The Gospel Coalition

You may have noticed a strange phenomenon on the sidewalks, coffee shops, and (perhaps) church pews of your town: mustachioed men in tight denim shorts wearing worn-out touristy t-shirts, ugly moth-eaten cardigans, and grandpa hats. Women with boxy haircuts, cat-eyed glasses, hideous Christmas sweaters, and working-class 1950s skirts. Gangs in skinny jeans that would make a magician wonder how they fit their feet through ankle openings. They ride around the city on fixed-gear bicycles, drinking PBR, smoking Lucky Strikes or Parliament cigarettes, and taking pictures on Holga, Polaroid, and other clumsy, vintage cameras.

Yes . . . this is an article about hipsters.

Hipsters as a cultural phenomenon have been around for a few years. Their influence has spread into the broader American culture, becoming a regular punchline on Saturday Night Live and on primetime television. For better or worse, they are the hippies, punks, and grungers of our generation.

But where the hippies and grungers were marked by a howl of angst against the shiny veneer of the previous generation's glamour, prosperity, and presumption, the hipster makes a much different sound---the sneer of cynicism. Their core value is irony, and the aesthetic they embrace---their posture towards the culture around them---is defined by a sense of cynical superiority over it.

A recent opinion piece in The New York Times took a look at hipsters, calling them "the archetype of ironic living." In the article, Christy Wampole argues that this sense of irony stems from a desire to "hide in public," and has its roots in a sense that culturally, our generation has nothing to offer. Rather than risk action (and open ourselves up to ridicule), we have settled into a passive state of judgment. By this, the hipster becomes the ultimate connoisseur of cool. Most hipster parodies point out that hipsters tend to be selectively obsessed with the finest stuff---gourmet food, gourmet coffee, vintage vinyl, bands you've never heard of, and so on.

Bullet-Proof Spirit


One who mocks the hipster only affirms the hipster's self-important superiority. By mocking mustaches, skinny jeans, and vintage bicycles, you reveal yourself as an outsider; you're not in on the joke. Because the core belief of the hipster is that fashion, aesthetics, and sincerity itself is a joke.

(Which reminds me: How many hipsters does it take to change a light bulb? Oh . . . you haven't heard already? I'm actually not surprised. It's a really exclusive number.)

There's nothing new under the sun. Twenty years ago, David Foster Wallace saw a similar ironic sensibility flourishing and sounded familiar alarms. For Wallace, the source was television, which trained people to be spectators, awarding their cynicism with the sense that they were "above the fray" as they passively watched TV. Wallace argued that everyone watching TV felt a little bit of guilt. So writers and advertisers began to use self-conscious irony, mocking television and advertising, in order to make viewers feel like they were better than the average viewer. TV trained viewers to be cynical observers, which simultaneously made them feel better than other TV watchers, and kept them watching TV. You can see the connections to hipster ethos in Wallace's description:
In fact, the numb blank bored demeanor---what one friend calls the "girl who's-dancing-with-you-but-would-obviously-rather-be-dancing-with-somebody-else" expression---that has become my generation's version of cool is all about TV. "Television" . . . trains us to relate to real live personal up-close stuff the same way we relate to the distant and exotic, as if separated from us by physics and glass, extant only as performance, awaiting our cool review. . . . (W)ooed several gorgeous hours a day for nothing but our attention, we regard that attention as our chief commodity, our social capital, and we are loath to fritter it. In the same regard . . . flatness, numbness, and cynicism in one's demeanor are clear ways to transmit the televisual attitude of stand-out-transcendence---flatness and numbness transcend sentimentality, and cynicism announces that one knows the score, was last naïve about something at maybe like age four.

--- David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments

Today, our attention isn't merely sought by TV. Wallace's argument seems almost antiquated compared to the all-out assault on our attention spans that come from TV, smart phones, and social media. We live on display in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and much more.

