So you became part of the new breed.
Been smoking only the best weed.
Hanging out with so-called hippest set.
Been seen in all the right places,
Seen with just the right faces.
You should be satisfied,
But still it ain’t quite right.
What is hip? Tell me tell me if you think you know.
What is hip? And if you’re really hip.
The passing years would show,
You into a hip trip, maybe hipper than hip.
What is hip? –Tower of Power
It’s called Hipster Christianity, and it’s really not about us, although it may describe some of our regulars. If, in fact, the central features of a Hipster Christian are the open (but hopefully moderate) incorporation of alcohol, tobacco, tattoos, “swear” words, social justice causes, historic memes, “green” consciousness, urban lifestyles and a post-modern approach to life, then I guess we’re Hipster Christians after all. (Take the Hipster Quiz)
It’s just that I can’t relate to some of the descriptions that accompany these new Hipster Churches. Dark, louds, grungy spaces located in nondescript urban warehouses, high on fashion (if not other things) and probably high on budget. The last thing I want to be here is judgmental (if only to maintain what little hipster status I may have gained over the years) but some of this stuff looks a little like pandering, which seems a bit contradictory to the hipster milieu.
I suppose there’s two ways to be a Hipster Christian.
1) To know first of all that you’re a Christian, and then decide that either a) you need to become like the hipsters to reach them for Christ, or b) you’re tired of being a conservative outcast, and want to fit in with the fashionable types for your own cultural purposes.
Letter “a” is admirable in a way, but still hopelessly disingenuous, not to mention doomed. Apparently, hipsterdom is very difficult to fake (even moreso than all the other cultures youth groups have attempted to fabricate over the decades.) Letter “b” is at least honest, but dangerous for one’s faith. If you’re committed to Jesus, you’ll have trouble really fitting in with the “it” people, and if you do manage to really fit in, you’ll likely lose some connection with Jesus. To do otherwise is like trying to steal second with your foot on first.
2) To know first of all that you are culturally a hipster, and that you’ve subsequently found Jesus. In the same way that people have adapted the Christian faith to every culture imaginable, can also be true for Hipster culture, so long as there is a willingness to sacrifice whatever is harmful, or what is contradictory to, or distracting from, the truth of Jesus.
For some people (myself for instance,) it’s a combination of the two. I was never an “it” guy, so any little amount of “hip” I’ve been able to achieve has been a result of my hip wife, and good friends who know what’s up. And perhaps my hybrid upbringing makes it even more important for me to constantly examine my motives.
Why do I drink? To build relationships, relate to the culture around me (not necessarily in an evangelistic sense,) and enjoy the culinary blessings among which God has placed me.
Why do I smoke (tobacco pipes or hookahs)? For pretty much the same reason that I drink. And as with alcohol, it’s not a habit, just an occasional activity.
Why do I have a tattoo? Because I was offered a free tattoo, and had an idea for something very meaningful and eternal.
Why do I “swear”? Just like the first three, it’s occasional, and used only in situations where the “swear” words in question are understood as part of a normal, daily vocabulary. In these cases, it helps me to communicate better, and I do my best to avoid such words when they would cause offense.
I know, I know… this is sure a lot of defensive rationalization for my behavior. I must really feel guilty about something, right? The fact is, the motives I listed above for my “Hipsterness” are not nearly as consistent as I would like. Occasionally I will have a drink to seem cool, or to get buzzed, or I’ll use a certain word for its shock value, instead of its ability to communicate clearly.
No matter how many beers I drink, or cigars I smoke, the sad fact is that I’m still pretty uncool. So whatever pitfalls might be inherent in this new Hipster Movement, for now, I suppose, I’m safe.