Tag Archives: interview

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.

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.

10 Things Not to Say at an Interview

(photo: "Don't touch the hair of a prospective boss!")

A very long interview reminded me of how stressful they can seem.

With so many people looking for work and too few jobs, it’s no wonder people make mistakes during an interview.

QUICK TIPS:
•Don’t let panic strike you, especially if you have a weak bladder.
•Don’t say anything that pops into your head, even if it seems funny.
•A case of the nerves can make you think of super funny things to say that are actually inappropriate, and you might not really realize that until later.
•If you’re nervous, calm yourself with a mantrum (MAUN-trum), but don’t say it out loud, especially while rocking back and forth. Also, settle for decaf. I mean that.

Here are some great things to not say during your interview:

10. “You can’t call my references because they all have died…rather suddenly.”

9. “Why do your eyes tell me I have the job, but they also say, ‘stay away from dairy’?”

8. “You look almost exactly like the pedophile that lives down the street from me. You must be related. Do you know Chester the Child Moles…oh wait, that’s not his real name .”

7. “I’ve said it a thousand times, ‘Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful. Hate me because I’m much smarter than you’.”

6. “Oh, I’m sorry; that hair was impossibly long. I didn’t think is was connected.” (based on an actual conversation, but not one of mine)

5. “What is your policy about smoking pot in the office?”

4. “I have this crazy feeling we’ve met. Were you ever a little smellier and homeless?”

3. “Pull my finger. No seriously, this is hilarious.”

2. “Gosh, I haven’t been asked that since my last DUI.”

1. “Oh, yeah, I’m going to love your office, once your gone… and I know what you’re thinking! Of course I’ll repaint it.”

Now it’s your turn: What are some other things not to say?

Get creative!

Featured Guest Blogger: CHAD ESTES!

I’ve been enjoying Chad’s blog, and social media shout outs for a while now; so I was quite excited, when this busy guy agreed to guest post here. It’s a joy for me to share things with readers here, including people. 

Chad Estes

 

Chad is a legend. Even “Biblical Learning Blog” (at http://www.biblecollege.org)  included his blog, Captain’s Blog, in their list of Top 50 Ecumenical Blogs. So, it’s really an honor to have him here.

When I asked if he would be a guest blogger, Chad mentioned that wanted to share his heart, and I hope you soak in his contribution.

Leave your comments, afterwards, and show him what a polite readership I am fortunate enough to have by visiting his site, and to say “thank you.” 

Chad, Thank you!

I Want You to Want Me

-Chad Estes

        What we learned on the schoolyard playground seems to hold true in life. Those with the mad skills are the ones in demand. Those who can’t keep their eye on the ball, or catch an easy pop fly are picked to play right field and bat at the end of the order. This peer rejection is like the sting of a wasp, and unless you get off the field, you will probably get hurt by the same stinger, over and over again. 

    Adults play this same game. We want to team up with those people who benefit us, and help us win. We do this in business and in social circles. We even do this in church. Those on the outside of our margins–because of divorce, financial status, education levels, or addictive behavior issues, maynot be the first ones invited to our home fellowships. It isn’t their children that we invite to spend the night with our children. 

   But actually my thoughts about rejection aren’t about being picked last; it is the rejection that comes from being picked first. 

What? 

Yes, there is also a rejection issue with being picked first on a team because, more often than not, you are being picked for what you can do instead of who you are.  

     This is acceptable as long as you can keep up with the performance levels, but if your stats ever start to stumble, so will your value to the team. 

     It would be nice if this didn’t happen in Christian circles but unfortunately, it does.

Many churches and ministries recruit to a position based on a person’s perceived contribution value (Do they have good speaking skills? Can they lead a team? Do they agree with my direction? Will they serve this vision?) like it was written on stone tablets. But, when recruiting is all based on performance there will be a day when those skills will slip, or someone, even more qualified will come along. And when our positions are challenged, we may resort to some sort of spiritual steroids to help keep us on the field of play. The bad thing is these unnatural growth hormones actually stunt spiritual development It’s a cheap trick. 

       Today, I had a meeting where I was being recruited because of my ministry skills. But, as I drove home, I realized I was actually feeling the sting of rejection even though I’d been offered a position. The recruiter wasn’t really interested in me as much as she was interested in what I could do for her. She doesn’t really know me, nor does she know my heart. And unfortunately with her priorities all about her vision, she never will take the time to know what my heart is about. And so though it is a heady offer, it is a path that leads to performing, pretending, and pain. 

       My real value is my heart, not my skills. The skills are deteriorating with age. My heart is in the process of being renewed.

                  What I really want out of this life is to be picked by someone to be on their team, or be their friend not, because I’m a good player, or that I fit a niche, but simply because they want to be with me.

How about you?

  • Which rejection hurts you more—the kind from not being included, or the kind from being selected for performance-based reasons?
     
  • What do you suggest are ways to build relationships outside of these judgments and expectations?