So like Wallace's numb blank bored figure, today's hipster is likewise numb blank bored, detached from the world like a perpetual critic. They consume the media around them having bought into the ironic cultural ethos---believing that the only righteous position is one above the fray, beyond affect, and whose only sincere emotion is disdain.

This may seem like a flash-in-the-pan cultural phenomenon that doesn't matter, but if you're like me, you see hipsters every Sunday, and throughout the week in the neighborhoods where you live. Not only that, but Wampole argues that the hipster is only an extreme version of a general attitude of irony and cynicism that pervades our culture. How can Christians think about this odd phenomenon?

Don't Confuse the General With the Specific


It's important to remember than many people adopt stylistic trappings without necessarily embracing (or being embraced by) their philosophical underpinnings. In other words, not every hipster is a Hipster. Not every kid with a mustache and skinny jeans is cynical and self-protective. Some of the kindest, most generous, and sincere folks in my church appear---at first glance---to be part of that cultural phenomenon. But they know Jesus, and he's transformed them into quirky, mustachioed lovers of God and others, and I praise Jesus for them.

Cultivate Sincere Awe


The best response to a culture of cynics and skeptics is sincerity. While cynics mock everything that doesn't rise to their cryptic standards, Christians look at the world and remember that it was all mysteriously and wonderfully made by God. Even human handiwork, via the imago dei, reflects God's creativity.

Christian participation in culture should be warm, generous, and sincere. We worship a God who made the world and made it profoundly good. Our God is not a cynic; he takes pleasure in his creation (Genesis 1), and he invites us to share in his joy (Psalm 16:11).

Embracing mere goodness in the world around us---good food, good conversation, and good leisure---could be transformative. By that I mean mere goodness. Life doesn't have to be full of the best of everything, and good can certainly be good enough. Especially if we lower our grandiose and idealized expectations and simply determine to enjoy what God puts before us.

Here again, I think about social media. Social media compels its users to project idealized versions of themselves. A photo of a meal can bear the caption, "UnbeLIEVable homemade ravioli!!!!!!!!" Meanwhile the pasta is chewy, the sauce is tasteless, and the dining couple fights throughout the entire meal. The nature of social media, and its accompanying audience, leads us to glamorize the mundane, leaving no superlatives for truly great experiences.

The real is still good. Life is still a gift. A meal calls for gratitude because it simply exists---as opposed to no meal, and the consequences of hunger.

Similarly, we can experience mere goodness when we allow ourselves to applaud and appreciate the experiences of others. We can fight to turn off our internal simmering vat of contempt and judgment and be joyful at the blessings, pleasure, and goodness of the people around us, both in the real world and also in the virtual world.

Different Virtues


Psalm 1 confronts skeptics when it says:
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

The fourth line of that Psalm makes two points. First, in the context of the psalm, we see that scoffing (mocking) isn't part of a blessed life. It's not the way that God meant the world to be. Second, the scoffer is the only one of the trio who is sitting---inactive, on the sidelines, scoffing at a world that attempts anything.

It's a great snapshot of the stereotypical hipster---sitting on the sidelines and casting judgment on all that passes by. And as Christy Wampole points out, the hipster is actually just an extreme version of a spirit that dominates our whole culture. We're all guilty of this critical spirit, feeding into it as we cynically observe the world around us.

In other words, there's a little bit of a hipster in all of us.

One sad aspect of hipster culture is self-criticism. Where hippies find a sense of belonging in one another's company, hipsters are skeptical of any sense of belonging. So they default to their highest virtue: mockery. No one seems as capable of mocking hipsters as hipsters.

The Root of Cynicism and Irony


I entirely agree with what Wampole and Wallace on the short-term, cultural roots of this sense of irony, but an even deeper cause exists. It's the cause of all tribalism in humanity---the inarticulate sense of alienation we all feel from God and one another. In mild forms, people attempt to satiate this feeling with club and political party memberships, cultural tribalism (like hipsters), and in extreme forms, hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi Party.

