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Hipsters Would Never Try So Hard

Submitted by on March 5, 2009 – 1:38 pm 20 Comments |

bocceplayA few months back, I ran into this guy, BRETT MCCRACKEN, as I was perusing the blog world.  He’s writing a book about “Christian Hipsters.”  I quickly swept any knowledge of his pursuit under the rug for fear that it would be one more thing that would bring me closer to death.  In that, I’m serious.  When I see things like this, there is a tension deep in my being that persists until I get it all out.  The problem with getting it all out is that people then know how much emotion I have toward the subject and bring it up all the time.  It’s an unending cycle… and if you’re one of the dozens of people that have sent me a message saying, “My friend is talking to me about women in ministry right now,” then you’re who I’m talking about.

But alas, good ole McCracken is back in the game of my life.  I know even posting about this begins to put me in the same category of “completely absurd,”  but this week, a few of my room mates did a photoshoot for an article that will appear in the next issue of Relevant Magazine.  The instructions that came with the shoot included the word “hipster,” and when I saw the layout this morning, sure enough, there was that name again.

Now, a few disclaimers.
1.  I have not read the Relevant article, so I am not commenting on it in this blog post.  There are some great people at Relevant.  You can get a subscription and read the article for yourself by clicking here.  Since it has yet to be released, I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble by reading it and then posting specifics about it.
2.  I actually think that  Brett and I would probably get along.  Brett, if you read this and ever drop into Orlando, let me know.  We’ll meet up and ride fixies or something.
3.  My opinions here are not about the quality or Brett’s forthcoming book.  I have not read any of it.  This post addresses the idea of the existence of a group of people labeled “Christian Hipsters.”  Most of what I’m evaluating here comes from Brett’s blog and the comments I have read there.

Now, onward.
On February 27, 2009, Brett posted an article on his blog called, “Are you a Christian Hipster?”  It is a witty blog post about things ‘Christian Hipsters’ like and do not like.  It’s kind of a funny read.  However, I was moaning as I read it.  Granted, we live in a culture of sheep (see my last blog post), but my thought while I was reading it was, “perhaps the reason people like things is because they are full of meaning and, therefore, call to be liked.”  Conversely, “maybe people don’t like certain things because they are trite and lack depth of meaning. Maybe people aren’t as reactionary as you think.”

The problem is that most people who have gone through the process of genuine discovery of these likes and dislikes – Christian Hipsters, you could say – are NOT people that are going to be reading a blog about “Christian Hipsters.”  Evidence:  The comments section.  Here are some excerpts.

I thought it was more about wearing clothes from American Apparel.  Turns out I’m a hipster too!

Oh my goodness, that’s me down to a T!

Ooo…cloves. I could go for some of that right now.

Haha! This is awesome!  I’m pretty sure I’m a hipster!  But no mention of an affinity towards online churches/campuses?

And herein lies the problem.  This book seems like it could quickly become the secret tip book for the chubby youth pastor with a soul-patch or goatee trying with every ounce of desperation to play the hipster role.  And hipsters aren’t chubby.  They ride their bikes everywhere.

Two truths about “hipsters.”
1.  They’re never going to say, “I’m a hipster.”
2.  They’re certainly not going to follow the statement with an exclamation mark!

And both of these things have okay reasons.
1.  Labels limit potential.
2.  Over exuberance is false emotion.  There’s nothing wrong with getting excited.  It’s a healthy… but to pretend you’ve won a prize by aligning with the hipster list of likes and dislikes is a little over the top.

Now, if Christian Hipsters – no, let’s throw that label out and use what we’re really talking about – if Early Adopters like and dislike things for genuine reasons, is it fair to punish them for the disingenuous people that follow on their heels?

Over the last two years, I have spent a lot of time with people that would certainly not call themselves Christians but certainly realize they embody the label of “hipster,” and THAT is what I have seen the true definition of hipster to be.  Knowing what you like, doing it and being okay with it regardless of what anyone thinks.  Sure, there are some people that hang around this group that don’t fit into that description… maybe they see me as one sometimes, but I hope most of them see me like this guy who also commented on Brett’s post:

Atheist Hipster

Here’s my prediction (which might be completely wrong):
The book will not be purchased by Early Adopters.
The book will be purchased by people who have been making feeble attempts for the last ten years at being relevant.
Those who purchase the book will do so in an attempt to figure out how they can be cool.

boccelegsMy hopes
That Brett will lead his readers to a place where they will surrender their identities to the person of Jesus.
That the Church will stop trying so hard to be something they are not and that we will start living out who we were created to be.

