Let me be clear: I am not a hipster. I've had black-rim glasses since junior year of high school (12 years) and a beard for almost as long (off and on). But I am a Christian and I have had Christian hipster friends for the past decade, so Brett McCracken's new book, "Hipster Christianity," appeals to me. I prefaced that I'm not a Christian hipster because I'm about to take issue with how a blogger for The New Yorker characterized Christian hipsters.
The peg was a cover story that McCracken wrote for Christianity Today -- shout out to fellow GetReligionista Sarah Pulliam Bailey -- about "the ironic world of hipster faith." Check out McCracken's site, and, if you aren't already familiar, you'll see that hipster Christianity is all about irony and taboos: piercings, tattoos, cursing, smoking, drinking, not running with girls who do.
A few of those make McCracken's hipster checklist in the Christianity Today article. Riffing on this, The New Yorker's Macy Halford has a slightly more inclusive list in her "Hip for Jesus" post. She starts by mentioning, as I quote below, why hipsters generally drive people bananas and then writes:
But it's worse with Christian hipsters, because they embrace secular mores that are antithetical to the Christian lifestyle (cigarettes, bourbon, hookah, tattoos, beards, cursing, R-rated movies, vintage choral music), thus compromising the very essence of their religion. Worse, decidedly unhip pastors pander to these ideals, which is just, you know, embarrassing.
Certainly, those are all things that Christian hipsters are all about. Hence my early defensiveness of my longstanding facial appearance. (I also need to mention that I still wear the same pair of Chuck Taylors that I've had since high school.) But probably only about half of those habits definitely qualify as "secular mores."
And I'm certain that two don't.
Specifically, facial hair is awesome. It's also pretty biblical. So are peyot, but I digress.
To be sure, I may be overthinking this. Or maybe I'm just a bit jumpy due to hipster fatigure. McCracken, for his part, mentioned Halford's post on his blog, and said that he found it "thoughtful and balanced" and rather liked this line:
The trouble McCracken has with Christian hipsters is the same trouble everyone everywhere has with hipsters, which is that they often seem to lack authenticity.
True, indeed. And if you have any doubt, there is a YouTube video from Break Media that I'd love to share with you but I think the language is just to extremely explicit for a hyperlink. (Good judgment prevailed.) It features some ridiculous hipster outfits and opens with the line:
"Isn't it confusing/ to care so very much about appearing to care so very little/ How exhausting that must be/ And isn't it ironic, to be so obsessed with irony/ that you are yourself ironic/ in your love of irony."
And certainly some of the same points can be made about Christian hipsters.
I just hope Halford wasn't being ironic including beards and "vintage choral music" (likely on the latter). If so, I've proven myself to be most unhip. Though I would be OK with that.