But it all goes back to Genesis---both to the Tower of Babel, where God confused languages and divided us into tribes and tongues, alienating us from one another, and also to the Garden of Eden, where sin entered the world, and we were cast out from the presence of God. This twin sense of alienation---from one another and from God---leaves us looking for a place to belong.

As Christians, we can speak of a true sense of belonging---a real home---made available in Jesus (Hebrews 3-4). We can also speak of a loyalty that transcends cultural differences---including aesthetic snobbery (Colossians 3:11). The gospel reconciles us, and in the church, we don't stand over and above anyone for any reason. In Christ, we are family, and there's simultaneously a place for everyone and no place for cultural or aesthetic snobbery.

Only the reconciling power of the gospel can transcend this sense of alienation, reconnect us to our maker, and end hostility---and cynicism---between one another.


Comments:

Hipsters, Fundamentalists, and Jon Fitzgerald

November 30, 2012 at 10:06 AM

[...] and then, as if divinely ordained to prove Siedell’s point about evangelicals and culture, a piece at The Gospel Coalition titled “The Hipster in All of Us” appeared in my Twitter feed this [...]

Latch

November 30, 2012 at 07:41 AM

Dean, I'm reading your post to imply that Christians need to just wear "Christian" shirts and "Christian" pants and only have "Christian" haircuts. Are you saying that a Christian cannot wear skinny jeans?

Jared

November 30, 2012 at 07:01 PM

"Man, this article was so obscure I barely found it. "

ROTFL

This Week’s Good Reads | Pastor Dave Online

November 30, 2012 at 06:01 AM

[...] “The Hipster In All Of Us” by Mike [...]

Not Paul Ellsworth

November 29, 2012 at 08:39 AM

No, just a better name than 'Anonymous'. :)

Paul Ellsworth

November 28, 2012 at 12:13 PM

I am confused by your user name, ha. :) I'm not sure if you were sorta replying to me or not. I actually meant (but, re-reading, it was not entirely clear) to say, essentially, that materialism is perhaps a bigger issue in the church - but it comes of as looking normal, because it's mainstream.

Hipsters look different, thus they stand out more in the church. Materialistic people? Materialism? Living for more toys? That doesn't stand out that much. It's easy to hide, it's mainstream, it's cultural... so it doesn't stand out, and doesn't seem to be addressed as firmly or specifically.

Around the Internet (11/28/12) | Colin McCulloch

November 28, 2012 at 12:01 PM

[...] The Hipster in All of Us – “Hipsters as a cultural phenomenon have been around for a few years. Their influence has spread into the broader American culture, becoming a regular punchline on Saturday Night Live and on primetime television. For better or worse, they are the hippies, punks, and grungers of our generation.” Share this: This entry was posted in etc. and tagged Angus T. Jones, Hipsters, International Herald Tribune, Soccer, The Chicago Tribune, The Gospel Coalition, Tottenham Hotspurs, Two and a Half Men by colinmcculloch. Bookmark the permalink. [...]

Luma

November 28, 2012 at 11:03 AM

Good response, Caleb.

Not Paul Ellsworth

November 28, 2012 at 08:48 AM

Interesting discussion. All I will say is, broad strokes hurt folks... and good response, Caleb.

Tristan

November 27, 2012 at 12:53 AM

Very good article! Very nicely written! Very good points! Thanks!

Dean P

November 27, 2012 at 12:52 PM

Ben: I have to respectfully disagree with your analysis of Brett McCracken's book, as a recovering hipster I believed he nailed it. How can you say he has no sufficient theology of culture. The first half of the book is just that. He doesn't get into the critique of the hipster ethos until the last two chapters.And the reason most hipsters won't read his book is because they smell a threat and hide the threat via intellectual gymnastics and also because they don't want people to see them read the book because they don't want anybody to think that they think that they are a hipster.

