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Eavesdropping on Christian Hipsters

Tony Myles —  August 12, 2013 — 16 Comments

christian hipsterChristian hipsters.

How can you not love them? They make your church feel relevant.

(Whether it is or not.)

Ever eavesdrop on them?

I have. They’ve actually never said any of what I’m about to write. I’ve found them to be quite awesome, intelligent people. I feel cool just for knowing them, especially since I buy my clothes at Old Navy and Wal-Mart.

Then again… I know there’s a stereotype out there for a reason. Don’t we all imagine their world has hip lingo that goes something like this?

  • “Dear God, bless this food I’m about to upload pictures of to Instagram.”
  • “Why yes, that is a coffee stain on my Bible.”
  • (texts pastor during sermon) “I like where you’re going. Only you should totally quick add this ancient Russian poem into your talk right now…”
  • “Time to pick out my skinny jeans for the day. White or orange?”
  • “Skinny jeans are sort of like the denim version of unleavened bread.”
  • “Give me a moment. I’m trying to pray about the right profanity to use here.”
  • “I used to play the guitar in our worship band. Now I play the rhythm egg.”
  • “This past weekend I went on a spiritual hike into the woods with my sketch book, an avocado and God…”
  • “I was thinking for the church potluck I’d bring a ceramic pitcher from Pier One full of scalding hot water and some organic fair-trade coffee from Mustard Seed served in a Mr.T lunchbox. Then for the adults…”
  • “I’m sensing God wants me to do a 40-day fast from facial hair, but He didn’t say anything about my neck hair. So I think I’m just going to grow that out by itself… you know, like Job did.”
  • “No, I don’t keep a prayer journal. And I gave up on phone apps last year. Now I use post-it notes.”
  • “I’m not into labeling my faith. If you really twisted my arm on it, I’d just say ‘Ouch.’ Then I’d pray for you.”
  • “Why, no… it’s not a sash meant for the cross. It’s my scarf.”
  • “My church just upgraded its podcast technology. Now you can download our sermons on vinyl.”
  • “You can’t begin to fully appreciate the original language of the Bible until you read it in German.”
  • ‘My ‘group’ this past week was awesome. We rocked out a spontaneous ‘Lord’s Supper’ together with Greek Yogurt and bacon bits.”
  • “You’ll really like my church. The sermons are so ‘Blue Man Group’ and the worship is an acoustic ‘Insane Clown Posse.’”
  • “I usually park in the furthest spot in the parking lot. That way I ‘love my neighbor’ and get some good cardio out of it.”
  • “Are your communion wafers vegetarian?”

Believe it or not, someone actually called me once and asked me that last question.

Like I said, though – I love Christian hipsters and their heart for God. They have a valid place in the Body of Christ. Perhaps it’s just that they (like any Christian subculture) have a stereotype we enjoy.

What else have you heard (or imagined) the Christian Hipster nation is musing about?

Share your thoughts. Link it to them. They’ll get a kick out of it.


UPDATE: I want to briefly address one perspective on what I’ve written. Someone shared on Faceook, “Articles like this are why 20-30 year olds are leaving the church. imagine instead of this being about christian hipsters, it was about your senior adult members? It’s hard to say you really love someone when you keep the stereotypes going…uhhh.”

Without changing the content of what I’ve shared, let me add this – what’s your thought on when it is appropriate vs inappropriate to laugh at our own subcultures? Maybe there is a better way to do it than humor. Then again, I’m the guy who bought the book “Stuff Christians Like” as a Christmas gift for my church staff.

Perhaps there are some topics we need to laugh at in order to have a conversation about them. We’re all a bit absurd, whether we’re drawing lines on how we shouldn’t draw lines, or peeling off labels that only create more labels. I’ve seen enough videos and posts about the stereotypes I fall into – some absolutely appropriate, and others “not so much.” How can we point out what it means to be subjective without being subjective? Thanks for your thoughts!

Tony Myles

Tony Myles

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Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, author, speaker, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio... and he really likes smoothies.

16 responses to Eavesdropping on Christian Hipsters

  1. That’s really funny, but of course there is a sad side to everything too. Everyone wants to be involved in the latest ‘hip’ charity, and now things like Invisible Children shirts and TOMS shoes are more of a fashion statement than anything else.

