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Are you a Christian Hipster?

Brett McCracken hits a little too close to home with this list, as Andrew Sullivan wryly observes. I think some of this may be a little dated, but I found a lot of myself in here I’m afraid. The stuff about quasi-Catholicism among hipster Christians was brilliant in my book. I think however that I should be able to exonerate myself from the charge of being a Christian hipster in that I had to go look up David Sedaris on Google to figure out who he was. Hopefully that and the fact that I drink a lot of tap water will be my salvation.

Things they don’t like:

Christian hipsters don’t like megachurches, altar calls, and door-to-door evangelism. They don’t really like John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart or youth pastors who talk too much about Braveheart. In general, they tend not to like Mel Gibson and have come to really dislike The Passion for being overly bloody and maybe a little sadistic. They don’t like people like Pat Robertson, who on The 700 Club famously said that America should “take Hugo Chavez out”; and they don’t particularly like The 700 Club either, except to make fun of it. They don’t like evangelical leaders who get too involved in politics, such as James Dobson or Jerry Falwell, who once said of terrorists that America should “blow them all away in the name of the Lord.” They don’t like TBN, PAX, or Joel Osteen. They do have a wry fondness for Benny Hinn, however.

Christian hipsters tend not to like contemporary Christian music (CCM), or Christian films (except ironically), or any non-book item sold at Family Christian Stores. They hate warehouse churches or churches with American flags on stage, or churches with any flag on stage, really. They prefer “Christ follower” to “Christian” and can’t stand the phrases “soul winning” or “non-denominational,” and they could do without weird and awkward evangelistic methods including (but not limited to): sock puppets, ventriloquism, mimes, sign language, “beach evangelism,” and modern dance. Surprisingly, they don’t really have that big of a problem with old school evangelists like Billy Graham and Billy Sunday and kind of love the really wild ones like Aimee Semple McPherson.

Things they like:

Christian hipsters like music, movies, and books that are well-respected by their respective artistic communities—Christian or not. They love books like Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ron Sider, God’s Politics by Jim Wallis, and The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. They tend to be fans of any number of the following authors: Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Wendell Berry, Thomas Merton, John Howard Yoder, Walter Brueggemann, N.T. Wright, Brennan Manning, Eugene Peterson, Anne Lamott, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Henri Nouwen, Soren Kierkegaard, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Annie Dillard, Marilynne Robison, Chuck Klosterman, David Sedaris, or anything ancient and/or philosophically important.

Christian hipsters love thinking and acting Catholic, even if they are thoroughly Protestant. They love the Pope, liturgy, incense, lectio divina, Lent, and timeless phrases like “Thanks be to God” or “Peace of Christ be with you.” They enjoy Eastern Orthodox churches and mysterious iconography, and they love the elaborate cathedrals of Europe (even if they are too museum-like for hipster tastes). Christian hipsters also love taking communion with real Port, and they don’t mind common cups. They love poetry readings, worshipping with candles, and smoking pipes while talking about God. Some of them like smoking a lot of different things.

Christian hipsters love breaking the taboos that used to be taboo for Christians. They love piercings, dressing a little goth, getting lots of tattoos (the Christian Tattoo Association now lists more than 100 member shops), carrying flasks and smoking cloves. A lot of them love skateboarding and surfing, and many of them play in bands. They tend to get jobs working for churches, parachurch organizations, non-profits, or the government. They are, on the whole, a little more sincere and idealistic than their secular hipster counterparts.


  1. Joshua Davis wrote:

    # 1, of course, being self-reflexivity

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Permalink
  2. Chris Donato wrote:

    In some respects, many of those listed as people who the “hipsters” like were themselves hipsters, according to this criteria…

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 3:36 pm | Permalink
  3. Colin wrote:

    That reading list … looks VERY familiar. I’m sure I get even more points for having half a shelf of Slavoj Zizek.