RJ

November 27, 2012 at 12:41 PM

I agree with Caleb. Irony is used a rhetorical device and is a foundation of humor and criticism. Does not God use irony and sarcasm in Scripture to get His points across in a way that His people can understand? Though I know that irony and sarcasm are different (though ironically I could not explain how they are different), I believe that this society needs to be satirized in order for people to wake up and see what they have become.

Dean P

November 27, 2012 at 12:33 PM

"The evangelical right in America is an important cause of cynicism. I think that the church does not take the fact that it claims to have Truth nearly as seriously as it should. It does not speak its Truth with nearly as much care, as it should. It flippantly makes very big claims for itself and very sweeping criticisms of what it considers to be the outside. The way that evangelicals mis-represent their opponents is an insult to intelligence, and is a cause for cynicism. If they're willing to dismiss 'x' without understanding it, what else are they willing to distort - that is a common concern."

Caleb I do not want to dismiss any of what you are saying because much of what you are saying has some truth to it. But from where I am standing it's evangelicals who seem to be more and more pushed to the outside these days, and it is hipsters and the modern/post modern ethos that has been pushed into the mainstream. Sure much of the culture (especially in the south) still lives off of borrowed capital from remnants of a quazi form of Christianity, but Evangelicals are pretty much considered to be on the fringes of culture by most of the current cultural establishment today.

Of course in the past the evangelicals have been a catalyst for the cynicism that you speak of, but I would also dare to say that evangelicals have also been a convenient scapegoat for many who would rather be accepted by the culture as relevant and cool (yes by being irrelevant hipsters are the most relevant and by far the coolest) rather than taking up one's cross and putting one's identity in Christ and Christ alone. I know that this was definitely true for me, because there was no game more fun than the game of shooting the proverbial evangelical fish in the proverbial barrel.

In the modern world today I would go as far as to say that the chief idol among younger people today (hipster and not) is the idol of relevance. But nothing was more irrelevant to the culture of Jesus’s day than Jesus himself. Otherwise he would never have been crucified. In fact Jesus (contrary to what theologians of the 1960's and 1970's) espoused was not cool or hip at all. And he really isn’t hip today either. Anyone who threatens the modern notion of the sovereign autonomy of the individual is totally uncool and unhip. So yes there is longing for authenticity, but hipsters like all of humanity would much rather have God’s things than God himself. This is because having God himself demands taking up one’s cross and dying to oneself and when one’s own individual self-expression and one’s own identity is threatened then that is not cool at all. And when being cool and relevant is the essence of being a hipster then that will just not do.

Jon S.

November 27, 2012 at 12:06 PM

I think you're right, Dean P., that we should remove ourselves from the trappings of the world and idolatry. But I also caution that Paul makes it clear that things such as the outward appearance of hipsters fall into a category of "conscience" and as believers we must let people choose as they believe is appropriate and good for the Lord. (Rom 14) You were 100% right in abandoning all of those ways since for you it was a sign of idolatry. But Christians are not marked by our observance of rules - though we must observe them - we are marked by our love for one another and our love of Christ. That's what is truly supposed to set us apart from the world. So if someone - in full knowledge that certain kinds of clothing and mustaches and music are all part of the goodness of creation - decides to outwardly associate himself with the hipster culture through common cultural signals and norms, what separates this from Paul's methods of speaking and acting Gentile when dealing with Gentiles? (1 Cor 9:20-21)

Jonathan Houding

November 27, 2012 at 12:06 PM

Got it. Thanks. I didn't think so, but I couldn't help but to notice the timing.

Caleb

November 27, 2012 at 11:39 AM

Though, as one commenter on the NYT pointed out, irony is not to be thrown out wholesale. It is a foundation of humor and criticism. Christopher Hitchens was fond of it - and I wouldn't call him a hipster 'hiding in public.'

Caleb

November 27, 2012 at 11:34 AM

This is a very complicated issue and my comment won't be a coherent whole. I'm just typing my immediate response to your presentation of an issue that I have thought about for some time.

