heavenly, top-down-priority system will likely jar many of us very much for a while.

6. Judging Many of us are not use to leaving the judging to God. As humans we are not in the position to be good, accurate, or fair judges. We are skewed because of our sin, and we are not innocent. However, this doesn’t seem to stop us from doing it to others. We won’t be foolish enough to do that in heaven. The time we typically use to surmise and judge others will be all freed up, leaving many of us feeling quite disoriented, perhaps. This adjustment could take some “time” to get used to.

7. Holy Fire God is good. How grateful we can be for this! But have you ever noticed when righteous people in the Bible meet an angel of God, they flip out, and feel very uncomfortable in the presence of holiness. God is so very good, and so very pure. In this way, God is like a refining fire in the presence of any impurity, or imperfection. Shock and awe, yet all together good. No darkness can exist in God’s Light. It makes one wonder if the course to be made in God’s image (and fit for heaven) will be wonderful… eventually, but the Fire of God’s Holiness will be more of a conflagration, of sorts, during the cleaning process. The process of spiritual growth isn’t for God’s benefit, but our own. All that is not right for heaven will be burned away in his presence, otherwise we really aren’t ready for paradise with him.

Perspectives on Heaven

Some people think, once we are in heaven, we will be instantly and miraculously transformed, and be suddenly fit for heaven. I have thought this, even wished for it. But, I’ve also had to ask myself, “Is it like God to do this? Or, does God most often–for our best interest–allow us to benefit by going through some kind of ‘refining fire’?” Would a shortcut make our characters Christlike and fit for, that is,fully comfortable, in heaven? I’m thinking, probably, nah. A Junior Varsity area might be a good idea.

Though we may be forgiven, and allowed admittance to the place where God has prepared for us, I wonder if God will still be interested in continuing to make our character more like his, in a process fashion, not unlike we normally learn, and experience reality. When we see him revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is; that is–knowing we are children of God. Understanding our connectedness. We are relational. But that may, in fact, be a process, and not be something that can or should be done instantaneously.

Author and philosopher, C.S. Lewis proposed that heaven could be a place where people would move deeper and further into heaven, and better awareness, as they were able to become accustomed to it. He goes into this quite a bit in his fictitious rendering of heaven in his short book called The Great Divorce. It’s well worth the read. The Catholic idea of Purgatory has a similar notion, of a holding spot, where the heaven-bound are refined in character, and prepared to be with a Holy God, in a holy place, forever.

Since I haven’t tried out the place, I won’t make a blanket or dogmatic pronouncement about how heaven must truly be, and how it may work. I’ll find out all too soon–as will you.

Regardless, of what you believe, or what may happen, it is important that we understand:

• God is Holy, and we are not. 

• We cannot be with God, or in a heavenly place after this life without God mercifully allowing us to be.

• We must humble ourselves to our Creator, and be willing to be crafted into God’s divine character.

thank you for reading.

Please leave your thoughts, of any kind.