Alternate Reading Suggestions
“The Tipping Point” Malcolm Gladwell
“The Key To Life Is Self-Awareness” Cole NeSmith – yet to be written

 

 

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20 Comments »

  • Brett M says:

    Cole-
    I think we would be friends also. I agree with everything you say here… including your predictions. I also found the comments (the “I must be a hipster!” comments) to be rather unsettling. And your “hopes” are certainly my hopes as well. Looking forward to your “Self-Awareness” book one day…
    Brett

  • brad pickens says:

    “We’ll meet up and ride fixies or something.” hahhahahah. i love it.

  • cole says:

    ;) Well, let me know when you’re in Orlando, and we’ll be friends.

    And brad! Get back down here too. I miss you.

  • Josh says:

    What’s unfair is that I get called a hipster at work and I don’t even ride a fixie. I mean I don’t even have the first step down.

    I’ve tried riding them, and I think they’re dangerous. You need brakes. Hand brakes.

    Or at least a helmet.

    I enjoyed this post.

  • Casey says:

    http://stillsearching.wordpress.com/2009/03/05/why-i-am-writing-this-book/

    I think this explains a lot.

    Based on this I don’t think this book will at ALL become a tip book for soul-patched youth pastors trying to be cool.

  • Josh says:

    Ok so I’ve read Brett’s blog post. It’s surprisingly offensive in it’s suggestiveness. I’m not sure his book should be written.

  • Josh says:

    Ok, one last thing.

    Brett’s blog post makes some fundamental errors. It overgeneralizes. It judges. AND it’s written with a clear bias against certain ideology. Moreover, there are several INDIVIDUALS who subscribe to certain ideas, thoughts, and activities that DO NOT look hip. It’s an excuse to take out misplaced aggression and make fun of fellow Christians.

    As you said, ”maybe people don’t like certain things because they are trite and lack depth of meaning. Maybe people aren’t as reactionary as you think.”

    This is a dangerous book and will only polarize and already polarized church.

    Lastly, he associates reading certain authors, and criticizing political figures as hipster ideals! That’s absurd.

  • Jared Wynne says:

    On hipsters/early adopters:

    I think early adopters and hipsters are part of the same linear scale but opposite ends of it. This scale is linear because you are motivated to adopt or integrate something because you have seen it, heard it, or read about it and were struck by curiosity. The difference lies in the motivation behind the adoption or integration. The early adopter chooses to integrate for individual discovery of something that may be enjoyable or aesthetically pleasing. This act is guilt free. The hipster finds things to integrate or adopt the same way but adopts due to a social motivation or agenda. This is act that carries with it a minor amount of guilt or shame. I think this is where the negativity about being a hipster comes from.

    An early adopter doesn't want people to think that they were socially motivated. A hipster doesn't want people to think that other people influence them in to subscribing to anything. That's my theory anyway.

    On Christian hipsters and Brett's blog:

    Maybe I don't get it because I'm not a big fan of Christian culture but it doesn't seem very accurate to me. I think there are more obvious Christian trends Brett could pick on! Having lived in such close proximity to Southeastern College, having gone to one Charismatic church for sometime (socially motivated for a girl, I might add), and having been a member of Status for quite sometime I have seen my fair share of Christian hipsters. Maybe I should write a book.

    And speaking of hipsters, Brad! I miss you dude!

  • Phill Grooms says:

    Here’s the thing…once books like this are coming out…once youth pastors drop their goatees for beards and Ray Bans…is the day being a hipster is no longer THE THING. I think you know what I mean by “THE THING”. So my friends, look for hipsters to be a thing of the past in the next few years or so. You’ll be able to visit it here in the Midwest where the emo-kids still reside.

  • Steve says:

    Cole-

    Good post. I had the same response when I ran into his blog a few hours ago and read the article. However, I did some more searching and found another blog post about why he’s writing the book- which is actually to expose the polarizing effect that our pursuit of being “cool” has on faith and how the church is participating wholeheartedly in this. I may have read his post wrong and have never posted comments on any blog- but I thought this would clarify a bit so it wouldn’t drive you insane.

    Steve

  • Mickey says:

    What is a hipster?
    All i know is i love making movies. Eh, Cole is the guy whom i found to be a big A– lol no, he challenges people in conversation ON EVERYTHING. ha ha.
    “I don’t like the zoo”
    “So we should leave animal kingdom then?”
    -Mickey’s thoughts immediately after: I don’t fancy zoos, but when with other people who do, i will have a good time hanging with good friends even if we’re at the zoo. I’m a laid back guy who like to have a good time. I could be in a room with 4 walls, but good friends make it worth it.
    That is all.