First, let's remember that 'hipster' as a term is older than is commonly acknowledged. Norman Mailer was discussing it in the 1960s as a response to conformity. It was an attitude and set of counter-conformist actions that often had to do with sexual expression.

It is, also, a reasonable response to a culture in which almost EVERYTHING is for sale. Everyone is trying to sell something to someone. Capitalism is like a pillaging army, searching everywhere for a trend, passion, attitude, object, etc. to market and sell. The church is often complicit in this. It has not sufficiently questioned this ethos - oh, there are sermons where it is questioned. But in practice, no. We are often just as slick as the marketers. And the conservative, pro-capitalist posture of so many evanglical leaders doesn't help.

I also take issue with the stereotypical remarks and joking that are focused on the external - clothes, kitsch objects, and beards/mustaches and other allegedly outdated fashions. Yes, this is part of a longing for authenticity (and I think for the more meaningful lives centred around labour and community that defined the lives of our grandparents). But who is to say what is an outdated fashion? The fashion industry? Commercial culture? I'm not sure there is anything wrong with a rejection of those authorities on style or self-presentation. Yes, the response has become its own style (that has been co-opted and re-sold - American Apparel anyone?) But can't one have a mustache without making an ironic statement? A beard? As you pointed out, these are not clear indicators. Attitude is far more important and telling. Afterall, you have to choose something to wear. What makes the grandpa hat any more or less authentic or ridiculous than the $5000 suit on Wall Street? Hipsters aren't necessarily right in their answer, but neither are their critics.

There are also many reasons to be cynical. If the church really wants to combat the culture of irony/cynicism (which is worth doing - I do not consider myself a hipster, though I am sympathetic to their longing for authenticity and the criticism that they take - as if the non-hipster young people pursuing the good life of the marketer's dreams in the form of expensive cars and large houses or three widescreen tvs on black friday, for example, are any more authentic or any less ridiculous than hipsters pillaging a vintage clothing store), it could consider more transparency, honesty, and sincerity. The evanglical right in America is an important cause of cynicism. I think that the church does not take the fact that it claims to have Truth nearly as seriously as it should. It does not speak its Truth with nearly as much care as it should. It flippantly makes very big claims for itself and very sweeping criticisms of what it considers to be the outside. The way that evangelicals mis-represent their opponents is an insult to intelligence, and is a cause for cynicism. If they're willing to dismiss 'x' without understanding it, what else are they willing to distort - that is a common concern.

The church is also flippant in its promises of transformation, awe, etc. Your passage: "Social media compels its users to project idealized versions of themselves. A photo of a meal can bear the caption, "UnbeLIEVable homemade ravioli!!!!!!!!" Meanwhile the pasta is chewy, the sauce is tasteless, and the dining couple fights throughout the entire meal. The nature of social media, and its accompanying audience, leads us to glamorize the mundane, leaving no superlatives for truly great experiences" reminds me of the evangelical use of social media to advertise its churches and conferences - They promise unbelieveable, transcendent experiences. They are full of unrealistic transformationalism and emotionalism and are ripe for cynicism. Just look at trailers for T4G or any other major conference. We have taken up the language of television, advertising, and the blockbuster trailer and expect to be perceived as 'sincere' or 'authentic'. David Foster Wallace would have had something to say about it.

This seemingly unconcious cultural posture (or conscious attempt to manipulate the culture) is evidence, in my view, of a profoundly flippant perspective on what the church is and does and can do. I don't blame the hipsters for being cynical about it, for rejecting it and the clear material wealth that it flaunts. Of course that position puts them, as middle class (wealthy in global terms) people, in an awkward position.

The church should not act like it stands above the late consumer captalist fray against which hipsters contend and from which they cannot escape. The church hasn't really figured out how to rise above it. Yet it acts like it has.

So, yes, the ironic posture of hipsterdom is problematic and hypocritical. But there are genuine longings there that as far as I can see the church either mocks outwardly, or insults in its own cultural posture, which is often not much more authentic than an ad for Black Friday at your local Nike store.

