Just a note ahead of this – now that the sun is up later and later every day, I’m finding it harder and harder to drag my butt out of bed early enough to do a day’s worth of posts before work. I’ll have to get into the habit of writing for the next day after work instead, I think. Otherwise posts will be few and far between.
Anyway, onto this one. Alternet has an article up about hipsters and church attendance and whether hipping up a church is worth the effort to keep them interested. The weird thing is the question posed: will hipsters ruin Christianity?
Isn’t that a laugh and a half?
While McCracken does leave a small window of potential for a “positive, proactive” Christian version of hip, he ultimately views all that is “cool” as a threat to Christianity and misunderstands the movement’s desire for relevance as vain, self-absorbed, and insincere. A closer look at one community in the “hipster Mecca” of Williamsburg, Brooklyn reveals the complexity of the relationship between church and cool, individual and community, faith and rebellion, authenticity and imitation, truth and relevance.
One of the most impressive things about Christianity is its adaptability. It is very much whatever people want it to be – if enough people want the same thing, a church is built. If enough churches want the same thing, the schism becomes an official version of the faith. Catholic, Protestant, whatever flavour of Protestant within there, or whatever newfangled thing gets invented to rework the old ideas – it’s remarkable, really. This adaptability is what helps keep it from buckling under, too. For all the old, unchanging, traditional ways to view that religion, new groups keep popping up all the time to challenge that, to rewrite it for people today, to make it as relevant as possible for people today. That churches even want to attempt to lure the hipsters in by becoming as hip as they can – I think that’s a big deal. The willingness to change, to be what the people need, to anticipate what people are going to want — that’s power. That’s savvy ingenuity. That’s how butts hit seats.
Jay Bakker, son of Jim and Tammy Faye, runs one of these hipster church organizations, called Revolution.
Revolution’s motto is “Religion Kills,” and the church has offered a telling apology on stickers and in online advertisements: “As Christians, we are sorry for being self-righteous judgmental bastards. Revolution NYC: A church for people who have given up on church.” To Bakker, religion is dangerous because of its rules and regulations and lack of emphasis on personal belief. “It’s like going to work,” he told me several years ago. “We need to agree to disagree because right now there’s a war within the church and innocent bystanders are falling victim. Grace provides freedom from that.”
Bakker is something of a visionary, here. He’s looking at the bigger picture and he sees a need to open things up, I guess would be a way to put it.
“We take the secular avenue instead of the Christian one,” Bakker says, explaining that his method is to form real relationships, be normal, become part of the community, inspire people to make change happen. The days of fire and brimstone are a thing of the past to such groups because, as the director of a Manhattan-based artist ministry says, “that just wouldn’t fly in a post-Christian city like New York.”
More groups should be taking this road. These are the people who are going to change how people view Christians. The Jerry Falwels and Westboros of the religious world will never appeal to everyone and hopefully groups like this would be willing to stand with atheists and denounce those buggers as the shit-disturbers they really are. They do nothing good for anyone. All they do is divide us.
I don’t have a problem with Christianity, per se. I have a problem with what people do as Christians in terms of behaviour and ideology against groups of people they don’t approve of. Be Christian, but be Christian for yourself, not so you can lord it over those whose lives go another way, you know? That’s where I’m at these days, at least. Other days I’d like to see religions go the way of the dodo. Today I’m magnanimous.