    Your friend,
    Mickey

    PS which circle do i fall in? acquaintance? friend? good friend? Can i move up a circle or two?

  • Emily McGuire says:

    Once the hipster phenomenon is over-acknowledged (or any big social trend thing), the earliest of early adopters are already sitting at their early adopter parties making fun of the hipsters.

    I say this because I know some ultra-early adopters (most of them are “so over” Orlando and peaced out to New York or Stockholm) and they think hipsters are so ridiculous. Do these people ride bikes? Sure. Are they eco-conscious…even Greenpeace employees? Yes. But could you stereotype them as “hipsters?” No, and I can’t quite put my finger on why. They are already onto the next big thing and the thing after that, etc.

    I think the awful need to be cool does have a tragic affect on Christianity and steals us away from our God-given purpose. When people start to receive too much identity from cool practices, cool parties, cool friends and not even identity from Christ and our position with him as saved by grace, they become shadows of what they were meant to be.

    However, it pisses me off when people write “Christian” books to simply criticize things they don’t like. Seriously, we need to stop defending ourselves and live authentically. This man needs to unconditionally love a hipster. I bet he doesn’t even know one.

  • cole says:

    Emily…
    I was talking to a dear friend the other day, and I asked him, “explain to me this idea that you need someone else to open a door for you to actually do what you want to do.” It was specifically related to the idea of moving somewhere for the sake of climbing up the invisible ladder everyone talks about.

    People who have to move to another city to be creative will never be creative. People who must have someone else tell them they are valuable, will never feel valued.

    Until all of us truly place the entirety of our identities in Christ, we will not be satisfied – regardless of place, the people around us or what we own.

    In addition – until we place the entirety of our identities in Christ, we will not truly be moving forward in living a life of passion and purpose.

    “I just need to be in a more creative place,” is nothing more than an excuse to delay finding out that the speaker really just isn’t creative.

  • Emily McGuire says:

    I agree–just because someone is an early adopter doesn’t mean they are necessarily creative.

    And I agree with you about the invisible ladder. I enjoy how most of the “hipsters” I know aren’t even concerned with it. Interesting.

    Anyhow, good post. Also your ideas on creativity are super helpful to me personally. Good good good.

  • drc says:

    I’m curious…What is the so-called “hipster” draw to biking? Is it for the exercise benefits? Environmental? Social? …
    Maybe if I unravel this mystery I can find some riding buddies near me. I love it, but always riding alone gets boring.

    (but, um, for the record, I’ve never even SEEN a fixie…but this guy was pretty awesome: http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/UN5kcbmRMAgX9cLKxyzO6w?feat=directlink )

  • Lance says:

    I can't way for "The Key to Life"

  • Jordan E. Nsminger says:

    I don't understand why people can't just "be". There is nothing wrong with being a hipster, and if being a follower is your thing – so be it. But is it necessary for someone to write a book about it ? I mean who cares if you ride your bike everywhere and wear jeans that don't fit with your shoes that helped out some kid in some poor country while you eat your seitan stew and talk about what book you just read that changed your life and opened up your eyes. who cares ? just be. if someone labels you, so what ? labels are as constrictive as seat belts are effective. sure you didn't die in the car accident, but your neck hurts like hell, doesn't it ?

    I guess all I'm saying is . . . who cares how you're labeled ? just be. if you happen to be one of those really annoying hipsters(which i'm going to label you as) then be a damn hipster and hipster dance your way across whatever hipster stage is cheering you on. hazzah !

    i think i just feel more comfortable living in a world where people accept each other. i may not think that how you live is "cool" or dare i say "hip", but that doesn't mean that any one of us is wrong. because in style and personal choice, there is no wrong. but in the culture of christianity we are just called to love.

    i don't know how much of this was on topic or how much it made sense with your original post, but after reading what you wrote, this is what came to my heart.

    • Cole NeSmith says:

      I'm not completely sure which of the "you"s you used were pronouns for "cole" and which of the "you"s were proverbial use like the word "one."

      Because of that, I'm not sure how much of what you said was directed at me and how much was directed at culture.

      I guess I'll just repost this quote from the original post :
      "Knowing what you like, doing it and being okay with it regardless of what anyone thinks."

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