    I once heard a friend bragging about getting an Invisible Children tshirt for a dollar from Goodwill and how great it was that he didn’t have to pay full price by going through the actual organization.

    Um…..WHAT??

    I’m a young guy (22), but isn’t there such a thing as being “too hip or relevant”? At what point does our pursuit of hipness become simply a full acceptance of the prevailing culture? We’re called to be different, but I see gossip about American Idol stars, music lyrics glorifying violence and sex, and a complete lack of biblical knowledge stirring in the youth groups around my town.

    Yikes!

    • Tony Myles

      That’s a good catch, Shaun. I wonder what it means to realize the trends within the emerging generation as a whole vs the ones that the “hip” ones are furthering. There definitely seems to be a split between what we say we value in Christ compared to what comes out of our tweets, posts and jabs. Great thoughts!

  2. Great, comical article! I know some who always ask,”is there gluten in that?” Something about a new found gluten allergy that has only popped up in in medicine in the past year or so. I don’t really know. Haha!

    • Tony Myles

      Awesome, Zachary! It’s wild how many things we’ve found today (like gluten allergies) that end up creating a whole new lifestyle. I know friends as well who have their whole day affected by this. It’s obviously not easy for them, just as I imagine it isn’t for someone with peanut allergies or an aversion of mushrooms. Hopefully we can enjoy the journey together with a smile. Thanks for your comment!

  3. I think we just have to be careful in enforcing stereotypes that are misleading. Case in point, people who don’t “understand” individuals who chose styles in a certain genre might be quick to apply all the jokes you wrote to the first person they see in church wearing skinny jeans and using the egg shaker. I certainly wouldn’t want someone to look at me, notice that I dress differently and have different habits from them and immediately think “ah she’s one of THOSE people. You know, the ones who make a joke out of their faith and are putting on a show”. I’m a genuine person, my actions and words speak the truth of who I am, not my choice of colored jeans or the fact that I don’t have cable. It seems like you aren’t one of the people who would do that, but just because you can take a joke doesn’t mean everyone else gets that stereotypes don’t define individuals.

    • Tony Myles

      Great catch, Sarah. It feels like every Christian subculture latches onto a part of God we miss out on, but in turn also has its own blind spots. One of my favorite books is “My Imaginary Jesus” by Matt Mikalatos. In it, he writes a fictional memoir of the real stereotypes of Christ He’s held in his life. Toward the end, He encounters who He thinks is the “real” Jesus – He’s socially active, lives jobless and takes care of the poor. Of course, this isn’t the real Jesus either… but it felt closer than the others.

      For that reason, we may need to recognize the validity of recognizing how we’re all a little different so we can learn from each other. Per your point, we don’t want that to nurture invalid categorizations either. I was aiming for something we could all identify with in what I wrote via the use of humor, but I imagine in offering some supplies to build a bridge they could also be used to build a wall. Perhaps it depends on how we each grab hold of the material we’re presented with?

  4. Seeing as I was the “someone” quoted in the revision I guess I should add my thoughts. Growing up in the church and now well within the age group that created this title I have seen and heard a lot of different points of view on this. Every time someone in the church who has a good online following and rights a satirical or humorous article about the “hipsters” in Church I have seen it used as a way to tell us 20 somethings who work for the Church we are unorthodox and the reason for many of the churches failures, typically like the article that blames hipster youth pastors for kids leaving the church, and not the parents. Though written to be funny, many people use it to label and exclude.

    I think online forms of humor need to be much more guarded, if this was a YouTube video I am sure the humor would come across easier. When in written form it just becomes fuel to the fire for someone’s arguments. Also, as the Church I think that we need not poke fun at our own subcultures, but rather look to them as ways in which we can learn from each other. Someone who is not familiar with “hipsters” may read this, and tend to avoid them instead of enter into life and conversation with them in the church. A good example would be the use of the meme on worship gestures, now students in worship are busy labeling how someone is worshiping as the Touchdown pose, or the figuring out new names for the gestures instead of being led into a spirit of worship by their brothers and sisters.