Collin Hansen

November 27, 2012 at 11:21 AM

Speaking as the editor of this piece, no.

Caleb

November 27, 2012 at 10:54 AM

If you don't have time for Infinite Jest, "Consider the Lobster" is a great collection of essays.

Jonathan Houding

November 27, 2012 at 10:51 AM

"A hipster guy is one who kept his grandpa's clothes but lost his grandpa's work ethic."

Dean P

November 27, 2012 at 10:46 AM

Jonathan: What did Driscoll say?

Jonathan Houding

November 27, 2012 at 10:38 AM

Was this article also written in an effort to assuage the controversy over Driscoll's recent remark on his Twitter account concerning hipsters?

Aaron

November 27, 2012 at 10:35 AM

Wallace is one of the great late 20th century writers; his best known work is Infinite Jest, but I doubt that it would be an easy to get through work, not that it wouldn't be rewarding, good luck!

Ben Terry

November 27, 2012 at 10:05 AM

@Scott McCracken’s analysis ends up being reductionistic: he thinks anyone who is a christian who looks like a “hipster” is really just trying to be “cool”. But his analysis only works if, in fact, all christian hipsters are really just posers. That is, McCracken effectively reduces all hipsters to posers precisely because he can only imagine someone adopting such a lifestyle in order to be cool. I think McCracken lacks a theology of culture, which is why I think he misunderstands people who may be unwillingly labeled as hipsters. But precisely because McCracken lacks a sufficient theology of culture, and hence lacks any attention to systematic (in)justice, most of the "Christian hipsters" I know will never read his book; but all of the posers will.

So I think Cosper's article comes from a different perspective that identifies and rightly argues we are all hipsters because of our root of cynicism, irony, and a longing to belong to a tribe. But praise God that "in Christ, we are family, and there's simultaneously a place for everyone and no place for cultural or aesthetic snobbery."

Chris O.

November 27, 2012 at 09:59 AM

Mind blown!

Derek Rishmawy

November 27, 2012 at 09:53 AM

Great stuff. Very helpful for a college ministry guy with a beard, trying to minister other semi-bearded hipster kids.

Michael

November 27, 2012 at 09:17 AM

Man, this article was so obscure I barely found it.

I have to think part of the impulse to mock also stems from a sense of powerlessness. I think some of the areas in my life where I feel most cynical are also areas where I feel least able to do anything about it. Cynicism gives me a sense of control and power, even if it's pretty hollow in all honesty. On good days, I remember Jesus, my advocate, and take consolation from his power. A healthy view of God's sovereignty is a sufficient balm for helplessness and fear. On bad days, I just sneer, and that only inflames the roots of my cynicism.

Dean P

November 27, 2012 at 08:36 AM

"It's important to remember than many people adopt stylistic trappings without necessarily embracing (or being embraced by) their philosophical underpinnings. In other words, not every hipster is a Hipster. Not every kid with a mustache and skinny jeans is cynical and self-protective. Some of the kindest, most generous, and sincere folks in my church appear---at first glance---to be part of that cultural phenomenon. But they know Jesus, and he's transformed them into quirky, mustachioed lovers of God and others, and I praise Jesus for them."

I think that this paragraph is where many myself included struggle more than anywhere. Some may argue that at this point in history of all times that it is just as important for Christians to stand out from the culture by our outward appearance with things like clothing, hairstyle and modesty (ie ironic hair styles, and facial hair, androgenous/uni-sex clothing items, as well as band and or ironic t-shirts etc.) as it is by our behavior. So if this is the case should pastors and churches lovingly challenge these seemingly harmless clothing and hairstyle choices as possibly being a unconscous form of aping the culture and therefore not allowing there to be specific differentiation. I consider myself to be a recovering hipster and struggled with music idolatry for many years. When God finally brought me to repentance and showed me how really entrenched in the subculture I was it was very difficult for me not to see my clothing and hairstyles as being a badge or expression of where my heart really was at the time. I know that I can't know every Christian hipster's heart and many of them may not be in the same place as I was....and yet there might be more that have made certain componants of hipster culture (ie music, indie film, literature, food, animals and on and on) into their own personal idols. And one's outward appearance is often a tell tell sign of where someone is putting their identity and often unbeknowenst to them it may not be in Christ and in Christ alone. Three books were very helpful in challenging me in this area: "Unfasionable" by Tullian Tchivedian "Counterfeit Gods" by Tim Keller and "Hipster Christianity" by Brett McCracken.