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 4:05 pm | Permalink
  4. Hill wrote:

    I became a Lefebrite in order to frustrate this sort of labeling.

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 4:07 pm | Permalink
  5. Halden wrote:

    Same reason I became a fundamentalist again. At least according to some….

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 4:15 pm | Permalink
  6. Sarah wrote:

    I thought this was a very interesting take on Hipsters on a more cultural level:

    While the list of the hipster Christian could easily fall into the framework Brett McCracken gave, I think christian hippie, christian liberal, Christians from the Jesus movement, from the Catholic worker movement, those rejecting their past evangelical history all share some of those traits. I think what makes a hipster specifically a hipster is not necessarily what they think or read, but the actual act of commodifying cool and/or what ever is on the margins and/or “unique” — adding certain cultural signifiers (i.e. tattoos, clothing, drink, smoke, hang out, music, etc.)

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 4:18 pm | Permalink
  7. nickelby wrote:

    this was mostly spot on, minus the gothic/tattoo stuff. is that even hipster? it annoys me when people use “hipster” to connote anything that seems edgy. like how mars hill church gets classified as hipster when really having a billion tattoos and piercings and faux-hawks are lame.

    this adbusters article provides a more accurate description of classic hipster culture:

    i think mccracken’s article has identified a certain mold of progressive christian, but i don’t know if “hipster” is the best name for it. also, is “christ follower” still in vogue? i thought the emergents (i.e., second-class christian hipsters) had beaten that one to death.

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Permalink
  8. nickelby wrote:

    woah sarah, i didn’t see you had posted that article. my bad!

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 4:37 pm | Permalink
  9. Ben Myers wrote:

    Yeah, the adbusters article is excellent. Here’s my favourite part:

    “Are you a hipster?”
    “Fuck no,” she says.

    This leads me to offer a precise technical definition: You are a hipster if, when asked whether you’re a hipster, you reply “Fuck no”.

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Permalink
  10. Halden wrote:

    Truly a fantastic piece.

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 4:56 pm | Permalink
  11. Theophilus wrote:

    Oh, snap. And just yesterday I had been convincing myself that I wasn’t a hipster because I’m not cynical enough.

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 4:56 pm | Permalink
  12. erin wrote:

    …says the largely white middleclass folks blogging about adbusters… (tee hee)

    Quote: “We are a lost generation, desperately clinging to anything that feels real, but too afraid to become it ourselves. We are a defeated generation, resigned to the hypocrisy of those before us, who once sang songs of rebellion and now sell them back to us. We are the last generation, a culmination of all previous things, destroyed by the vapidity that surrounds us. The hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new. ”
    A paragraph only a hipster could write. I wonder if he wrote it on a Mac? (it’s almost like society has had a collective failure of nerve…) I rather like all the ends of Western culture we keep having, if only for the entertainment value.

    In the room the women come and go
    Talking of Michelangelo.

    it is a great read with merit, thanks for the link!

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Permalink
  13. Joshua Davis wrote:

    as i said, # 1 being, of course, self-reflexivity….

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 6:35 pm | Permalink
  14. You had to look up to see who David Sedaris is? Are you serious?

    Do me this favor, Halden: Go out and buy “When You Are Engulfed in Flames.” Read it. Seriously. You’ll wonder how you ever lived without him.

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 6:45 pm | Permalink
  15. roger flyer wrote:

    They call me mellow yellow, quite right.

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 8:45 pm | Permalink
  16. Jin-roh wrote:

    Oh my God! I’ve just been pigeon-holed! I am total Christian hipster!

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 9:43 pm | Permalink
  17. bobby grow wrote:

    Does that mean David Congdon is a genuine hipster ;-)?

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 10:34 pm | Permalink
  18. ewan wrote:

    Laughing at myself. I thought I was being authentic, real, and different :)

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 8:54 am | Permalink
  19. CJ wrote:

    I interviewed Brett McCracken on video about his views on Christian Hipsters:

    Friday, March 6, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

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