While I sat in a Starbucks in Orlando reading this book back in early August, I had not idea how much attention it would later get. I should have realized though that a book titled Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide would definitely generate a buzz.
Here a just a few reviews and interactions floating around out there:
- Poser Christianity by James K. A. Smith
- A response to Smith from Matthew Anderson
- A review and afterthoughts over at Christ and Pop Culture
- A good interview over at Mere Orthodoxy
- Some short thoughts on the book’s misuse of statistics
Now, there is plenty there for you to get an in depth analysis of this book and find out why you might be interested in reading it. I would say though that if you grew up in the 90’s Christian sub culture, you should probably read it just because you might find it entertaining and amusing.
Unfortunately, that is probably one of the down sides of this book as well. You may find yourself wondering what the point of the book is all the way up until the last couple of chapters. Basically, if you do not find a survey of cooler parts of Christian sub culture interesting, then you probably shouldn’t read this book.
But if you do, or if you identify with the hipster sub culture (either in your own understanding of it or in McCracken’s) then you should at least give this book read, even if it is to disagree with its thesis. Most of the above material is not glowing with admiration. I am sure as well that many people who would consider themselves Christian hipsters would find the caricatures offensive in some respects, or at least mistaken.
I do think though that the overall conclusion that McCracken reaches is true, and that is, if you are pursuing primarily being “cool,” then that is antithetical to pursuing Christ. Some people might misconstrue this to mean that you can’t pursue Christ and also be cool, but that is not McCracken’s point. He sees, and I think accurately in some respects, that many Christian young people in the hipster scenes and pursuing cool for the sake of cool.
Sometimes they may play this off as being “missional” sometimes not. Sometimes people who are authentically missional in the way they live also happen to be cool. But I think this arises from good aesthetic taste and independent thinking, not from intentionally trying to be “hip.”
For me, this was a good warning to check my heart and try to discern whether I was making cultural choices based on my taste or based on what I thought would help me be perceived as cool. In some cases there can even be a sense of guilt in liking things that are not cool, (hence guilty pleasures), yet these things may still contain artistic merit, or may merely be pleasurable to the person involved.
Overall, if you are like me in age range, Christian convictions, and church background you will probably enjoy reading this book, and may even find it helpful in your Christian walk.