Scott

November 27, 2012 at 08:20 AM

I was wondering if you have read Brett McCracken's book Hipster Christianity and what your thoughts are on it in relation to what you have said here.

LG

November 27, 2012 at 07:44 PM

Haha, I mean, that doesn't even make sense, man. Have you met every "hipster" to know that each and every one is an attention-seeking poser? What a silly assertion. "All hipsters are posers." As the kids say these days, LOL.

Mike

November 27, 2012 at 06:58 PM

Thanks. I'll get that one.

Mike

November 27, 2012 at 05:59 AM

This article makes me want to add David Foster Wallace to my Christmas reading wish list. Does anyone have a book recommendation? I've never read any of his books.

Paul Ellsworth

November 27, 2012 at 05:14 PM

So it seems that "hipsterism" and "materialism" are two sides of the same coin. One firmly embraces the materialistic "give me more toys" culture; the other presumably sees that as being worthless and vain, and attempts to counter it by *not* buying into what is ... shall we say, mainstream materialism.

Since most of us tend towards the mainstream, our materialistic tendencies are going to look ... normal. Perhaps this is why hipsters stand out so much? By rejecting mainstream culture, they stand out obviously. The rest of us who tend to accept it rather than reject it look at their fashion and see it as totally wacky and unfashionable.

Now, with clothing and such... that's a pretty complex issue. However, I think we can all agree that, in America at the very least, materialism is a huge problem. We all have a lot of money and a lot of opportunity to spend it.

Addressing both materialism/mainstream-consumer-culture as well as cynical "culture is bad" attitudes seems to be a good idea. Neither being obsessed with what mainstream culture does (whether that's music, tech, entertainment, digital/social media, or what have you) nor being obsessed with avoiding what mainstream culture does is good.

Blogging about Hipsters

November 27, 2012 at 04:54 AM

[...] can read the full article here. Tweet Cancel [...]

Matt

November 27, 2012 at 03:36 PM

One thought I had about this article: It approaches the hipster phenomenon from a standpoint of feeling excluded or not cool enough to be accepted by them. I don't think a lot of hipsters are actually exclusionary. Some may come off that way, probably out of sheer discomfort in their own skin and their identity in the world, or even just plain social awkwardness. Hipsters ARE very intentional about not buying into typical trends in fashion, music, film, food, all areas of culture really. They avoid pop culture to the point of going to great lengths to appear and consume differently. Out of that aesthetic can come a false sense of superiority, because apart from Christ, we are all flawed and inevitably lean towards building ourselves up in some way, but in and of itself, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with intentionally choosing to abstain from societal norms… Making that your entire identity is the problem. And a lot of "hipsters" are actually just people, who laugh and love and don't always smirk at people who don't "get it".

Brian

November 27, 2012 at 03:08 PM

LOL! So true, and I love it!!!

Brian

November 27, 2012 at 03:06 PM

All hipsters are posers. By their actions, attitudes and dress, they say, "Look at me". There is simply no room in Christianity for for that kind of thing.

Dean P

November 27, 2012 at 03:05 PM

"But Christians are not marked by our observance of rules - though we must observe them - we are marked by our love for one another and our love of Christ. That's what is truly supposed to set us apart from the world."