    Mainly I think we should be informed by what the church has done with it’s subcultures throughout history. When the early church faced the tension between Jew and Gentile, the reaction was working to bring the two groups together, not through jokes but really seeing that each side had much to learn from and share with each other. In the era of smartphones, and instant blogs we are quick to post, and slow to think about the possible negatives and divisions that could come. Like you said, you have learned to love this group, and believe they have a valid place in the body, it just sounds like the place in the body is to be the butt of jokes, and to make decisions on vegan and gluten free options, not that we have a valid criticism of the current church structure, or a proposed way to reach our peers.

    • Tony Myles

      Great points, Shaun. I admittedly was caught off guard by your first paragraph. It feels like your experience in seeing others slam a subculture led you to believe I was doing that here. In a sense, maybe you stereotyped me as stereotyping others? Not sure, but it was how I felt as I read it.

      Then again, that perhaps underscores your other point. Writing something has its own genre, doesn’t it? What we quickly post online about someone (or even what we think someone said) has ripples. If this was a Skit Guys video we’d all be cracking up and forwarding it – even if it was the same content. I think that’s why I took the time to note how much I love anyone who’s in this subculture and a part of the church – I feel they have a significant voice and place in it. It’s my opinion (and perhaps I should have also said this) that the Christian hipsters I describe before and after my musings will be the bridge-builders between an opinionated culture and sound, biblical doctrine.

      That said, I’d love to explore that last paragraph with you a bit. I wonder why Jesus spoke about “yeast” as both a negative (regarding the Pharisees) and a positive (regarding how it’s like the Kingdom of heaven). Do you imagine as I did when he talked about having sawdust versus a plank in our own eyes that he was being a bit satirical, maybe even grabbing a stick as an exaggerated object lesson?

      Maybe the best example would be Matthew 23, where Jesus goes after the Pharisees subculture and makes fun of all kinds of things – even things that some people would say are theologically irrelevant. He pokes at how wide their phylacteries are and how they like their huge, flowing robes. He even makes light of the length of their prayers – something they feel quite sincere about. Perhaps Jesus was the first Christian satirist.

      I hear your concern and caution – we need to make sure our attempt at this accomplishes the same purpose Christ aimed for. We don’t want to make others become so observant for others’ gaps that we miss our own. To that, I hope you can take in my comments to sharpen yours… for I’ve taken in yours to sharpen mine. Maybe we just enlarged the conversation?

      • I think it’s very easy for communicators to get caught up in what COULD be taken out of context or received differently than intended and end up paralyzed by those “what ifs”. Humor breaks down walls more often that it builds them in my experience. I would encourage Shaun to be careful of the critical spirit that divides worse than the subject that is getting criticized.

        • Hey not to be rude, but my name is SEAN. It is in the comments and title. But about the Pharisees, Jesus wasn’t making a joke he was pointing out that they didn’t get it and would kill Him.

          • Tony Myles

            Shaun – I noticed you replied here versus where I had replied to you. No biggie. And I assume your correction of “Shaun” to “Sean” was to Ben. If you scroll up, you’ll note I did use your correct name.

            Maybe you can give him some slack, though. You’ll notice when I posted your comment in the “update” section I took the time to correct some of the grammar and spelling from your Facebook comment. I hope that was okay. :)

            I appreciate you taking the time to correct us, though.

            Meanwhile, if you want to engage some of the points I shared above – such as if you can/can’t accurately say what my motives were in writing the article, feel free.

  5. tried to not laugh…you got me. well played.

  6. While I found the article funny and engaging, I have to admit that it is the comments underneath that spoke the loudest. We are absolutely in a position today in which there is a clear divide between generations and we need to carefully consider how to close the gap. Humor is a great way to do that, though it can easily be taken out of context.
    More importantly than the possible divide, however, is the fact that this article sparked conversation. And with conversation we can iron out our misperceptions and stereotypes and gain a truly better understanding of each other. This understanding is absolutely essential, as the generations growing up in the church have incredible insights to offer the aging population, and vice versa.

  7. “I only read the apocrypha and dead sea scrolls. The Bible is too mainstream.” One of my closest friends is a hipster. I was friends with him before having hipster friends was cool.

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