John S. I'm not advocating an observance of a set of rules, I'm just concerned about the propensity among many young evangelicals especially of the hipster variety who are often times simultaneously caught up in some form of idolatry. Overall you are right this is something between the individual and God, but my question is how does one call out obvious idolatry in a fellow believer without it being easily dismissed as an act of legalism? If we are indeed spending significant amounts of time with our fellow brothers and sisters and we begin seeing a dispropportiant amount of devotion in the lifestyle, clothing, and spending habbits of one of them isn't it fair to say that we should at least be asking heart probing questions in regards to these actions? Or is our right intentions and graceful approach automatically rendered null and void by the dreaded trump card cry of legalism?

Dean P

November 27, 2012 at 02:18 PM

Thanks Caleb. Good word. Yeah the Lutherans seem to have the right idea... well except for that Two Kingdoms thing.

Yeah it's hard to tell in this day and age who is on the inside and who is on the outside and yes (well except down South) I do believe that the major political constituency of cultural conservatism is still a major force but only within a certain age demographic. Evangelicals under the age of 40 are gradually moving more left politically and dropping out of the commercial parallel culture entirely.

Dean P

November 27, 2012 at 02:01 PM

I think this Catholic Priest has the right idea.
http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/jun/22/terry-mattingly-evangelizing-the-hipsters/

Caleb

November 27, 2012 at 01:44 PM

Dean, thanks for your response. I agree with your thoughts on 'relevance'. In the academic world, I can attest to the fact that being relevant (whatever that really means - often the market) is prerequisite for any kind of funding and you'll often hear undergraduates complain that class x is 'irrelevent' because it doesn't lead to a job, etc. I would say this is a part of the 'marketization' of education and of life generally. Relevence is some kind of 'market' value, whether it be the marketplace of ideas or shoes. The church, you would have to admit, is also often obssessed with this. In some ways this article is about being relevant to the problems of hipster culture. So often we Christians say 'got problem x? God will fix it. He is relevant to that problem you have.'

Though there are many people who understand the value of the apparently irrelevent (one example might be basic scientific research with no clear market application), they are often embattled. Of course relevence is also a very relative term. Relevant to what?

I guess my concern is that the church should be an alternative to and haven from the consumer culture circus (and should value its secular allies in the fight) and (I would say) the 'satirizable' (to coin a phrase) circus that is the culture wars. But it often fails miserably in this. As I mentioned, we have taken up the language of advertising, television, and the blockbuster trailer, etc. I think this is partly why many evangelicals of my generation (myself included) have become interested in Luthernism and some of the older, more liturgical forms of Christianity. It is not just an ironic move. Those tradition seem more rooted and more separate from the fray.

As for Christianity as an outside. I'm not sure how to think about this. It is an outside, in a way, but I'm not sure that it is as much evangelicals like to think (its the old paradox: liberals and conservatives both feel embattled and threatened by the rising tide of the other). It is still a major political constituency in the United States and a major market. And in its pursuit of an equally commercial parallel culture, if often doesn't feel like a viable alternative 'outside'.

Rachel

November 27, 2012 at 01:23 PM

Thank you for this.

Rachel

November 27, 2012 at 01:19 PM

"Man, this article was so obscure I barely found it. "

LOVE IT.

Thomas

November 27, 2012 at 01:14 PM

It's Mind = Blown.

Come on, man.

[...] Endlessly yelling about perceived inequality. This is the activism of our age. And it was not only the heart of the foolish, short-lived rabble-rousing of Occupy. It is the mentality that rears its simplistic head in every cultural nook and cranny–just as much the fuel of the vehement rally cries of presidential campaign slogans (“Change we can believe in!”) as of the quieter jadedness and condescension of hipsterism. [...]

[...] called out Mike Cosper and his piece at the Gospel Coalition. Cosper responded to Fitzgerald on his own [...]

Are You a Hipster Cynic? | GraceSLO College

December 13, 2013 at 01:26 PM

[…] HERE to read the […]